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Counting the energy cost of Christmas
The cost of running a typical Christmas stocking full of Yuletide gifts could be as much as £150 a year – about six times the energy savings made by bringing your loft insulation up to recommended standards, researchers at University of Salford’s Energy House have discovered.

Those presents being stored up in the loft, where Mum and Dad have just laid an extra six inches of insulation, can easily cancel out the saving on power bills unless families change their energy habits.

Researchers looked at some of the most popular gifts and worked out how much they would cost to run if, like many of us, the family left gadgets on standby or permanently charging up.

The gift list (for a lucky family) was:
· Laptop and printer for busy working Mum
· Power drill for DIY Dad
· bedroom TV for the X-Factor fan daughter
· Blu-Ray player for movie-mad son
· Playstation for games convert Granddad, and
· Digital radio for Archers-addict Gran

The warning comes from senior academics at the university’s Energy House – a Coronation Street-style terraced house, furnished and fitted as a typical working home with fully functioning water, gas and electricity supplies, all built inside a three-storey, sealed testing chamber so that energy use can be monitored.

There are 4.5m pre-1920s terraced houses in the UK and 40 academics at the university’s Energy Hub are researching energy use in ways which will inform the national challenge of retro-fitting these properties to make them more energy-efficient. This month, the university is holding a national conference, Retrofit 2012, where experts will gather to hear the latest developments in the field.

Erik Bichard, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University’s School of the Built Environment explained: “People tend to forget that these gifts can be a real drain on their energy use and their family finances.

“For example, a laptop only takes a couple of hours to recharge, so if you leave it on charge all the time you are using far more power than it needs. If you use a laptop for work and at home, so that it is active for say 25% of the time but plugged in all the time, it will cost around £13 a year. A laser printer on standby would add £17 on standby and another £20 if used for an hour a day while a modem adds £9.

“We are going to use the Energy House to identify the most important energy saving behaviours, and to test digital technologies that can help people to save energy, and we hope to announce these results at the Retrofit 2012 conference.

Retrofit 2012 from 24 to 26 January brings together a wide range of researchers, policy makers and industry professionals to discuss energy efficiency. The conference will take a multi-disciplinary approach in identifying how domestic retrofit for energy efficiency may be best addressed, as well as to debate the three main issues for UK energy policy – carbon emissions, fuel poverty and energy security.

For more details and to register, see www.energy.salford.ac.uk/retrofit-salford-2012