Energy

We're a bit on the ecofreak side (okay, being honest, we're A LOT on the eco-freak side). And energy usage is a big part of human impacts on the planet. So thinking global but acting micro-local, we spend a lot of time thinking about the energy usage in our own home. John even measures our weekly electricity usage, which means he knows quickly if somebody has been careless about leaving the immersion heater on or playing too many computer games.

We decided to live close to John's work to minimise energy expended in travel. As you might expect from an eco-freak family, we don't drive much, although we do have a car. I admit it's a luxury, we could manage without. At the end of the day advocating a hairshirt attitude isn't going to get the environmental movement anywhere, though; we all want some luxuries in life.

We have an oil-fired boiler at home -- the cost to get a gas connection would be prohibitive. So like everyone else using kerosene to heat their homes and water, we keep track of the price fluctuations.

Things we have done to try to minimise our oil usage include fully insulating cavity walls, increasing loft insulation to a depth of nearly 30 cm, and keeping the indoor thermostat at 15 degrees C. It tends to be warmer than that in much of the house, but that's the number we tune to on the central control dial. We don't have the heating on a timer; we only turn the heat on when we're at home. This seems to work well for us and our heating bills are below average for our type of house. We also have double glazed windows, and harangue the children to keep doors closed on cold days.

We have individual thermostats on each radiator; also, most of the time we only heat downstairs and not all the rooms downstairs, either -- just those we live in the most. If I turn the rads on upstairs, it's only briefly, for a little while after we wake up in the mornings or an hour or so before bedtime; this is plenty of time to get the rooms cozy warm before going to sleep. Keep the doors closed to any unheated rooms.

We have a small wood-burning stove which cost about 500 to buy and install. Most winter days it can do all the heating we need in the front of the house, but doesn't quite extend to warming up our large ground floor extension. A lot of the wood is scavenged -- ie, free. If we pay for wood that costs us about 4 to burn all day long -- for the amount of heat generated, using the stove to burn bought wood is much more expensive if arguably still much more environmentally kind than burning oil to heat the house. We don't burn coal mostly because it's such a pig to dispose of the ashes (very much not suitable for the compost heap!). John keeps a detailed diary of our experience with the stove.

We also used to have a roof-mounted wind turbine (the one advertised with B+Q). It didn't really pay its way, but was an interesting experiment.

We have now got Solar panels to generate electricity, and time will tell whether the expected returns manage to materialise.

John keeps tabs of interesting climate change news tidbits here.

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