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Five times as many UK householders prefer to bank the money saved by greening their home instead of implementing more energy saving measures

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That is the finding of a new study – released to mark the start of this year’s Energy Saving Week (24 to 28 October 2011) – by the Energy Saving Trust, the independent body set up to help householders reduce their energy bills and combat climate change. A survey of 2,086 UK householders carried out by ICM Research for the Energy Saving Trust asked respondents what they would do with £400 that they had saved by implementing energy-saving measures at home. With recent reports showing that energy bills have almost doubled since 2004 as a share of household income, 49 per cent of respondents said they would save the money.
Only one in ten (11 per cent) UK householders said they would reinvest the money in additional energy-efficiency measures. Ironically, about the same number (12 per cent) said they would use the £400 to purchase new consumer appliances and gadgets such as a large flat-screen TV, washing machine or smartphone. However, if everyone in the UK put their £400* saving towards additional energy-efficiency measures, they would collectively save nearly £2bn on their annual fuel bills – enough money to power London for three years – and prevent nearly nine million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere every year.

The theme of this year’s Energy Saving Week is “take back control of your bills” and the Trust sees the survey findings as a warning sign that people are choosing to save money rather than cut their carbon emissions as the UK faces tough times ahead.

Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said: “We are currently in austere times so it’s no surprise that UK householders are trying to make every penny count. But we are missing a trick by choosing to bank our cash from energy-saving measures or spending the money saved on more gadgets. If we chose to reinvest the money saved in further greening our homes we could make even bigger savings in the face of rising energy costs. That’s why we’re calling on UK households to use Energy Saving Week to take back control of your bills. Our message is that saving money and cutting your carbon emissions are not mutually exclusive. In terms of short and long-term cost savings there are a range of energy-saving measures you can take in your home, and a raft of help and support out there to help you along the way.”

Almost one in five people (18 per cent) surveyed said they are more interested in increasing their comfort levels by leaving their heating on for longer rather than maximising their fuel bill savings. Economists call this the “rebound effect”: when people implement energy-saving measures in the home and then use more electricity on gadgets and the like, effectively undoing all their good work.

Sellwood added: “A good example is getting your house insulated but then not turning your thermostat down. In these challenging economic times it is important to remember to take control of your fuel bills and maximise your fuel savings.”

The survey also found that three quarters of UK householders (73 per cent) want to use gadgets and household appliances as efficiently as possible in a bid to save money on their fuel bill. But when buying household appliances or gadgets, 50 per cent said the main factor is price, with only13 per cent going on the cost to run. And almost nine in ten (88 per cent) UK householders do not know how much it costs to power a 45-inch plasma TV for the year.

Sellwood added: “The survey shows what we already know: that UK householders have a genuine desire to use less energy and save money. With energy bills set to continue rising as a proportion of household income until at least 2015, one key way of helping your household budget is making your home more efficient and that’s what Energy Saving Week is all about.”

The need for domestic electricity use to be reduced was highlighted earlier this month with the release of the Energy Saving Trust’s Elephant in the Living Room report. It revealed that in 2009 the average British household contained a staggering three-and-a-half times as many gadgets and appliances as it did in 1990. It also predicted that the UK will miss its 2020 target of a 34 per cent reduction in domestic appliance electricity carbon emissions from 1990 levels by up to seven million tonnes unless we change how we consume energy in the home.

* Based on the average cost of installing top up loft insulation (100-270 mm), draught proofing and pipework insulation.