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A Penny Saved - cutting the cost of living

Central heating via radiators is a little different, as this is usually powered from a central boiler or heat generator and it is difficult to reduce energy costs except by switching the entire system off. Stand-alone space heaters, however, can be switched off and on as required, making them a cheaper option, especially during a sudden change in weather conditions. Although it may be necessary for the good health of young children and the elderly to have the heating in their room on all the time, for the rest of the family it is generally only a comfort factor. When a room is occupied, there may be a time when the appliance has done its job and the ambient temperature is pleasant enough to warrant shutting off the heater for a while. It can always be turned back on as necessary. If possible, keep doors shut to retain the heat, and when a room is empty, there is little sense leaving a heater on. Another thought is to put on a jumper or a dressing gown in Winter and light clothing when it's hot. It's your place and you can wear what you like.

Lighting is something that is there for convenience, effect, or to avoid treading on the dog. It is also a classic money-eater. Check out the energy-saver bulbs and lighting units. Replace the old ones, bearing in mind the amount of illumination necessary for each room. Kitchens, for example, need to be well lit, whereas bedrooms don't always require a strong light. Using low-wattage, energy-saver globes in hallways and entertainment areas such as TV and video-game rooms will help reduce your power bill. Switching off the lights which aren't needed, even for just twenty minutes or so, will make a difference in the long run. Get the kids to co-operate with this, otherwise they'll undo all of your good work. Exterior lighting can really cost, especially if left on unnecessarily. And beware of those floodlamps with a movement sensor - they are usually 100 watts or more and come on every time a cat walks within range. If outside security lighting is essential, fit more economical lamps.

Many electrical devices are designed to operate from a remote controller. The convenience of switching on the TV or Blue-Ray from the comfort of an armchair is a trade-off because, even when not in use and on stand-by, the units are still receiving power. Anything that doesn't need to be left on, including computers and laptops, can be switched off at the mains. Except for older models, when switched back on most digital recorders and TV's will update the original settings from memory if left for a minute or two before use. Again, you'll have to watch the kids with respect to entertainment. How many times have they left the X-Box on, or the DVD on pause, yet still running?

All of these things are costing you, and there may be dozens more. Take time to walk around and consider where you might be able to economise. The microwave, for instance, may be more economical than a conventional oven, but do you really need it to be on all the time just for the sake of the clock? Then there's the clothes drier. Not only does it cost a fortune to run, but it steams up the laundry. With a bit of forethought its usage can be limited. And have a few words with the resident teenager who throws in a single pair of jeans half an hour before going out and still puts them on damp! Charity may begin at home, but those who live there should at least contribute in some way. As for the utility companies who provide the conveniences we would find it hard to be without, it seems to me that they make enough without us simply throwing our hard-earned money at them.

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