Will Anderson: The Green House

Do you wash your clothes 'off-peak'? That's the hallmark of a true eco-warrior
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The Independent Online

As this is national Energy Saving Week I feel I ought to pitch in with a goodly concoction of energy-saving tips for your low-carbon delectation. Yet today I would like to concentrate on the sauce, rather than the familiar meat and two veg. I want to convince you that, even when you have ticked off every item on the energy-saving "to do" list, there is always scope for a little fine-tuning.

So you run your washing machine at 40 degrees. But when? Remember that we produce more carbon per kilowatt-hour when national demand for electricity is at its peak in the early evening, as this is when the old coal-fired power stations have to be turned up. The more you can do to flatten your own peaks of demand, such as running your washing machine at night, the better.

So you don't leave electronic goods on stand-by. But do you turn them off at the plug? Lots of black boxes keep on drawing power even when they are switched off and the little red light has faded.

So you have switched to energy-efficient lightbulbs. But are they throwing light where you really need it? A combination of well-focused task-lighting and well-placed accent-lighting may be all you need - don't assume that every corner of every room has to be lit with flat ambient light.

So you've insulated your loft. But have you insulated over the joists as well as between them? Remember that wood is quite a good conductor of heat compared with insulation.

So you've draught-stripped your doors and windows. But what about your floorboards and skirting boards? A sealant gun can make all the difference to these gaping cracks.

So you've turned your thermostat down a couple of degrees. But remember to keep an eye on it. Just as lights are always easier to turn on rather than off because you notice the dark but ignore the light, so thermostats are easy to turn up when you feel a chill but are then forgotten when the howling gale subsides.

So you've stopped buying New Zealand apples. But are you still supporting the hub-and-spoke distribution systems of the supermarkets? Reduce your food miles further by buying from farm shops, farmers' markets or via organic box schemes.

So your new fridge came with the "Energy Efficiency Recommended" logo. But are you forcing it to pump heat out unnecessarily? Make sure your dinner left-overs are at room temperature before you put them in the fridge for the night. And when you take something out of the freezer to defrost, put it in the fridge, where the cold it releases will keep the fridge's compressor out of action.

So you take showers rather than baths. But how efficient is your use of the water? You don't need to run the shower when you are soaping your body.

So you always put just the right amount of water in the kettle. But do you boil more water than necessary when you are cooking? If you are cooking a soft-boiled egg, take the pan off the heat as soon as it boils, turn the heat off and let the egg sit in the hot water for four to five minutes depending on size.


If you cook electrically, save up for an induction hob. As heat is not conducted from the hob to the pan but generated in the pan by electromagnetism, these techno-marvels are ultra-fast as well as ultra-efficient. The AEG-Electrolux 68001KFN starts at around £550 (aeg-electrolux.co.uk).


George Marshall and his family have explored every aspect of eco-living in their 1930s Yellow House in Oxford. Their website embraces everything from principles of eco-design to the fine details of low-energy cooking: www.theyellowhouse.info.