Turn those blinkin’ lights off! Changing energy habits could save each Greater Manchester household more than £600

By David Aspinall

Households could save a more than £600 a year if they eliminate bad attitudes towards their use of energy, a new study from the University of Salford has shown.

The study, which took place in the university’s specially built Energy House, focused on two identical couples in an identical two up-two down terraced house subjected to the same climactic conditions.

The only differences between the couples, named Bern and Savannah and Ern and Grace, was how they used electricity and gas, such as leaving thermostats on consistently high temperatures or leaving electrical objects on standby.

Professor Eric Bichard, who is part of the wider Energy Hub project at the university, said: “While our scripts represent extremes of energy use, the way we’ve been able to control all the other factor, such as the building and the climate, shows just how much difference a few changes to your lifestyle can make.”

He also confirmed that the house was designed to mirror the majority of housing found in Greater Manchester, 80% of which is over 40-years-old and that the professor said was one of the worst for energy conservation.

It is quite fitting that these tests have been done in Salford as a report entitled ‘Review of Fuel Poverty in Greater Manchester’, commissioned by Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), showed that more than one in five of the regions households is classed as being in fuel poverty.

This is above the average, both nationally and in the North West, and equates to almost double the percentage of households in London classed as being in fuel poverty.

These figures were published the day before national government changed the definition of fuel poverty after recommendations from the ‘Hills Review on Fuel Poverty’, commissioned by the Department of Energy in 2011.

As a result of this change in definition the number of households nationally classed as under fuel poverty fell by one million, from three and a half million to two and a half million.

Government ministers have claimed that this redefinition will ensure that help is targeted to the households who need it desperately, as under the previous definition the Queen could have been classed as fuel poor, when taking into account the energy costs of running Buckingham Palace and her other residents.

Despite this fall in fuel poor households, further government reports have claimed that fuel poverty could reach 10million people by 2016 as fuel prices continue to rise coupled with the implementation of proposed green taxes.

The tests did assume that both couples were able to afford their energy bills no matter what, a fact that Professor Bichard accepts is not the case in the majority of household classed as in fuel poverty, where the daily decision can be between heating or eating.

Despite this fact, he does believe there are some elements of the tests that can help.

“While making housing more energy efficient is very important, our work suggests the way we behave toward energy in our homes can have a significant effect on our bills,” he said.

“For those not able to invest in energy conservation, this will be welcome news for their bank balance, and for climate.”

The university’s report is the culmination of the first set of behavioural tests carried out in the unique Energy House and they intend to interchange fittings in the house to test their effect on energy prices. 

They will test a range of water saving devices, solid wall insulation and even change the type of windows to see what differences can be made.

Picture courtesy of Theo via Flickr, with thanks.

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