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Power up: Tips for a more energy-efficient home
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Whether you live in a rented city-centre apartment or your own detached house in the suburbs, there are plenty of measures that can cut energy use, save money and reduce our environmental footprint. Philippe Mercier of consumer body Test Achats offers some tips on how to make changes to your consumption and reduce your monthly bills.
To begin with, use a platform such as EnergyID to analyse your consumption and compare it to similar properties. Keeping an eye on your monthly energy use means you see the impact of changes in your behaviour and stay motivated. “For most consumers, energy is an abstract notion,” says Mercier. “It is everyday uses that embody this notion: using a dishwasher, lighting, washing clothes, cooking ... These are the realities of life that require energy.” This is where you can adapt your habits and start to see the difference.
Installing solar panels, insulation and heat pumps can make a huge difference if you’re in a position to do so. But there are various quick wins that offer cost-effective ways to make savings, including changing your habits and investing in the right equipment to see an impact on your energy bills. Replacing your shower head with a more efficient one can deliver savings of €250 a year for an outlay of around €40, for example; placing reflective material behind your radiators to better distribute heat could save you a further €40.
To avoid leaving devices on standby and wasting energy, add a timer to switches so that the power supply is automatically switched off at night. These are widely available from hardware shops and easy to install. Replace bulbs with LED lamps where possible, particularly in the rooms you use the most. LEDs can cut energy use by a factor of 10.
With lockdown measures and the increase in homeworking this year, energy bills are likely to be higher as we spend a lot more time in our homes. If your family situation allows it, choose one room in the home to use as an office – heat only this room – and keep the door closed to retain the heat. If it’s a south-facing room and gets warmth from the sun, so much the better.
As a more serious investment, look at replacing your tumble dryer with a model that has a heat pump. “They cost from about €450, half of what they cost five years ago,” says Mercier. “They are two-and-a-half, three times more efficient than older models. If you live in an apartment and have kids, so you need to dry clothes most days, this is going to be a major change in your energy consumption.” Old inefficient fridges and freezers can also be responsible for wasted energy and the cost of new ones can be recouped in three or four years.
Get the best deal
Finally, review your energy provider regularly to ensure you’re getting the best deal – and where possible, use companies with a responsible environmental profile. Understanding providers’ green credentials can be challenging, so Greenpeace has created an index based on a company’s investments in renewable power and how they produce their energy. Your choices are determined by where in the country you live. A number of energy cooperatives score highly but require a large initial investment; the big players such as Engie, Luminus and Lampiris (owned by Total) score poorly for their use of fossil fuels and nuclear power.
“We always advise people to compare energy tariffs once a year to make sure you are still paying a reasonable price,” says Mercier. “Because of the corona crisis, energy prices have dropped significantly over the past months and it is certainly a good time to compare and switch.” Test Achats has a comparison service in French and Dutch; other platforms such as EnergyPrice.be (in English) can take care of switching providers for you. A new Test Achats platform aims to simplify information about energy for consumers.
This article appears in The Bulletin's digital magazine