A handy thing you might not know: all Dublin City Council libraries have a home energy saving test kit, which you can take out for free (as you would a book).
I picked it up in Inchicore library in the stormy winds (pointless selfie above!) and gave it a go.
The kit comes in five main parts:
1. Fridge/freezer thermometer
The first bit I used was a fridge/freezer thermometer. It’ll tell you in case your settings are wrong and potentially using more energy than needed.
It was very simple. You pop it in for 30 minutes and it’ll tell you the actual temperature inside and if you’re overusing energy. Turned out my fridge should be colder, but freezer was about right.
2. Room thermometer and hygrometer
The next bit was this room thermometer and hygrometer. It tells you the temperature and also the humidity %.
I used it in every room in the house around the same time to see which rooms were getting colder. The results largely confirmed what I’d thought, but I found the hall/stairs area was really cold. Useful to even confirm what I’d suspected.
The humidity test is a way of checking general ventilation, and where needs action. The humidity test was fairly even throughout all rooms, thankfully. Generally 40%-50% ish, with a higher figure of 62% in bathrooms, which I guess you’d expect.
3. Thermal Leak Detector
The third bit of the kit was by far the most interesting: a thermal leak detector. It reads the surface temperature of something, simply by pointing at it.
You set a reference temperature, then shine it around, and it’ll tell you where there’s a substantial change in temp. This indicates where you’re likely losing heat and where the cold is finding its way in. You can see a short clip on how it works here.
Essentially it shines green when temperature is consistent, red when it’s warmer, and blue where it’s colder. Really simple to use, and very effective.
This was probably the most useful piece in the kit. I was able to confirm the door was letting in a lot of cold, rule out some walls I thought might be leaking heat, and confirm that there were problems with the vents.
4. Radiator key
The fourth piece of the kit was a radiator key, which allows you to bleed radiators – let out trapped gas and make sure they’re working efficiently. Apparently the energy savings/efficiencies from bleeding a radiator are massive.
I quickly realised the radiators in my place didn’t need a key (they just turn by hand), but it was a useful reminder. Bleeding all the rads in the house, I found two were full of air and the others ok. This took ten mins for the whole place and was ridiculously easy.
I’d recommend doing this, even if you don’t get the kit. Many radiators can be turned by hand or with a flathead screwdriver.
5. Electricity usage monitor
The last piece in the kit was an electricity use monitor plug. It tells you how much power something you plug in uses.
The handy function is to see kWh use over time. I found, for example, that the laptop was using very little energy over an hour. The kettle used a lot more in a few seconds.
I’d say this would also be good to test overnight on something that’s left on standby. I
found this was handy for spotting what things to worry about and what things are fine. Laptop was very efficient – but boiling too much water really adds up. Useful info.
The kit comes with a really simple, clear guide on how to use the stuff. There’s also a handbook on wider energy savings you can make. All really simple and well-written.
I really liked the kit. It’s definitely worth taking it out.
A lot of the issues it’ll raise are outside of our immediate individual control, or are very expensive to remedy. The energy transition isn’t going to be done individually – it’s systemic.
But there’s still a lot of useful info there to act on. For me, I’ve got clearer info on the electrical items to be wary of overusing, and the things I don’t really have to worry about. And I have info on where cold air is creeping in, and can get some draft excluding tape to fix that at low cost.
Where to get a kit
Every Dublin City Council library has at least one kit. A map of all thosee libraries is here. All the other Dublin local authorities are part of this scheme too, but I’m not sure if every branch has one.