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Go green by being mean

A bit of a “green” theme here on ValueIreland.com today – here’s the first of 3 articles.

When it comes to your carbon footprint and being green, the Irish consumer on average spends up to €5000 per year on gas, electricity, petrol and heating oil that all have an impact on our environment. How much better would we all feel if we could both lessen the impact we’re having on the environment while also saving ourselves some cash as well?

The primary principle of “being green” is to reduce – reducing what we buy, reduce what we use and reduce what we waste or throw out.

ValueIreland.com provide a series of cost free Top Tips checklists at www.valueireland.com/top-tips/ that will help you identify where you might be wasting money on your gas, electricity, petrol and heating oil usage. It will ultimately help you save you money.

The ESB website has an “Appliance Calculator” that everyone should check out to see the cost of their electricity usage. Do you leave your computer on all the time, even though you’re not using it? That’s nearly €35 on your bill. Or do you have the coffee “on” during the day? That’s nearly €60 every two months.

In the last week alone, Eamonn Ryan TD, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources announced that the price of electricity will drop by 10% in the coming year. This was quickly followed by announcements from Airtricity and Bord Gais that they will start supplying electricity to Irish consumers in competition to the ESB – finally, 4 years after the market was deregulated.

For the double whammy, using Airtricity means that up to 80% of your electricity comes from renewable resources – compared to a measly 9% from the ESB.

If you use gas, your only option is to reduce your usage and shop around for the lowest price, but the choice is even more limited. Flogas Natural Gas is the only residential competitor to Bord Gais (a fact not known by many people). However, since Flogas Natural Gas is only marginally cheaper on price, they’re not really competing.

One option you do have if you’re using Bord Gais is to investigate their alternative tariffs introduced in 2008. These include not paying the ridiculous standing charge (in exchange for a slightly higher usage rate) or a special tariff for high winter users, or especially high residential users.

If you’re a home heating oil user, an independent online service called BoilerJuice.ie could be for you. This site as created to bring oil users and suppliers together to get better prices by instantly getting you the lowest price for central heating oil delivered to you from their list of suppliers in your local area. ValueIreland.com has received a number of positive reviews about this money saving service.

But what other things can you do to help save the planet and save money at the same time?

The first and simplest thing you can do is to invest in CFL energy efficient light bulbs. These bulbs are 4 times more efficient and last 10 times longer than normal light bulbs. Though Minister John Gormley hasn’t banned normal light bulbs yet, given that these bulbs could save you 25% on your lighting costs for a year, they’re worth checking out.

If you don’t even know where to start spending on improvements to your house, you could get an Energy Audit carried out on your house. This will get your home a Building Energy Rating (BER) which you will need if you want to sell your house in the future (way in the future the way things are going).

More immediately, it will also help identify potential heat loss in your house, the efficiency of your heaters and boilers and will get you recommendations on what you could do. Be sure to shop around for the best price for a rating as the cost can vary from €250 to over €500, even though the BER is the same no matter who does it.

While many issues identified could be easily fixed with a little DIY, or with the help of a plumber or handyman, for larger expenses, the Government provides a series of incentives and grants for Irish home owners to invest in upgrading their homes to become more green and energy efficient.

Phase 3 of the Greener Homes Scheme came into effect in July last year. The aim of this scheme is to assist home owners who wish to invest in renewable technologies as well as promoting the increased usage of renewable energy in Irish homes. The ultimate then is to decrease the countries reliance on fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal and to reduce the impact of harmful CO2 emissions on the environment.

The website of Sustainable Energy Ireland provides all the details at www.SEI.ie provided the details but what can you get?

Grants are available for anyone who wants to install solar heating on their roof for heating either their hot water or their whole house.

Alternatively, you could get assistance in installing a “heat pump” – these essentially take heat from the ground under your lawn or your house and release it at a higher temperature into your central heating system.

Finally, these grants will assist you in installing wood chip or pellet stoves or boilers. These units can either be used to heat rooms (stove), your hot water or your entire house (boiler).

While these grants are great for home owners who might want to do their bit for the environment as well as their pockets, its unfortunate that schemes aren’t available to the many of us in the country who live in apartments.

A final note of caution – these higher cost alternatives should primarily be seen as helping you go green rather than saving you money as the payback period for your investment could be anything between 5 and 20 years.

The Irish energy efficiency website, www.powerofone.ie, is the place to go to find out more about saving energy and going green.

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