If you've recently had solar panels installed, whether they're photovoltaic solar panels or solar water heating panels, you'll be looking to maximise the effects of your investment and by cutting down your use of energy wherever possible. Figures show that a PV solar panel can cut down energy bills by 50% - but if you maximise your efficiency with energy use, you might be able to cut your bills down by much, much more than that, making your investment in solar power all the more lucrative. In fact, if you make enough small changes, you might be able to rid yourself of electricity bills altogether.
These small alterations don't require you to make any lifestyle changes at all. In fact, all you need to do is make sure that your home is properly equipped to maximise energy efficiency, and your energy bills should drop by themselves. By following this guide to more efficient living, you might find that your new solar panels haven't just cut your electricity bills – but eliminated them altogether.
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It's estimated that around 8% of our energy bills go on lighting the home. It's easy to cut this figure in half, simply by switching from traditional light bulbs to low-energy bulbs. Low-energy bulbs emit the same amounts of light at much lower wattages, which means that you can light your home to the same standard for half the cost. While conventional light bulbs waste lots of energy on heat, energy-saving bulbs are far more efficient at converting energy into light, and waste much less energy on other wasteful byproducts. This means that switching to energy-saving bulbs doesn't mean compromising on quality.
Switching to low-energy light bulbs is just as easy as changing a bulb. Incandescent bulbs – the kinds you'll have in lamps and lights around the home – can be switched for compact flourescents (CFLs), while halogen downlighters – which you might have in a bathroom or kitchen – should be switched for LED lights. Low-energy bulbs are available in a variety of wattages, which means you can select the level of brightness that's right for you, and avoid wasting money on energy while you do it.
The majority of your electricity use in the home will go on appliances, usually either in the kitchen or the lounge. If you watch a lot of TV, you might guess that TVs are a huge guzzler of power; thankfully, it's easy to get a TV that won't monopolise your energy bills. LED TVs are considered the most environmentally friendly boxes available today, using the same low-energy lights that you might have installed in your kitchen. Fujitsu claim that some of their LED TVs can reduce energy consumption by around 46% in comparison to standard TV models.
The other home appliance that you may want to consider the efficiency of is your fridge/freezer (or both, if yours are separate). Fridges and freezer are constantly running, which means that any steps you can take to getting a more energy-efficient model will make a huge difference to your bills. Many manufacturers and retailers now offer grading systems that rate the energy-efficiency of their models of fridges and freezers. If your fridge is over ten years old, it's definitely time to change it; energy efficiency has improved by around 25% since 1990, so even the cheaper models of fridge will still save you money.
Better insulation will save you money on your heating bills; if you kept your home adequately insulated, you'll find yourself having to spend much less money on heating bills to stay warm. Double-glazing your windows is the best way to do this; it might cost a lot for the initial investment, but it'll stop most of your heat escaping through the windows and your home will appreciate in value as a result. Thick curtains will also prevent heat from escaping through windows; these can be used either instead of double-glazing or in conjunction with it.
Jessica Wilson is a renewable energy and conservation enthusiast. When she isn’t writing about renewable energy she enjoys hill walking and kayaking. She currently writes about solar energy, energy saving tips and renewables for home and business.