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Q&A: energy wasters

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 23 October 2006

Britons have been deemed the 'worst' at conserving energy in a European energy wasters' league.


To say the UK is the biggest waster in Europe might seem like a bit of an insult. But, sadly, it's a fact; a survey of 5,000 Europeans has found that Britons are the 'worst' energy conservers in a European energy wasters' league.

How much are we wasting?
According to the Energy Saving Trust, if we don't get our act together we will have wasted £11bn and around 43 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2010 - that's seven million homes' worth of Co2.

Why are we so wasteful?
We are a nation of leaver-onners. Our worst offence is leaving our appliances on standby; 71 per cent of Britons polled said they did this at least once a week. If, like the energy conscious Germans, we switched off our appliances we could save enough electricity each year to power 1.2 million homes.

Also on our wasteful record: leaving chargers plugged in, failing to switch off lights that aren't in use and using cars wantonly for short journeys.

What can I do to stop being such a waster?
If you want to save energy, for the planet or for your pocket, the Energy Saving Trust is urging people to make a real effort to mark Energy Saving Week from boiling only as much water as you really need, to leaving the car at home and switching to energy saving lightbulbs.

Give up standby
Leaving appliances on standby costs each household an average of £37 a year. Whilst a traditional TV on standby uses two watts of power, a new LCD or plasma telly uses twice as much.

If losing your settings is putting you off quitting the standby, most DVD players now do not need to be retuned after being switched off.

Also, turn your computer monitor off even when you're just popping out for a cuppa.

Unplug chargers
Although a charger by itself does not use a tremendous amount of energy, in unison unused but plugged-in chargers waste £60m a year.

Switch off the lights
There's absolutely no truth in the old "turning on lights causes an energy guzzling power surge" belief. Even if it's just a five minute break, turn it off. And, while your at it, change your old light bulbs for energy saving versions.

Keep the temperature down
Washing clothes at 30C uses 40 per cent less energy than if washed at 40C. The Energy Saving Trust says that modern powders are designed to work at lower temperatures so 30C is just as effective.

You could also set your boiler thermostat a bit lower; one degree can cut fuel bills by 10 per cent.

Bigger gestures
If you have a bit more cash to splash, you could consider solar panels - they can supply 50 to 70 per cent of annual hot water. You could also install a Ground Source Heat Pump - they're expensive to install but meet a large proportion of household heating and hot water needs.

Out with the old
Finally, when it comes to replacing your appliances, the Energy saving Trust encourages consumers to buy Energy Saving Recommended models.

If your boiler is more than 15 years old you should consider having it replaced with one that is more energy efficient - boilers are responsible for around 60 per cent of domestic Co2 emissions.


Who needs to pull their socks up the furthest?
Men. According to the report, men are more wasteful than women and generally care less about the environment. Older respondents were also a bit too free and easy with their carbon footprint, feeling less guilty about their energy use than their greener - in both age and attitude - counterparts. Teenagers don't get off too lightly either, proving particularly fiendish in the turning off lights department.

Is there anything we are good at?
Apparently we're not afraid of a cold front; 78 per cent of Britons polled said that, when it gets a bit parky, they would rather sport a woolly jumper than rush to the central heating.

I'm still not convinced...
Well, if the planet and your pocket aren't enough to persuade you, what about your popularity? If environment campaigner Mark Lynas gets his way, you could become something of a social outcast if your wasteful ways get the better of you - he wants energy wasting to be made as "socially unacceptable" as drink-driving.

Which country is the least wasteful?
Germany, followed by Spain.

Related links
Environment reports
19 Oct 2006: EU to remove standby button?
Energy Saving Trust

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