Time to think about Energy

“’We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them’, Albert Einstein.

As the nights draw in, our Indian summer is truly over and the Nobel Physics prize has been awarded to the team that made domestic LED light a more comfortable, more affordable reality, November’s challenge is about heating and lighting our homes more efficiently.

There are many reasons to reduce energy consumption and to look to moving away from our traditional fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal), whether it’s Climate Change, resource depletion, war, pollution, energy prices, energy security, global inequality…

From the outset of the Green Challenge, we’ve been clear that there isn’t a magic solution but we are looking at ways to improve our lives, not find 21st century hair shirts.

It will take a while before we stop using coal, oil and gas and for many people at present that is an unrealistic target. And while renewable sources of energy are increasing and moving to replace fossil fuels, we make ourselves much more resilient and flexible if we reduce our total energy need.  In other words, if we reduce our overall energy demand, we have more of a chance of meeting that demand through a mix of renewable energy solutions.

Because heating energy is predominantly dependent on outdoor temperatures (and these are not predictable and certainly not year on year repeatable!), and you may have gas cooking as well as gas heating, it isn’t quite as straightforward for us to benchmark using past utility bills, as it was with our water challenge.  However you can start by measuring in the following ways.

Borrow an Energy Monitor from Wilmslow, Handforth and Alderley Edge libraries using the same system as books, for a three week period.  They are easy to use and help you to better understand the costs of operating appliances in the home, showing where the most electricity is being used and how to make useful savings.

You can also book yourselves in for a volunteer run thermal imaging survey – suggested donation £20 to cover camera hire – through Transition Wilmslow.  The images provide some useful information about where exactly you’re losing most of your heat, and you will be given a checklist of what you can do about it, all low to no cost.


So below are some easy tips on how to save energy, before you embark on “the big stuff”.  And if you do have a way to measure progress, then we would love to hear the results!

  1. Get to grips with your heating controls: whether that’s the boiler timer, the main thermostat or the temperature regulating valves on your radiators, it’s worth dusting the manuals off and making the controls work for you.
  2. Reduce your thermostat temperature by 1 or 2 degrees, and put an extra layer on or have handy throws and jumpers around the house to wrap up even warmer.
  3. Close the curtains in the whole house as soon as it goes dark, or as soon as you get in.
  4. Match the ring on your hob to your pan (use the smallest ring possible) and adjust the flame so that it just covers the bottom of the pan (don’t let the flames lick the sides). Keep lids on pans, except where you’re trying to boil off excess liquid that is!
  5. Replace your lightbulbs to the energy saving kind, if not all at once, at least as soon as an old incandescent or halogen one blows.
  6. Switch off the lights as you leave a room, and switch off your standby and charging equipment after they’ve finished.
  7. Use only as much water in your (de-scaled) kettle as you need.
  8. Use the low temperature, energy efficient cycles on dishwashers, washing machines (wash at 30 ºC if they’re not that dirty) and tumble dryers. Dry your clothes outside when weather permits.
  9. When washing your hands, use cold water and/or soap them before you turn on the tap – it’s the soap that will kill off the bacteria, not the heat.

And if you can take it that step further before the winter kicks in:

  1. Insulate lofts and walls.
  2. Put heat reflecting foil behind your radiators to keep heat in.
  3. Draught proof all the openings and frames you can think of.

For more information: