UK homes getting more hungry for electricity

Fridge/freezer (Images: SPL) Fridges and freezers are still considered to be one of the major sources of electricity use

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UK homes are consuming much more electricity than previously estimated, a report described as the most detailed of its kind has suggested.

For example, it found that up to 16% of households' energy bills are spent on devices left on standby.

It is estimated that domestic energy use accounts for more than a quarter of the nation's CO2 emissions.

The report was commissioned by the government and the Energy Saving Trust to unearth the nation's energy habits.

"This standby power is double what we have assumed it to be in past models and policy assumptions," explained Paula Owen, the report's lead author.

"Before, we have always gone with an 8% figure so it was quite a shock."

Within in this study, Dr Owen explained, standby had a slightly wider remit from its traditional perception of the red lights on TVs and videos.

"When we talk about standby in this context, we are talking about things that are on standby and things [that] are idle, rather than [doing] what they are primarily designed to do," she said.

The modern home contained an average of 41 devices, compared with a dozen or so in the 1970s.

The UK year-long study, commissioned by EST, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc), involved more than 250 households.

Only two previous studies of its kind have been carried out before.

In 2008, Sweden detailed the electricity consumption of 400 households, while a study in France considered the use in 100 homes during 2007.

'Don't live alone'

Dr Owen explained: "One of the more surprising findings from the study is the amount of use from single occupancy households, which were shown to be using as much as, even more than, as family occupied homes."

Electric car charging (Image: Reuters) The emergence of electric cars could place an additional strain on the National Grid

Another insight was the use of washing machines, which varied greatly across the sample group, Dr Owen said.

"Typically, people use their washing machine 300 times a year; we found that there were some people who were using it three time a day.

"So there is a lot of evidence in this report that shows how people are using their electrical equipment, as well as how often they are using it."

Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust (EST), said that it was "crucial that households across the nation make informed decisions by having the right advice to help them reduce their energy usage and fuel bills".

"This research shows that there's still more work to be done with consumer advice, product innovation and take up of energy-efficiency labelling," he said.

Environment minister Lord Taylor said the government and households could not control the rising cost of energy but could play a part in ensuring that it was used more efficiently.

"Our study has found that homes can save up to £85 by just switching things off and not leaving them on standby," he said.

"Some savings can be made by us, as individuals, by just being more sensible in the way we use energy."

Dr Owen said a big issue for the future would be the increasing popularity of electric vehicles.

"This will dramatically increase our pull on the grid," she told BBC News.

"That is the big growth area over the coming decades, if electric cars do become popular, so we need to see offsets in the domestic setting in order to allow us to power our vehicles in the future."

Rosalyn Foreman, energy adviser for the EST, explained that there were still traditional areas where their efforts could be focused.

"The fridge and the freezer in a house are the real energy eaters. They are the ones that can make a real difference, and it is easier to target the consumer on buying a better appliance.

"It is areas like this where you can make a difference and influence people.

"But we have never had the evidence down to this level of detail before, so it gives us an insight into what we can target and how we target it."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    Go to any high street and see wasted electricity lighting up empty shops and neon signs. Let manufacturers put switches on their multi socket units so individual items can be switched off. I now wash once a week but I use the tumbledrier. clothes easier, quicker. kettles using min quantity -use half and thermos other. I do it for my convenience but I think it saves some energy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    no one gets it the fault is not with consumers but the product designers and manufacturers.Most tvs dvd players set top boxes are designed to be left on standby.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    Why do we need a report like this to tell us what is staring at us in the face? Electronic gadgetry can be found in most homes, particularly youngsters' rooms, where they have their own laptops, ipads, mobile phones, games consoles, tv and remote control.

    Go back 30 years - no remotes, no mobiles, no electronic games. But then, people had themselves a life, unlike today's goggle-eyed addicts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Face it. many people are complacent. Just can't be bothered to give second thought to how much they waste, whether it's leaving Tv's, chargers, set top boxes, Sky, music systems on standby, or running a tap when cleaning their teeth or filling a kettle when half a pint would do. Then of course the amount of food thrown away. The consumer society so wasteful & most people just don't give a damn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Why concentrate on homes?

    I wonder how much energy is wasted in shops and offices during the times they are not in use, or by all those TV and +1 TV stations pumping out stuff hardly anybody watches, or all street lights on when nobody is about?

    Energy is being wasted just about everywhere, but it is far easier to make the individual feel guilty about it rather than tackling the problem.


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