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Ten ways to save energy

New Year's Resolutions are easily forgotten but if you are already feeling the pinch of rising water and electricity costs, maybe you should set some energy-saving rules which you will actually follow. Here are 10 tips that you could adopt for 2009.

1) If you are going to buy new appliances this year, choose eco-friendly ones. They tend to be more expensive, but they will save you money in the long run. Look out for the guarantees though, to make sure the appliances will survive long enough to get your money's worth.

2) As an alternative to energy-guzzling appliances do this: only heat up rooms you are using, warm up with more clothes and blankets instead of electric heaters, wash your clothes in cold instead of hot water and use a clothes line or a laundry rack instead of a tumble dryer. If you have an electric hob and oven consider buying an alternative gas hob to use for things that take long to cook, and use a microwave oven instead of the electric one.

3) If your fridge was built more than eight years ago, the chances are that a substantial part of your electricity bill is being spent on its inefficiency. Changing it now, while the running cost is increasing, will be an investment worth making. If you don't think it's worth replacing just yet, check the condition of the door's seal and replace it if it is damaged.

4) If you use air-conditioning, try installing ceiling fans instead. They are incredibly more efficient, even when compared to standing fans. And if you must switch on your AC, make sure the doors and windows are closed, switch on the timer, and set the temperature at a steady comfortable level. Also note that if you want to heat a room, air-conditioning is more efficient that electric heating, but gas heaters are a better idea.

5) If you have not done so yet, make the switch to energy-saving light bulbs. No need to wait for the government to give out the free bulbs it promised - those can be made use of later. Traditional bulbs use up more electricity on producing heat than giving off light - they are just not worth having anymore. Also, switch off lights and appliances whenever you do not need them on. The impression that switching on and off electrical appliances and light bulbs means more consumption than leaving them on is a myth.

6) You cannot save much from computers, but simple things can make a difference. Keep your computer on sleep instead of on screensaver. And if you still use the old CRT (curved) screens, replace them with newer LCD flat-screens. The latter are far more efficient.

7) Buy a timer for your water heater (geyser) so that it only switches on an hour before you actually need the hot water. They do not cost much, but if you are ready to time your shower schedule accordingly, you can make big savings. Also, set the temperature to around 55 degrees Celsius, not more. You can also choose to replace your electric with a more efficient gas water heater or better still a solar water heater. When offset against the recurring cost of the new bills, the money spent on replacing your old electric unit can be recouped in a short span of time.

8) Be bathroom-efficient. Install a water-efficient showerhead, and shorten your showers by a couple of minutes. If you have baths, try use a little less water each time. When shaving, switch off the tap, and try washing your face and brushing your teeth in the shower.

9) Save water by running your dishwasher and washing machine only when they are full.

10) Collect the water you use for washing vegetables and fruit and use them to water the plants.

*Tips compiled with the help of engineer and environmentalist Marco Cremona and the websites www.michaelbluejay.com and www.wateruseitwisely.com.

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