Backpackers Tokyo

As oil and gas prices rise across Europe since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the knock-on effects on just about everything we do on a daily basis grow stark.

The costs of heating our homes, buying food, feeding families and travelling to and from work and school have all increased and are expected to rise further. Here are ten tips to reduce household bills and use energy more efficiently.

1. Walk or cycle to your destination if you can

The so-called sustainable travel hierarchy is an inverted pyramid that puts walking and cycling at the top and travelling by car at the bottom. Of course, it won’t suit everyone to walk or cycle to work, college or even to pick up some groceries or meet friends – but for those it does, there is the added benefit of getting exercise in the outdoors.

2. Use public transport

With the imminent cut in public transport fares by 20 per cent, now is a good time to switch from commuting by car to using public transport. Customers purchasing annual or monthly Taxsaver tickets on Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus, Luas and Go-Ahead Ireland will see reductions of 20 per cent from the beginning of April. In mid-April, fares on all non-Dublin city services and some Iarnród Ireland services will be reduced by an average of 20 per cent. In early May, fares in the greater Dublin area and intercity train services will be reduced by 20 per cent. And the young adult card for all those aged between 19 and 23 will have an average 50 per cent reduction in fares from May onwards.

3. Slow down when driving

If you’ve no alternative but to drive a car on a daily basis, there are ways to reduce your fuel consumption and costs. “Drive in a conservative style with steady accelerating and braking and at 100km instead of 120km on motorways, and you’ll get about 10 per cent more kilometres from your fuel,” says Tom Halpin, head of communications at the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Keeping your car serviced regularly, ensuring your tyres are aligned and at the right pressure and avoiding carrying unnecessary heavy objects (like golf clubs) in your boot will also reduce your fuel consumption. And, don’t make unnecessary journeys – particularly short ones which are notoriously high on fuel consumption.

4. Turn the thermostat on your heating system down by one degree

Twenty degrees Celsius is considered a comfortable temperature for space heating yet many people have their thermostats set at 23 or 24 degrees. “A one-degree reduction in your thermostat could reduce your heating bills as much as 10 per cent,” says Halpin, who also recommends that people follow the 30 minute rule when it comes to home-heating. “Set your heating to come on half an hour before you get up, to go off half an hour before you go out, to come back on half an hour before you come home and to go off half an hour before you go to bed,” he explains. It’s probably also a good time to ditch the T-shirt and shorts as homewear staples and instead wear a cosy jumper and trousers when lounging around the house. Always switching off lights in rooms that are not in use will also reduce your energy costs over time.

5. Have shorter showers

While fewer people take regular baths now, pump-activated showers have replaced gravity showers in many homes and can use just as much water – if not more – than a bath. Power showers also use electricity (while gravity showers don’t) so keep it short and you’ll save energy costs as well as leaving some hot water for another family member. Putting a timer on your immersion to heat only the amount of water you need when you need it will also save on energy costs. Servicing your boiler at regular intervals also ensures that it is working at its most efficient. “We need to start urging people to consider how they can reduce their energy bills, as this will collectively allow us to reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels,” says Halpin.

6. Only use washing machines and dishwashers when full

This seems like such an obvious way of saving electricity but many a family argument has escalated over who turned on the dishwasher when it was only half full. Washing clothes at 30 degrees Celsius also saves energy and does just as good a job for most fabrics and keeps clothes in better condition for longer. Using economy settings on appliances also reduces energy costs.

7. Dry clothes outdoors

The best way to avoid using a clothes dryer is not to have one, but if you do, try to keep its use to a minimum and dry clothes outdoors on sunny/windy days.

8. Bring a list when food shopping

According to current estimates, we waste about one third of all the food we buy. An average household in Ireland wastes about €700 worth of food each year. So, with escalating food prices, it’s time to ratchet up meal planning and buy only the food you need. Working out in advance what meals you plan to cook and making a list of the ingredients you need is the best way to avoid unnecessary purchases. Another way to avoid impulsive purchases is to make sure you’ve eaten before you go shopping. See also stopfoodwaste.ie

9. Batch cook

Cooking more than you need for a meal is a good idea only if you can freeze portions for another day or have someone happy to eat the same meal twice. Things like soups and curries usually last well – and can even taste better the second day. When preparing meals, another energy-saving approach is to either cook everything on the hob or in the oven, rather than using both.

10. Bake your own bread

As the cost of flour is expected to soar with fears of a shortage of imported grains from Ukraine and Russia, there’s no better time than to start baking your own bread, which costs a fraction of the price than shop-bought bread (especially those sourdough loaves). Bake two loaves instead of one and freeze one of them to save energy costs.