Household level

an Englishman’s home is his castle

An average household is pretty difficult to find in terms of number of people, the size, the age, and – of course – how carbon conscious it is. However it is a useful concept in terms of seeing what the major sources of our energy usage are and also where we can try to curb this usage.

In 2006 the ‘Counting Consumption’ report produced by the Stockholm Environmental Institute at the University of York suggested the carbon footprint of the average UK household in 2001 was 20.7 tonnes. This looked at everything in a household from the point of view of what was consumed in a year, and the figure included indirect emissions from the generation of electricity and production of goods and services, in particular taking into account whether they were produced in the UK or other countries. This was how they broke it down into different areas of consumption:

Carbon dioxide emissions of UK

In the UK about 30% of our CO2 emissions come from energy used at home. A typical western home with a power output of 20,000 kWh per year might weigh in at about 5 tonnes of CO2 from energy use within the home. This then breaks down into heating space, heating water, lighting and appliances and cooking. As can be seen from the pie chart below it is the heating of the house that uses by far the most energy, followed by heating water. Not surprisingly this is also the area where the most energy can be saved and where your house’s load on the environment can be lightened.

Average energy use in the home

And if we haven’t got specific enough already we can also look at energy use in terms of different appliances in the house (see table below). In total, consumer electronics use the same amount of energy as lighting. The electronic jungle of wide-screen TVs, digiboxes and DVDS found in many households is also taking its toll on the environment, even when these appliances are seemingly switched off. A digital TV set-top box on standby uses enough energy to emit 0.06 tonnes of CO2 in a year (roughly the total emissions of an average citizen in Burundi).

Source Electricity use
(excluding electric heating)
Lighting 19%
Consumer electrics 19%
Cold appliances 18%
Wet appliances 15%
Cooking 15%
ICT (computers etc) 9%
Other 5%
Source: Centre for Alternative Technology
Data: Energy Saving Trust

Fridge-freezer-from-Hotpoint---Ideal-HomeNot surprisingly fridges and freezers use a lot of electricity, the main problem being you can’t just switch them off when they’re not needed. The washing machines and tumble dryers of this world don’t fare much better, especially the tumble dryer which emits 1.84 kg CO2 per cycle. If you use it four times a week that will produce 0.39 tonnes of CO2 in one year which is the same as a Nissan 4×4 doing a round trip from London to Aberdeen.

An Englishman’s home may be their castle but when it comes to tackling climate change we can forget our drawbridges. Instead we need to be protecting ourselves from the inside by looking at the ways we are using (and wasting) energy.