• Tips and advice

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    The below articles include tips and advice to help you reduce your energy use and provide you with information about energy saving and sustainable measures that can be made in your home, business or organisation.

  • Be water wise this water saving week

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    Although the earth is often called the blue planet, out of all the water on the planet there is less than 1% accessible fresh water for us to use. It is important that we use water wisely and cut down on wasting this precious resource.

    Population growth, rising water use and climate change will increasingly affect future water resources in the UK. If water efficiency action is not increased, the country could be hit by water shortages by 2050.

    Water Saving Week takes place between 13 – 17 May, 2024, with a focus of encouraging all of us to incorporate small water-saving habits into our daily routines, so that collectively we can make a big impact on water conservation.

    Image of young girl turning tap on waterbutt to pour into watering can
    There are lots of ways to play your part to conserve water.

    • Shorten your shower time – a short shower with an efficient showerhead uses less water than a bath. Aim for a 4 minute shower if possible.
    • Use your dual flush function on your toilet – this gives the user the choice of how much water to use and typically only uses 4 – 6 litres of water per flush compared to the old style flush system which used 13 litres per flush.
    • Turn off your tap – turn off your tap when brushing your teeth – a running tap wastes approximately 6 litres per minute.
    • Take time to fix your leaking taps – this could be wasting around 5,500 litres of water a year and could be a simple fix if you just need the washer replacing.
    • Use your dishwasher effectively – if you have a dishwasher make sure you use is on the eco setting and always make sure it is full when you use it.
    • Check your washing machine manual – find out which cycles are the most water-efficient and make sure you are putting a full load of washing in to make the most of the water and energy you are using during a washing cycle.
    • Water your plants with any leftover water – this could be from your drinks, tumble dryer, washing up or even bath water.
    • Fill the kettle with just what you need – this will save water and save you money by cutting down the amount of time it takes to boil.
    • Be consideration in the garden – if you can, use a watering can to water your plants, collecting water from a water butt in your garden. If you do need to use a hose try attaching a trigger nozzle to halve the amount of water used and help direct the flow to the root of your plant.

    The Waterwise website has lots more tips and advice on ways to save water, visit: Save Water – Waterwise

    By making some of these small changes part of our daily habits we could save thousands of litres a year, alongside saving ourselves money and helping the planet.

  • Busting some of the myths around electric vehicle charging

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    There are many misconceptions around electric vehicle (EV) charging and the costs of owning or leasing an EV that act as a barrier to ownership.

    With EVs becoming more popular and people's interest in them increasing, we’ve put together a list of common myths that are often part of discussions around this topic.

    Myth: EVs are an expensive option

    Reality: Take into account the real-life costs of a vehicle. So that means purchase / leasing costs, plus all running costs. Through careful selection of electricity providers - with off peak rates for electricity - smart charging an EV at night and taking advantage of lower electric rates has a major impact on vehicle running costs. Some energy providers, such as Octopus Energy, deliver peak and off peak energy supply options. Using smart charging, off peak, with the tariff system, can deliver great savings.

    Along with the above benefits, an EV has fewer moving parts, so that reduces servicing costs. Then add in road tax benefits as EV cars are exempted from this. For those employed or in business, accessing the Salary Sacrifice option can mean high tax savings as the scheme rewards EV drivers. When considering purchasing an EV car it is worth comparing the real-life costs of petrol / diesel v EV. This article by the RAC has compared vehicles and the costs involved.

    A number of surveys have shown that at least 90% of EV drivers would never go back to a petrol or diesel car, including a report by EVA England in December 2023 which states that 91% of EV drivers have no intention of returning to a petrol or diesel car. 92% of EV drivers would likely recommend an EV to friends and family. 86% have found owning an EV cheaper to run.

    Myth: If I get an EV I will have nowhere to charge it

    Reality: If you do not have off street charging capability, then there are public EV charging options. Whilst the EV charging infrastructure needs significant development both locally, regionally, and nationally, there is already a provision of EV charging that with some sensible route and time planning should allow any EV owner to charge and get full benefit from their EV.

    Across the borough, there are currently 199 Public EV chargers, with 40 of those chargers classed as rapid, meaning their output is at least 25kW or above. As an example, if your EV had a 54kW battery and you used a 50kW direct current (DC) charger, then it could take around 45 - 50 minutes to reach 80% charged. There are often many alternative current (AC) fast chargers available in town centres / sports centres / hospitality providers, for example, and their output ranges from 7kW to 22kW. For a 7kW charger, that would take around seven hours to charge a 54kW battery. For context, it’s important to know that, whilst most people charge at home or at work, the UK’s public charging infrastructure is also continually growing. You can view your closest EV charging point on the Zap Map website.

    Myth: Charging an EV takes a long time

    Reality: This does depend on whether you are AC charging or DC charging, and the connector for your vehicle. Most EVs now have the rapid charging capability. This means that the electricity goes straight onto the battery, as DC charging – ie. not via the inverter (as is with AC charging). For example, if you have a 54kW battery, then when rapid charging from a 50kW DC charger, your charging takes just 48 minutes from empty to reach 80% full. That 80% threshold is important, as EVs are designed to charge quickly to the 80% level then much slower for the remaining 20%. So, being 80% charged is a good level to be at and the protects the life of the battery.

    Myth: I will get range anxiety with an EV

    Reality: There are public EV charging points available for all journeys. It is wise to plan in advance where you want to stop and re-charge, and Zap Mapsis a web portal that allows you to plan and give real time updates on the status of selected EV chargers. This gives you the option to charge as frequently as you would wish. The range of EVs is also increasing. It is standard now for EVs to have a range over 200 miles. With improved battery technology, that vehicle range is increasing, with many models having a real-world driving range of 300 miles or more. Read this article by the Green Car Guide for more information. Think about how far your normal journey usage is with a car? The average car journey in the UK in 2019 was 8.4miles*. That means on an 80% charge you could take an average of 19 journeys before needing to charge.

    *Average Car Journeys in the UK | NimbleFins

    Myth: Batteries have a short life and are not eco-friendly in their manufacture

    Reality: Some EV manufacturers are now guaranteeing 100k miles or eight years for a battery life. As the cycle of mainstream EV ownership has not yet reached eight years, it is hard to know for sure what performance life is left in the battery beyond this point. That said, all the evidence points to batteries probably continuing to perform well post-eight years. There are early Nissan LEAF cars, from around 2010, still on the road. In terms of battery production, much progress is being made to make battery production more sustainable and with improved end-of-life battery solutions. Read more about the progress in this area on the Electric Vehicle Hub website.

    Find out more at our upcoming EV awareness event

    If you are interested in investing in an EV and would like to know some more about them before purchasing, the Council is hosting an EV awareness event on Tuesday, 21 May at Ellesmere Port Civic Hall. For more information about the event and to sign up for tickets, visit the Council’s website.

  • Green Doctor - helping residents to stay warm and well, tackling energy bills during the cost of living crisis

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    Green Doctors offer free, impartial advice to help people take control of their bills, save energy in the home and access other services and initiatives available. We work with public and private partners to ensure support reaches those who need it most in local communities.

    Our support is available to a wide range of people, many of whom are struggling for the first time so don’t be shy about reaching out for help. In the UK, changes to energy prices and ongoing financial pressures as a result of the cost of living crisis has left many people finding it hard to heat their homes. If you or someone you know are worried about energy and water bills, then we might be able to help.

    Some of the reasons people ask for help are:

    • struggling to pay energy bills
    • finding it hard to manage fuel and water debt
    • worrying about keeping warm or choosing between eating and heating
    • feeling that the home is cold, damp or draughty
    • Have a health condition affected by the cold such as respiratory problems and mental ill health.

    Our support includes the installation of small energy saving measures such as draughtproofing and radiator foils, help with boiler and heating controls, smart meters, water meters, fuel and water debt, registration on suppliers Priority Services Register, grants, behavioural change advice, referrals for free gas safety checks and financial assistance where available.

    The scheme is open to residents across Cheshire West and Chester with a focus on families and individuals who:

    • have a low household income
    • are living with debt
    • are aged over 65
    • are living with a health condition affected by the cold
    • are living with mental illness
    • are living with dementia
    • have a disability
    • are young people and families containing children under the age of 5
    • are pregnant
    • are in emergency accommodation
    • are living in poor housing conditions.

    To find out more about our service please visit www.groundwork.org.uk/greendoctor(External link)

    Email: greendoctor.CLM@groundwork.org.uk
    Phone: 0330 1740 863

  • Home upgrade grant for properties not heated by mains gas

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    The Home Upgrade Grant scheme is available to eligible residents to help improve the energy efficiency of homes, lower energy costs and reduce carbon emissions. The grant is available to properties that are not heated by mains gas and have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of Band D, E, F or G. If your property does not have a current EPC and you qualify for the grant, we will arrange for one to be carried out for you.

    Examples of improvements that can be made to your home:

    • solid wall insulation (internal or external)
    • cavity wall insulation
    • loft, room-in-roof and flat roof insulation
    • under-floor insulation
    • air source heat pump
    • solar thermal for hot water
    • solar panels for electricity generation
    • replacement high heat retention electric storage heaters
    • heating controls
    • external door and window upgrades (single glazing replacements - only in conjunction with other improvements).

    Please note that the offer of any improvements is subject to a survey of your property.

    The improvements must increase your Energy Performance Band by at least 2 bands to qualify. For example, if your home is currently an EPC Band F or G it will need to reach EPC Band D, and if your property is currently EPC Band D or E it should reach Band C or above with the planned improvements.

    Apply for a Home Upgrade Grant

    Typically, the main heating source for eligible properties will be electric, LPG, oil or solid fuel. You will still qualify if your property has a mains-gas supply for cooking purposes and you meet all other criteria.

    To qualify, you must be a homeowner or private tenant and meet one of the following income criteria:

    • you receive an income related benefit (for example, Universal Credit, Pension Credit Guarantee, Council Tax Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or Tax Credits)

    • your total combined annual household income before tax, National Insurance and other deductions is no more than £31,000 (this figure is increasing to £36,000 from 2 April 2024)

    • your total combined annual household income before tax, National Insurance and other deductions is no more than £20,000 after your housing costs have been deducted (by housing costs, we mean mortgage payments, rent payments and Council Tax).

    When we calculate your household income, we will ignore any disability benefits (such as Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance) so this will not count towards your household income.

    All energy efficiency improvements are fully funded for qualifying homeowners. Eligible private tenants can apply with their landlord’s approval. In the case of a tenanted property the landlord is required to make a minimum one-third contribution.

    Apply for a Home Upgrade Grant

  • Busting some of the myths around Solar PV systems

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    As more people are looking at options to save money and use sustainable sources of energy to power their home, solar panels have emerged as one of the leading solutions that provide a source of clean and renewable power.

    Image of solar panels on a roof
    There are lots of companies offering solar photovoltaic (PV)systems, but there are also a lot of myths and misconceptions which can cause confusion around this renewable technology.

    Below are some of the common myths and the reality about solar panels.

    Myth: Solar panels don’t work well in cloudy or rainy weather and require constant sunlight to be effective

    Reality: Solar panels can generate electricity even on cloudy days. While their efficiency may be slightly reduced, they still produce power when the sun isn’t shining bright. They can generate electricity from diffused sunlight, which is light that has been scattered by particles in the atmosphere such as rain clouds before reaching the earth. This makes solar panels a viable option in regions with varying weather patterns, such as the UK. Rain can even help by cleaning the panels and improving their performance. Read Solar Together’s blog on this for more information.

    Myth: Solar panels are expensive

    Reality: The cost of solar panels has significantly decreased over the years. In a recent article on the Which? Website, the average solar panel system of 3.5kWp (kilowatt peak) will cost around £5,500 to install, according to estimates from the Energy Saving Trust.

    The exact cost will vary, depending on the size of your home and how much energy you want to produce. Last year, the Council partnered with Solar Together, a group buying scheme, to offer residents in west Cheshire the opportunity to receive a competitive quote from a pre-vetted installer. The scheme is currently closed for new applicants, but you can register your interest and you’ll be informed if it opens for applicants in the future.

    Myth: Solar panel production is harmful to the environment

    Reality: While there is an environmental impact associated with manufacturing solar panels, the overall life cycle emissions are much lower compared to traditional energy sources, such as those generated by fossil fuels. The ongoing improvements in manufacturing processes are reducing their environmental footprint further and most solar waste is already recyclable, with a growing recycling industry developing around the recovery of materials for reuse. Read more about this topic in this Forbes article.

    Myth: Solar panels require excessive maintenance

    Reality: Solar panels are relatively low-maintenance. It is not necessary to clean your solar PV system, unless in areas of heavy leaf fall or bird activity, as there is regular rainfall all year round that does the cleaning for you. Monitoring the output of your solar panels will tell you if performance is dropping and a clean may be required. If you do wish to clean your solar panels use only lukewarm water and do not use any household cleaning products as they can damage your panels. If in doubt, ask a professional cleaner for their services. Most modern systems come with warranties and are designed to withstand various weather conditions.

    Myth: Solar panels are unattractive and bulky
    Reality: Solar panel designs have evolved, and there are sleek and more visually appealing options available. Some can even be integrated into building materials, such as in the tiles of your roof, making them a seamless part of the architecture.

    Myth: Solar panels are not powerful enough to meet a property’s energy needs

    Reality: Advances in solar technology have significantly increased the efficiency of solar panels. When properly sized and installed, solar systems can generate enough power to meet the energy needs of many homes and businesses. Using a local Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) installer will ensure they can advise on the correct type of system that will work for your households needs. The Centre for Sustainable Energy has a useful checklist of things to ask your installer in this article.

    If you’d like to do more research on the subject the below articles are a good starting point:

  • Debunking common myths about Air Source Heat Pumps

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    As we look for more sustainable and efficient heating solutions for our homes and businesses, air source heat pumps (ASHPs) are starting to be talked about more and more. There are 19.3 million heat pumps in Europe alone and, with the UK government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme knocking £7,500 off the price of heat pumps, they’re popularity is starting to grow here.

    Picture of two people looking at an air source heat pump on side of building
    However, misconceptions and myths often cloud the understanding of these systems. Below we debunk some common myths to shed light on the reality of air source heat pumps.

    • Myth: Air Source Heat Pumps are ineffective in cold climates.
      Reality: Modern ASHPs are designed to operate efficiently even in colder temperatures. They can extract heat from the air, even in sub-zero conditions, making them suitable for a wide range of climates. Two-thirds of households in Norway have a heat pump, more than anywhere else in the world.

    • Myth: ASHPs are noisy.
      Reality: While early models may have been noisier, advancements in technology have led to quieter systems. Many ASHPs today operate at noise levels comparable to traditional heating systems or as loud as a refrigerator.

    • Myth: ASHPs consume more energy than they save.
      Reality: ASHPs are known for their high efficiency. They can provide up to three units of heat for every unit of electricity they consume, making them a cost-effective and energy-efficient heating option.

    • Myth: Installation costs are prohibitive.
      Reality: While the initial cost of installing an ASHP may be higher than traditional systems, government incentives and the long-term energy savings can offset this. The return on investment makes them financially viable in the long run. We’d recommend getting a number of quotes from an MCS certified installer. Another option to keep the costs of running an air source heat pump down is to balance it with investment in solar PV systems. It is also worth making sure your property is well insulated before you have one installed so you aren’t wasting any of the heat that is generated.

    • Myth: ASHPs require constant maintenance.
      Reality: ASHPs generally require minimal maintenance. Regular checks, such as cleaning filters and ensuring proper airflow, are usually sufficient to keep the system running smoothly.

    • Myth: ASHPs only work for heating.
      Reality: Many modern ASHPs are designed for both heating and cooling. They can provide efficient air conditioning during warmer months, offering a year-round solution.

    • Myth: ASHPs are unsightly.
      Reality: ASHPs come in various designs, and some models can be discreetly integrated into the architecture of a home or business. They don't have to be an eyesore.

    For further information on Air Source Heat pumps visit the following websites.

    A guide to air source heat pumps - Energy Saving Trust

    Air Source Heat Pumps Explained - Which?

    Air Source Heat Pumps: The Ultimate Guide to the Pros & Cons | Homebuilding

  • New app available to help you save money on your energy bills

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    The Council has teamed up with the Energy Saving Trust to bring you an app that will give you advice on how to use less energy in your home and save money.

    person looking at phone

    The app which is available to download from both Apple and android app stores is simple and easy to use.

    It takes you on a journey of a typical home. Simply click on the different rooms within the home, such as a bedroom or kitchen and you will be prompted to answer yes or no to certain questions relating to electrical items within that room – things such as ‘Do you turn off lights every time you leave a room?’ If the answer is No, then it will tell you what potential financial saving you could make if you change what you currently do.

    Did you know:
    • that by turning lights off when you don’t need them you will save around £25 a year on your energy bill

    • if you line dry your clothes in the summer months instead of using a tumble dryer you could save £60 each year

    • if you replace your showerhead with a water efficient one it can save you around £35 off your yearly gas bill.

    Once you have completed your tour of the rooms in the house, the app will tell you the total potential saving you could make by making a few minor changes. You can also ask for a report that shows you where you could save energy and money.

    Download the app today by searching CWAC: Energy Advice Tool and start saving money as well as protecting the planet.

  • Home energy – reducing emissions and saving money

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    With the weather turning colder, many of us are thinking of ways to be more efficient during the winter months.

    There are many things we can do at home to reduce our energy use and bills, in turn making our living spaces more climate friendly in terms of energy. The energy-saving ideas included here are ones we could all do quickly and easily, whether our homes are owned or rented.

    Switch off standby

    The Energy Saving Trust says we can save an average of around £30 a year by turning all our home appliances off standby mode. It might be convenient, but keeping items on standby causes unnecessary emissions and wastes energy. Fully turning off just one LCD TV for 18 hours a day will save about 5kg CO2 a year. For many appliances, switching off at the plug will make no difference to their programming, but it’s worth checking if some items like digital TV recorders need to be left plugged in to keep their recording data.

    Don’t leave the lights on

    Turn off lights in rooms that you aren’t using and replace light bulbs with energy-saving bulbs. LED (Light Emitting Diode) light bulbs can save around 90 per cent of lighting energy costs compared to use incandescent bulbs.

    Hang out your washing

    Hanging the washing out instead of using the tumble drier will save about 153kg CO2 a year and £52, based on 150 cycles annually. If it’s not dry enough or there is no space to hang washing outside, air drying in the home is an option if it can be placed it in a well-ventilated area to prevent mould.

    Put on your favourite jumper

    If we all turned the thermostat down by one degree throughout the year, we could make a financial saving of around £80 and save 320kg of CO2 emissions. Find out about the home energy help available to eligible residents in west Cheshire.

    Boil what you need

    Only boiling the amount of water for a hot drink will save an average of 72kg CO2 a year - that's £23 per annum. Tea experts advise that the perfect cup of tea needs freshly drawn water, so re-boiling water is damaging your cuppa as well as using up energy and creating emissions you could save.

    Spend less time in the shower

    Spending one minute less in the shower can save 23kg CO2 and £8 a year (based on one shower a day and a 9kW shower). If a four-person household replaces an inefficient shower head with a water efficient one, they could save energy emissions and around £70 a year off gas bills and around £115 a year off water bills (if they have a water meter).

    Share your own tips on Climate Emergency Inspire hub

    If there are other actions you are taking to reduce your energy use, please share your tips and stories on the 'Your energy action' section of the Energy for Everyone site. Your information might just inspire others to make a change that will save them money and reduce their households carbon footprint.

    Information taken from
    energysavingtrust.org.uk and carbonfootprint.com

    Every effort has been made to that ensure the information used in all climate emergency articles is accurate. All information used to inform the articles has been taken from reputable sources and those sources are given at the end of each article. Data wil, however, change over time and some information across the internet and printed matters can be contradictory. If you have any questions or comments about any articles, please submit them below the article.

  • Budget-friendly energy saving measures for your home

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    More of us are mindful of the energy we are using in our homes and businesses, especially since energy costs increased significantly over the last year or so. Finding ways to save energy and reduce costs has become more important for many of us, which in turn is helping to reduce our households carbon emissions.

    Fortunately, there are several wallet-friendly measures you can implement in your home and business to make a positive impact on both the planet and your finances.

    1. Seal the leaks: Gaps and cracks in doors and windows can lead to significant energy loss. Invest in weatherstripping and caulk to seal these gaps. This simple step can prevent draughts, keeping your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. You could also use a simple draught excluder against the base of doors. The Get Energy Savvy website has some useful guides on doing this and the Energy Saving Trust website has a list of different areas in your home you can draught proof .

    2. Upgrade to LED bulbs: Replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs. These bulbs, which on average cost between £2 and £10 per pack, use less energy, last longer, and can significantly reduce electricity bills over time.

    3. Unplug electronics: Many electronic devices continue to use power even when turned off, contributing to "phantom" or standby energy usage. Unplug chargers, appliances, and electronics when not in use to cut down on this hidden energy consumption.

    4. Smart thermostats: Invest in a smart thermostat to make the most of your heating. A programmable thermostat allows you to set specific temperatures for different times of the day, minimising energy use when it is not needed.

    5. Maximise natural light: Take advantage of natural light during the day to reduce reliance on artificial lighting. Keep curtains open during the day and close them to help keep out the draughts at dusk.

    6. Insulate your home: Proper insulation can significantly impact your home's energy efficiency. Insulate attics, walls, and floors to minimise heat transfer, keeping your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer without overtaxing your heating or cooling systems. You can get insultation from all good DIY stores with prices starting at around £22 for a roll.

    7. Use energy-efficient appliances: When it's time to replace old appliances, opt for energy-efficient models with energy labels. These appliances are designed to consume less energy, contributing to lower utility bills over time. The Energy Saving Trust has a good article on the different energy ratings of appliances.

    8. Wash clothes at a lower temperature: Heating water for laundry can use a lot of energy. Switching to cold water for washing clothes not only conserves energy but also helps preserve the colours and fabrics of your clothing. According to the Energy Saving Trust washing clothes at 30 degrees rather than higher temperatures will save around 40% of the energy used each year. Modern washing powders and detergents work just as effectively at lower temperatures.

    9. Limit hot water usage: Install low-flow taps and showerheads to reduce the amount of hot water you are using. If you have a hot water tank, consider insulating it to help retain heat, minimising the need for frequent reheating.

    10. Do an energy audit: Conduct regular energy audits to identify how much energy you use and in what areas of your home and business. The Act On Energy website has a guide on how to do this.

    Small changes and adjustments add up and, by incorporating some of the suggestions in this article, you could reduce your carbon and also enjoy the financial benefits of a more energy-efficient home or business.