Field Manual for Change – Energy Saving in the Home

Climate Change, weather you believe our current Prime Minister or not, is an issue that is rapidly effecting our earth, increasingly day by day. Although it may seem like a huge feat to overcome a global issue such as this, it is through small collaborative activism that we can lessen our negative contributions.


You’re sitting alone in your house on a Friday night having a whine about how the world has abandoned you and you’re all alone. Well in reality, you’ve made decisions in your life that have lead to having to support yourself and maintain the running of your dwelling on your own. So what are you going to do about it? Sit there hoping that the fairies will come along in the night and install insulation in your floors, walls and ceilings, replace your energy sucking appliances with 5 star energy rating products, or retro fit your home with triple glazed windows and draught stoppers? I don’t think so. Get a grip people. Just think about it, you’re going to have to get off your sorry bottom and make some changes. “Oh it’s too hard, I don’t have the money, I don’t have the time” I hear you say. I call bull dust. You want to change your ways, well that’s the first step already done, recognition. What kind of future do you want to have and how do you get there? This can be done in a variety of ways, from really big things to really small things.


Changing your behaviour around the home in low cost ways will keep the cash in your bank account, instead of in big energy company’s pockets. And these incremental changes add up to collective financial and environmental savings in terms of energy outputs.

How do we reduce our consumption? On an uncommon scale of theory, the first thing to try is simply not to use stuff and not to consume stuff. Defuturing envelops activities, processes and products, which reduce, rather than enhance the possibility of a future, which can be sustained (1). An idea proposed by academic provocateur in sustainability Tony Fry. Design needs to redirect its practices towards practices that not only extend defuturing but also extend futures that make things more possible. Might I add, this does not solely apply to design. This idea should be readily implemented into the subscript of your daily life. Because it is not just designer’s decisions that last for seven generations, it’s yours too. That’s right, so it’s not just your grandchildren that your actions will affect. It is their grandkid’s grandkids. Get your head around that one. This raises a flag that the things we do now have material half lives of 25,000 years. That’s a scary thought. When materials are taken out of the resource stream, unless they are returned, they are extinct. And once they’re gone, from where are we going to get stuff? If that is the reality then how do designers and we as citizens design stuff and make decisions that don’t use stuff? We’re going to need a lot of new technology, materials and ways of doing things to cope with significantly changed situations – in terms of the environment. These decisions will be value-led, politically based, one-eyed decisions. There is no such thing as value neutral research, design or decisions. What would happen if we stopped consuming? Why not try it out, to a degree, and see what happens. At the moment, resources are trying to adapt to our usage of them, but that’s just silly isn’t it, crude oil can’t adapt. We are much faster at adapting. It’s all well and good to have an eco-design product, using the right kinds of materials or the lowest amount of inputs. But unless it challenges the whole concept of the thing that you’re designing, buying and using, it starts to cause run on effects. Do you really need a new kettle, heater or electric blanket? Let’s try cutting our consumption of energy usage in the home.


When looking at energy saving through the lens of sustainability it is blindingly obvious that there is a need for change and there are ways this can be undertaken. If you think I’m calling bluff then believe the 97% of scientists who will agree that climate change is a big and real problem with repercussions that will negatively change the earth. When you’re interested in changing your habits to combat climate change, it is important to gather research via the medium of books, academic journals and statistics to help you get a better understanding of the issue. When this feedback is coupled with your original knowledge of the situation, you become inclined to form a stronger set of values or positions. But for those of us who don’t have access to this knowledge, how do we find a largely condensed amount of information in a neat package that has great potential to be transmitted globally – through YouTube! In order to create change, we need to be aware of the reasons for change. Most people can spare a few minutes in their day, and may even enjoying stopping to watch an informative, yet entertaining clip on YouTube. After becoming aware of the issues comes the fun part, taking steps towards change.


Humans are intrinsically linked to a set of values and positions that influence the choices that they make in life. Designers play on these values and use tricks to change behaviour. In most scenarios, in order to create change there is a thing or device that physically makes the change. And in this instance, energy saving in the home, these things are in the form of household objects. Objects are hardly ever solely used according to their original face value – the intended purpose of the object. When flipping between observation of objects on the macro level and the micro scale, it will become evident that objects serve many purposes and act in key ways that make society the way it is. Our aim is to work on how to change an entrenched position in steps. How do we get the ordering of change actions right so that it actually makes a difference? For the suburban home, implementing low cost strategies to minimise energy consumption is achieved by imaginatively thinking about an object’s potential use on a macro level. So what can we do to minimise our contribution to climate change and save energy in the home? There are many simple and cost effective ideas that you should try.


a)    Seal off draughts wherever you can. That means stopping the air from flowing through air vents, under doors, around windowsills, through unused chimneys and also through cracks in the walls and floors. A cheap way to do so is by purchasing door snakes and placing them along openings. A no cost solution is to use a rolled up towel under the door or Blu-Tack or tape along a window. An astonishing 25% of heat can be lost from draughts. This has consequences such as reducing the effectiveness of heating and cooling devices.


b)   Use your imagination! Energy saving doesn’t always have to be dry and boring. Fun things like spraying each other with a water bottle, wearing a wet bandana around your head in summer, snuggling up with your loved one or your cat in winter. Hey if it works for you, go for it.


c)     Section off areas of the home that you’re not using when you’re heating or cooling to localise that section of your house. This will increase the effectiveness of your devices. Even better, share these spaces with your friends and family to reduce the number of devices.


d)    Make smart and logical choices. Would it be a better idea to turn on the air conditioner or simply open up a window and let the fresh breeze flow through your house?


e)    Choose relevant clothing to the weather conditions. It’s hot outside, but you’re sitting inside with the cooling on. Don’t be a wally, take off that jumper! The same goes for winter. Please, don’t sit with your feet on the heater when you could whip out a snugly pair of grandma’s knitted socks.


f)      Impress your housemates, family or partner with some cooking. In winter, use the oven. It will produce a delicious meal that will heat you up from the inside out and the house will warm up too. In summer, get around fresh cold salads and meats. Did you know that chilli and cucumber have a cooling effect?


g)    And lastly, talk about the changes you’ve made with your mates! These small things are simple, and if everyone made these little changes, it would make a big difference. There are so many more things that you can do around the house and I’m sure others want to share their ideas with you too, to make your home much more energy efficient!


So that’s enough time spent sitting around, it’s time to get up, get active and change your old habits. These small changes will save you money and more importantly save the environment. So why not give it a go? And once you do, tell us about it. We want to hear your progress. Let’s change our world for the better, small steps at a time. Peace.


Georgie Burley









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