Who left the tap on?

By Dan O’Sullivan

Water is all too often overlooked as one of the main contributors to household energy bills and domestic carbon emissions. Indeed, the recent EU Life+ RENEW  project into water efficiency established that a baseline of only 8% of people were aware of the link between their water use contributing to their energy bills, without first being prompted. Yet, how do we deliver the message that water – something that falls freely from the sky on a seemingly all too regular basis – really does have an important role to play in saving on our bills and emissions?

The report’s findings speak for themselves – heating and using hot water accounts for around a quarter of the average home’s carbon emissions, as well as a  more than considerable 30 per cent of the energy bill. When put into context, this means the average household is spending somewhere in the region of £200 a year on the energy needed to heat water in areas such as showers and kitchen taps.

With the theme for Energy Saving Week being Take back control of your bills, there does not seem much better way than to keep a check on any excessive use of hot water and save ourselves substantial sums of money – a winner for both the wallet and the environment. Indeed, with energy prices dominating the news and the apparent reluctance of the government to take any serious steps to address the issue, monitoring the use of water becomes a tangible means for people to take their own measures.

The recently ‘pimped-out’ Water Energy Calculator provides a great means to work out how much – and in which areas – your household spends on energy from water use. Having used the calculator myself (it barely takes five minutes) I’ve realised that my family are spending nearly £300 a year on the energy needed to sustain our water consumption – more than enough to convince me to start phasing out the twenty minute showers.

In addition, the calculator generates quick reports on how and where to plug any leaks (pun intended) in your water usage, and even produces a definitive, overall figure on the money you could save – £87, in my case –  by taking steps as simple as using a water saving showerhead in favour of a full on power shower.

With this in mind, limiting our use of hot water can clearly have a significant impact in terms of saving us money. By focusing on the little things – boiling only the amount of water you intend to use in the kettle, washing up in a bowl rather than under a relentlessly flowing tap and even ensuring the washing machine is fully loaded before being used – the funds that we save quickly accumulate. Fitting a water efficient shower head for less than £20 will more than pay for itself, and it is by taking such relatively easy actions that we can regain control of our energy bills, saving money in both the short and long term.

In short, whilst the price of energy increases – and the only advice we seem to be receiving from the government remains to shop around and insulate our homes – reducing any unnecessary, extensive use of hot water emerges as the ideal way to bring down our bills. This does not call for revolutionary changes or for us to deprive ourselves of the luxury of hot water, but to take simple steps and become slightly more conscious when it comes to things like remembering not to leave the tap running as we brush our teeth. Try the calculator for yourself and see the impact such measures could have.