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Energy efficiency explained

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Discover everything you need to know about energy efficiency, becoming more energy efficient in every part of your life and how saving energy can benefit you.

Article contents 

  • What is energy efficiency?
  • Why energy efficiency is important
  • Top benefits of energy efficiency 
    • Costs 
    • Environmental
    • Community
    • Public health
    • Energy reliability
  • Methods to increase energy efficiency at home
    • Human behaviour 
    • Efficient appliances
    • Building design 
    • Transport 
  • Power NI Perks - cut the cost of energy efficiency 

What is energy efficiency?

Energy efficiency is doing things in ways that use less energy. This usually means cutting out unnecessary energy use, changing the way you do things, or choosing products and services that use less energy. You can do all of those things at home, at work and when you’re travelling to become more energy efficient.

A simple example of energy efficiency is switching to LED bulbs, which are around 90% more energy efficient than regular bulbs. By making this very easy change and choosing a product that has been designed to use less energy, you’re increasing the energy efficiency of your home. 

Choosing to be more efficient in your energy use can cut your bills and have a positive effect on the environment. Energy efficiency is good for you and good for the planet.

Why energy efficiency is important

Energy efficiency is important for each of us as individuals, our communities and our planet. Not only does it help us to cut our energy bills and save us money, but it also limits our reliance on burning fossil fuels and reduces our carbon footprints. It’s positive all around because everybody benefits from energy efficiency.

By being more efficient in the way we use energy, we can each help to reduce the amount of electricity that needs to be generated. Generating less electricity means reducing the amount of harmful emissions that are released when fossil fuels are burned to create power. 

All of that moves us closer towards achieving a net zero future in Northern Ireland.

Benefits of energy efficiency at home 

Being energy efficient sometimes means having to change the way we’re used to doing things. But these little adjustments are relatively minor. The advantages of energy efficiency always outweigh any disadvantages you encounter along the way. 

Some key energy efficiency benefits include :

Cut energy costs
Becoming more energy efficient at home will help you to cut your energy bills. Swapping to LED lighting, buying energy-efficient appliances, investing in heat pumps and adding more insulation are examples of things you can do to improve energy efficiency in your home. While there are costs associated with these improvements, the long-term impact of reducing your energy bills will save you money on an ongoing basis.

Create a greener environment
When we reduce our energy use, it means less electricity needs to be generated. That supports the fight against climate change by helping to end our reliance on fossil fuels, which create harmful greenhouse gases when burned. Sometimes choosing the green option to become more energy efficient will be more expensive in the short-term, but it will have long-term benefits for the planet as well as your energy costs.

Benefit the community
Community initiatives to embrace energy efficiency can improve air quality and reduce energy costs for everyone. Sharing infrastructure, buying in bulk for discounted prices and carrying out improvements together are all ways in which communities can work together to be more energy efficient. Community energy projects involving wind, solar and hydro are helping people in both rural and urban areas to become self-sufficient and generate income for their communities.

Reap health benefits
Being more energy efficient creates cleaner air, water and land. Cutting out fossil fuels reduces pollution and the damaging effects it has on our health. Energy efficiency has health benefits for everyone. The more comfortable environment of an energy efficient home can also help to prevent or lessen the effects of respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, arthritis, rheumatism and allergies.

Reduce power disruptions
A knock-on effect of being more energy efficient is that it increases the resilience and reliability of electricity networks. Energy efficiency reduces demand on the electricity grid, particularly during peak times. High levels of demand from energy-guzzling appliances increase the risk of power cuts, as well as the likelihood of more of our power being generated from non-renewable sources.

Methods to increase energy efficiency at home

Ready to become more energy efficient? There are lots of simple steps you can take to increase energy efficiency at home. Let’s explore some of them.

Human behaviour 
Some of the easiest ways of becoming more energy efficient involve making slight changes to the way we live our lives. We’re all creatures of habit and we do lots of things how we’ve always done them. But there’s often a more energy efficient way of doing things without the need for too much upheaval. Even minor adjustments can have a big impact on increasing our energy efficiency.

A few practical steps you can take to become more energy efficient at home include not leaving appliances on standby, switching lights off when you leave a room, choosing colder washes for your clothes, turning down the thermostat, air drying clothes and regularly defrosting your fridge-freezer. Walking, cycling or taking public transport will help you to be more energy efficient when you’re on the move. 

None of these things sound like life-altering changes — and they’re not. But taken together, they add up to a major increase in energy efficiency.

Efficient appliances 
Instantly increase your energy efficiency by choosing more energy-efficient appliances. Electric ovens, tumble dryers, washing machines, fridges and freezers can all use a lot of energy. By understanding which of your home appliances use the most energy, you can start to make changes that will help you to cut your energy use. 

All home appliances have an energy efficiency rating to guide you when buying a new appliance. They are rated from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient). Checking the energy label of any appliance you’re considering will show you its energy rating. Choosing an A-rated washing machine instead of a D-rated appliance could save around £130 over the machine's lifespan. 

You can also use smart meters, like the PowerNI Keypad+, to monitor your energy usage in real-time and cut out energy-guzzling appliances.

Building design 
A key way to become more energy efficient at home is by making the building itself more energy efficient. For some of us this might mean building a home that meets our energy efficiency goals, but for most of us it will involve retrofitting energy efficiency measures to a property. 

When you buy a home, you will get an energy performance certificate (EPC) that rates the building’s energy efficiency from A-G. You can use EPCs to guide you towards buying a more energy efficient property or to understand the changes you need to make to a property to make it more energy efficient. This might include things like installing a heat pump, adding solar panels or increasing the amount of insulation in your property. 

You can also use technology to give you greater control over energy use, including making your heating and lighting use more efficient.

The way you travel to and from your home also has a big impact on your carbon footprint. Moving to cleaner forms of transport helps you to become more energy efficient. The best way of travelling more energy efficiently will depend on the type of journeys you make, the public transport service where you live and your health and mobility.

There are lots of ways you can achieve increased energy efficiency in transport, such as swapping a conventional car for an electric car, using public transport more regularly, and walking or cycling for shorter distances. At the top end of the scale, cutting out unnecessary air travel will significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

Power NI Perks - cut the cost of energy efficiency 

We’re helping Power NI customers to cut the cost of becoming more energy efficient. With Power NI Perks, you can make big savings when you invest in new, energy-efficient appliances.

Explore our customer rewards now and enjoy special discounts from appliance retailers such as Currys, B&Q and Argos via Power NI Perks