Listen to Paula talking to Winifred Robinson on Radio 4’s You & yours about the report and the issues of standby power, here
On Tuesday 26th June, ‘Powering the Nation’, the latest report I have written on behalf of the Energy Saving Trust, Defra and DECC was launched. The publication is a summary of a much longer report that, in turn, is the outcome of a three year project to get to the heart of understanding the electricity using habits of the typical English, owner-occupier household.
The study has been ground-breaking, nothing of its ambition or depth has been attempted before in the UK. Indeed, on a global scale, similar studies have only been carried out in Sweden and France.
The study looked at 251 homes in total. Twenty six, or 10%, of them were studied for an entire year, whilst the other 225 were monitored for a month on a rolling basis. Their usage then adjusted for seasonality of use as displayed by the annual householders. The householders were picked to represent a good spread of socio-demographic types, but one limitation was that they were all, by necessity, owner occupiers. It proved too problematic to recruit private and social tenants.
The results and insights the study has unearthed are both fascinating and intriguing in equal measure. Although the study’s householders were, on average, more likely to be careful about saving energy in the home than the national average (86% versus 75%), the average electricity usage was 10% higher than the nationally accepted average (3300 kWh/yr.).
Stand-by power, typically quoted as about 8% of electricity bills, came out at between nine and 16% of total consumption. Costing our study households between £50 and £86 per year, simply to keep gadgets on whilst not doing anything useful
The other shocking insight is how inefficient it seems to be to live alone. Hard though it may be to believe, single occupancy, non-pensioner households use more electricity powering their washing machines than families do. They spend as much on cooking as two people households and nearly as much on using the dishwasher. They also light their homes more than families.
If we own a tumble drier, we tend to use them four out of every five times we do a wash, much higher than the previously modelled average of 60% of the time. Indicating that people potentially are not making use of the outside space they may have available to them for drying clothes, and costing them a fortune for their laundry, over £80 instead of just £26 if people just own a washing machine.
We did find a huge variation in usage and ownership levels however, both within similar dwellings and household make-up, and across the board. One of the most startling examples of excessive use was the household who used their washing machine 1200 times in one year, when the typical average was around 300 washes.
These are a few tasters of the fascinating insights uncovered by this study, to find out more:
Click here to get a link to the summary report I have authored on behalf of EST, DECC and Defra
Click here to get to the full report, (print out warning:600 pages long)
Click here to find out more about the database containing all the data and diary entries of the study which will be available for interrogation soon.
If you would like to talk to me about the findings of the summary report, please contact me here.