Mark Harris

A wind farm A cold winter doesn’t have to mean an expensive one. There are plenty of ways to make your home more energy efficient this year, saving you money and helping to reduce your carbon footprint, finds Mark Harris

1. The UK needs to reduce its carbon footprint by nearly 60% in the next 45 years to meet Government targets. The Energy Saving Trust ( provides free energy checks online that can highlight savings of up to £300 a year. Or call professionals like the Carbon Coach ( for in-depth one-to-one advice.

2. Harness the power of the sun. Solar powered gadgets come all flavours, from radios to fans. Using a handful of solar garden lights (that light up automatically in the dark) will save about as much energy as a small radio to help you enjoy the great outdoors even more. Visit Nigel’s Eco Store ( for a full range of solar-powered goodies.

3. According to the Energy Saving Trust, homes are responsible for a quarter of the UK’s CO2 emissions, and wasted heating is a prime culprit. Turn down your thermostat; improve your glazing and draught-proof doors. Even insulating a hot water tank will save enough in a year to watch TV for three hours every day.

4. Get zapping. Microwaves typically use only around half the energy of electric ovens to cook many foods – and up to 80 per cent less for ready meals. Switching off at the plug when you’re finished will save another £7 a year – the cost of running it at full power for a whole weekend!

5. Fix that drip – the UK loses 3.7 billion litres of water a day through leaks in streets and at home. Get your spanner to work on a leaky hot tap and you’ll save enough hot water in a fortnight to treat yourself to a steaming bath. While you’re at it, make sure your water thermostat is set no higher than 60C.

6. Unplug chargers for mobiles, iPods and sat navs when not in use. Leaving a phone charger permanently plugged in can waste as much energy as was needed to build a phone and use it for its entire life. Most gadgets will completely recharge in just a couple of hours – any more is a waste.

7. Does your bedroom really need to be as warm as the lounge? Fitting thermostatic radiator valves (from £15) lets you regulate room temperatures individually, saving heat and money. Fitting radiator panels in every room helps to stabilise temperatures – and the savings of up to £60 annually should mean they pay for themselves in no time.

8. Don’t stand for standby. With the average home having 12 gadgets on standby at once, either get busy flicking power switches or invest in smart plugs such as Bye Bye Standby ( and the Intelliplug ( You’ll save enough energy to watch two DVD movies on a flatscreen telly, every single day.

9. Watch how you wash. Full loads are much more efficient than half loads and experiment with using less powder (or even green alternatives like Eco Balls, which last for over 1000 washes). Only use your tumble dryer when absolutely necessary and keep washing temperatures low. If everyone in the UK washed at 30C, we’d save enough energy to power the whole nation’s street lighting for nearly a year!

10. Giving unwanted but working gadgets to charities or selling them for reuse reduces their overall environmental impact by 15%. You can sell old phones easily at or donate all kinds of gadgets to charities at Even vegetable scraps can be turned into handy fertiliser at home, using a compact (and smell-free!) wormery.

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