/ Home & Energy

Will knowing your neighbour’s energy use help you cut back?

It’s official; I’m ‘GREAT’. That’s according to First Utility’s new energy savings plan which was launched last week. The idea is that you get a personal comparison with your neighbours in terms of energy comparison.

Now I’m wondering whether I should look down on my power-guzzling neighbours.

But I’m also wondering whether this is a good tactic for encouraging people to become more energy efficient?

The letter from First Utility said that our household used 10% less energy than ‘efficient similar homes’. I must admit, I was very surprised.

An energy inefficient house

Anyone who knows me is well-aware that my house is a big ‘work-in-progress’. Only around half of our windows are double-glazed (three of them were only done last week) and we have really poor loft insulation.

I have had someone around to advise me on getting insulation, and it’s a lot more complicated than I really want it to be. After all, with two children, a husband and a tendency to keep lots of useless things, I have a lot of clutter which I want up in the loft and not spread around the house – I need that storage space.

On the plus side I suppose we did spend a lot of money on a boiler five years ago and the children are really good at conserving energy with their reluctance to take baths and showers.

Keeping up the Joneses

Also, we do have a smart meter which, via an energy monitor, tells me when we are using lots of electricity. I originally turned off a few things that were usually left on standby, but after the first few weeks of my son shouting when my energy monitor was lighting up red when the kettle, the washing machine and the oven was on – we stopped taking a lot of notice of the monitor. After all, I still need to wash clothes, cook and drink tea.

First Utility do give tips on how to save energy. For example, replacing a bath with a five-minute shower while using ‘an efficient showerhead’ could save up to £65 a year – I’ll tell the kids.

So would a comparison with your neighbours make you use less energy? Would a ‘GREAT’ and two smiley faces on a letter make you take more notice of how you use your gas and electricity?

I think it’s a good start. I’m a little dubious that our house is better on the energy efficiency front than my neighbour’s – what are they plugging in!? Then again, the data likely isn’t from my actual next-door neighbour, as the company compares your energy use with other similar nearby homes that are also with First Utility. Still, I must admit that the letter made me feel quite good, maybe even ‘great’!

Phil says:
25 June 2012

I would’ve expected them to tell you your house was less efficient than the neighbours in an attempt to sell more insulation and other energy efficient stuff.

Such comparisons would be useless around here as few of the houses bear any similarity to any of the others.

E.ON team says:
26 June 2012

We welcome Which?’s review of our new Love Your Loft service. When it comes to loft insulation, we’d always urge people to choose the right deal for them, whether that’s free insulation, the complete, hassle-free service, or somewhere in between. Love Your Loft is our one-stop shop service, providing loft insulation and boarding, loft clearance, and disposing of customers’ unwanted items responsibly. It’s just one of a range of insulation offers that we have, including:

• Help for vulnerable customers: Some households are eligible for FREE installation PLUS a cheque for £100 as an incentive to have the insulation installed;
• Discounted installation: people can get discounted loft or cavity wall insulation fitted from £150 each;
• Buy it and do-it-yourself: E.ON subsidises insulation through Jewson and Homebase stores.

Whichever option people choose, the important thing is that they know lagging their loft is a simple way to save money and make their home more comfortable – both in winter and the summer time.

Hello Eon, your comment is a little off-topic to what this debate is about, but for others, here is what Eon is referring to: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2012/06/hassle-free-loft-insulation-comes-at-a-price-289411/

Even with similar houses the main factor in energy consumption is occupancy.
If the CH thermostat or timer is set to only heat the house when occupied, a family with school children and thus at home in school holidays and from late afternoon onwards will use significantly more energy over someone who is out at work 5 days a week and not back till early evening.

Well so long as the information on usage is general I see no real harm in it. Who knows it might start a neighbourly debate or exchange of ideas on how to save cash and combat the greedy energy wholesalers and retailers who rip us all off so much. And thus bringing the subject of saving energy and cash more into peoples thoughts to a degree where they actually do something rather than just moan about it.
Interesting comment from Jenny about how energy monitors and smart meters initially get taken notice of but after a short while the novalty wears off. I’ve always thought this to be the case. Yet “Which” supports the principle of smart meters? These to my mind are a monumental waste of £11 billion of what will ulimately be our money. They’ll not save anyone a penny. The only savings available will come from our own actions.
I think Which should rather encourage and promote “automated” energy saving devices. This could be as simple as a plug in timer to turn off completely your TV, freeview box or sky box, modem, computer, printer etc. etc. when you go to bed or when you’re out all day. Similarly encourage the use of heating thermostats and timers to heat only when and where in the home it’s necessary. Once setup these devices do not require monitoring and certainly not £11 billions worth of smart meters, and there is no expensive novalty to wear off. Then of course there is insulation and apart from solid wall insulation it’s cheap, and you cannot have too much.
Another crusade “Which” might consider is to fight rising unit energy costs resulting from suppliers not actually selling so much it we all use less. Shareholders still want their cut so profits must be maintained. So sell less and the price has to go up. Unless of course we re-nationalise and control prices through the ballot box.

A very sensible letter by ‘Chris’ which has many a good point……. Years ago there was a debate with the old age pensioners community who stated firmly that it cost the same to leave the heating boiler on a low setting rather than switch it off completely and only switch the thing on when it is absolutely needed. They took no notice of the fact that (and I would not quarrel with them) I was fitting heating systems at that time around the 1 million Btu mark ! They may well have been right because it takes a lot to warm a house up from stone cold each and every time it is off. We now have advice from the do gooders who suggest putting a hat on & a woolly jumper to save on heating ! Oh & don’t put more water in the kettle than is absolutely necessary when mashing !
It would be very nice to have polystyrene a foot thick over every sq inch of structure but it is down to practicality …… I couldn’t get my car down the all too narrow driveway if I lost another 4 inches never mind foot. I’m resigned to paying what needs to be paid but hope one day the generating of electricity and distribution and charging is nationalized as it was. The same with water and gas which are essentials but have been exploited immensely and the worst off are those who are poor.