back to article People have no bloody idea about saving energy

People who make an effort to be eco-friendly - for instance by recycling glass bottles, turning off lights and unplugging cellphone chargers - have no idea what they're on about, according to a new survey. Those who don't bother are more likely to know what actually saves energy and what doesn't. This revelation comes in a new …


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  1. Lionel Baden

    CRT's ???

    My 21" CRT Monitor was eco freindly (it died :( )

    Not only did it provide an awesome picture at awesome resolution it heated the room and the upstairs flat!!

    Seriously it made a big defference if i had it on or off in the evenings over the winter.....

    Same goes for my 26year old sony AMP

  2. I Like Heckling

    Use an energy monitor

    If you really want to see just how much energy you are using, then get one of the free energy monitors that many supplier are now giving away for free.

    I was shocked at how wasteful I was, and at how much energy certain appliances use, I now juggle the use of certain things and restrict the use of others... and my bills have dropped by almost 25% without any impact on the daily routines.

    If everyone did that... 20 millions homes using 25% less power... I can't even figure out the savings they're so huge.

  3. Matt 21

    Some points

    1. This is a US survey, 'nuff said.

    2. Line drying still saves electricity. Merely changing your dryer settings may help but it doesn't save as much as no dryer use at all.

    3. Re-cycling is done in different ways in different countries, so what's true in the US may not be true in France, for example.

    Overall though the point stands that we are often lead to concentrate our efforts in the wrong place, a little bit of expiation in place of propitiation perhaps?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Please do not feed the trolls.

    .Thank you.

  5. David Webb


    Could someone explain:

    2For example, participants estimated that line-drying clothes saves more energy than changing the washer’s settings (the reverse is true)"

    Line drying clothes is a zero energy product, turning down a dryer to it's lowest setting is always going to require more energy than a washing line or am I missing some fundamental flaw?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Best not to mention the time

    My ex was complaining about how her flat was too cold, despite the fact that the heating was on full blast . She had all the curtains open (which quite effectively reduce heat loss through convection when drawn), not to mention the kitchen window being wide open because it was her flatmate's turn to take the rubbish out, and she hahdn't done so, so the room smelled.

    1. Chris 22

      What you are missing

      Is that it refers to the washing machine not the tumble dryer. They're saying that washing cloths at 30 rather than 60 (translate into Fahrenheit if you're a yank) saves more power than line drying. Something I hadn't thought of I confess, but think about how much water is used to wash your cloths and how much power it must take to heat it up to 60 C in a sensible time scale and you can see how it could be true.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


        This is my understanding of the article too but - please someone explain to me what has the washing temperature to do with drying clothes in the first place?

        You set the temperature to suit the type of fabric you are going to wash not to regulate how long it will take to dry it afterwards. If the greenies thought differently they are even more deluded than I thought.

        1. Tom 13

          It may not be available in the UK, but here in the States

          you can get products like Tide Coldwater which are specially formulated to clean all kinds of clothing in cold water. So the point holds very well: for the typical family washing in cold water saves more energy than not using the dryer.

          We have a high efficiency front loader so my mileage varies greatly from the mean.

          As to glass bottles, I think I saw some of those once when I was a kid so they are sort of irrelevant.

          1. Quirkafleeg

            Glass bottles?

            I see lots of them, with contents such as jam or pickled vegetables.

            Now, if only we had transparent aluminium…

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Done and done


      2. David Webb


        Thanks, I get it now. Turn down to 30 degrees (and use Ariel) instead of keeping it at 60 degrees gives you a net saving and has nothing to do with drying, you should turn it down to 30 AND line dry... (except we don't have a washing line, not allowed one either)

        Typically washing machines don't use much water, and they are very efficient (modern ones at least) so efficient (and using so little water) that plugging them into the hot water supply is less efficient than their internal boiler. But still, how much electricity is saved on a modern washing machine by dropping the temp 30 degrees? I'm still struggling to find out why the washing line reference was used, how much energy does it cost to dry a full load of washing washed at 30 degrees using a dryer compared to washing a full load at 60 degrees on a washing line?

      3. Geoff Campbell

        Statement of the bleedin' obvious follows:

        Of course, one could always turn the washer down to 30 degrees *and* dry the clothes on the line, thus saving more energy.

        I don't get this. Power costs money, whether that power is delivered as electricity, gas or oil for the heating, or fuel for the car. Why wouldn't people reduce their usage as much as possible, just to save money? Yet some people seem to positively revel in burning as much as possible, just to prove they can.

        Most odd.


      4. A J Stiles

        Less water than you think

        Most British and Continental washing machines are front-loaders, which use much less water per wash than an American top-loader. Since Q = m * c * θ, as any fule kno, heating fewer kg. of water through the same temperature rise requires fewer Joules of energy.

        Also, the circulating pump for a solar water heater, together with the diverter valve and timer needed to feed solar-preheated water into the cold fill inlet for just the first part of the wash cycle, consume rather less energy between them than an electric water heater built into the washing machine (which will never turn on, as long as the machine's thermostat is set lower than the temperature of the water supplied to the machine).

        Also, washing at higher temperatures requires less powder, which has got to be a good thing if the heat can be had in a suitably low-carbon way.

        1. Firethorn

          Time costs, mostly

          Why wouldn't people reduce their usage as much as possible? Why do so many people speed?

          As they say, time is money. Your time is valuable to you. If it takes you an extra minute a day to save <1 kwh, you're valuing your time at < $12/hour. As I value my time at ~$20/hour, I'm not going to bother.

          Now, I DO make sure I turn the lights off before I go to bed or work, but I already use energy efficient lighting, don't turn lights on during the day. The ones who obsessively turn off lights when they leave a room, even for just a minute, put extra strain on CFL type bulbs and don't actually save much power.

          Of course, it's a special occasion if I turn the temperature up on my washer. I normally wash in unheated 'cold' water. Most people use massively too much soap anyways, and the modern stuff doesn't need the assistance of heat nearly as much.

          1. Geoff Campbell


            I think that if a few minutes a day is that important to you, you probably need to re-evaluate your life and priorities. Of course, I'm pre-judging you here based on a single fact, you might be deleriously happy with your life. But in my experience amongst those I do know well, those who dash around everywhere afraid to waste a few minutes are not, on the whole, happy.

            Just a thought.


          2. Anonymous Coward

            Unheated water?

            "Of course, it's a special occasion if I turn the temperature up on my washer. I normally wash in unheated 'cold' water. "

            Brave man.

            The tap water around here is never above 6C and less than 4C in winter. That's essentially same as swimming with the ice cubes, couple of degrees don't make much difference at that point.

            I'd never wash with that more than my teeth.

        2. lucky13

          @ David Webb

          With regards to the drying reference, I think it was highlighting a common misconception unearthed by the survey.

          People thought that they were saving more energy by washing at 60 degrees and air drying their clothes.

          When in fact, more energy would have been saved by washing their clothes at 30 and using the tumble dryer.

          Obviously for the biggest saving wash at 30 and air dry...

          It was just highlighting that people don't understand the energy usage of their appliances.

      5. david bates

        Hmmm..the whole 30 degrees thing.

        I like my clothes to

        a) Be clean

        b) Not smell

        I've never heard whether achieving that at 60 degrees is worse than 30 degrees with the extra detergents and stain removers etc I'd want to use.

        I dont trust these detergents that say they wash clean at 30 degrees - if thats the case why does Ariel detergent now sell alongside a range of boosters and stain removers that Ariel has been telling us for the last 30 years that we dont need?

      6. Porky Pig

        How is the time scale relevant?

        "but think about how much water is used to wash your cloths and how much power it must take to heat it up to 60 C in a sensible time scale and you can see how it could be true."

        The energy required to heat the water to 60 degrees is the same so the time in which it is heated is immaterial. I accept that the losses may be slightly greater if heated slowly but the difference is tiny surely!

      7. Max Pritchard


        ... surely you can both change the setting on the washing machine and avoid using a tumble dryer? Doesn't that imply that washing and drying are two separate processes and shouldn't be compared when considering whether line drying is a worthwhile activity? Surely a more appropriate comparison is the energy used by a tumble dryer, and the energy used in line drying?

        1. Samuel Walker

          I think everyone has missed the point here

          The report is saying that:

          If you change your washing machine settings (down to 30 from 60), then tumble dry them, you save energy compared to washing at 60 then line drying them.

          The reason they used this comparison, is that eco-warriors think that the opposite is true (wash at 60 then line dry saves energy compared to washing at 30 then tumble drying).

          Doing both (switching and line) makes no difference about which they think is better generally for the environment.

          1. David Webb


            "The reason they used this comparison, is that eco-warriors think that the opposite is true (wash at 60 then line dry saves energy compared to washing at 30 then tumble drying)."

            An A rated energy efficient washing machine will use 0.56kWh@40c and 0.94kWh@60, a tumble dryer (typically) uses 2.5kWh per cycle, we can therefore deduce that switching from 60-40 gives a net saving of 0.4kWh BUT we then lose 2.1kWh by using the tumble dryer.

   - Source

            With that in mind, the article makes even less sense, using a tumble dryer far outstrips a washing machine in kWh even if you are washing at 90 degrees with a Cat F washer (1.98kWh).

      8. Anonymous Coward

        Sneaky suspicion

        I have a sneaky suspicion that most of these appeals to using low water, low temp washing and drying are written, in good faith, by people who do not do manual labor for a living - i. e., do not get their hands and clothes very dirty in their work. As the proportion in the population doing the latter is shrinking in the "post industrial" developed countries, there might be some statistical merit hiding in such over-generalization, but over-generalization it is. The recommendations should be tailored to the end-user - not some ideological ideal.

        The same for solar energy, the practicality of which, all other things equal, is inversely related to one's latitude.

        Nevertheless, we suffer day in and day out with authoritative one-size-fits-all solutions that are as daft and ignorant for many as those of the green-Nazis portrayed in the article.

      9. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No clean cloths, just wet: Very eco-friendly

        "They're saying that washing cloths at 30 rather than 60 (translate into Fahrenheit if you're a yank) saves more power than line drying."

        Yes and if you don't wash them at all you save even more!

        Saving energy isn't a meaningful primary goal as the example above tells us and if/when your laundry is still dirty after rinsing it in cold water, it's not "washing cloths", but getting them wet. Very energy saving but quite pointless.

        Also: Most microscopic co-habitants (like dust mites) humans have can survive anything up to 60C and washing sheets and towels in less than that is a health risk.

    2. A J Stiles

      Energy monitor

      Make sure you get the plug-in type of energy monitor if you want an accurate reading.

      The type that "simply" clips onto the meter leads is worse than useless, as it cannot measure voltage nor power factor. Any reading it gives should be considered a guesstimate.

    3. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      Your Mistake

      2 - changing your WASHER settings is more energy-saving than line-DRYING. I.e. not heating that water up to ridiculous temperatures only to pour it away and, quite literally, rinse and repeat is actually WORSE than a brief spin in the tumble where most of the work is done by hot-air (not hot-water).

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Most clothes wash fine at 30C

        I haven't seen a huge issue except with baby stuff where there may be ketchup or similar which won't come out at low temperatures. I certainly see no reason to use more than 40C ever for a regular load of washing. Digital machines should probably default themselves automatically to 30C to force users to explicitly override if they need a higher temp. The power of the default etc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          depends on the washing powder

          I heard from a washing machine repair tech that the reason washing machines run the water so hot is that the enzymes in washing powder are only effective at removing stains at high temperatures.

    4. Nick Carter

      Energy Monitors

      We are often told how much energy we could save just by monitoring it. But knowing that your fridge uses 60W when the compressor's running doesn't tell you how many kWHours it uses over a year. Knowing that the kettle uses 3KW when running doesn't tell you how to make a cuppa more efficiently. So how do you save 25% without any impact on your daily routine? If you are having fewer cuppas or fewer hot showers/baths then it must be impacting your routine.

      And to comment on that oft repeated chestnut about turning the thermostat down by one degree: it would be more helpful to suggest to people what temperature they should turn their thermostats down to e.g. 19C. That might mean some people change from 28C to 19C rather than just 28 to 27.

      1. Adam Salisbury

        Do this...

        Watts * Amps = Kilowatt-Hours (leccy consumption per hour)

        The rule of thumb for office AC is to run it between 21 - 23 degrees (Celcius) for optimum power consumption, not sure what the rule is for household central heating though,

        1. Nick Carter

          @Adam Salisbury

          KilowattHours = Kilowatts * Hours

          But this isn't much help with my fridge example unless you use a plug-in energy monitor dedicated to the fridge and monitor it for the whole year because you don't know how often the compressor's running (I suppose one day's monitoring could be reasonably extrapolated though).

          I don't think there are any rules for household central heating temperatures, though I've heard that it's advisable for the elderly or infirm to tweak the temperature higher than most people require.

        2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

          Varying set-points

          The gov. here is encouraging people to set their AC's to 25.5 Celcius (though I've never had an AC with <1 degree resolution). It doesn't get cold often, but, as a rule-of-thumb, I aim at keeping the office temp above 20 Celcius in the winter, and below 26 in the summer.

          icon: alternative cooling method.

    5. Neil Hoskins


      ...what if I have to keep the radiator (gas central heating) turned on in the spare room to hang the clothes to dry? That room would otherwise not be heated except when we've got visitors. Is this still cheaper than drying the clothes in an electric tumble dryer? Seriously, if anybody knows the answer I'd be interested.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      Comments about plug-in (v. inductive) and questionable value taken, there is no gainsaying that immediate feedback, (and better, detailed immediate feedback) is (by all psychological tests to date) far more effective in modifying performance than delayed (monthly bills) or no feedback at all. When snippy teen can point out that leaving her cell-charger plugged in or out doesn't make a tinkers damn, her green-Nazi parents will be put in their appropriate place. With the price of circuity falling, I can easily imagine monitoring sensors throughout a house communicating back to a central unit, over the power lines, how much current is being drawn where.

      The same for cars - instantaneous feedback (10s of msec) on mpg as the accelerator is depressed more or less would do more to allow correction of bad driving habits and improve mileage than all the noise that's been made about it and the cost of fuel in last several years. It should be immediately made mandatory on all new cars. And, the bigger the engine, the greater the effect. I suspect that only "lazy" (slow) mpg readouts are provided on some models because an instantaneous read--out would scare the hell out of a lot of new car shoppers at the point of sale.

      1. Geoff Campbell


        That comment about snippy teens and green-Nazi parents struck a chord. This parent keeps getting nagged by his rather-more-than-snippy daughters about the energy consumption of leaving the TV on standby (<1watt, I checked) whilst they are quite happy to leave hair straighteners plugged in for two days straight (1kw and quite capable of starting serious fires).

        Ah, the joys of parent-hood. I discovered very early on why some mammals eat their young....


    7. Simian60

      ...if everyone did that

      "If everyone did that... 20 millions homes using 25% less power... I can't even figure out the savings they're so huge."

      Energy usage by sector:

      Transport - 34%

      Domestic Gas - 25%

      Industry - 22%

      Services - 14%

      Domestic Electricity - 4%

      Other - 1%

      So we'd reduce our energy use by about 1%, i.e. fuck all.

    8. CheesyTheClown

      The combination of both is obviously better, but

      The point being that running the clothing through the dryer uses less power than washing clothing at a higher temperature for a longer period of time.

      Heating water is extremely expensive energy-wise and the fact that most washers do it several times. After all, what's the point of washing clothing in dirty water.

      So, if you really want to nitpick, you could say that it's better to line dry AND drop the temperature and cycle count on the washer, however if you're simply choosing one or the other, the might as well use the dryer and drop the temperature and the cycle count.

      1. Tuomas Hosia


        "Heating water is extremely expensive energy-wise and the fact that most washers do it several times. After all, what's the point of washing clothing in dirty water."

        No, they don't and it's _not_ a fact, but a blatant lie.

        Why would they when one washing cycle is definitely enough.

        There are several rinsing cycles but those are done with cold water.

        As mentioned above: 0.94kWh/washing@60C. That's quite far from "extremely expensive" as you put it, your PC (or mine) will use that amount of energy in the same time you've used to read all the comments.

        Would you call that "extremely expensive"? I wouldn't, unless I got paid for it.

        Why people who have no idea how their washing machines work insist of throwing a lot of BS into discussion, tell us?

    9. CheesyTheClown

      Glass recycling bins are glass recycling bins

      I remember back in the bad old 70's you could drive up to your favorite drug dealer (the coca cola/pepsi bottlers) and deliver your old bottles and get a discount when buying new bottles. The bottles were then stacked nicely and supposedly sterilized and reused.

      In modern times, within the US, Scandinavia, England, France (yes France), and most other places I've spent long enough to actually dispose of a glass bottle properly, there are depository bins which are either large enclosed dumpsters with an opening to insert bottles towards the top and let the break on the bottom, or a machine which gives you a deposit return for glass bottles. The bottles are not handled one by one and nicely stacked, they are dropped in a box where you hear them crash.

      Why do we do this? Well simple, the alternative would require all companies to use exactly the same bottles so that they can purchase in bulk X number of bottles, or they would have to be sorted and the companies would have to inspect them and reuse them. Bottle inspection for brand new bottles to check for critical flaws (generally in the mouth of the bottle) is expensive and not terribly accurate. Additionally, wise assed teenagers might find it entertaining to melt bottles or pour glue in them to screw with however gets them next. There are just too many reasons why reusing bottles is not possible.

      So, the only real method is to try and provide means to sort clear glass from colored glasses and melt them down and remould them.

      To melt new sand and produce new glass is actually not that bad as the individual ingredients of the glass hasn't previously been mixed and cured into the industrial strength glass we use today (yes, modern glass is actually quite technically advanced, to decrease breakage that causes profit loss and injury) on the other hand the glass that has been previously processed is much harder to melt, requiring much higher temperatures for longer periods of time.

      Therefore, aluminum is wonderful as a container since it has a relatively low melting point and after being melted is delivered in stamp-able sheets as opposed to glass which will need to be melted yet again to be molded unless the recycler is also the bottle molder.

      Take some time to think about it before you criticize based on "Oh... it's American". As a recovering American myself, I'm not exactly going to win any awards for patriotism any time soon, but I don't bash people or places without putting some real thought into it first.

      P.S., as most others mentioned, Line drying and DECREASING water temperature and cycle counts on your washer is obviously the ideal, however line drying does not save the amount of energy that decreasing the water count does, so if you want to save energy but don't want to do both, then drop the amount of power you waste heating water over and over.

      If you really want to nitpick... look into cable decoders... average power consumption of 20watts, they're on all the time, if you consider the number of them deployed in the world simply for the purpose of DRM and trying to force customers to watch advertisements for services like VoD (pay per view), you'll find that it requires 4 full modern nuclear reactors to power them all. Best part is, if Cable TV vendors (over-the-air, cable, fiber etc...) were to support CableCard or DVB-CAM encryption instead of forcing you to rent set top boxes, when people turned off their TVs, the decoders would be off too. But since turning off the TV does not turn off the set top box, and the entire world is switching over to digital TV services (95% of them requiring set top boxes, this statistic is provided by the set top box vendors to their investors), that means that when the entire transition is finished, we'll need the equivalent of enough power to run New York City and Chicago just to support the additional power cost to the planet because vendors want you to be able to rent porn using your remote control.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re-use is the norm

        "The bottles are not handled one by one and nicely stacked, they are dropped in a box where you hear them crash."

        At least here in Scandinavia most of the bottles are re-used instead of crushing them, only nonstandard bottles are crushed. That means about 95% of all glass bottles is re-used.

        There's also a deposit on the (re-usable) bottle when you buy it and you get it back when you return the bottle, around 10c / small glass bottle (0,33l) nowadays. Aluminium can has 15c deposit and big glass/plastic bottles 40c / bottle.

        Cans can't be re-used so they are shredded and melted using obscene amounts of energy.

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Dead Vulture

      The author hates the color green

      You are absolutely right: anyone using a drying machine or drying them in the washing machine is wasting energy.

      That's very clear in fig. 1: an electric clothes dryer is one of the most wasteful devices. In general all devices that generate heat/cold or, secondarily, move a powerful engine spend much more energy than mere electronic or light devices.

      Also, something is not mentioned in the study is how much energy do industry, services and agriculture use in comparison to domestic expenditure. Normally it is the non-domestic economy which swallows up most of the energy and water, with domestic expenditure not having such a huge impact (this varies depending on how you live but it's true for most people even in industrialized countries).

    11. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No major savings achievable

      "f everyone did that... 20 millions homes using 25% less power... I can't even figure out the savings they're so huge."

      Around here in North the housenholds use about 30% of all energy. (Industry 50% and traffic about 10%.)

      Of that energy 50% is used for heating and 30% for warm water. So it leaves 20% of 30% to everything else, which is about 6% of all energy. 25% of that is 1,5%.

      That doesn't look very huge saving to me. If industry saved about 10% of their portion, it would be 5% of all consumption, 3 times of that what housenholds can do.

      But of course, no-one is even suggesting that.

  7. AndrueC Silver badge


    "For example, participants estimated that line-drying clothes saves more energy than changing the washer’s settings (the reverse is true)".

    I had to read that a couple of times to understand. I assume what they are saying is that if you have the choice between one or the other then turning down the washer temperature is better. But that's kind of a silly thing. Why not do both?

    So what we're talking about is people who are being 'selectively' green. IOW people who are doing what governments and business are advising them. Otherwise known as 'live your live as you want (vote for me! Buy my crap!) but do this one thing and you're green'.

    Well that never was going to work, was it? If you want to be eco-friendly then you have to accept that everything you do has an impact and that everything has to be reduced. This attempt to persuade people that just a few minor tweaks will make you 'green' is hogwash. If you genuinely want to be 'green' you have to change your life.

    Now me - I don't particularly want to be green. I just want not to be too 'black' :)

    1. Geoff Campbell


      Well, that's kind of true.

      Thing is, most people could reduce their energy usage by a measurable percentage without changing their lives *at all*, simply by thinking about what they do day to day.

      Then there is a whole chunk more savings to be made by them changing their lives a tiny amount, in easy and cheap ways.

      You only need to do the max-effort hair-shirt thing if that's what you want to do, and good luck to you if you do, you have my utmost admiration. Personally, I do more than most, but only because I'm tight and want to save money, so the things I could do that would cost me money, don't get done. Mea culpa, but that's life....


      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up


        That's pretty much the way I do things. I just can't stand waste. Not really sure why except that I'm a computer programmer and maybe that's where the drive comes from. That doesn't mean I won't do things that have benefits (I often sacrifice code size or CPU cycles to assist maintenance) and I define as waste 'doesn't improve my life' (so I have air conditioning at home even though I live in the UK).

        But yes, simple things like:

        * Only boil the water you need for your drink(s).

        * Don't switch lights on unless you need them.

        * Drive sensibly and think ahead.

        * Use timers to cut power to devices that don't need it 24/7.

        ..and others. None of which impact my life. I doubt any of them will 'save the planet' but most save me money and make me feel better :)

  8. Ivan Headache

    I'm a bit confused by this line:-

    For example, participants estimated that line-drying clothes saves more energy than changing the washer’s settings (the reverse is true)

    What on earth does it mean?

    1. TIMMEH

      What it means

      I think it says that participants believed line drying clothes instead of tumble drying saves more money than changing the washing machine settings (i.e. lower water temperature), but this isn't the case.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Dryers are one of the biggest energy hogs

        "I think it says that participants believed line drying clothes instead of tumble drying saves more money than changing the washing machine settings (i.e. lower water temperature), but this isn't the case."

        It isn't?

        Dryer: 2.1 kWh / round

        Washing machine: 0.94 kWh/round @60C and even less at 30C. (Like estimated above)

        To me there's no way using dryer will be cheaper, when it uses three times the amount of the energy of the washing machine.

        No wonder the dryers are one of the biggest energy hogs in any housenhold, along air conditioners.

    2. Ed Deckard

      This confuses me as well

      The only way I can make sense of it is if it means that you "save" more energy by going from non-ideal to ideal settings on the dryer than you do changing from ideal settings to line drying.

      Or they're counting the energy from the Sun.


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