Your washing machine uses much more energy in heating up the water than it does in running the cycle. Photo: Planet Care

Keep calm and switch off

By Geraldine Fitzgerald

With doom-laden headlines and rising fuel prices, many of us are feeling a bit overwhelmed.

With a newfound appreciation for creating a real sanctuary at home through lockdown, most people can wax lyrical on the difference between cream, taupe and beige – but now we worry about paying the bills in the face of escalating energy costs.

Feeling helpless increases a sense of anxiety and does nothing to improve your bottom line.

Geopolitics might be beyond our remit, but there are plenty of measure we can adopt to directly benefit our bank balance, our reliance on fuel and the environment.

Like anything, electricity is easier to control if you understand how it’s used. Our electricity usage is measured in units called kilowatt hours, and every appliance we own has a specific energy requirement, noted in the handbook that comes with it.

For instance, your tumble dryer is usually a 3-kWh device, so is fairly power-hungry, whereas your desktop PC is about .2-kWh.

Basically, appliances that heat things up fast, tend to cost money as they need lots of power to do so and of course the longer you run them the more it will cost. So, what can you do?

Stop using the tumble dryer

If the weather’s decent, hang clothes out or use a clothes horse. Tumble dryers gobble up energy, particularly if you have a large load of quite damp items.

Don’t keep boiling the kettle

In Ireland we flick on the kettle like a nervous tic. We also tend to overfill it even though we only want one cuppa. Only use what you need and once you’ve boiled it, use it.

Insulate your water cylinder

Children of the 1980s will remember the hysteria around switching off the immersion – heating water uses up more energy than anything else, accounting for a giant slice of your bills every year. A simple lagging jacket acts like a duvet for your cylinder and will save you about 30 per cent each year.

Fill your dishwasher

It’s actually cheaper to run your dishwasher once a day than it is to keep using hot water in the sink every time you use crockery. It uses less water, less energy, and once it’s properly loaded is the more efficient option. If it’s a newer machine it probably has an eco option, which heats water more slowly to reduce costs.

Laundry at 30 degrees

Your washing machine uses much more energy in heating up the water than it does in running the cycle. 90 per cent of the energy used goes on heating up the water, so wash at 30 degrees instead and you can pre-treat by hand for any heavy staining.

Don’t leave appliances on standby

Pull the plug or switch off at the wall when you’re finished; standby mode is also known as ‘phantom’ or ‘vampire’ electricity. No need for it.

Cook quick

The oven is a big energy hog. An hour of the oven uses the same energy as a 20 minute shower, so you can cook more efficiently by setting a timer to let you know when the oven hits the right temperature so you can pop in your dish. The residual heat lasts for around 5 minutes once you switch off the oven, so you can use it to cook for the last five minutes of every meal.

Don’t fridge-gaze

Standing on front of an open fridge door humming and hawing is an expensive habit. For every 10 seconds the door is open, it will take the fridge 45 minutes to get back down to its original temperature. Shut that door!

Use LED bulbs

Turn off lights. Switch of everything when you’re not actively using it and buy energy-efficient appliances if you’re replacing old ones. Changing habits and being more mindful will save you a bundle – and save the planet, too.


You can really get on top of your bills by using an electricity monitor to find our exactly how much and where the energy usage is in your home – it’s a little clip that you attach to your mains and view from a portable screen inside – but a bit of thought will go a long way.