A lightbulb moment: Reducing home electricity use

The Green Impact blog is being handed over to the SITraN team this week! This post is by David Stevenson, the team’s Green Impact Project Assistant. If you or your team would like to contribute to the blog, email greenimpact@sheffield.ac.uk.

A home in the UK with typical energy consumption consumes about 3,300 kWh of electricity annually1. In 2014 30.2% of the UK’s electricity was generated from natural gas, a non-renewable fossil fuel, the combustion of which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere2. As the UK decommissions coal fired power stations, the significance of natural gas is likely to increase in the future. Ofgem believe natural gas may account for 60% of electricity production in the UK by 20203. Although the proportion of the UK’s electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, is increasing, with 19.2% UK electricity from renewables in 2014, the change isn’t happening fast enough2. As we are still so dependent on electricity from non-renewable fossil fuels, by reducing our consumption of electricity we can reduce our environmental impact. In this blog I’m going to look at ways in which we can reduce our electricity consumption in the home.

1. Energy efficient lighting

Traditional, energy inefficient, incandescent lightbulb moment piclightbulbs have been banned in the EU since 2012. Their replacements compact fluorescent light lamps (CFL) are far more efficient, using up to 80% less electricity compared to comparable incandescent bulbs and last ten times longer4. However, some aspects of CFLs such as their “warm up” time before reaching full intensity have been criticised. But now, super bright LED lightbulbs have become available cheaply. LED lights are even more energy efficient than CFLs and have no “warm up” time, a 10w LED lightbulb can emit as much light as a 60w incandescent lightbulb. It would be a bit wasteful to chuck out and replace all of your existing lightbulbs but when one needs replacing, LED is the way to go.

2. Laundry

There are several ways you can reduce the energy usage of your laundry. Many laundry detergents are now designed to work at low temperatures. Washing at 30°C instead of 40°C uses 40% less energy5, although for dirty laundry higher temperature washes may be more effective. Only washing when you have a full load of laundry is another great way to reduce your overall number of washes and energy usage. Tumble dryers use even more electricity than washing machines so by hanging it up inside if you have a well ventilated warm area, or outside if it is a nice sunny day (in Sheffield ?!) you can reduce your energy usage further.

3. Standby

Electrical appliances which are on standby mode still use significant amounts of electricity over a year. Uswitch estimate that a household could save £80 a year by turning off appliances on standby. Although it might be fiddly to go round the house switching everything off every night, there are some things you can do to make this easier. By correctly using a power strip extension cord, multiple appliances can be turned off from a main switch. However, you must be careful that you do not overload a power socket, see guidance here. Automated timer plugs which switch power to a socket on/off depending on the time of day can be used as well. Finally, household energy meters can be used to measure your household electricity usage and allow you to see just how much electricity you are using.


1.           Ofgem. Typical domestic energy consumption figures Factsheet 96. https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/sites/default/files/docs/2011/01/domestic-energy-consump-fig-fs_1.pdf. Published 2011. Accessed March 9, 2016.

2.           DECC. UK Energy Statistics, 2014 & Q4 2014. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/416310/PN_March_15.pdf. Published 2015. Accessed March 9, 2016.

3.           Ofgem. Understanding energy prices in Great Britain | Ofgem. https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/gas/retail-market/monitoring-data-and-statistics/understanding-energy-prices-great-britain. Accessed March 9, 2016.

4.           DirectGov. Energy saving light bulbs. 2011. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/www.direct.gov.uk/en/Environmentandgreenerliving/Energyandwatersaving/Energyandwaterefficiencyinyourhome/DG_179919. Accessed March 9, 2016.

5.           Moneywise. The truth about your energy costs. http://www.moneywise.co.uk/cut-your-costs/household-bills/the-truth-about-your-energy-costs. Accessed March 9, 2016.

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