Switch off and save

With the belated advent of a proper spell of cold weather we’ll all be cranking up the heating and trying not to think about the fuel bill that will drop onto the mat in a couple of months’ time.


It seems opportune, then, to return to the topic of domestic energy usage, especially in the light of recent comments by specialists at Strathclyde University that cast grave doubt on the viability of the government’s environmental targets unless we reduce consumption.


And we’re not just talking about turning off the lightbulb when you’re not in the room, but shaving 30 per cent off of our usage.


That’s one hell of a challenge for the average household, but not an insurmountable one. Tackling domestic energy consumption requires a two-fold problem to be addressed – that of inadequate technology combined with the unhelpful behaviour of the vast majority of us.


The technology – and in this we include basic structural factors such as adequate insulation – in most homes is simply not up to the mark when it comes to energy efficiency.


It has been noted before that our understanding of how much energy we are using, and what it is costing us, is limited by an incomprehensible metering system designed to inform the utility suppliers and not householders themselves.


‘Smart metering’ that shows the direct relationship between usage and cost has proved a hit with homeowners during trials, and should become a priority for utility companies.


The behavioural factor is, if anything, even more important. As always where technical progress is concerned, benefits will only flow if we use it wisely and well.


To encourage us to make more of an effort in the lagging, switching-off and powering-down departments, maybe it’s time for a new approach. Instead of using extra tax as a big stick to beat us with if we don’t do the environmentally right thing, how about rewarding us with lower taxes if we do? A council tax reduction for adoption and use of energy efficient technology, added to the benefits of lower power bills that would follow, would be a great way to ensure that the battle against emissions begins at home.


Andrew Lee


Editor


The Engineer & The Engineer Online