In this instalment of Earth Saver, Clare’s Mum receives a huge heating bill, so she and Clare look at conserving heat.
Well, it’s decided. The holiday is off. Ben agreed that staying home would save money, and he was also keen on the idea of having a lie-in for once, instead of the usual ‘to the airport’ rush. Daisy also wasn’t keen on going on holiday, because she now has a boyfriend, and she doesn’t want to be away from him during Christmas. Both Dad and Mum have agreed anyway that we can’t really afford a holiday with Dad having lost his job, so I think, even if Daisy and Ben had protested, the holiday would still be off.
In the meantime, Dad is spending more time on the computer and phone as he tries to find another job, and Mum keeps warning us that we’ll have to cut back. Though we haven’t actually cut back on anything yet as far as I can tell.
Until today, that is, as Dad has just come into the living-room waving a letter. A bill. The heating bill.
“Have you seen this?” he cries, giving it to Mum. She takes the letter off him, and I watch as her eyes boggle.
“What’s wrong?” Daisy asks, looking up from a magazine.
“It’s the heating bill”, Mum gasps, “Look at what we’ve been charged!”
She shows Daisy the letter. Daisy squints at it.
“Is that high?” she asks.
“Not if you’re running a tropical greenhouse”, Dad says, “I’m sure that’s more than we paid last year around this time!”
“Clare!” Mum says loudly. I nearly jump right off the sofa.
“Yes Mum?” I reply.
“I think it’s time we started looking at conserving heat. Come on, let’s go…”
“Come along Robin, off to the Eco-Cave!” Daisy chimes, mockingly.
“I wouldn’t joke, Daisy”, Dad replies, “We have to start saving money somewhere, and if we can’t save money on the heating, your allowance is going to be the first non-essential to go.”
“Non-essential!” Daisy cries.
Mum and I share a glance, Mum rolls her eyes and we trudge out of the door, leaving Dad and Daisy to their argument.
On the way to the upstairs office, I stop Mum and point out that the first and easiest thing to do, would be to turn down the thermostat.
“And”, I remind her, as I scramble out of the coats, “If you turn down the temperature by one degree, you save 230kg of carbon dioxide a year and 10% on your heating bill, according to the Energy Saving Trust.”
“Okay”, Mum replies, “Great!”
“We should also turn down all the heating valves on the radiators”, I say, “Mine’s been on low since the beginning of September, and I’ve just been wearing an extra thick jumper.”
“Has it?” Mum says, “And yet we’ve still got this bill?”
“That’s because the radiators in Ben and Daisy’s rooms, and in the bathrooms, keep being set too high”, I reply, “Even though I always turn them down when I’m in there.”
“Oh”, Mum says, “I wonder what the radiator is set to in the dining room? And in the hall? And the landing? And in the utilities room? We hardly ever spend time in those places.”
“Then we can turn those to low, and places like the kitchen, living-room and bathrooms can be reset to medium”, I say cheerfully, “You’re really getting the hang of this now, Mum!”
“Er…thanks”, Mum says raising an eyebrow at me.
“Mum…” I ask, as I have a sudden, horrible thought.
“You and Dad don’t leave the heating on all day, do you?”
“Yes”, Mum says calmly.
“All day?!” I cry, “It should be off. The house is empty when we’re at school and you’re out at work.”
“No its not. Your dad’s still here”, Mum replies,“And he’ll get cold, just sitting in front of a computer. And also, I like coming home to a warm house…”
“But Mum think about! We’re heating a big, three storey, house! All day, with the temperature blazing at twenty-three!”
Mum goes silent, then sighs.
“You’re right”, Mum admits, “When you say it like that. It sounds ridiculous! No wonder, our bill is so huge!”
“So”, I continue, “All we have to do is reset the controls so the heating only comes on when we need. Like in the morning just before we get up, and just before we all get home. As for Dad, well the house should stay warm for a while after its heated, and if we found ways of improving the house’s insulation, it would keep more heat in and probably stay warmer for longer!”
I race upstairs towards the office, followed by Mum, who catches up with me quite easily, as I stop to turn down radiators on the way.
In the office we start searching for ideas for insulating the house, starting with windows. I want to double glaze our windows, but Mum says we might not be able to because the house is a listed one and we may require planning permission. I’m not sure what all that means, but its obviously not good news.
“Look at this though”, Mum says, pointing to the screen with a pen, “You can get something called secondary glazing, which is cheaper to put in and you can use on sash windows like ours. It’s not as well-sealed as normal double glazing, but its better than nothing.”
“And look, at this!” I say, cheering up, “Heavy curtains also keep in the heat during the night. Perhaps we should replace ours, or at least the the ones in the living-room. They’re so floaty and thin I bet they don’t keep much heat in.”
“The curtains?” Mum winces.
“Yes”, I say, resolutely, “Mum we have to save heat, and money, as you keep reminding us. And buying a pair of thick curtains from say, a charity shop, for the living-room would save both.”
“I suppose”, Mum says, pulling a face. “I prefer the secondary glazing idea personally.”
Ah, yes, Mum isn’t keen on buying anything second-hand that isn’t vintage or antique. That may have to change if we’re going to go completely green, and save money. Oh, well. One challenge at a time…
Clare’s parents decide to re-decorate the living room, and Clare has lots of eco-ideas.