We have a mantra at work that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. If you have no data, there’s no way of working out whether you’re doing well or not, or whether you’re heading in the right direction.
We got a free energy monitor from our power company, one of those ones that you wrap round the wires in your meter cupboard and then it connects with a base unit and tells you how much you’re using now, how much in the last week and the units, cost and also carbon equivalent for that usage. I plugged it in and set it going – it was very, very dull… According to the meter, we seemed to be using so far below the UK average that it was never reaching the suggested target.
But since the beginning of 2010, I’ve been taking meter readings at the beginning of each month so that I could get a picture of our changing pattern of energy use. It’s been fascinating to see.
Last spring, we had to replace our failing antique gas boiler for a triple-A rated condenser boiler, and, at roughly the same time, we lagged the loft. Of course, this winter and early spring were significantly colder than previous years, and I have to say, the house didn't feel significantly warmer despite the boiler and insulation! However, looking at the year on year, we have used less gas, so that's something of a success. The problem with gas central-heating is of course, that gas is neither renewable or sustainable…
The electricity is a different matter – we’re on nPower’s Juice tariff which is a 100% renewable tariff, so from that point of view, it’s not so much of an issue. But crikey, the overall usage trend is upwards, despite all the energy-efficient lightbulbs, turning off appliances rather than leaving them on standby, and, of course, keeping that lovely kettle well and truly turned off when it's not actually being used! So we need to think about that; plus with the utility prices about to go up by a significant amount, we need to work out what we’re using and why.
But the good thing is that we now have some data to work on and something to aim at in terms of really reducing our energy use over 2011.
Give it a try; you may be surprised by what you find.