energy lifestyle

Towards a zero carbon home – reducing the baseload

In trying to make our house more efficient, I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of energy that we use. One of the easiest things to look at is the base electricity load of the house.

Base load is the ongoing basic requirement to run the house. It’s the amount you’re drawing from the grid when you’re not actively using anything, and it includes fridges, appliances on standby, wi-fi routers and chargers. A lot of that will be overnight, when your house is still using energy while you sleep.

For the average household, base load accounts for around 5% of their electricity bill. That’s according to a government study of 250 households. They measure base load as the point in the 24 hour cycle when the least power is used, and the average is around 110 Watts in the middle of the night.

It might not seem like this kind of usage is worth bothering with, but because it’s there round the clock, it adds up to an average of 201kwh a year. That’s more than the average Kenyan uses in a year.

In financial terms, most households could quite easily save £20-£30 by turning things off properly at night. If we’re working towards a 90% to 100% cut in carbon emissions, these are the kinds of marginal gains we’ll have to take.

We have solar power, but no battery. At night we’re drawing from the grid and so I’d like to keep the baseload down. The smart meter tells me exactly what we’re using, and when I first looked into it we were at 54W. By going around and switching things off I went down to 43, and now I’ve got it to 31.

There are limits to how many things I can be bothered to switch off, especially those plugged in down the back of the sofa. So I ran the TV and games console into a multiplug with accessible switches and the kids are well trained at turning them off when they’re done. We were given a Tivo box a few years ago that drew power 24 hours a day, even though we rarely used it. I’ve replaced it with a Roku stick, which handles all our programming and runs off the USB slot at the back of the TV.

There are other things I can’t do as much about. The fridge is the biggest energy user, and it’s already an efficient model. I’m going to have to wait for either a battery or a newfangled Sure Chill fridge. I could put the router on a timer, but I’d rather not kill the internet every night. 31W will have to do.

The good news is that modern appliances draw a lot less power on standby, and the amount of wasted energy has fallen in the last decade or two. If you want to work your way around and knock down your baseload, here are the main categories and mean usage:


  1. I found a good compromise with my broadband router was to turn off only the wireless function over night. My internet got really slow turning the router off and on. It has only saved five watts but they all add up.

  2. So, if I’m reading the graph properly, the biggest culprits are the fridge and “unknown”.

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