A vacuum cleaner, if you use it for a couple of hours per week, is equiva-
lent to about 0.2 kWh/d. Mowing the lawn uses about 0.6 kWh. We could
go on, but I suspect that computers and entertainment systems are the big
suckers on most people’s electrical balance-sheet.
This chapter’s summary figure: it’ll depend how many gadgets you
have at home and work, but a healthy houseful or officeful of gadgets left
on all the time could easily use 5 kWh/d.
This myth is True for a few people, but only during the winter; but False
If your house is being heated by electricity through ordinary bar fires
or blower heaters then, yes, it’s much the same as heating the house with
any electricity-wasting appliances. But if you are in this situation, you
should change the way you heat your house. Electricity is high-grade
energy, and heat is low-grade energy. It’s a waste to turn electricity into heat.
To be precise, if you make only one unit of heat from a unit of electricity,
that’s a waste. Heaters called air-source heat pumps or ground-source heat
pumps can do much better, delivering 3 or 4 units of heat for every unit of
electricity consumed. They work like back-to-front refrigerators, pumping
heat into your house from the outside air (see Chapter 21).
For the rest, whose homes are heated by fossil fuels or biofuels, it’s a
good idea to avoid using electrical gadgets as a heat source for your home
– at least for as long as our increases in electricity-demand are served from
fossil fuels. It’s better to burn the fossil fuel at home. The point is, if you
use electricity from an ordinary fossil power station, more than half of the
energy from the fossil fuel goes sadly up the cooling tower. Of the energy
that gets turned into electricity, about 8% is lost in the transmission system.
If you burn the fossil fuel in your home, more of the energy goes directly
into making hot air for you.
68The BBC News has been warning us ... unplug your mobile-phone charger.
The BBC News article from 2005 said: “the nuclear power stations will all
be switched off in a few years. How can we keep Britain’s lights on? Here’s
three ways you can save energy: switch off video recorders when they’re not
in use; don’t leave televisions on standby; and unplug your mobile-phone
charger when it’s not in use.”