back to article People have no bloody idea about saving energy

People who make an effort to be eco-friendly - for instance by recycling glass bottles, turning off lights and unplugging cellphone chargers - have no idea what they're on about, according to a new survey. Those who don't bother are more likely to know what actually saves energy and what doesn't. This revelation comes in a new …


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  1. Lionel Baden

    CRT's ???

    My 21" CRT Monitor was eco freindly (it died :( )

    Not only did it provide an awesome picture at awesome resolution it heated the room and the upstairs flat!!

    Seriously it made a big defference if i had it on or off in the evenings over the winter.....

    Same goes for my 26year old sony AMP

  2. I Like Heckling Silver badge

    Use an energy monitor

    If you really want to see just how much energy you are using, then get one of the free energy monitors that many supplier are now giving away for free.

    I was shocked at how wasteful I was, and at how much energy certain appliances use, I now juggle the use of certain things and restrict the use of others... and my bills have dropped by almost 25% without any impact on the daily routines.

    If everyone did that... 20 millions homes using 25% less power... I can't even figure out the savings they're so huge.

    1. A J Stiles

      Energy monitor

      Make sure you get the plug-in type of energy monitor if you want an accurate reading.

      The type that "simply" clips onto the meter leads is worse than useless, as it cannot measure voltage nor power factor. Any reading it gives should be considered a guesstimate.

    2. Nick Carter

      Energy Monitors

      We are often told how much energy we could save just by monitoring it. But knowing that your fridge uses 60W when the compressor's running doesn't tell you how many kWHours it uses over a year. Knowing that the kettle uses 3KW when running doesn't tell you how to make a cuppa more efficiently. So how do you save 25% without any impact on your daily routine? If you are having fewer cuppas or fewer hot showers/baths then it must be impacting your routine.

      And to comment on that oft repeated chestnut about turning the thermostat down by one degree: it would be more helpful to suggest to people what temperature they should turn their thermostats down to e.g. 19C. That might mean some people change from 28C to 19C rather than just 28 to 27.

      1. Adam Salisbury

        Do this...

        Watts * Amps = Kilowatt-Hours (leccy consumption per hour)

        The rule of thumb for office AC is to run it between 21 - 23 degrees (Celcius) for optimum power consumption, not sure what the rule is for household central heating though,

        1. Nick Carter

          @Adam Salisbury

          KilowattHours = Kilowatts * Hours

          But this isn't much help with my fridge example unless you use a plug-in energy monitor dedicated to the fridge and monitor it for the whole year because you don't know how often the compressor's running (I suppose one day's monitoring could be reasonably extrapolated though).

          I don't think there are any rules for household central heating temperatures, though I've heard that it's advisable for the elderly or infirm to tweak the temperature higher than most people require.

        2. Allan George Dyer

          Varying set-points

          The gov. here is encouraging people to set their AC's to 25.5 Celcius (though I've never had an AC with <1 degree resolution). It doesn't get cold often, but, as a rule-of-thumb, I aim at keeping the office temp above 20 Celcius in the winter, and below 26 in the summer.

          icon: alternative cooling method.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      Comments about plug-in (v. inductive) and questionable value taken, there is no gainsaying that immediate feedback, (and better, detailed immediate feedback) is (by all psychological tests to date) far more effective in modifying performance than delayed (monthly bills) or no feedback at all. When snippy teen can point out that leaving her cell-charger plugged in or out doesn't make a tinkers damn, her green-Nazi parents will be put in their appropriate place. With the price of circuity falling, I can easily imagine monitoring sensors throughout a house communicating back to a central unit, over the power lines, how much current is being drawn where.

      The same for cars - instantaneous feedback (10s of msec) on mpg as the accelerator is depressed more or less would do more to allow correction of bad driving habits and improve mileage than all the noise that's been made about it and the cost of fuel in last several years. It should be immediately made mandatory on all new cars. And, the bigger the engine, the greater the effect. I suspect that only "lazy" (slow) mpg readouts are provided on some models because an instantaneous read--out would scare the hell out of a lot of new car shoppers at the point of sale.

      1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge


        That comment about snippy teens and green-Nazi parents struck a chord. This parent keeps getting nagged by his rather-more-than-snippy daughters about the energy consumption of leaving the TV on standby (<1watt, I checked) whilst they are quite happy to leave hair straighteners plugged in for two days straight (1kw and quite capable of starting serious fires).

        Ah, the joys of parent-hood. I discovered very early on why some mammals eat their young....


    4. Simian60

      ...if everyone did that

      "If everyone did that... 20 millions homes using 25% less power... I can't even figure out the savings they're so huge."

      Energy usage by sector:

      Transport - 34%

      Domestic Gas - 25%

      Industry - 22%

      Services - 14%

      Domestic Electricity - 4%

      Other - 1%

      So we'd reduce our energy use by about 1%, i.e. fuck all.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No major savings achievable

      "f everyone did that... 20 millions homes using 25% less power... I can't even figure out the savings they're so huge."

      Around here in North the housenholds use about 30% of all energy. (Industry 50% and traffic about 10%.)

      Of that energy 50% is used for heating and 30% for warm water. So it leaves 20% of 30% to everything else, which is about 6% of all energy. 25% of that is 1,5%.

      That doesn't look very huge saving to me. If industry saved about 10% of their portion, it would be 5% of all consumption, 3 times of that what housenholds can do.

      But of course, no-one is even suggesting that.

  3. Matt 21

    Some points

    1. This is a US survey, 'nuff said.

    2. Line drying still saves electricity. Merely changing your dryer settings may help but it doesn't save as much as no dryer use at all.

    3. Re-cycling is done in different ways in different countries, so what's true in the US may not be true in France, for example.

    Overall though the point stands that we are often lead to concentrate our efforts in the wrong place, a little bit of expiation in place of propitiation perhaps?

    1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      Your Mistake

      2 - changing your WASHER settings is more energy-saving than line-DRYING. I.e. not heating that water up to ridiculous temperatures only to pour it away and, quite literally, rinse and repeat is actually WORSE than a brief spin in the tumble where most of the work is done by hot-air (not hot-water).

      1. DrXym

        Most clothes wash fine at 30C

        I haven't seen a huge issue except with baby stuff where there may be ketchup or similar which won't come out at low temperatures. I certainly see no reason to use more than 40C ever for a regular load of washing. Digital machines should probably default themselves automatically to 30C to force users to explicitly override if they need a higher temp. The power of the default etc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          depends on the washing powder

          I heard from a washing machine repair tech that the reason washing machines run the water so hot is that the enzymes in washing powder are only effective at removing stains at high temperatures.

    2. CheesyTheClown

      Glass recycling bins are glass recycling bins

      I remember back in the bad old 70's you could drive up to your favorite drug dealer (the coca cola/pepsi bottlers) and deliver your old bottles and get a discount when buying new bottles. The bottles were then stacked nicely and supposedly sterilized and reused.

      In modern times, within the US, Scandinavia, England, France (yes France), and most other places I've spent long enough to actually dispose of a glass bottle properly, there are depository bins which are either large enclosed dumpsters with an opening to insert bottles towards the top and let the break on the bottom, or a machine which gives you a deposit return for glass bottles. The bottles are not handled one by one and nicely stacked, they are dropped in a box where you hear them crash.

      Why do we do this? Well simple, the alternative would require all companies to use exactly the same bottles so that they can purchase in bulk X number of bottles, or they would have to be sorted and the companies would have to inspect them and reuse them. Bottle inspection for brand new bottles to check for critical flaws (generally in the mouth of the bottle) is expensive and not terribly accurate. Additionally, wise assed teenagers might find it entertaining to melt bottles or pour glue in them to screw with however gets them next. There are just too many reasons why reusing bottles is not possible.

      So, the only real method is to try and provide means to sort clear glass from colored glasses and melt them down and remould them.

      To melt new sand and produce new glass is actually not that bad as the individual ingredients of the glass hasn't previously been mixed and cured into the industrial strength glass we use today (yes, modern glass is actually quite technically advanced, to decrease breakage that causes profit loss and injury) on the other hand the glass that has been previously processed is much harder to melt, requiring much higher temperatures for longer periods of time.

      Therefore, aluminum is wonderful as a container since it has a relatively low melting point and after being melted is delivered in stamp-able sheets as opposed to glass which will need to be melted yet again to be molded unless the recycler is also the bottle molder.

      Take some time to think about it before you criticize based on "Oh... it's American". As a recovering American myself, I'm not exactly going to win any awards for patriotism any time soon, but I don't bash people or places without putting some real thought into it first.

      P.S., as most others mentioned, Line drying and DECREASING water temperature and cycle counts on your washer is obviously the ideal, however line drying does not save the amount of energy that decreasing the water count does, so if you want to save energy but don't want to do both, then drop the amount of power you waste heating water over and over.

      If you really want to nitpick... look into cable decoders... average power consumption of 20watts, they're on all the time, if you consider the number of them deployed in the world simply for the purpose of DRM and trying to force customers to watch advertisements for services like VoD (pay per view), you'll find that it requires 4 full modern nuclear reactors to power them all. Best part is, if Cable TV vendors (over-the-air, cable, fiber etc...) were to support CableCard or DVB-CAM encryption instead of forcing you to rent set top boxes, when people turned off their TVs, the decoders would be off too. But since turning off the TV does not turn off the set top box, and the entire world is switching over to digital TV services (95% of them requiring set top boxes, this statistic is provided by the set top box vendors to their investors), that means that when the entire transition is finished, we'll need the equivalent of enough power to run New York City and Chicago just to support the additional power cost to the planet because vendors want you to be able to rent porn using your remote control.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re-use is the norm

        "The bottles are not handled one by one and nicely stacked, they are dropped in a box where you hear them crash."

        At least here in Scandinavia most of the bottles are re-used instead of crushing them, only nonstandard bottles are crushed. That means about 95% of all glass bottles is re-used.

        There's also a deposit on the (re-usable) bottle when you buy it and you get it back when you return the bottle, around 10c / small glass bottle (0,33l) nowadays. Aluminium can has 15c deposit and big glass/plastic bottles 40c / bottle.

        Cans can't be re-used so they are shredded and melted using obscene amounts of energy.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Please do not feed the trolls.

    .Thank you.

  5. David Webb


    Could someone explain:

    2For example, participants estimated that line-drying clothes saves more energy than changing the washer’s settings (the reverse is true)"

    Line drying clothes is a zero energy product, turning down a dryer to it's lowest setting is always going to require more energy than a washing line or am I missing some fundamental flaw?

    1. Chris 22

      What you are missing

      Is that it refers to the washing machine not the tumble dryer. They're saying that washing cloths at 30 rather than 60 (translate into Fahrenheit if you're a yank) saves more power than line drying. Something I hadn't thought of I confess, but think about how much water is used to wash your cloths and how much power it must take to heat it up to 60 C in a sensible time scale and you can see how it could be true.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


        This is my understanding of the article too but - please someone explain to me what has the washing temperature to do with drying clothes in the first place?

        You set the temperature to suit the type of fabric you are going to wash not to regulate how long it will take to dry it afterwards. If the greenies thought differently they are even more deluded than I thought.

        1. Tom 13

          It may not be available in the UK, but here in the States

          you can get products like Tide Coldwater which are specially formulated to clean all kinds of clothing in cold water. So the point holds very well: for the typical family washing in cold water saves more energy than not using the dryer.

          We have a high efficiency front loader so my mileage varies greatly from the mean.

          As to glass bottles, I think I saw some of those once when I was a kid so they are sort of irrelevant.

          1. Quirkafleeg

            Glass bottles?

            I see lots of them, with contents such as jam or pickled vegetables.

            Now, if only we had transparent aluminium…

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Done and done


      2. David Webb


        Thanks, I get it now. Turn down to 30 degrees (and use Ariel) instead of keeping it at 60 degrees gives you a net saving and has nothing to do with drying, you should turn it down to 30 AND line dry... (except we don't have a washing line, not allowed one either)

        Typically washing machines don't use much water, and they are very efficient (modern ones at least) so efficient (and using so little water) that plugging them into the hot water supply is less efficient than their internal boiler. But still, how much electricity is saved on a modern washing machine by dropping the temp 30 degrees? I'm still struggling to find out why the washing line reference was used, how much energy does it cost to dry a full load of washing washed at 30 degrees using a dryer compared to washing a full load at 60 degrees on a washing line?

        1. lucky13

          @ David Webb

          With regards to the drying reference, I think it was highlighting a common misconception unearthed by the survey.

          People thought that they were saving more energy by washing at 60 degrees and air drying their clothes.

          When in fact, more energy would have been saved by washing their clothes at 30 and using the tumble dryer.

          Obviously for the biggest saving wash at 30 and air dry...

          It was just highlighting that people don't understand the energy usage of their appliances.

      3. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

        Statement of the bleedin' obvious follows:

        Of course, one could always turn the washer down to 30 degrees *and* dry the clothes on the line, thus saving more energy.

        I don't get this. Power costs money, whether that power is delivered as electricity, gas or oil for the heating, or fuel for the car. Why wouldn't people reduce their usage as much as possible, just to save money? Yet some people seem to positively revel in burning as much as possible, just to prove they can.

        Most odd.


        1. Firethorn

          Time costs, mostly

          Why wouldn't people reduce their usage as much as possible? Why do so many people speed?

          As they say, time is money. Your time is valuable to you. If it takes you an extra minute a day to save <1 kwh, you're valuing your time at < $12/hour. As I value my time at ~$20/hour, I'm not going to bother.

          Now, I DO make sure I turn the lights off before I go to bed or work, but I already use energy efficient lighting, don't turn lights on during the day. The ones who obsessively turn off lights when they leave a room, even for just a minute, put extra strain on CFL type bulbs and don't actually save much power.

          Of course, it's a special occasion if I turn the temperature up on my washer. I normally wash in unheated 'cold' water. Most people use massively too much soap anyways, and the modern stuff doesn't need the assistance of heat nearly as much.

          1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge


            I think that if a few minutes a day is that important to you, you probably need to re-evaluate your life and priorities. Of course, I'm pre-judging you here based on a single fact, you might be deleriously happy with your life. But in my experience amongst those I do know well, those who dash around everywhere afraid to waste a few minutes are not, on the whole, happy.

            Just a thought.


          2. Anonymous Coward

            Unheated water?

            "Of course, it's a special occasion if I turn the temperature up on my washer. I normally wash in unheated 'cold' water. "

            Brave man.

            The tap water around here is never above 6C and less than 4C in winter. That's essentially same as swimming with the ice cubes, couple of degrees don't make much difference at that point.

            I'd never wash with that more than my teeth.

      4. A J Stiles

        Less water than you think

        Most British and Continental washing machines are front-loaders, which use much less water per wash than an American top-loader. Since Q = m * c * θ, as any fule kno, heating fewer kg. of water through the same temperature rise requires fewer Joules of energy.

        Also, the circulating pump for a solar water heater, together with the diverter valve and timer needed to feed solar-preheated water into the cold fill inlet for just the first part of the wash cycle, consume rather less energy between them than an electric water heater built into the washing machine (which will never turn on, as long as the machine's thermostat is set lower than the temperature of the water supplied to the machine).

        Also, washing at higher temperatures requires less powder, which has got to be a good thing if the heat can be had in a suitably low-carbon way.

      5. david bates

        Hmmm..the whole 30 degrees thing.

        I like my clothes to

        a) Be clean

        b) Not smell

        I've never heard whether achieving that at 60 degrees is worse than 30 degrees with the extra detergents and stain removers etc I'd want to use.

        I dont trust these detergents that say they wash clean at 30 degrees - if thats the case why does Ariel detergent now sell alongside a range of boosters and stain removers that Ariel has been telling us for the last 30 years that we dont need?

      6. Porky Pig

        How is the time scale relevant?

        "but think about how much water is used to wash your cloths and how much power it must take to heat it up to 60 C in a sensible time scale and you can see how it could be true."

        The energy required to heat the water to 60 degrees is the same so the time in which it is heated is immaterial. I accept that the losses may be slightly greater if heated slowly but the difference is tiny surely!

      7. Max Pritchard


        ... surely you can both change the setting on the washing machine and avoid using a tumble dryer? Doesn't that imply that washing and drying are two separate processes and shouldn't be compared when considering whether line drying is a worthwhile activity? Surely a more appropriate comparison is the energy used by a tumble dryer, and the energy used in line drying?

        1. Samuel Walker

          I think everyone has missed the point here

          The report is saying that:

          If you change your washing machine settings (down to 30 from 60), then tumble dry them, you save energy compared to washing at 60 then line drying them.

          The reason they used this comparison, is that eco-warriors think that the opposite is true (wash at 60 then line dry saves energy compared to washing at 30 then tumble drying).

          Doing both (switching and line) makes no difference about which they think is better generally for the environment.

          1. David Webb


            "The reason they used this comparison, is that eco-warriors think that the opposite is true (wash at 60 then line dry saves energy compared to washing at 30 then tumble drying)."

            An A rated energy efficient washing machine will use 0.56kWh@40c and 0.94kWh@60, a tumble dryer (typically) uses 2.5kWh per cycle, we can therefore deduce that switching from 60-40 gives a net saving of 0.4kWh BUT we then lose 2.1kWh by using the tumble dryer.

   - Source

            With that in mind, the article makes even less sense, using a tumble dryer far outstrips a washing machine in kWh even if you are washing at 90 degrees with a Cat F washer (1.98kWh).

      8. Anonymous Coward

        Sneaky suspicion

        I have a sneaky suspicion that most of these appeals to using low water, low temp washing and drying are written, in good faith, by people who do not do manual labor for a living - i. e., do not get their hands and clothes very dirty in their work. As the proportion in the population doing the latter is shrinking in the "post industrial" developed countries, there might be some statistical merit hiding in such over-generalization, but over-generalization it is. The recommendations should be tailored to the end-user - not some ideological ideal.

        The same for solar energy, the practicality of which, all other things equal, is inversely related to one's latitude.

        Nevertheless, we suffer day in and day out with authoritative one-size-fits-all solutions that are as daft and ignorant for many as those of the green-Nazis portrayed in the article.

      9. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No clean cloths, just wet: Very eco-friendly

        "They're saying that washing cloths at 30 rather than 60 (translate into Fahrenheit if you're a yank) saves more power than line drying."

        Yes and if you don't wash them at all you save even more!

        Saving energy isn't a meaningful primary goal as the example above tells us and if/when your laundry is still dirty after rinsing it in cold water, it's not "washing cloths", but getting them wet. Very energy saving but quite pointless.

        Also: Most microscopic co-habitants (like dust mites) humans have can survive anything up to 60C and washing sheets and towels in less than that is a health risk.

    2. Neil Hoskins


      ...what if I have to keep the radiator (gas central heating) turned on in the spare room to hang the clothes to dry? That room would otherwise not be heated except when we've got visitors. Is this still cheaper than drying the clothes in an electric tumble dryer? Seriously, if anybody knows the answer I'd be interested.

    3. CheesyTheClown

      The combination of both is obviously better, but

      The point being that running the clothing through the dryer uses less power than washing clothing at a higher temperature for a longer period of time.

      Heating water is extremely expensive energy-wise and the fact that most washers do it several times. After all, what's the point of washing clothing in dirty water.

      So, if you really want to nitpick, you could say that it's better to line dry AND drop the temperature and cycle count on the washer, however if you're simply choosing one or the other, the might as well use the dryer and drop the temperature and the cycle count.

      1. Tuomas Hosia


        "Heating water is extremely expensive energy-wise and the fact that most washers do it several times. After all, what's the point of washing clothing in dirty water."

        No, they don't and it's _not_ a fact, but a blatant lie.

        Why would they when one washing cycle is definitely enough.

        There are several rinsing cycles but those are done with cold water.

        As mentioned above: 0.94kWh/washing@60C. That's quite far from "extremely expensive" as you put it, your PC (or mine) will use that amount of energy in the same time you've used to read all the comments.

        Would you call that "extremely expensive"? I wouldn't, unless I got paid for it.

        Why people who have no idea how their washing machines work insist of throwing a lot of BS into discussion, tell us?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Dead Vulture

      The author hates the color green

      You are absolutely right: anyone using a drying machine or drying them in the washing machine is wasting energy.

      That's very clear in fig. 1: an electric clothes dryer is one of the most wasteful devices. In general all devices that generate heat/cold or, secondarily, move a powerful engine spend much more energy than mere electronic or light devices.

      Also, something is not mentioned in the study is how much energy do industry, services and agriculture use in comparison to domestic expenditure. Normally it is the non-domestic economy which swallows up most of the energy and water, with domestic expenditure not having such a huge impact (this varies depending on how you live but it's true for most people even in industrialized countries).

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Best not to mention the time

    My ex was complaining about how her flat was too cold, despite the fact that the heating was on full blast . She had all the curtains open (which quite effectively reduce heat loss through convection when drawn), not to mention the kitchen window being wide open because it was her flatmate's turn to take the rubbish out, and she hahdn't done so, so the room smelled.

  7. AndrueC Silver badge


    "For example, participants estimated that line-drying clothes saves more energy than changing the washer’s settings (the reverse is true)".

    I had to read that a couple of times to understand. I assume what they are saying is that if you have the choice between one or the other then turning down the washer temperature is better. But that's kind of a silly thing. Why not do both?

    So what we're talking about is people who are being 'selectively' green. IOW people who are doing what governments and business are advising them. Otherwise known as 'live your live as you want (vote for me! Buy my crap!) but do this one thing and you're green'.

    Well that never was going to work, was it? If you want to be eco-friendly then you have to accept that everything you do has an impact and that everything has to be reduced. This attempt to persuade people that just a few minor tweaks will make you 'green' is hogwash. If you genuinely want to be 'green' you have to change your life.

    Now me - I don't particularly want to be green. I just want not to be too 'black' :)

    1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge


      Well, that's kind of true.

      Thing is, most people could reduce their energy usage by a measurable percentage without changing their lives *at all*, simply by thinking about what they do day to day.

      Then there is a whole chunk more savings to be made by them changing their lives a tiny amount, in easy and cheap ways.

      You only need to do the max-effort hair-shirt thing if that's what you want to do, and good luck to you if you do, you have my utmost admiration. Personally, I do more than most, but only because I'm tight and want to save money, so the things I could do that would cost me money, don't get done. Mea culpa, but that's life....


      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up


        That's pretty much the way I do things. I just can't stand waste. Not really sure why except that I'm a computer programmer and maybe that's where the drive comes from. That doesn't mean I won't do things that have benefits (I often sacrifice code size or CPU cycles to assist maintenance) and I define as waste 'doesn't improve my life' (so I have air conditioning at home even though I live in the UK).

        But yes, simple things like:

        * Only boil the water you need for your drink(s).

        * Don't switch lights on unless you need them.

        * Drive sensibly and think ahead.

        * Use timers to cut power to devices that don't need it 24/7.

        ..and others. None of which impact my life. I doubt any of them will 'save the planet' but most save me money and make me feel better :)

  8. Ivan Headache

    I'm a bit confused by this line:-

    For example, participants estimated that line-drying clothes saves more energy than changing the washer’s settings (the reverse is true)

    What on earth does it mean?

    1. TIMMEH

      What it means

      I think it says that participants believed line drying clothes instead of tumble drying saves more money than changing the washing machine settings (i.e. lower water temperature), but this isn't the case.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Dryers are one of the biggest energy hogs

        "I think it says that participants believed line drying clothes instead of tumble drying saves more money than changing the washing machine settings (i.e. lower water temperature), but this isn't the case."

        It isn't?

        Dryer: 2.1 kWh / round

        Washing machine: 0.94 kWh/round @60C and even less at 30C. (Like estimated above)

        To me there's no way using dryer will be cheaper, when it uses three times the amount of the energy of the washing machine.

        No wonder the dryers are one of the biggest energy hogs in any housenhold, along air conditioners.

    2. Ed Deckard

      This confuses me as well

      The only way I can make sense of it is if it means that you "save" more energy by going from non-ideal to ideal settings on the dryer than you do changing from ideal settings to line drying.

      Or they're counting the energy from the Sun.

  9. Tigra 07


    I don't know anyone who unplugs appliances when they're not being used.

    Doesn't turning them off at the plug stop them using any energy?

    1. Lionel Baden

      not in every country

      Almost all the countries i have visted been to dont have switches on the plug socket.

      They have to pull the plug out.

    2. damian fell

      US - UK/US tomato/tomatoe (sic)

      I don't think that the US have unswithced sockets by default, wheras in the UK we have mostly switched sockets by default, hence the exhortation to unplug rather than switch off.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You know nothing... doesn't everyone know the little electric gremlins can still jump across the pins of the plug and wreak havoc eating all your pies?

      1. Number6

        anti-gremlin devices

        That's why we have shutters on the live and neutral holes in UK sockets, it stops the gremlins getting in.

        1. mamsey

          Surely not...

          And there was me thinking it was to stop the electrons falling out.

    4. Steve X

      Titles? We don't need no steekin' titles

      That presupposes a switched outlet, which is a UK peculiarity.

      1. Doug Glass


        Even South Carolina, USA has switched outlets. I got 'em in every room and the even have GFI circuitry.

        1. Lionel Baden

          @Doug Glass

          So just because you have them, the norm for the rest of the world is now reversed !!!

    5. John Lilburne


      If you leave them plugged in the Energy pixies can get down the wires.

    6. Paul Crawford Silver badge


      Remember the UK is unusual in having wall sockets with a switch. If this is a USA report, then unplugging is probably the only way to stop the power.

      However, stopping the AC supply is usually a good idea - lots of older devices are really crap in terms of 'standby' power (10W or more!), and of course there is a *small* improvement in product life and/or reduction in fire hazards from doing so.

      But the tone of the article is questionable, yes there is a lot of ignorance, but that is not an excuse for not doing things, it is a reason for educating folk about what they are using and why!

      1. Gerry Doyle 1


        Way back when I used to have Sky telly they had an ad exhorting us to leave the box on 'red' thus saving enough power for Birmingham. I'm one of those that switches everything off at the plug if its not on, but I thought I'd check it out anyway, just to see how much exactly they were talking about. The box, a Pace, when it was on used 10 watts. Put it into standby and the power consumption went right down - to 9 watts. At 78 kilowatts a year for doing absolutely nothing, that was more than a couple of baths...

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          It's been updated

          I still have Sky and recently (last week or so) it's been changed. I don't pay it much attention but often hear it because my Sky is powered off overnight and it defaults to that channel.

          Anyway they've changed it to 'Exeter' instead of Birmingham. That's a helluva change - I wonder why?

    7. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      I do.

      My mother unplugs her laptop from the power and the phone line when not in use, since she lost her previous one to a lightning strike one or the other of these.

      1. Gerry Doyle 1

        Me too

        I've had several burnt out PCs due to lightning strikes at home, which seemed to come in through the phone line rather than the power line as it's always the modem that took the brunt of it, and it also only affected other powered phone devices, so I suppose it forms a circuit via the earth.

        Still, it meant that it was a cheap upgrade path - each time the insurance paid for a better one. There is no such thing as an 'act of god', yet it's really is amazing how many people think that you can't claim for lightning strikes.

    8. AndrueC Silver badge

      Digital timer you, sir :)

      Everything except my cooker (amperage too high) and alarm clocks (lol) has a 7-day timer between it and the wall socket. They are off during office hours and overnight. Careful use of multi-gang sockets means I recouped the cost of five timers in the first year. A rough calculation suggests I'm saving about £70 a year so that's prolly £350 so far. Okay so it's not much but actually it's about 30% of my monthly electricity bill.

      Mind you, that's largely down to having a Sky HD box since that thing alone consumes 20w on standby. Pathetic really. My Humax Freesat HDR consumes 1w in standby. That's actually less than the individual timers which is handy because that PVR doesn't like having power removed.

      Mine's the one with the power meter in the pocket :)

  10. Lloyd

    Turn down the heating?

    I'd love to but I'm married and I value my fingers to much to try and touch that particular dial, she'd have my arm off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Buy her some nice woolly jumpers for Chrimbo.

    2. skeptical i

      If she's paying the heating bill,

      she can have Miami Beach in the living room year 'round, yes?

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Название не требуется, и должен содержать буквы и / или цифр.

    "And ignore the many worthy public organisations - for instance the Energy Saving Trust here in the UK, which you pay for through your taxes - which have made us all so ignorant."


    Basically because some people are rubbish at researching what actually saves energy, we should not listen to the ones that might actually have some idea how to do so...

    not a bad article up until this one....if slightly one sided...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Я душе своей книги товарищ

      Hmm, Google transalte doesn't appear to do a very good job of translating that into Russian and back.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Did you use Google Translate to get your Russian text?

      Just asking 'cos it doesn't quite make sense to me.

      1. Alan 6


        It says "Name is required and must contain letters or numbers"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Says 'Name is not required......'. Does this mean our fellow russian readers do not need to include a title?

    3. Adam Salisbury

      That's the point though

      If a cash-fat quango (commissioned by our Goverment) relieving us of taxes are spouting utter crap than who DO you listen to????

      Is it he man with all the windmills, or the hemp shirt, Al Gore, Honda Pious owners? Anyone who considers themselves green should get the facts straight or they'll all just be ignored, y'know like the Government ;-)

  12. Tom Paine


    How very like a journalist to call people "idiots" because they're misinformed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oooo, touched a nerve have we?

      Actually, I think idiot means "uneducated/uninformed person" so, yes, it's very like a journalist as someone who has (should have) a good command of language.

      1. ShadowedOne

        The title is required, and must contain letters and/or midgets.

        No, the word 'ignorant' refers to people who may be uninformed/uneducated. 'Idiot' commonly refers to a lack of mental ability.

      2. Tom 13

        You should consult your Oxford's

        Idiocy specifically refers to raw mental capacity, not whether it has been trained. I forget whether moron or idiot is lowest, but either way most folk don't want to be either.

    2. ian 22

      Journo's job ...

      ... is to inform. If people are un/mis-informed, that's a journalist's fail.

  13. RainForestGuppy

    I'm questioning this

    "Another behaviour which people commonly consider to be energy-virtuous is the unplugging (or switching off at the wall) of appliances on standby or unused cell-phone chargers."

    I'm no green eco-nazi, but I do like avoiding handing money over to the energy companies when I could be spending it on something useful such as beer.

    I did a totally unscientific experiment some time back.

    I have a old style 'spinning wheel' type electricity meter. I recorded the speed when all my appliances were on standby and chargers left plugged in. I then turned them all off or unplugged them and checked the speed again. After playing around with various household objects I concluded that the speed difference was the same as having a electric kettle boiling water.

    I'm sure that I could have done the maths if had wanted to, but I concluded that having a kettle running 24*7 would use quite a bit of juice and hence eat into my beer money.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      I hope you had your fridge and freezer unplugged when you took both measurements

      Thier energy consumption is likely to vary considerably depending on whether the compressor is running at any particular time.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      I'm questioning your maths

      An electric kettle uses as much as 2000 W when boiling water. A phone charger plugged into a socket, but with no phone connected, uses virtually fuck-all W.

    3. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

      I think your unscientific experiment sucked


      A kettle draws about 3kw. Even old inefficient appliances only draw double digit wattages on standyby, so you would need an awful lot to total 3,000 watts.

      I suspect you had some stuff running that is high consumption - an old fridge and seperate freezer, perhaps, might draw 1.5kw between them.

      If your house has a background draw of 3kw, by the way, you can do a *lot* to save money. Our big old victorian farmhouse, with three large PCs running, a 47" LCD TV turned on, and several other devices on standby, ticks over at under 1kw. That can go down to 0 when the wind turbine is working well, but I doubt many people want to go to those levels.

      Reducing background load from 3kw to 1kw would save 17,520 units per year, or potentially several thousand pounds depending on your electricity deal. Yes, that's a very rough and ready calculation, and I doubt your background draw really is 1kw, but it's an interesting calculation.


      1. Adam Salisbury

        3 Watt Kettle

        Thats either the most efficient kettle ever made or you must wait an awfully long time for tea! Bearing in mind a kettle draws around 14amps of current when boiling (they're right alongside laser printers and CRTs on the list of "shit you don't plug into a UPS unit") I'm just a wee bit skeptical.

    4. mike 32

      former validation engineer

      I think the problem is that you used a magnetic wheel meter - I'm pretty sure getting an accurate indication of energy flow is very difficult with that.

      A new electronic meter, with a little LED indicating the power used would give much more accurate results. I know in test modes they can pulse up to 32 times per Wh. What is an issue for doing this kind of test at very low power levels (as per your test) is that electronic meters often aren't calibrated for such low powers, plus the fact they legally treat anything under a set threshold as noise (3W or something like that).

      1. Allan George Dyer

        Tests with an old magnetic wheel meter

        I got an old magnetic wheel meter (being thrown out as junk, rated at 30A) and did some tests with various non-inductive loads (incandescent lamps), referenced to voltage & current measured with multi-meters. Below 80W load, the accuracy suffered (probably friction slowing the wheel), above that, there was a good, straight-line relationship.

  14. Anonymous Coward


    Yes, most people are ignorant.

    Yes, using cans rather than recycling bottles is more energy efficient.

    Educate them then.

    You havn't touched on the fact that power stations, cars, fireworks, the third world, USA, etc waste so much energy it IS practically pointless and a single persons contributions is futile.

    But don't stop. Don't ignore them, educate them. At the worst you are teaching the young that they should be thinking about the environment. Someone once said "Every little helps"

  15. jake Silver badge

    To say nothing of the likes of ...

    ... Al Gore, flitting around the planet in his personal $LARGEJET, telling us all we need to cut back on fossil fuels.

    Or the morons happily throwing mercury filled CFL lightbulbs into their trash.

    And has anyone done a REAL energy TCO for hybrid and electric cars? We have a 1995 Toyota pickup truck with 259,000 miles on it. It still gets ~31 MPG (freeway, 70 MPH). Total repair costs have included tires (three sets), belts & hoses (twice), oil change & tuneup (three times per year), a valve job, and a water pump. Throw in refueling, and you have a pretty cheap way to get to the moon!

    1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

      Car TCO

      Proper electric cars, when they finally arrive, will have a TCO that will make your pickup look like a major-league cocaine habit. They need basically no servicing, and have a productive life potentially measured in the millions of miles due to the simplicity of the motive parts.

      Meanwhile, your pick-up will still need all the service parts you forgot to mention (brake pads, air, oil and fuel filters, glow plugs, probably other stuff I've forgotten) and will still be getting through a hundreds of gallons of ever more expensive liquid fuels.


      1. BenR

        Car TCO, take 2:

        Hmm. I can see where you're coming from with this - simplicity of the motive parts and all - but that's only in relation to the actual part that provide the motive power.

        All the *OTHER* moving parts (suspension, steering, aircon, radiator for cooling the batteries, brakes etc. etc.) will still be fundamentally the same as today, and still prone to the same faults and necessity for repair. You'll just be replacing an ICE+tank with 'leccy motor+battery. I must also admit to being concerned about the effect of all those hundreds of thousands of batteries containing some fairly unpleasant substances.

        Also - the items you quote for the service parts, particularly the lubricating oils and fuel - values are all based on current day prices, no? For a start, I can't imagine that electric cars won't still need some form of lubrication. And secondly, who is to say the cost of 'leccy, still relatively cheap at the moment compared to petrol and being used as the basis for the "electric cars are cheaper!" movement, wont go through the roof when there are all these 'leccy cars about using power?

        We in the UK are currently looking at a massive generating capacity shortfall as it is. I don't know what it's like in the US, but I can't imagine most countries have that much spare generating capacity that they can afford to use several power stations worth just for cars. You also don't appear to be taking into account the passed-on cost of infrastructure that would need installing at every garage and motorway service station - this is something consumers will end up paying for in the long run and will have an obvious effect on the TCO.

        Not trolling, not saying you're necessarily wrong. Just adding a few other points for consideration.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re : Car TCO, take 2:

          Agree entirely but would just like to point out that the generating capacity required for even 10 million electric cars is likely to be enormous (~25000 MW ??)

        2. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
          Thumb Up


          You're wrong on the real biggie - brake in electric cars rarely need servicing, as most of the braking is regenerative, using the motor as a generator and thus slowing the car. The physical brakes only come into play when you need a real crash stop.

          Other stuff, sure - some basic lubrication, but mostly very occasional greasing of components rather than big sumps of oil. Windscreen wipers, occasional wheel bearings, and any specialised ancilliaries like air con, absolutely.

          Batteries - lifespan is generally measured in hundreds of thousands of miles, even with current technology, and the technology is racing forwards. Recycling of the nastier and rarer materials is easy as the batteries are nicely self-contained.

          I think Toyota currently offer a ten year warranty on their Prius battery packs, for example.

          On top of that, lucky buggers like me who live in the middle of nowhere have some scope for capturing natural energy for charging, too, which makes the personal financial hit over the long term somewhat lower.

          But your point is valid, it's a complicated calculation overall.


        3. AndrueC Silver badge

          Not all bad

          One big advantage of electric vehicles is that the emissions are isolated to just a few places (power stations). That makes it easier to clean up the emissions or even to replace the source with something better.

          Something else to consider is that power distribution grids often waste a lot of energy during idle periods. It's called Base Load and using that to charge vehicles would help.

          So overall electric vehicles could be a significant improvement. The real problem is the lack of generating capacity in the UK as you say.

      2. Cameron Colley

        You had better get onto the battery companies post-haste Geoff!

        Apparently you know of a type of battery that will last for over 5 years of regular charge-discharge cycles and holds as much power per kilogram and metre cubed as the Lithium Ion and derivatives currently used.

        Hopefully, one day someone will create such a battery but, until then, having to replace the battery every few years will mean that electric cars don't come close to those with internal combustion engines on TCO. There will also be the inevitable, mandatory built-in "service intervals" so that dealership networks are still paid for servicing, even if the cars don't need it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up


          Don't believe that the recent attention and money thrown at battery R&D in the last several years will speed things up by much, if at all. The "battery problem" has been receiving the undivided attention of some of the best brains in science for over twenty years and if there were any easy solutions, they would have been here some time ago.

        2. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          @Cameron and everyone else who raises the same point

          Toyota currently offer an 8 year/100,000 miles warranty on the Prius battery pack (not ten years as I stated in my previous message, sorry, should have checked).

          But, yes, battery technology is currently racing ahead, and will only improve from the current situation.


      3. Ian Stephenson

        umm not quite....

        You missed the battery life of an electric vehicle being fairly poor with replacement every year or maybe two years if you're lucky.

        Now figure in the ernvironmental cost of all those perfectly serviceable 1995 "gas guzzling" pick-ups all being sent to scrap and the manufacturing of the replacement "green" electric vehicles.

        Don't get me wrong - I want a Xero electric motorbike (preferably with a noise generator to make it sound like a TIE fighter) , but I have no delusions about it's green-ness - unlike most of the enviro-loons.

        1. martin burns

          Battery life of electric vehicles

          Maybe you're on about fully electric vehicles, rather than hybrids, but my 1st Prius was going strong after 4 years on the original battery when I swapped for a new one. That's now been going 2 years without a single problem beyond the brakes squeaking a bit at 30MPH.

          Yes, the embodied energy of the battery is high, but lasts longer than the doomsayers would say (those same ones that claim that all Toyotas are crap based on a few news reports rather than the JD Power Cust Sat surveys).

          Yeah, the one with a copy of "Industry Special Interests and the Media" in the pocket, ta.

          1. AndrueC Silver badge

            Not convinced

            Most hybrids work by reclaiming energy. I think you'll get better economy if you just drive better - ie;don't waste it in the first place. Braking is the prime example. Your car reclaims some (not all) energy when you apply the brakes. I avoid using the brakes so there's less lost energy to reclaim in the first place. Your car does reclaim energy when going downhill but if the battery is used to help you go up hills then there'll be a net loss.

            Don't get me wrong - hybrids do help the average driver. But the average drive is heavy footed, impatient and doesn't plan ahead. I reckon I could at least match your figures in the same car if someone removed the battery and generating gubbins. Of course I'd have a longer 0-60 but on a typical commute I bet I'd still arrive within a couple of minutes. Probably have a stress free and safer journe as well :)

        2. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

          @Ian and all the others.

          Did you all miss the opening sentence where I said "Proper electric cars, when they finally arrive...."? Do try and read the messages before you lash out with your knee-jerk responses, please.

          Technology is racing ahead. A viable, cheap, mass-market electric car is probably 5 years, possibly ten, away. Definitely no more than that.


      4. Adam Salisbury


        You sir, haven't factored in manufacturing costs, the emissions released by power generation to charge the damn thing, the carbon cost of power delivery, power stations, the slave labour eviscerating the land to mine for batteries, building aforementioned batteries etc etc etc.

        Leccy cars are for now, more for people trying to advertise their green credentials than anything else, until we suss out more efficient battery manufacturing processes and develop cheap, wholesale *actually* clean power then their benefit over their petrol brethen is neglible while the technology is still in it's infancy.

        Just like the UKs car scrappage scheme (which was honestly all about being green and not propping up another ailing victim of "The Downturn"), it's cost more carbon than it's saving.

        Why anyone in the green camp can't just provide us all with real, accurate information and not stupid comparisons between line-drying and washing machine power consumption baggars belief. It's also why the green backlash keeps gaining momentum......they all talk shite!

  16. Andrew Bush

    Lights out - in your head, anyway!

    Turning off unused devices which consume electricity has to be worth the 'bother' no matter how small the saving and you are lazy and ignorant if you leave lights on for no reason. The switching off of unused lights is a 'free' saving in that it costs nothing to do and has no consequential impact.

    Consider an average home which consumes around 3,000 kWh per year. That equates to an average constant consumption of 342 watts. Even switching off a single 60w unused lamp saves about 17% of that average ongoing consumption.

    1. kevjs

      Not really

      Except it doesn't really save 17% does it?

      Some of the time it's on for a reason, and lets face it most of the time people turn the lights off when they go to bed - lets assume therefore that it's on a more realistic 17:00 - 23:00 every day of the year (possibly longer in winter, especially at weekends, and less in summer) - that takes you to the equivalent of leaving a 10 watt bulb on all day giving you a much more realistic total of 3%.

      But then again you can't buy "normal" light bulbs in most retailers any-more, so it's probably an 11watt CFC bulb, so 1.84watts an hour equivalent which about 0.5% of the annual total - some of which it's probably being useful.

      Assuming this is in somewhere like a lounge where you might be in for 3.5 hours of the evening turning it off for the thirty minutes you are out the room would save you about 0.1% of your average total - i.e. 1.8kWh, or running that 2kw fan heater just under an hour to heat your room up in winter because it's a bit parky.

      According to EDF that is 21p here in the East Midlands - I dare say that saving is completely erased by having to buy a new bulb prematurely as the constant power cycling has caused it to fail - and I imagine the energy used in producing it is more than the energy I as an individual have saved.

      And this is what the article set out to prove!

    2. Tom 13

      And which saves more energy, switching the light on and off every time I enter the room

      thus causing the bulb to burn out 30% faster than it normally would, or leaving it on during the 3 hours I move about the house and getting the full life out of the bulb?

    3. Adam Salisbury
      Thumb Up

      Well said

      "Turning off unused devices which consume electricity has to be worth the 'bother' no matter how small the saving and you are lazy and ignorant if you leave lights on for no reason"

      At the end of the day no matter what you're opinion there's no excuse for lazy wastefulness, the above comment sums it up perfectly.

      1. Steven Jones

        fetish reasoning...

        Turning off things that do not use appreciable power is a fetish that allows the self satisfied smug to feel better without making any practical difference. It's the equivalent of cutting your toenails to save weight. If you want to make a real difference, go for the ones that where it is significant. More efficient fridges, better insulation, close the curtains, use a power-efficient PC, take fewer and shorter showers, cycle to the shops. Leaving a modern cell phone charger plugged in makes no appreciable difference at all.

    4. Kubla Cant

      Not really worth turning out the lights

      @Andrew Bush

      "Even switching off a single 60w unused lamp saves about 17% of that average ongoing consumption."

      Wow! So if I have fifty 60W lamps in my house I could save 850% of my electricity consumption and live on what EDF had to pay me?

      More seriously, the energy "wasted" by incandescent light bulbs is actually heat, so if you turn out the lights you slightly increase the duty cycle of your thermostatically-controlled heating.

    5. mmiied

      @Andrew Bush

      "if we all do a little all we will acheve is a little"

      the argument is not that we should not do the little things but we should do the big savings aswell/first so by all means turn of the lights but whail you are at it turn down the thurmastate and the washing machene and take less baths

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Simple way to reduce energy usage is to keep putting energy prices up. After seeing my gas bill this winter I'm looking to move to a warmer country and thus reduce my energy use......... thieving gits.

    1. Goat Jam

      Good idea

      And when you get there, let us know which air-conditioner unit you end up choosing.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Need to establish some datums here.

    For glass - and I welcome correction here - I anticipate that a single use glass container will be less eco-friendly that an aluminium can, but I'm not sure. But why go for single use glass? Milk bottles used to be recycled? An eco route might be the traditional waxed paper carton that could burnt when empty?

    In all these discussions you should really say were you're starting from and were you expect to finish. Lack of clarity is one of the main reasons Nuclear power generation of electricity is claimed to be 'cheaper' or 'better' than, say, wave or tidal power.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Wtf? I do hope you're a troll.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No, I don't think so.

        What is a Troll in this regard? Someone who lives under a bridge?

        1. Anonymous Coward


          No, I think he's referring more to the fact that we already have a plural for the word datum.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Glass *might* be more environmentally friendly as a whole than aluminium when you take into account the enormous amounts of energy needed to mine, purify and transport bauxite before you smelt the metal. Bauxite mining is incredibly damaging to the environment as it requires large areas to be strip mined. Quite often this land was either used for raising crops or a virgin environment; afterwards, even if it is restored, its drainage is disrupted and a lot of the biodiversity is shot.

      By comparison, glass can usually be made with locally sourced materials - and as posted above, can be reused. The good old-fashioned milk bottle or the deposit scheme on soda bottles are ways of getting bottles back into circulation.

    3. Neil Hoskins


      ... milk bottles used to be re-USED: an important distinction. However, you still need to take into account the energy required to clean them to be re-used, plus any nasty detergents and chemicals required.

    4. Firethorn

      Glass is more expensive than plastic

      Milk bottles weren't 'recycled', they were 'reused' after going through a sanitizing wash.

      Still, when you're talking about milk you're typically not lookint at aluminium, you're looking at plastic. The trick is that you use less natural gas in forming a plastic bottle than you would sterilizing a glass bottle.

      The traditional 'waxed paper carton' has it's own issues; much above a half gallon you're better off with plastic again(and possibly even at a half gallon). If you're going to burn it, well, I'd rather you burn it at a power facility, and at that point you can burn the plastic bottle too.

      As for nuclear vs tidal power, I'd recommend checking your assumptions again; there are quite a few reasons why nuclear is cheaper than tidal. Power density for one. The corrosiveness of salt water and the expense to overcome that for another.

    5. Adam Salisbury


      No-one said nuclear power is cheaper/more expensive than wind or tidal but lets just consider a) the massive carbon cost of building and putting up windmills that only generate a few % of even the UKs needs, you'd have to cover every inch of hte US with windfarms and you wouldn't come close to powering more than a few states, if that. b) You've still gotta have backup generation for those non-windy days and c) Tidal won't do nation-scale power generation on it's own either.

      Nuclear is simply the least dirty fossil fuel, but it's one that'll allow us to hit our emissions targets without a shortfall while renewables are refined and proven or disproven.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        @Adam Salisbury

        I'm really not sure that you can count nuclear as a 'fossil fuel'. Uranium is dug up from the ground, yes, but it was never part of a living organism, and that is generally what a fossil is.

        Remember, coal, oil and natural gas were all plants and marine creatures before they were buried in the ground.

        But nuclear cannot, by its nature, be regarded as a renewable fuel. The amount is finite in/on the Earth, and I believe that this is the point you were trying to make. And I agree about nuclear being about the only low-carbon energy source, even if you include cost to build the stations.

      2. MeRp

        Least dirty Fossil Fuel?

        How does Uranium form from biomatter? Or did you mean to say "Nuclear is simply the least dirty non-renewable energy source?"

        Of course, in the long run, no energy source is truly renewable; nothing can produce energy once we reach heat death. Until then, sources of fissionable (and fusible) materials on our planet and in our Solar system, are pretty extensive. Certainly extensive enough that it could be considered largely renewable, assuming continued advancements in the technology. Such advancements would probably not have to sustain nearly the rate of advancement that most other renewables would in order to become viable any time soon.

      3. davenewman

        Backup not needed up to 1/3rd demand

        Way back in the 1970s the CEGB calculated that there was no need for special stand-by plants to back up wind power until you reach 1/3rd of the total UK electricity demand. The difference between peak and base load is larger than that.

        On the other hand, nuclear power can only be used for base load, as it takes so long to increase or decrease their power output.

        Oh, you've forgotten the big one: wave power. Again in the 1970s, civil servants had to fiddle to cost figures for wave power to make it less economic than nuclear power. Stephen Salter eventually got an apology.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's something we knew already.

    Although you have half fallen into the ignoranties trap by thinking recycling is all about carbon.

    Bottle banks have been around for much longer and it's about not filling up landfill and reusing the material - not to do with energy use.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge


      In some countries they do recycle the *bottle* by cleaning out and refilling it, that is a major energy saving effect! Recycling the martial less so, but it is (as you say) still useful and worth doing.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Totally agree...

      ..this report appear to be writen by the Carbon morons.

      The main principle for recycling is bugger all to do with carbon and energy, it's about not using natural resources and filling landfill. That's why most of europe were doing it decades before the carbon fad.

      REDUCE > REUSE > RECYCLE. It's been the mantra for years.

    3. Cameron Colley

      Have to agree about the recycling.

      It's a shame that there's no real incentive to recycle in the UK. For example, I have the choice between walking to the dustbin outside the house and dropping bottles in it, or walking a mile with bags full of bottles to deposit them in the nearest bottle bank. In many European countries you simply turn up at the local shop with empty glass and plastic bottles and aluminium cans and put them into the recycle machine there in return for a voucher for money off your shopping.

      Why doesn't the UK government, or anyone else, want me to recycle anything?

      1. Nick Carter

        Bottle Banks

        Unless you're housebound there is no reason why you can't take your bottles to the bottle bank when you're going that way anyway. Most supermarkets or shopping areas have bottle banks nearby.

      2. A J Stiles

        Don't they have bottle banks at supermarkets?

        If you could be bothered to transport the full ones you bought last week home, then you can be bothered to transport the empty ones back there when you go to buy more next week.

      3. Nigel 11
        Thumb Down

        Your council needs a kick up the a**

        My council gave me a green box into which I put my paper, plastic bottles, cans and aluminium foil for recycling. (Also used batteries, worn-out clothes, and worn-out shoes). They collect it weekly.

        But even before that, I just stuffed these things (except for shoes) into carrier bags and took them back to the supermarket, where they had (and still have) recycling facilities just as you describe in Europe. So unless you are making a point about always walking to and from the shops rather than driving ...?

      4. Anonymous Coward


        @Cameron Colley

        Do you even live in the UK? Most authorities now have recycling initiatives in place. Where I live, in Norwich, we have three 'bins': a dark grey refuse bin for general waste, a blue bin for paper, card, and other things, and finally a green box for glass. I don't have to walk for miles to recycle, I just have to put things in the right bin.

        My parents in County Durham, where I used to live, have a similar system: a green bin for general waste, and two green boxes for recyclables which includes glass.

        1. Cameron Colley

          RE: Bottle Banks and What?

          Bottle Banks: Unless I want to take my empty bottles to work, for example, I would have to only shop on weekends and walk over a mile to the shop with my bottles and the same distance back with my shopping. OK, I'm a little lazy for not wanting to do that -- but if I lived in most cities in continental Europe that would not be the case, as I pointed out.

          "Do you even live in the UK? Most authorities now have recycling initiatives in place." They do but they don't accept glass and, last I heard, in my area they don't actually recycle things anyhow. Assuming they do recycle it, it seems an odd way to go about it to employ people to go through tons of rubbish and separate out PET, Steel, Aluminium, Paper and anything else that might be in there by hand -- surely having separate bins, or more "bottle bank" style areas would be easier?

          The recycling effort in the UK seems half-arsed and there is no incentive to take part -- so cynics like me find it easier just to throw everything into landfill.

          1. A J Stiles

            Which is why we need to get tough

            Which is why we need to get tough on offenders.

            You probably wouldn't think it was such a big deal taking your "empties" to work with you to drop off on the way home, if the alternative was six months in prison.

            Failure to recycle costs council tax payers twice over: the council are deprived of the revenue they would have earned from selling the recyclable goods, and they have to pay to bury it in landfill.

          2. Nick Carter

            @Cameron Colley 09:23 GMT

            How many empty bottles do you need to get rid of? Are they piling up a crate a day? If you have that many then you have a consumption problem not a recycling problem.

    4. gabor1


      Would someone please explain to me why filling land with inert material (such as glass) is a bad thing? It's not like we get the material from outer space and Earth will get bigger or something... Glass is made of sand, and it can bloody well go back there.

      Reading the comments, it feels like a LOT of raw nerves were touched here. All you greenies, take the examples of the article or the paper, and do the math (if you don't believe the statements of the article). Then put your hand on your heart: did you know the result before you started?

      And to those who scream about multiplying by the population the 1W electricity saved by powering off instead of standby. Your understanding of number and percentages are so poor that I doubt it's worth carrying out the above exercise, you'll get it wrong anyway. "Lightswitch nazis", I like this.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge


        Are you mad? Take a drive out to your local landfill. Spend the day there. Heck, take a tent and camp out as close to it as you can get.

        /Then/ come back here and ask us what the problem is.

        I have Ardley Quarry near where I work and my typical lunchtime walk takes me along the outskirts. At best it's tolerable. Thankfully hidden for the most part by an embankment. Still, the smell is always there and it certainly adds nothing to the local countryside.

        It has nothing to do with being 'green'. It's about not polluting the air and land with dangerous, smelly crap. The UK has precious little spare land as it is.


  20. burundi

    Do they mean combined washer/dryers?

    Surely turning down the washing machines temperature settings won't make the clothes any less wet. Line drying is blatantly far more energy conservative than using a tumble dryer since, last time I checked, my washing line is not plumbed into the gas or the leccy.

  21. Andrew Engel


    The article talks about alternatives, but compares turning off lights to turning down heating, for example. Those aren't alternatives, you can do both. Relative effectiveness is moot.

    As for the alternatives of glass and aluminium, I'll just go and buy a can of jam shall I?

    1. david bates


      You could buy a can of marmalade concentrate and make a batch to put in all you old jars.

      And you could gather in the bumper wild damson crop and make jam from that.

      Save money and the planet!

      1. Kwac


        mmmm - damson wine.

  22. Alex Wells

    As requested, please clarify the line-drying statement

    As at the moment it looks like bollocks.

    Interesting about the standby statement and the glass one, have to admit to being in the BLOODY IGNORANT category there.

    Reckon the irony of this whole piece is that the sum effort required to produce the article, publish via various internet channels, and then read said piece (over a rather nice coffee) is greater than the amount of energy that will be saved via re-educating people about an already flogged dead-horse of a subject.

    Didn't the NKs produce Fusion recently? can I just get some shares in that and live guilt-free?

  23. ciaran

    Eco is easy

    Its easy to be environmentally friendly. There's only one rule. "Do not waste." And the corollary, don't waste your time worrying about waste that's so small as to ignore. You know it when your wasting, or you'll recognize it when someone points it out. Its not about carbon emissions, its not about methane or farts or global warming or saving the whales. Just don't waste. Use what you need, leave the rest for the others. Profit when someone finds a way to use less. Do recycle, it reduces waste. Buy the glass container instead of the plastic one because its easier to recycle, unless you want the screw-top that comes with the plastic one. Enjoy it!

  24. Jason Togneri

    @Tigra 07 / saving power by unplugging

    Yes it does. However, you're showing your ignorance; Europe and the USA (and many other places too) don't have switches on wall sockets - it's a UK thing. So the only way to cut off the flow of power before it reaches the appliance is to physically unplug it, although I suppose a fused power strip with a switch would have the same effect. Either way, your comment doesn't apply to the source of the survey, the USA, where such an action is not possible.

  25. banjomike

    Recycled glass is better than new glass

    even if cans are better than both of them. Until all the products I use are supplied in cans I don't have an alternative to buying glass bottles. When they use recycled glass to make new glass the recycled glass reduces the amout of electricity used in the furnace by a considerable amount.

    This article seems to suggest that NOT recycling glass is better than recycling it., which has got to be wrong.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    Oh dear.

    >As a true eco-person, you shouldn't be recycling glass: you ought not to be using it at all.

    Wrong - you should be using it as little as possible and recycling when you can. There are reasons we use glass instead of cans for some things.

    >Glass requires so much energy to make - or recycle - that it is always more eco-friendly to use aluminium cans, even if one is talking about virgin cans compared to recycled bottles.

    Absolutely correct

    But then there's the complete failure to mention

    1) Aluminium cans are not suitable for the transport or storage of some products. Although we do tend to overuse glass when plastics or cans would work fine.

    2) Aluminium cans are not reusable like most glass containers are. Although most people don't bother of course.

    3) Recycling a glass container costs less energy than creating a new one from scratch. Not a huge amount, and we're still better off using cans for most stuff, but a trip to the bottle bank is still greener than bunging the bottles in the bin

    It's no wonder the Greenies ignore El Reg whenever it reports on environmental issues - the bias is blatant and many of the arguments ill-considered. C'mon, let's get some balanced decent skeptical reporting in - you've managed it before, and maybe they won't be able to demolish the articles in 10 seconds flat.

    1. DrXym

      Several ways to recycle glass

      a) The crap way (which is the UK way) is to take the glass to a bottle bank. Then some company melts it down to make new bottles. Lots of energy but probably less than from scratch.

      b) A second way used in Germany, Denmark & elsewhere is to slap a deposit on the bottle (plastic or glass). People return their bottles to the store to get their deposit back. Bottle is steam washed and put back into service. Bottle is only recycled down when it's chipped, broken.

      I can well understand why a bottle is not better than a can for a). I expect the case for b) would depend on how many times a single bottle can be recycled. Plastic bottles would have to be thicker of course for reuse but big deal.

      The weird thing is 30+ years ago deposits on glass were common place. I remember as a kid being delighted when my grandparents let me keep the refund from returning some Barr bottles to the shop.

      1. Nigel 11

        Not necessarily

        I recall reading that the energy needed to heat water for washing out old glass bottles, drying them and baking them to make them sufficiently sterile for re-use, was actually greater than the energy used to melt glass and mould new bottles.

        It probably depends on the details of the factories. In any factory there is a lot of scope for recycling "waste" heat as input to some other process. For example, one could use the heat emitted by newly moulded glass bottles to heat water for the washing of recycled ones, or to dry and bake them after washing -- the most efficient process might be to smash up some but not all bottles returned for recycling, to get the optimum balance.

        And in any case much glass is actually recycled as rockwool, for insulation, which is a product that starts saving energy as soon as it is installed and continues to do so until the house is demolished decades or centuries later. So maybe one should look on a glass bottle as a useful intermediate step in the manufacture of rockwool, just as long as it gets recycled.

        1. DrXym

          I don't see how that could be the case

          The melting point of glass is something like 1400C depending on its constitution. I don't possibly see how it would expend as much energy to wash them out and dry them even if ovens were involved. I'm no glass expert but I wouldn't be surprised if new bottles had to be washed to remove detritus and baked / cured anyway.

          Articles this one below appear to support the view that refillable bottles are better than use-once bottles. And that in general use-once bottles are better than aluminium cans, but only when transportation is factored in and trips are relatively local. The article also points out the savings from use PET bottles are better again than refillable glass.

  27. envmod


    i throw all my glass bottles away, leave lights on all day, run an air-con unit in a room i'm not even in and regularly take nice hot baths instead of showers.

    fuck it eh?

  28. spencer


    "all of us could save far more juice (and carbon) in other ways - for instance by turning the heating down as little as a single degree, something which many extremely keen lightswitch nazis refuse to do."

    --This is a pretty ridiculous assertion. I seriously doubt there's any kind of correlation between fondness of light switches and room temperature preferences.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      'er indoors

      There is a correlation in my place. The misses complains no end when I walk out of a room for a few minutes and leave a 5W reading lamp on, but seems to think that the only heating controls are "ON" and "INCREASE TEMP"...

      1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge


        I found a solution to that - I fitted a fiendishly complicated programmable thermostat, then disabled the front panel "+" button. That's kept them under control, for now at least ("Them" - wife, two daughters, mother-in-law. Truly I live in a living hell on earth(*)....)


        (*) Actually, they aren't that bad. Really. Sometimes.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The problem with a half knowledge like yours Lewis, is you are as much in ignorance as those you are criticising.

    It is absolutely correct that on an individual basis the saving of turning off lights or unplugging chargers is small, but multiply up the saving on a national or global basis and, well, you get the picture. Every kWh is equal you know.

    Also, as a previous poster pointed out, it's not all about the carbon, but the overall environmental footprint.

  30. martin burns

    X is counterinuitively more green than Y, honest.

    I've given up believing these kinds of reports.

    The last time I looked into one in detail, it was claiming that disposable nappies were less energy intensive across their lifecycle than cloth. But in the detail, you discovered that they were comparing cloth nappies being boil washed and ironed(!) every time and only ever used for a single baby. Utter tosh.

    1. Neil Hoskins

      I remember...

      ...reading an article in National Geographic about yuppie parents in California in the eighties running through a fad of switching from disposable to washable nappies. They may have saved energy but the Colorado river ran dry. That story has stayed with me ever since; these are complex issues and fag-packet calculations and assumptions do nobody any good.

  31. Anonymous Coward


    The problem's too big for us little people to do anything constructive. Only our governments can tackle the problem. Nuclear Power is the only solution. Apparently. Arsehole.

  32. Rogerborg

    What if I've already turned the thermostat down, Lewis? What then?

    Where does it end? This thermostat goes to -11?

    Just who are you working for anyway, Page? The penguins? The polar bears? The ICE GIANTS?

    1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
      Thumb Up


      Ours is currently set to 15 degrees for a couple of hours a day, and 8 degrees for the rest of the time, so the central heating only comes on to stop everything in the house freezing. I've fitted wood-burning stoves in the two main living rooms, if the family are cold enough they can light a fire.


  33. Anonymous Coward

    "They quite literally have no idea what they're talking about."

    Generalize much, Lewis?

    In fact, various observations are common sense: generally, glass stuff is heavier per unit volume packaged and thus requires more energy to transport as well as to recycle (as opposed to re-use, which is probably not viable for aluminium packaging). But all that means is that people need to think more about such matters, as well as be given higher quality information in order to be able to judge for themselves. From the survey, people did seem to know that trains and boats used less energy to move cargo around than planes (but not trucks), so it isn't as if everyone preferring rail freight is some kind of red-green killjoy who won't surrender to the superiority of air transport.

    So, yes, better education and information so that people can think for themselves and make better choices than the narrow-minded but apparently fashionable "sod it, just landfill everything and kiss up to our fossil fuel/nuclear overlords, 1960s techno-utopia style". Sadly, in the realm of the Britards, individuals aren't supposed to demand anything other than to be complicit consumers: the convenient subject of the excuse for whatever corporate wrongdoing happens to be the order of the day.

  34. jason 7

    Always dispair..... glass recycling. A lot of it is just an expensive way to just delay inevitable landfill ahoy.

    The only thing I've done is to keep my shower in the morning to three minutes. In dong this I get to wash everywhere and get out. Saves me time and also knocked £100 off the water bill and a decent reduction on the gas bill. Thats just one person doing it. Now apply that simple idea to a family of four.

    Does it help the environment? Who cares I just want to save money.

    1. envmod


      what are you taking a stopwatch in there? jesus man, just have a normal shower in the morning, take your time, relax - you must be ready to kill someone by the time you get to work.

      1. Steve Foster

        It's easy...

        All you have to do is count in your head to a sensible number. At a measured pace, 180 is probably not too far from the mark.

      2. jason 7
        Thumb Up

        Easy to do.

        Just used a kitchen timer set to three minutes for a week or two. You then get a routine and after that you dont need the timer, you just know how long it takes.

        Not stressful. Helps get you focused rather than moping about in the shower. Also means longer in bed as I don't take so long to get ready in the morning.

        Stand watching a clock for three minutes. Its actually quite long enough to wash your bits.

        Otherwise you are just giving money to 'the man'.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Keep shower time to 3 minutes?

        By just getting in, washing, getting out? Would naturally take about 3 mins? I'm not one for just standing there gormlessly getting repeatedly wet for 10+ minutes. That's quite a long time. Why do people do that? (Other than hangover mornings.).

        That way you can have more time for lingering over your cornflakes, staring cold eyed and tight lipped at the kitchen calendar with all those ringed dates of trifling engagements and reminders of your futile merry go round existence. Silently bracing yourself for the strength to grasp the front door handle and step into another day. The weed spattered pavement, the potholed road. Your desk. The people. All those people.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Keep shower time to 3 minutes?

          "By just getting in, washing, getting out?"

          Maybe he went to the YMCA like Cosmo Kramer and took notes.

  35. SynicNZ

    If an aluminium can takes less energy to make than a glass one ...

    Why are all the smelters parked next to power generation stations but glass foundrys are not?

    I am genuinely interested!

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I call shenanigans

    "line-drying clothes saves more energy than changing the washer’s settings (the reverse is true)"

    This statement is pointless and cannot possibly be true.

    Controlling a washing machine cycle so that it heats the water to only 30° rather than 40° can potentially reduce the amount of energy consumed by the cycle. If the water inlet temperature were 20° then half as much energy would be needed to heat the water in a particular cycle.

    However, a tumble dryer uses more than five times the amount of energy to dry a single load than a washing machine uses to wash that load.

    This is based on actual measurements I have taken. A typical 40° wash in my not-particularly-efficient washing machine uses 0.5kWh of electricity. My brand-new 'A' rated tumble dryer uses 2.8kWh to dry a load in 90 minutes.

    Ergo, the choice to run a washing machine at a lower temperature can not save more energy than the choice to dry washing on the line over using the tumble dryer. Changing the temperature of the wash could save about 0.25kWh (about 3 pence) - not using the tumble dryer would definitely save 2.8kWh (about 30p), in my example.

  37. Polly Myositis

    (an average...) TV using 1W on standby?? Who is being misleading?

    I like the notion that 'modern' TVs use 1W on standby, but here we are talking about the very best of breed - which use circa 0.3-1W.

    How many Britons have the very latest TV?

    Making misleading statements is not the best way to clarify matters. Does the Energy Saving Trust really confuse us all? No specific examples are given.


    It would be nice if government ensured that energy companies provided energy monitors to all homes using above average energy this year, rather than allowing 10 years for some super-tool that provides remote monitoring via smart meters for all - many do not use the internet so will gain no benefit from these, and there are still concerns about security/hacking ... and the cost is many times higher.

    It would also be nice if government did a few more things:

    1. zero rate all home insulation products for VAT. Permanently.

    2. provide a fixed price after subsidy for loft insulation, e.g. per cubic metre of insulating material, on an annual basis, maybe on July 4th each year. This to ensure that no one delays improving their home insulation whilst hoping for a new special discount, except, perhaps, during the late spring and early summer when heating is not a priority.

    3. awarded prizes annually for the best new low energy technology in a variety of categories, similar to the French competition for low fuel consumption car; e.g. light bulbs providing most natural indoor light for lowest energy, or lowest environmental cost; light bulbs providing best street lighting for lowest environmental cost; light bulb providing best tested longevity and energy rating - submissions allowed for competition 2 and 3 years ahead of prize year!

    4. make planning inspectors test new window installations with thermal imaging cameras to check that insulation around the window is thorough (no Friday jobs accepted) - something that home owners not present during fitting, or not savvy, cannot check themselves. Require remedial work by contractor if substandard. Penalty to contractor if not complying.

    5. Make accessible, in all stores, statistics for all new appliances, providing information such as:

    Washing machines: energy consumed during wash at 30, 40, 50, 60 C

    6. back to thermal imaging: provide free thermal imaging of houses as a matter of course every within next 2 years - the better that people can recognise where they can improve insulation and reduce energy consumption. People will tend to compare to neighbours and may be motivated to improve as a result of their home being far worse than a neighbour.

    ... beer, see? I do take my medicine!

    1. martin burns

      More Things HMG could do

      Steal lessons from

      1) Mandate a building regs escalator that in 5 years requires PassivHaus standards for all new builds (and over time regulates improving heat efficiency of rental properties - we did it for electrical standards before)

      2) Mandate that Elec Cos provide a feed-in tariff. This should start off significantly *above* the consumption tariff, and reduce over time, so that early adopters benefit. This alone is responsible for kickstarting the German microgeneration engineering industry to be a world leader.

      Mind you, the other thing we could do is start a war so we can go back to WWII levels of self-sufficiency. What, we did already? Two, you say?

  38. Ben Hanson 1
    Dead Vulture

    Promoter of Ignorance

    Consider how we used to do things in this country (in the 1950s for example). Bottles would be *reused* not recycled (think milk bottles, although the same occurred for beer bottles etc.) You would walk to the local grocers, make an order then someone on a *push bike* would deliver it to your door. Of course the produce would generally be in brown paper bags instead of plastic.

    As for jake's comment about so -called eco light bulbs, how true. Why haven't we switched to modern LED light bulbs? Anyone who's used a modern bike light recently will know what I'm talking about. They are really very bright and appear pleasingly efficient.

    Maybe my tin foil hat is on too tight Lewis, but are you in the pay of Big Oil or just simply a nasty piece of work? Sure, politicians talk drivel and plenty of interest groups have more than their fair share of nutters - this is not news. This is no excuse for wilful ignorance and bone-headed propaganda.

    Time was The Register had some thoughtful and intelligent articles (hey, even The Inquirer used to!)

  39. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Most distressing, sir.

    I'm an ex-ITer now with a short-term climate challenge job, and I'm so sad, I still need my daily fix of El Reg. Having said that, two things about this issue really do bother me - one is that many "green living" attempts are really just middle-class lifestyle choice issues, and the other is that we really are in trouble if we think we can continue to enjoy the lives cheaply available energy has given us. It's this last that I find frustrating with some El Reg coverage of the issue, apparrently poo-po'ing any alternative option to the status quo. While jourtnals like El Reg need to be there to winkle out the inevitable snakeoil that accompanies the issue, as anybody who's been in IT for longer than say 15 years will know, as another industry heavy in snake oil, some things are worth trying, and we should be experimenting, failing and trying again until we do find the right way forward. Just like IT, it's not going to be a silver bullet. Just like IT, systems are complex, and people are involved. And perhaps just like IT, a broken system needs a good disaster to focus people's minds that Something Needs To Be Done.

    2p worth.

    1. Adam Salisbury

      Hear, hear!

      Beer for you! :D

  40. Anonymous Coward

    The average person..

    should (IMHO) think more about how to remove themselves from the dependency of Energy companies providing expensive and environmentally damaging energy into your home and focusing more on becoming as self reliant as possible.

    If you are in a house then have a look at getting different forms of energy input devices, (combinations of solar panels, Geothermal etc), to assist in reducing your dependency on energy from suppliers. Flats (like mine) can implement small wind turbines, even small solar panels to assist.

    I know the tech is still fairly expensive and certainly won't remove you from being dependent on an energy company but the same argument about turning of lights and reducing your consumption by small percentages can be applied to this approach. For example reduce your dependency by say 17% pa with these methods and you save year on year anyway without impacting your current lifestyle...

  41. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Down

    Balanced articles plz

    I take slight issue with the tone of this article - I know Lewis like winding us greenies up, but he seems to be saying that it's better to not do anything at all than to be ill informed.

    What should we do - sit here and wait for the government to tell us what to recycle? We know how that tends to pan out...

  42. misanthrope

    Energy Saving Light bulbs

    I want to know who decided 'energy saving' light bulbs are a good idea. As far as I am aware they have a rather high environmental impact in manufacturing and are difficult to recycle as they contain some rather nasty chemicals. While they may use less electricity and are more efficient in terms of heat loss; this is not necessarily a good thing. The old inefficient incandescent light bulbs do a rather good job of topping up the ambient temperature in a room. If your home is reasonably well insulted this makes quite a bit of a difference. From a little bit of testing (using the temperature monitors in the server room over the course of two months) I have discovered that the efficient light bulbs create a net loss as the heating has to go up to counter the loss of a few degrees of ambient temperature.

    1. DrXym


      All that heat from light bulbs is wasted energy. I expect most of the time you don't even need to heat the room because it's not cold to start with. And if it were, then central heating systems are expressly designed to heat the room.

      Aside from that some CFLs do contain a microscopic amount of mercury. But then again, so do fossil fuels. So is the amount of mercury in a CFL bulb less than the amount saved by not burning so much coal? What about all the other nasty emissions in coal that are saved by less burning?

      Anyway the most pragmatic reason to use CFLs is to save money. It costs 1/8th the money to light a room which may well account for a couple of quid savings on the bill in any month per bulb. Even better use LEDs which are cheaper again.

      1. Adam Salisbury

        No it's not

        The heat isn't wasted if you can turn your central heating down as a result! And besides those enrgy saving bulbs only last half the life of ordinary ones so you need to manufacture twice as many, therefore factor in environmental/carbon cost of raw materials, toxic checmicals, cost to make, cost to transport, hell even the cost of me going out and buying more and the cost of recycling the old ones.

        1. stucs201

          half the life?

          They last longer (well you can shorten their lives if you flash them on and off like you're trying to send more code, but used at all normally you need far less of them).

          1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Lifetime of CFLs

            I fitted the house out with CFLs when we moved in in 1997. Most of them are still going, although they are getting noticeably dimmer now, but after 13 years that's acceptable.

            I'm now experimenting with LED replacements, with good results. They're still a bit pricey, though, so there's some work to do yet. But it amazes me that I can light our medium-sized library with 12w of power, down to 4w when we're watching TV and so don't need full brightness.


            1. Nick Carter
              Thumb Up

              RE: Lifetime of CFLs

              I agree, I first started fitting mine in 1990 (those jam jar sized ones), and only one has failed so far (after about 10 years of daily use).

              I too am investigating LEDs; mainly cos they are easier to run off 12V so keep going in a power cut. Yes, they are a bit pricey but like all semiconductor tech to do with energy efficiency/renewables (photovoltaics, invertor parts) I expect the price will come down with mass production efficiencies.

      2. Nigel 11


        > All that heat from light bulbs is wasted energy.

        WRONG. Or only in summer, or only in a warmer country than the UK.

        In the UK, our houses need some degree of heating for at least 8 months of the year. Also, the hours of darkness are much longer during the part of the year when heating is required.

        A filament light bulb burning near the ceiling is not the most efficient way of generating that heat, but it does convect around the room, and if we're talking flats, downstairs' lighting inefficiency becomes upstairs' heating.

        A back-of-envelope calculation suggests that in the UK, something like 3/4 of the energy no longer emitted by filament light-bulbs, will be emitted by heaters and central heating instead.

        Energy-saving light-bulbs are at their best in tropical places where not only is waste heat from light bulbs wasted all year round, but causes air-conditioners to waste yet more energy pumping the waste heat to the outside.

  43. Keith 21

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    "a modern TV on standby uses less than a watt of power. You would need to unplug it or switch it off for a year to save as much energy as it takes to have one-and-a-half baths." bitches the extremely lazily-written and ill-informed article (but then, given it is written by an ignorant journo, what can we expect? What's that, ignorant journo, you don't lik ebeing name-called? Tough, it's a technique I have learned from you, so deal with it).

    But where was I?

    Oh yes.

    "a modern TV on standby uses less than a watt of power. You would need to unplug it or switch it off for a year to save as much energy as it takes to have one-and-a-half baths." claims the article, suggesting it is pointless to unplug (or, in civilised countries, merely switch-off the TV at the mains).

    OK, suppose you have the TV unplugged for a thurd of the time (you know, when you are asleep - that still gives you 16 hours of glorious TV-on time per day). You save enough energy to power half a bath. Not much? Really? You do realise you are not the only person in teh world. Now take that half-a-bath-a-year saving and multiply that over 10 million households.

    My goodness but that's a lot of baths for free now, isn't it! That's over 9,000 free baths PER DAY. A significant saving.

    But hey, it's just easier to try to be smug and to slag off anyone who thinks differently when you are an ignorant journo, isn't it?

    1. Nigel 11

      What REALLY irks me

      What really irks me about standby, is how utterly pointlessly stupidly wasteful is the engineering. It is easy to build an appliance that will stand by monitoring for a remote controller or for a button-press on a milliwatt. With a bit of work that could probably be pushed down to tens of microwatts.

      You'd need a small rechargeable battery or a large capacitor, a relay or triac to disconnect the mains properly, and a mains press-switch as a starter for the times when the battery or capacitor had run flat after a long period of non-use. Add some low-power CMOS electronics for the rest. Alternatively use a small solar panel and charge the battery/capacitor off ambient light.

      Why don't they do it? Competitive disadvantage. Doing it right costs a pound or two more, and so the crappiest approach wins more customers. It really makes me want to spew.

      Our law-makers should make illegal any appliance which stands by on more than a milliwatt. (Standby displays should be passive LCD, so no wasteful back-lighting needed. By all means add a brighter backlit display which is on when the device is on, if that's useful).

      1. A J Stiles

        It's worse with gas

        I used to work for a company which manufactured, inter alia, electronic ignition controls for gas boilers. Thus allowing the burner to be ignited by a spark when the controls called for heat, obviating the need for a pilot burner (which can easily use up to 250 watts; or about 3.7 m³ of gas per week).

        A boiler with electronic ignition was slightly cheaper to build than one with the same firebox but a permanent pilot burner, since the electronics actually cost less than the fancy thermocouple-operated gas valve; you could use a simple mains solenoid valve instead. Flame sensing was done electronically, using the spark electrode; flames actually conduct electricity. (This should not surprise you. Fire is a chemical reaction, and chemical reactions contain charged particles in motion.)

        In a range including permanent-pilot and electronic-ignition versions of otherwise the same appliance, guess which one sold for less?

        And the way the regulations have been tightened means that you can't even replace a hopelessly inefficient boiler with a middling one, so people will end up putting up with wasteful appliances till they die.

        By the way, the old Glow-Worm combi was probably the worst energy-waster. It used to have to run the fan on low power all the time, just to keep the pilot from going out.

  44. Duncan Hothersall

    This really is a pisspoor rant of an article

    Ludicrous comparisons to enable bitter points-scoring and absurd generalisations.

    Why the fuck does it matter that people don't know how much energy is saved by line drying in comparison to how much energy is saved by turning the temperature down on a washing machine? And how about giving us some DATA is that bald accusation? Because I can prove that line drying compared to tumble drying saves more energy than turning down the temperature on my washing machine by 1 degree.

    Lazy, angry, self-indulgent journalism. If I wanted that I could go to the Daily Mail.

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: This really is a pisspoor rant of an article

      Don't worry folks, I'm going to wait for the optimum moment and then kick him under the desk.

      *quip about my personal carbon footprint goes here*

      1. NRT

        I sugest you use realy heavy boots

        Lewis is quite heavy & kicking him under a desk.....


      2. gabor1

        Go Lewis!

        This *is* why I read the Reg

  45. TonyHoyle

    342 watts?

    Something wrong with your calculation there. 342 is way too low.. maybe for 1 person in a flat.

    My TV when powered on (<1 year old so clams to be 'eco') uses 250 watts on its own. TVs tend to be on most evenings, so that's a fair chunk. AV amp is another 100 if I use it. That's >342 before you've even taken into account normal power usage.

    Even keeping most things off (not because I'm eco but because I'm a cheapskate) when not in use baseline power usage for the 2 of us is a shade under 400w and evening usage 700w-1kw depending on whether the wife switches her desktop PC on or not.

    For a family add in the costs of xboxes and ps3s in standby (if I switch on the extension with the xbox+ps3+wii on consumption jumps 120w without even powering any of them on).

    If you take 500w as a more realistic average, and take into account that nobody uses incandescents any more, the statement should be "Even switching off a single 5w unused lamp saves about 1% of that average ongoing consumption."

    Doesn't sound so impressive now...

    1. AndyS


      What's that? A "reply" button? My, that must be a useful idea!

    2. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

      250w for a TV? Are you *sure*?

      There's not a single on in that list rated at even 200w, and that includes some real monsters.


  46. Monty Cantsin

    Flawed article on a more flawed survey

    It seems to be all over the place in terms of its comparisons and conclusions.

    Why compare washing machine settings to line drying? It's like saying "which saves more energy, line drying or using a fan over rather than a conventional one" . And when the person says "line drying", they're called an idiot that knows nothing about being "eco-friendly". Most people who line dry will probably have seen the detergent ads going on about the benefits of washing at 30 degrees, and so will most likely be doing both if such things concern them. So what if they don't know exactly which one saves more energy? They're not mutually exclusive.

    Also, the main "eco" reason to recycle glass is not to save energy, it's to reduce filling landfill with a substance that doesn't break down in any easy way. Being "eco-friendly" isn't just about CO2 emissions.

  47. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Reuising glass

    The posh supermarket here sells its organic milk in glass bottles (at twice the price) and the bottles have a $1 deposit and are refilled.

    Still uses more energy to wash the bottles and reuse them than to make a paper tetrapak carton and a lot more fuel to carry them around.

    1. davenewman

      Washing bottles needn't use so much energy

      I spent a month in a brewery in Mozambique, when they reused beer bottles.

      The bottle washing machine used water that had cooled the fermentation vats, so the only extra energy needed was to run the pumps that sprayed jets of water and detergent into the bottles, and a bit of extra heat to produce the steam for the sterilisation at the end of the line (after ordinary washing).

      Of course, the biggest energy use was in producing and bottling the beer, compared to traditional beers made in a dustbin by someone's grandmother.

  48. beerandbiscuits

    reuse not recycling

    I am very far from being an eco tosser, but as someone who appreciates the countryside, I believe in not filling it up with our rubbish. But at least as far as bottles go, recycling is not the answer.

    Glass may not be as carbon friendly in manufacture as cans, but glass can be reused, as it used to be, and not just for milk. I remember as a child in the seventies taking squash and lemonade bottles back to the shop to reclaim the deposits - it was my main source of income for years. Now if you have a glass botlle that's used say 20 times before it reaches the end of its useful life, that is a lot better than using an aluminium can, which cannot be reused.

    On the power side, the US use 120v, not our 230. So what difference does that make to cutting bills by those methods over here?

    1. Chemist

      "use 120v, not our 230"

      "So what difference does that make to cutting bills by those methods over here?"

      None at all !

      Watts=Amps*Volts So lower volts = higher amps.

      ** Slightly higher waste in the appliance cables in USA

      1. Richard Mason

        Re: Slightly higher waste in the appliance cables

        I can't find a link now, but I read recently that the US could reduce its power generation requirements by something like 8-10% by switching their domestic voltage from 110/115 to 220/230 because of reduced losses in power transmission and step down. Less power is lost stepping down to 220V than to 110V, and 220V power also suffers less transmission loss than 110V.

  49. Ben Hanson 1

    Nice one Sarah!

    Have a virtual beer or three on me! :-)

  50. This post has been deleted by its author

  51. Mr Lion

    Recycling glass

    is a load of old cock as any fule kno - however reusing glass (like used to happen with deposit bottles) certainly isn't.

  52. Skydreamer

    And instead of Or perhaps?

    Rather than changing the washer sessions instead of choosing to line-dry over tumble-dry, why not change the washer setting AND choose to line-dry?

    Similarly, why not turn out more lamps AND turn the heating down a couple of degress whiles dressing warmer?

    i.e. do these things have to be exclusive?

  53. Hieronymus Coward


    I still get milk delivered in glass bottles which the milkman dutifully collects for reuse (It took me a long time to convince my wife not to put the dirty milk bottles through the dishwasher as they will just be taken to the depo and washed there... seemed a bit wasteful and that the milkman didn't mind if the bottles weren't spotless...).

    As a kid in the 70's I used to collect glass bottles and return them for a small deposit. Why don't we start doing that again?

  54. David Edwards

    Knowledge vs Desire

    regarding those who "care" being less able.

    Perhaps its because (huge generalisation alert) the Green types are often the sort of hippy-lovey-fluffy-kitten class of person who tends to avoid subjects such as science/maths (chemistry/biology/physics) etc that give you the raw mental materials to work out or understand these types of issue. They instead do life skills, media studies and music.

    Meanwhile those of us who know about KW of electricity and efficiency (or photosynthesis that uses that toxin know as Co2) etc are too busy building racing cars and super computers (+ the odd death ray).

    1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge


      The two are not mutually exclusive. I'm currently involved in the building of three racing cars, several supercomputers, an uprated and improved wind turbine control system, a rain-water recovery system, and possible a solar panel system to tie into the existing wind turbine, I'm undecided about that last one so far.

      They're all engineering problems with various different challenges to overcome. Some benefit the human race ("Save the planet!" "The best thing we can do to help the planet now is to burn all the fossil fuels and thus wipe out the Human race. How about we save the Human race instead?"), some are just fun projects that keep me happy and, if not sane, then in a stable state of mild insanity.


  55. Magnus_Pym


    1. turning lights off when you are not using them doesn't save much power (start up costs of fluorescents not withstanding) but turning the heating down does.

    2. Line drying rather than tumble drying saves some power but not as much as cool washing compared to hot wash. (I'm not even convinced that is true).

    Is this article suggesting that there is some kind of weird physics going on where small amounts of energy become zero when talked about in the same sentence as larger amounts? has it suddenly become true that not doing everything eco, green, carbon neutral and landfill friendly is the same as doing nothing?

    All I can think is that this by the same 'scientists' who used to say 'actually all these "smoking is bad for you" campaigners HAVE NO BLOODY IDEA'?

    1. mmiied

      not zero

      just significntley close to zero

      but what the article is saying to my eyes is that you need to THINK before you clame to be saving energy as to weather you are doing your savign the best way

      somone who line drys there cloths and then unplugs all there phone chargers (form personal testing <0.1 watt) and then drives 1 mile in a 4x4 to pick there kids up from school maby needs to rethink there proitioys an d maby needs to evanglise less

  56. Cormac 1

    Reusing glass

    When Milk Bottles were regularly reused, they were delivered to your door on electric/battery milk floats, and collected in the same way ... all to a dairy within 10-15 miles from you. the milk was delivered to the dairy in large milk tankers the same size as petrol delivery trucks (actually - identical trucks, and they are still used) ...

    It's not the energy cost of bottle re-use that ended that tradition - its the cost of employing the "milk men"

    1. beerandbiscuits

      Yes - but that's only one model

      Doorstep delivery is not part and parcel of reuse - you can take bottles back to the shop instead.

  57. LawLessLessLaw

    pfft if you cared that much

    you wouldn't iron your clothes.

    When I say that one to weekend eco-warriors they get all defensive.

    here's Al Gore's low carbon office

    4 giant monitors and a laser printer under the desk, go Al

  58. Ramshackle

    That old chesnut.

    Angling for a job at the daily mail by any chance? This article is typical of the "one thing you said is wrong so everything you say is worthless" argument that's often utilised by the anti-pc/eco/liberal/tofu brigade.

    Just because recycling glass has a more negative impact than using cans doesn't mean all recycling is bollocks. You are aware metals can also be recycled, yes? And just because switching off appliances on standby doesn't save that much energy doesn't mean it isn't still worth doing, it's a truly lazy bastard who classes crossing their living room to switch off the T.V as anything but a minor inconvenience.

    The original source simply states that people's perceptions are wrong, so perhaps the grown up thing to do would have been suggesting better education rather than just using it as an excuse to tell eco-minded people to get fucked.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's All A Big Con!

    Call me a cynic but as a committed tree hugger the argument has been hijacked by the corporates / 'guvmint' in thrall of corporate lobbyists. They're spreading misinformation and fallacy. As long as they can con people into believing the green hype and buying their 'eco friendly' products they're happy - CFLs / car scrappage / exhortations to replace old kit with better energy-rated appliances are all symptoms of the same thing. The embodied energy in most cases means you have to wait years for new kit to start having a beneficial effect. We should be reducing (eg all that plastic food packaging) and reusing (how about those glass bottles from the milkman?), recycling in a lot of cases (eg glass) is pointless, except that it provides cheap raw materials and 'eco-credentials' to perpetuate the con. Problem is there a very few ways to make 'reduce and reuse' turn a profit so we're stuck with 'consume stuff you don't need but that feeds the ego and buy-in to the recycling con'

  60. illiad

    title nazi????


    "I dont trust these detergents that say they wash clean at 30 degrees - if thats the case why does Ariel detergent now sell alongside a range of boosters and stain removers that Ariel has been telling us for the last 30 years that we dont need?"

    I am afraid its the 'free market' where you are still able to buy a gas-guzzling 'hummer' at the same time as an electric smart car...

    so yes, you can buy your ancient ariel that mom likes, or the new type that will do your wash at 15 degrees... the only reason they are being sold, is that people buy them.... go ahead, it will only take couple of quid to do your own 'cleaning test'... wot price to lose your preconceptions????

    and if you are pedantic enough to cout out the grains of powder, you only have yoursel to blame.. I prefer to not get a mess in the w/mc tray, as well as elsewhere, so use the 'liquitabs' so I just chuck in the washing, put in the tab, job done, no mess, no energy wasted cleaning up spills....

    and as for the pedantic people trying to say that line drying uses energy... the only way I can see that, is that english weather may need you to take the 'rained on' wet clothes and put them in the dryer... :( :(

  61. DrXym

    Energy rated appliances, light bulbs etc

    My energy saving efforts are basically about saving money. Therefore I purchase an A or A+ rated appliances on the basis that they often cost no more and frequently use a fraction of the power of a B or C rated device.

    My house has something like 30 spotlight sockets for GU10 halogen bulbs. At 50W a piece, I would be burning 1500W if I turned them all on. These days you can buy 2W LED warm light bulbs which provide virtually indistinguishable light for 1/25th power. So instead of 1500W, I would only be using 60W if I turned them all on. The LED bulbs cost more but then again they pay for themselves rapidly and last longer too so have less risk of breaking limbs or necks trying to replace them.

    I still reckon I use too much power. I'm into gaming & PCs so I'm too lazy to power them down even when they could be. I think I probably pay €20-40 more per month than I would if were to strictly put things into sleep / standby when they're not in use.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Interesting ideas, but unfortunately half-truths.

      "My energy saving efforts are basically about saving money. Therefore I purchase an A or A+ rated appliances on the basis that they often cost no more and frequently use a fraction of the power of a B or C rated device."

      You are missing the point: Some people use _their old appliances_ as long as they last and don't buy new ones, thus saving ten to thousandfold the money you "save" by buying newest new.

      The energy consumption of most appliances is often the smallest cost, investment and cost of ownership are much bigger costs.

      "So instead of 1500W, I would only be using 60W if I turned them all on."

      If you heat your house (like most people do), you'll consume exactly same amount of energy, ie. 1500W. It doesn't matter at all if you are taking the heat from lamps or from the electric heater. Only difference is that electric heater doesn't give you light. Of course, 1500W isn't heating a house, more like 6500 watts or more.

      In summertime you don't need heating but not much lights either, so situation is essentially the same.

      "The LED bulbs cost more but then again they pay for themselves rapidly "

      They cost more and give very dim light, like candles and no, they won't pay themselves back, ever. Unless you live in a climate where heating is unnecessary at least 10 months of a year.

      If you really replace a 20W halogen with a 2W led (with 10-fold price), you get maybe 10% of the lumens you had earlier, no wonder the energy consumption drops when you drop 90% of the intensity: You could achieve the same with adjustable halogens, at almost zero cost.

      LEDs also have a nasty habit to dim by themselves: A year old LED is very good if it has 80% of the original intensity. Two years and 50%. Something that the fanatic supporters (=salesmen) of LEDs won't tell you.

      1. Nick Carter

        @AC 22:47 GMT

        I've taken the trouble to do a bit of research because clearly you haven't.

        The lumens per watt for a Quartz halogen is typically 24, whereas high intensity LEDs are >45 lm/W. So obviously if you replace a 20W halogen with a 2W LED it's going to be dimmer because you'll be replacing 480 lumens with 90 lumens. To get the same lumens you'd replace the 20W halogen with about 10W of LED.

        The cost isn't 10-fold. In the long-term (and LEDs do last for the long term without significant dimming) you'd get a payback. This is similar to the short-term/long-term cost comparisons between Incandescent and Compact Fluorescent - upfront cost versus long term savings. Like the previous contributor mentioned you also save time & hassle in replacing halogens.

        As for replacing inefficient fridges, I replaced my 20 year fridge which I found was using >700kWH per year with an A+ rated using <150kWH/year. It paid for itself in less than 3 years. I was waiting for the old fridge to die but then decided to make some measurements and replaced it pronto. The energy consumption of most appliances is often the LARGEST cost in TCO not the smallest.

        And as for the crap about using incandescent lighting to heat your house: I live in the UK and don't heat my house all year so the heat given off by lights would be wasted for 8 months per year. Lighting requirements in winter aren't a lot different from other times, I sleep through most of the hours of darkness. Incidentally, in winter my space and water heating is provided by a wood burning stove so heat from electric lights would probably save me a couple of logs per winter which wouldn't save me any money (I haven't yet needed to pay for wood). Also, not all domestic lighting is indoors, and where air con is used the heat from lights would be a double waste.


    Lies, statistics and surveys...

    The bit about glass bottles struck me as curious because I was always under the impression that glass bottles were not "recycled' but actually reused. It was my understanding that in the old days when glass bottle return was the thing, they just cleaned the old bottles out.

    No "re-manufacturing" was done.

    Re-use versus re-cycling is not a distinction to be taken lightly.

    Pollution is also something to consider as opposed to just energy.

    Although Green partisans tend to be most vocal about chasing away anyone with an actual clue (or heaven forbid an actual environmental engineering degree).

  63. Lottie

    I don't have a tumble drier

    How will reducing the temprature on my washer help with drying. Obviously I don't use any electricity to dry my clothes on the line, so if I lower the temp on the washer, will I get energy back?

    I'm also fairly sure that turning my PC off for a day will save more power than using a clothes drier, but neither will dry my clothes.

    I resent being told that I know nothing because I recycle my glass. I KNOW it takes as much energy to melt and reform the stuff (but I suspect less than the combined resources used in sourcing and shipping the raw materials before hand) but I recycle because there are some products that I can't buy in aluminium cans and I'm concerned about landfill space as well as energy usage.

    My house isn't centrally heated, we have to use sweaters and extra blankets in the winter, so if I'm not using air con or heating, turning off lights and appliances on standby WILL HELP. If my telly uses 1 watt/ hour on standby (which as it's old it doesn't, but I DO switch it off properly) and I have it turned off fully all the time I'm asleep or at work, that's a good 15 hours or so that I'm saving. Okay, so that's 15 Watts per day, but if a thousand people did that, it's 15KW saved and over a year, that's just under 550KW a year. If everyone did that for their monitors, tellys and stereos, that would save a hell of a lot over time.

    It's all about the small things adding up and not about "I know more about being environmentally friendly than you" willy waving. Especially when said willy waving is skewed to avoid half of the equation.

  64. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Energy Saving Trust

    "And ignore the many worthy public organisations - for instance the Energy Saving Trust ..."

    You what? Worthy?

    They convinced my dad to "upgrade" to a combi boiler. Now he has to run several L of water to waste each time he wants hot water. Sometimes that water starts off hot when the tap is first opened, but cannot really be used because the water then goes cold while the combi decides to fire-up after an unbelievable delay. What is the energy cost of treating that water and heating the water that is lost?

    Then in addition he was unable to install solar water heating because he has a combi boiler.

    I don't even want to think about how much energy was used to manufacture the new boiler in the first place when the old one was fine, or think about how often the latest boilers need to be replaced compared to the older ones. He was told that the energy savings will make the boiler pay for itself in 15 years, but that assumes that it lasts 15 years (only has 2 year warrantee), and that the credit to pay for the boiler had 0% interest.

  65. Timo

    reminds me of a friend

    Buddy of mine was persuaded to spend a load of money to change out all of the light bulbs in his house to CFL's. He then told me that he was saving "so much money" with those bulbs. So I asked him: can you tell on your electric bill???? He couldn't see a difference. Bwhahahahahahahahaha sucker.

    The truth is that lighting makes up a small portion of the overall electric budget for the house. Would be much better to turn the air conditioning up a degree, or to unplug the second fridge in the house.

  66. James Micallef Silver badge


    "As a true eco-person, you shouldn't be recycling glass: you ought not to be using it at all."

    As long as good wine comes in glass bottles, not much chance of that... but I'll keep it in mind when it comes to beer cans :)

  67. Cleverfiend

    A UK perspective

    Recycling in the UK is also about keeping rubbish out of landfill of which we are running short (and taxed to the hilt by the government). A primary driver of recycling is just keeping down landfill waste instead of being eco-warriors.

    Washing at 40 degrees. I don't know about most other countries but in the UK we use biological washing powder. These work best between 3- and 40 degrees. Go much higher and you denature (effectively cook) the enzymes and they can't digest the stains. Therefore these work better at low than high temperatures.

  68. Jules

    In Ontario Canada, ...

    Wine bottles and beer bottles (glass and aluminum cans) are recycled, the cans are crushed (if they have not been crushed on return) and glass bottles are reused (apparently up to 7x). If other glass food containers were uniform sizes from different food manufacturers, reusing may be more feasible and eco-friendly.

    Also, here, the electricity suppliers have switched to smart meters and graduated fees for use (higher during business hours, less during evenings and even less during nights and weekends). Therefore, it is more economical to hang clothes out on nice sunny days than use the drier.

  69. Tezfair

    Speed read most of the comments...

    I have a meter and its made little difference in the way I save power. What I found was...

    1. My SOHO runs around 200w, but turning it all off at night on the cheap rate saves very little - and the inkjets when starting up run a cleaning cycle thats using ink making it dearer to turn everything off!!.

    2. Florescent tubes which people think are cheap to run don't realise that the ballasty thing consumes as much as the tube - our '35w' tubes draw 60w each (provable by turning on and off while watching the meter)

    3. Washing at 40 or less may save power, but you need to run a 90 degree once a month to kill the bugs in the washing machine -


  70. Alan Denman

    Did I miss the humour?

    I can;t quite work it out.

    Ignorance or humour?

    I've no bloody idea stupid!

  71. Schultz

    Smart people

    So the smart people who understand more about energy saving can't be bothered to change their ways? Looks like there is some educating to be done.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Propaganda by any other name ...

      "So the smart people who understand more about energy saving can't be bothered to change their ways? Looks like there is some educating to be done"

      Same people call it propaganda, not education. And you know what?

      They are right.

  72. MrHorizontal

    Hot countries are more eco friendly than colder ones

    As someone who grew up in the mediterranean, we have oil heating (ie the most expensive type) for winter and we have air con in summer when it's cold. We also have water shortages aplenty and we have to think of ingenious ways to get rid of rubbish generally, because if left out in the sun it stinks to high heaven.

    What's different between hot and cold climes is that while we have central heating and aircon, we NEVER use it ALL the time. We only put aircon on if it's above 35 outside or during a heatwave, otherwise simply closing the shutters and keeping the house dark is a remarkably efficient way of keeping a house cool in summer. Opening the windows wide open is possibly the worst thing you can do to keep cool. Similarly in winter, we don't need the central heating on at all. Just a few short bursts (2 hours between 6 and 8pm for example) is plenty heat for the entire night. Needless to say if you have the aircon on while in bed, you're pretty stupid as you'll wake up with a chill, and if you have your heating on while asleep too, your duvet isn't good enough or, quite frankly, you're not heating yourself up making passionate love. Yes, sex is a pretty good way of keeping warm!

    Rubbish in hot countries has to be picked up within a day before it gasses the street. Seriously perishable stuff is usually biodegradable anyway, and mincing it up and putting it down the drain is a better bet (provided your drains can handle it). Then what's left is plastics, glass, paper and aluminium, which surprisingly is all recyclable and doesn't stink.

    Furthermore, when I explained to my (English) girlfriend that there was a water shortage one summer, she balked at the fact I left the bathwater in the bath and scooped it up and threw it down the toilet instead of using the normal flusher. Old soapy bathwater is perfectly good enough to flush away last night's curry (and the soap helps ward off the nasty niff emitting skid marks left in the old bowl).

    Finally practically everyone over there knows that heating stuff up is the most expensive thing to do. So the amount of crap that resides on top of an oven (because everyone cooks real mediterranean food needing HOURS of cooking) is amazing - kettles, hot water bottles, coils for outside hosepipes linked to the outdoor shower and so forth. Last but not least the ubiquitous solar panels to heat up water is almost everywhere.

    The point of it all, is just using PLAIN OLD COMMON SENSE and a little bit of LATERAL thinking pays a huge dividends - that's why my typical energy bills come in on average at on average, one sixth of mates' bills, and I wouldn't particularly call myself eco-conscious at all (I certainly don't bother unplugging my stuff, and I like my light!).

  73. Martin Lyne

    Recycle glass

    People recycle glass because it's stupid to have reusable stuff thrown away when we can just.l. use it again

    Does the energy cost also include the cost of processing the sand (or whatever) , molding and transport energy costs? If recycling is performed in the same general location then these energy savings (if that's what they work out to be) should be included.

  74. Mike Powers

    Green behavior is mostly about feeling good

    Studies have shown that people who think they're acting virtuously are more likely to "trade"--that is, they act worse then they normally would because they think that their virtuous behavior makes up for it.

    So when someone flicks off the light, they're more likely to go out and be a colossal jerk on the roadway; because, after all, they figure that they *deserve* to drive fast and tailgate and yammer on the phone, they're *eco-friendly* after all.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Pf! Surveys! Pfff?

    There is a beut about surveys in the UK.

    Apparently very few customers in exit surveys own up to buying the Brit pork pie.

    The surveys cannot tie in responses with volume of stuff sold.

    So, interim conclusion, if surveys do not have something along lines of: "you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" well I'd guess we have to take them with a pinch of salt else a 4-pack of pork pies?

  76. gabor1

    DJCM quote

    My favourite quote from David Mackay's book (Sustainable Energy - without the hot air) is "If we all just did a little, together, we could achieve... a little!"

    1. Nick Carter

      Every little helps a little bit

      Or to put it another way, if everyone in the world reduced their energy consumption by 0.01% then we'll reduce global energy consumption by 0.01%.

  77. wookey

    Insulation and airtightness is by far the best value

    Heating and insulation/airtightness is what matters in the UK (domestically). Spend a few hundred or a few thousand on insulation and you will dwarf all the other possible savings. Loft, cavity wall, internal insulation, external insulation and suitable attention to airthightness (most UK houses are hopelessly leaky). By far the most cost-effective change you can make.

    As others have mentioned most housholds can save 25% of their power consumption by turning thigns off, getting rid of egrigiously inefficient stuff (we found things like old bell transformers running at 15W permanently and 32W of PIR sensor wasting an impressive amount of power every year).

    Commuting by car is the other thing that really gets through the carbon. Changing from a car to an electric moped for my 12.5mile commute reduced my energy consumption from 44kWh/day to 1kWh/day (or 2 at the power station, if you prefer). Cycling is even better of course.

    And will people please stop trotting out a couple well-worn pointless arguments. Stop multiplying a personal saving by N million peope. That's an error of scope. Changes you make which save say 1kWh/day are just that - maybe 1-2% of your total daily energy consumption. it would still be 1-2% no matter how many people the effect is replicated over. Read 'Without hot Air' for the book-length treatise on this subject (A book I heartily recommend to anyone who is unsure about the relative energy-implicatoins of various activities and actions).

    And similarly the thing about heat from light bulbs. Electric heating is the most energy- and carbon- intensive form of heating we have, so having light emitters that just give out light and heating devices which only heat is _more_ efficient overall. And yes LEDs are rapidly overtaking CFLs - it's the way forward, but do check the Lumens/Watt. Don't buy anything that is less than 60, or you might as well stick with CFLs.

    Bristol Bachelor: Don't worry about the combi. The extra water runoff is annoying I know, but really it's peanuts to the losses from a conventional cyclinder/boiler combo. You can still have solar thermal by using a Grant Combisol valve - neat idea. Use the Navitron or Green Building Forums to get details.

    I could go one but that'll do for today.

  78. Herby

    But I like certian things...

    Like Nice HOT showers for long periods of time (my wife says "save some water for the fishies"). Look it is just the way I am. I like creature comforts. I know that having a heated swimming pool is a bit much (I get used to thermal shock after a while), so I forgo that and get on with my life.

    Some of the "waste heat" of incandescent light bulbs heats up my office here in the winter anyway. I do recycle Al cans (and get paid for it!) since I do consume a bit of soda, but for all the other stuff, I pitch in the nice big blue (recycle) bin the trash company picks up each week at the house. Sure glass is more costly, but as the wife likes wine, I let it go. I guess there is a limit as what can be done.

    Lately there is a silly paper/plastic bag debate, and I re-use both types for various things, and they don't go immediately to the trash, so I really am a 550nM kinda of guy.

    As for nuclear power being "non-renewable", and there being a "finite" amount of fuel for them, there ARE these things called "breeder reactors" that MAKE MORE fuel than they consume. The problem is that the fuel needs to be re-processed to get it back, and former president Jimmy Carter put a stop to that (because it makes nice weapons too).

    Look, ALL energy is nuclear in some way. If it didn't originate from the sun (the nice hydrogen bomb in the sky), we did it here in a reactor, so quit griping and get on with it!

    1. Magnus_Pym

      But I like certain things like...

      Burning old tyres in the garden next to yours and playing Barry Manilo through a 1000w PA stack 24 hours a day. That's just the way I am get used to it.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Radioactive decay is constant

      "As for nuclear power being "non-renewable", and there being a "finite" amount of fuel for them"

      There's a big stupidity in nuclear energy: Some people somehow think that _you can save it_ by not using it.

      Which tells that the sayer has no idea what is the process which powers nuclear reactors.

      _Radioactive decay happens at constant speed_ and it's a process which don't give a damn if it's happening in nature or in a nuclear reactor.

      But obviously this is too much to comprehend to many: This is a fuel which ends when it ends, no matter if it's used or not: After a while it doesn't exist, no matter how much we try to "conserve" it.

      Either you use it now or you don't use it at all, which (no usage) seems to be the motivation of many so called eco-friendly people.

      1. Arthur Dent

        Radioactive decay

        <quote>Radioactive decay happens at constant speed_ and it's a process which don't give a damn if it's happening in nature or in a nuclear reactor.<unquote>

        God in heavens! I have nevr seen a better demonstration that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing than that piece of total drivel!

        Have you heard or moderating nuclear reactors - ie controlling the chance of a neutron released by the fission of one nucleus to cause nother nucleus to split? This is changing the decay rate, and is how the therrmal output of a reactor is controlled. Do you not realise that a fission bomb is just a fission reactor in which that chance has got too close to 1, and that the decay takes place very rapidly in a bomb? Heaven help us, learn a little about physics and nuclear engineering before posting and then perhaps you won't post such blatant nonsense.

  79. John 209

    Who's more daft - and misleading...

    ...the Eco-Nazis, whose certainty is inversely related to their knowledge, or their critics, who go to great pains and research to point that out?

    In pointing out the silliness of recycling glass and harassing teens about their cell-charger habits, the critics still implicitly endorse the concept that we, individually, by our habits, can make a big enough difference in energy consumption to make any difference in the grand scheme of things.

    Our problems, dear people, are structural, not individual and they will be solved, or not, by structural changes from the top down. Just because those (in the U.S.) who should be making long-term wise choices about such things are thoroughly corrupted and mislead by interests already heavily vested in the established structure, does not change the fact stated, but it does highlight the problem that every micro-watt of brain- and body-power wasted in trying to alter the course of "the Titanic" with a canoe paddle, is a micro-watt that could have been spent getting a better government into place.

  80. Scott L. Burson

    Paper is completely wrong about aluminum

    This paper makes a ludicrous error about aluminum. It talks about the energy required to make an aluminum can FROM VIRGIN ALUMINUM. But in doing so it ignores the much, much larger amount of energy required to smelt the aluminum from bauxite in the first place! Hello???!!!

  81. Mips
    Jobs Halo

    Godzilla units

    And most of the disinformation is stoked up by the press, and judging by recent performance I can include the technical press as well. I am sure you are familiar with the tabloid statement: "generates 1MW enough electricity for 1000 houses per year". Those of you not recognising what is wrong with that, I suggest you go back to school, or stop reading the tabloids. No! Only Godzilla consumes houses per year. Power comes in MW or kW etc., energy comes in kWh or MWh and the like.

  82. minbori

    Some people have no bloody idea about reading a scientific study

    I have to wonder if the author of this article actually read the study itself.

    The cherry-picked quotes included here are pulled out of context to support the author's demonization of well-intentioned but poorly informed people ("eco-nazis"?). The study's conclusion states that most people are simply ill-informed, and suggests that science and the media have done a poor job communicating risk to the general public.

    Which this article itself proves. Amply.

    If the author is tired of uninformed people telling him to shut off his lights, he should complain to *them*, not misreport scientific work in order to support his grievances.

  83. jcpw
    Thumb Up

    dont forget the freezer

    My old freezer used £125 of electricity per year (yes I measured it). That's nearly a third of the total annual bill, probably a lot more than the washing machine + dryer (washing everything at 40 & line drying 9 months of the year). When it died I got an A+ one that will use £25 per year (based on the first 2 months measures). The new one only cost £250 so I will make that back in less than 3 years as well as being a little bit greener.

    So If you have an old freezer, replace it.

  84. Andy 18

    Measure the darn things or you'll never know

    I got myself a lovely little power meter ( that goes in between the socket and the plug. Having tested everything in the house, the biggest electricity users were:

    1. Garden lights - these used 200 watts continuously whether they were on or off due to the abysmal design of the transformer. They were plugged in and switched on all the time (with a light meter to actually turn the lights on at dusk for a couple of hours) - 5kWh per day

    2. My Old PC - 5 year old box that I use for XP/IE6 testing. This used 400 watts when shutdown and only 50 watts more when in use. Again, horrifically bad PSU design - 10kWh per day

    But, by far the worst culprit was my cat, which managed to turn on the immersion heater on our hot water tank. It was on for 6 months before anyone noticed i.e. the electricity board did a real reading rather than estimating. We got a electricity bill for over £1,000 and the cat got spayed for it's trouble - about 70kWh per day

    1. Justin Forder

      The cat?

      How did you know it was the cat? Especially when it happened 6 months before being noticed!

    2. Magnus_Pym


      1. Why did you turn on the garden lights for a few hours every day? I would have thought that was obvious that this was a waste of power with needing to resort to a power meter.

      2. PC used 400W shut down! Presumably shut down but not switch off at the supply didn't it get a bit hot without any fans turning?

      3. Scape-cat perhaps?

  85. Andy 18

    Glass Recycling

    Just for interest, one of the reasons recycled glass helps is that some recycled glass added to a new batch of ingredients in a glass furnace acts as a catalyst (sort of) and reduced the heat input required by about 10%. As it takes a huuuge amount of energy to make glass this is actually a large saving.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Aluminium manufacturing is a huge energy hog

      "As it takes a huuuge amount of energy to make glass this is actually a large saving."

      Saving yes, but making glass needs only a small fraction of the amount of energy needed to make aluminium from bauksite: 16 000 kWh /kilo of pure aluminium.

      Also the process of doing that is very far from being non-toxic or eco-friendly, contrary to the process of making glass from sand.

  86. Brandon R. Farmer

    Bad Science

    This article fails to observe the scientific method with extrapolating conclusions based on the cited research statistics. Irresponsibly articles such as this one are one of the many sources of the very widespread ignorance it is chiding.

  87. Richard Porter

    The point of recycling glass...

    is primarily to reduce the amount of rubbish sent to landfill.

    Actually we used to have deposits on drinks bottles. The shop just had to put the bottles back in the right crate and give you your 3d. It can be done, but it would take more effort for the supermarkets.

    Btw, why do we have refridgerators that return the heat to the kitchen so that it can just pass back into the fridge? It would be much better to have water heat exchangers plumbed into a simple system that pre-heats the water. You'd just need a pair of washing machine hoses and a couple of pipes up to the loft (or wherever your tank is).

    1. Anonymous Coward

      EU comissars were thoroughly bribed

      "Btw, why do we have refridgerators that return the heat to the kitchen so that it can just pass back into the fridge?"

      I don't know about you, but here in North we have to heat our houses (almost 8 months every year) so every watt the fridge is making is used to heating the house. Instead of using same amount of wattage by electric heaters and thus the energy consumption of the fridge is essentially and effectively zero. Cool beer is just a side-effect.

      Applies also every appliance including light bulbs: Changing them to anything else (10 more expensive) is plain stupidity and EU comissars were thoroughly bribed by Philips and other big manufacturers.

      Why aren't they investigated and prosecuted?

  88. Anonymous Coward

    What about the bigger picture?

    Using metal cans for everything instead of glass? Is saving the planet just about energy consumption? Shouldn't we also be talking about raw materials usage? What is glass made of and how much of its raw materials are there left compared to the various metals used in cans? Re-using washed (unbroken) bottles makes a lot more sense than re-melting cans for re-manufacture doesn't it?

    Maybe energy is not the only thing to be considered here in terms of the future of the planet. There will be better ways to produce electricity fairly soon (not inefficient and unreliable wind power please) and that will be a game changer.

    Writing articles using such narrow definitions of what we should consider eco-friendly is perhaps not as helpful as it would first appear.

    By the way, washing clothes at 30 degrees makes no sense whatsoever as the machine will only take on cold water and have to heat it up. Using 60 degree water from the hot water system (already heated!) means the washing machine does not have to heat up the water at all. Where was the planet saving in this idiotic idea when the soap manufacturers have to put in so many more chemicals to achieve the same washing effect?

    We might like to consider the ability to kill bacteria at 30 degrees. Can't be done. Washing at 60 makes total sense unless you are a clothing manufacturer who can make big savings by using cheaper cloth and dyes. Who's driving this I wonder.

    The bigger picture would seem to provide a lot of arguments about why multi-national companies and governments are driving us in entirely the wrong direction in so many aspects of planetary survival. Ignorance is indeed the order of the day. About the only I can wholeheartedly agree with about this article.

  89. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Did you actually read the report?

    In the discussion it says " As in previous research on judgment and decision making,

    participants with higher numeracy scores had more accurate perceptions. Participants with stronger proenvironmental attitudes were also more accurate."

    I'm not saying it's the best-written paper, but it clearly states that those who are more inclined to care about the environment were more accurate in their perceptions. You've conflated a study about how people make decisions and your own bias on eco-friendliness to create an article which if printed on paper, would only be fit for flushing.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Fanatics _more accurate_? No way.

      "I'm not saying it's the best-written paper, but it clearly states that those who are more inclined to care about the environment were more accurate in their perceptions."

      More often than not, the fanatics are the people who are least interested in reality and it's all about the principle or the ideas.

      Fussing about "ecology" is giving them a nice warm feeling of "caring of the nature" and who cares about reality at that point? No-one.

  90. Anonymous Coward

    I smell BS here

    "Glass requires so much energy to make - or recycle - that it is always more eco-friendly to use aluminium cans, even if one is talking about virgin cans compared to recycled bottles."

    Recycling glass bottles _as bottles_ is what we call recycling around here. Crushing them and then remelting the pieces isn't technically recycling but remanufacturing. Washing the bottles needs only some chemicals circulating in process and very little energy.

    Making aluminium cans from bauksite (natural aluminium) is so energyhogging process (16 000 kWh/ton) you don't have a single manufacturer in a country where energy isn't dirt cheap.

    You could make several glass bottles with the amount of energy to make one aluminium can from bauksite. Obviously "researchers" have no idea what it takes to make new aluminium cans from bauksite and use only recycled aluminium in calculations, which counts as lying here.

    0,8kWh/ can (assuming a can weights 50 grams).

    Glass is also very easy to do: grab some sand and heat it to 1000C : You have glass. Now tell me that 800Wh isn't enough to make a couple of glass bottle (200grams) from sand.

    Washing bottles and re-using them wins hands down: Less than 1Wh per bottle per usage, can be used tens of times before re-melting.

  91. chris 130

    This, we already know

    NOT news

    to any scientist.

    A day of transatlantic jet planes burning fuel at height over powers any effect that a continent's worth of cars.

    Its just the press who are the numbnuts.

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