The average home consisting of four occupants nowadays uses 13 electronic appliances, TVs and laptops included. In 1990 only four appliances were typically used in a UK household. So, the question is, how much energy the average household uses, considering this enormous increase. Surprisingly enough, even though we own so many more appliances, roughly the same amount of energy is used today. This is a consequence of our gadgets having become much more energy efficient in the last years. Nevertheless, there is a lot that can be done to reduce energy consumption and save money because today’s wastage is tomorrow’s shortage.
One late afternoon Jack comes home from work at a construction site and finds the latest monthly electricity bill in his post box. Opening the envelope and having a look at the bill, he is really shocked about the amount due. Walking through the house to have a word with his niece Lucy, he realizes that there might be some things his niece is not aware of regarding electricity. The TV is on, there’s loud music somewhere, the lights are on in every room, the washing machine and the dryer are running, the coffee machine is still switched on from this morning. There doesn’t seem to be a single appliance not in use at the moment.
Jack: Lucy, where are you? What’s going on here?
Lucy: What’s wrong, Uncle Jack? I’m here in the bathroom drying my hair. But the hair dryer is so loud, could you come here, please? I can hardly understand you.
Jack: Well, young lady, it’s not only the hair dryer that makes such a noise. Have you ever heard of saving electricity? Why is the TV running when you’re in the bathroom? It seems you haven’t even switched off the coffee machine from this morning. I have just received the electricity bill from this month and it’s horrendous.
Lucy: But, Uncle Jack, I’m sure it’s not only my fault.
Jack: No, of course, it isn’t. But let me go and dig out some of my old bills to show you the difference since you’ve arrived here. So, stop drying your hair now, it’s warm enough in here to let it dry by itself. It’s so hot in here. You must have turned on the heating.
Lucy: But, Uncle Jack, I still have to straighten my hair with the brush while I’m drying it.
Jack: I don’t care what else you have to do to your hair. Time for a lesson in saving electricity and money now. We can’t go on like this.
Lucy: Oh, I’m so sorry, Uncle Jack, but you must understand I was feeling a bit lonely in this big house with you being gone almost all day long. So, I thought having the lights and the TV on and some music playing, would help me a little bit to feel less lonely.
Jack: Oh, come on, Lucy, how old are you? Do I have to get a babysitter for you every time I’m away for half a day?
Lucy: No, of course not. So, go ahead with what you want to tell me.
Jack: Being an electrician, I have made some changes around this home to reduce my electricity usage. I generally only use very efficient gadgets and appliances like for example energy-saving lightbulbs and A+++rated washing machine and dishwasher, tumble dryer etc. And it took me a long time to get there until I had replaced all my old appliances. The entire house is insulated to reduce heating usage. So, it doesn’t make sense on the other hand to waste power by not switching off unused devices. And by the way, it’s not only a question of saving money, it’s also important for the environment and to reduce CO² emissions.
Lucy: Yes, I know, Uncle Jack. I’m really sorry.
Jack: It’s o.k., Lucy. There are many things you can do to save energy. Sometimes only small things need to be changed. I have replaced all the traditional light bulbs by energy-saving light bulbs in this house. First of all, they last 10 times longer than the traditional ones and they use roughly 80% less energy. It is economical to replace a light bulb if it burns for more than half an hour a day. The best types are high quality L.E.D.-Light Emitting Diodes or C.F.L-compact fluorescent bulbs. But energy-saving light bulbs only make sense if you turn the lights off when you don’t use them. Remember, if not in use, turn off the juice.
Lucy: Okay, Uncle Jack, I understand and I will keep all this in mind in the future. Can I go now and continue drying my hair?
Jack: Not so fast, let’s talk about kitchen appliances first. As you can see, I have a fridge-freezer with an »Energy Saving Recommended« logo. This means that they are more efficient appliances and I can save money in this way. The temperature of the fridge should be between 0 °C and 5 °C. In order to check this every now and then, you have a fridge thermometer. You could, of course, also save energy with the temperature, but then your food might spoil. A natural way of reducing the amount of energy needed by your fridge is to defrost frozen food in it. On the other hand, you shouldn’t put warm food in your fridge or freezer. Let it cool down first and save energy in this way. Always try to close the fridge door as soon as possible after you’ve taken something out. The fridge-freezer should be kept at least three quarters full. If you don’t need so much food, you can also fill it with bottles of water. Fridges and freezers work by circulating air around their compartments. This is only possible when they’re not overfilled. If they’re too full, the air can’t circulate and they need more energy to remain cold. Moreover, they must be defrosted regularly. Thick dust on the condense coils at the back or underneath a fridge or freezer can also reduce efficiency. So, you should clean them with a vacuum cleaner from time to time.
Lucy: All right, Uncle Jack, this really makes sense with the different temperatures, the circulating air etc. etc.
Jack: Yes, of course, but there’s more to be said about temperatures and fully loading your appliances. You can also save energy in this way when cleaning and washing. The washing machine, tumble dryer, washer-dryer and dishwasher should always be fully loaded. In addition, there are eco cycles on most washing machines and dishwashers nowadays. Thus, electricity and water use are cut. 90 % of the energy used by a washing machine is for heating the water. Therefore, a 30 °C wash can save over one third of the energy needed compared to washing the laundry at higher temperatures. For lightly soiled clothes 30 °C are enough and you can occasionally wash more heavily soiled clothes at higher temperatures, which also helps to keep the machine clean.
Lucy: You really sound like an experienced househusband.
Jack: This has nothing to do with being a househusband. I sometimes wish housewives and househusbands knew more about it. It’s all about saving energy and money. Both topics are always relevant. And one more way of saving money is drying one’s clothes outside on a washing line or doing it inside on a clothes horse. But when you use a tumble dryer, which generally uses a lot of energy, more than a washing machine, make sure you wring out or spin dry your clothes before putting them in because this removes more of the water. There are two kinds of tumble dryers, electric tumble dryers and heat-pump dryers. The latter are cheaper to run but are expensive to buy. So, you see, Lucy, there are always two sides to the coin. And with tumble dryers cleaning the lint filter after having used them is very important. When the filter is blocked, the hot air can’t circulate properly and so clothes take longer to dry. But here we have the same rule as with fridges and washing machines, don’t overload the tumble dryer.
Lucy: Oh, I definitely haven’t done this, Uncle Jack.
Jack: Yes, indeed, I can see this, Lucy. Just putting two or three towels into a dryer is a real waste of energy and money. Wait until you have a full load! The same is true for the dishwasher. A half load uses the same amount of energy. You might even stop the dishwasher’s cycle when it gets to the drying stage. Just open it up and let the load dry naturally.
Lucy: Oh, come on, you can’t be serious about that. Are you sure that you are British and not Scottish by origin? We could also go outside, make a fire to cook our meals.
Jack: Well, perhaps I should check the family tree and find out about it. But anyway, it does not harm to remind you young people of the long-term consequences of wasting energy. Today’s wastage is tomorrow’s shortage. And it’s the future of your generation that we’re talking about after all.
Lucy: One last question, Uncle Jack, before we’re finished with your instructions because I won’t be able to remember all this in the long run if you keep talking. My mom always says descaling electrical appliances is not only necessary for the product life but it also saves energy. I can understand the first point but in which way do you save energy by descaling?
Jack: Well, there’s a simple reason for this. When a kettle is full of limescale, for example, more energy is needed to boil the same amount of water. In addition, you can also save energy by filling the kettle only with as much water as you need. Most energy-saving kettles have a low minimum fill-line and switch off after boiling, which also saves energy. But are you sure you don’t want to learn more about this subject? I could tell you so much more.
Lucy: I’m absolutely sure about this. Moreover, I urgently need to check what my hair looks like. It could be that your instructions ruined my looks and that I need some more energy now to take care of my messy hair. You wouldn’t want this day to go down in history as Lucy’s bad hair day, would you, Uncle Jack?
Jack: Oh no, Lucy, definitely not. I don’t know how any of us would survive this. (Chuckles)
Verb + infinitive or verb + -ing?
It is sometimes difficult in English to decide when one verb is followed by another, whether the second verb is an infinitive (Grundform) or and -ing form. Some verbs can only be followed by an infinitive, others only by an -ing. Sometimes you can use both, but there’s a change in meaning. 1. Verb + infinitive
- I want to have all the wires replaced in my house.
- I like to spend my holidays abroad.
- I can’t afford to buy a car at the moment.
Want, like and afford (sich etw. leisten) are followed by to + infinitive Other verbs +infinitive in this group are: agree (zustimmen), ask (fragen, bitten), choose (wählen), decide (entscheiden), expect (erwarten), hope (hoffen), learn (lernen), offer (anbieten), prepare (vorbereiten), promise (versprechen), pretend (so tun also ob), refuse (sich weigern), would like (gerne etw. tun) 2. Verb + -ing form
- I gave up smoking three years ago.
- He enjoys drinking a glass of wine every now and then.
- Would you mind opening the window, it’s so hot in here.
Give up (aufgeben), enjoy (genießen) and mind (jdm. etw. ausmachen) are followed by the -ing form Other verbs +-ing in this group are: admit (zugeben), avoid (vermeiden), consider (erwägen), dislike (nicht mögen), feel like (Lust haben auf), finish (beenden), can’t help (nicht umhinkönnen), practise (üben), suggest (vorschlagen). 3. Verb + infinitive or -ing form without changing the meaning A few verbs can be followed by an infinitive or the -ing form and the meaning does not change.
- I continued to work as an electrician after I left the company.
- I continued working as an electrician after I left the company.
The two sentences have the same meaning. There aren’t many verbs that can be used with an infinitive or an -ing form without changing the meaning. Begin and start are two more examples. So much for today. I know that people who read this technical journal are all technical experts and your knowledge of these things is much wider than mine. The purpose, however, is to make you familiar with the English expressions, which in turn is my specialty. So, stay tuned!