Melanie McDonagh

The surprising middle-class gadget that cuts energy bills

The surprising middle-class gadget that cuts energy bills
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If there’s one company that’s a kind of stock market indicator of the condition of the British middle classes, it’s Lakeland. It specialises in very good household stuff – cleaning and cookware and any number of ingenious gadgets (the catalogues are, I have to say, addictive) – and it has an uncanny knack of registering where popular tastes are going. Its annual Trends report is seized on as an indicator of what normal families are up to, and so it’s proved, on everything from passing trends like the spiraliser (courgette pasta, anyone?) to the inexorable move to recyclables.

So, what’s the Lakeland index suggesting now about the British consumer? She and he are trying to do something about the bills, chiefly the energy bills. They’re making purchases designed to diminish consumption. And what might they be?

The first is simply a heated airer – in the case of Lakeland, the DrySoon Heated Airer. You unfold it, plug it in, and it heats up the bars of the drier to expedite getting the clothes dry. But the thing is, it also takes the chill off a room. And since it costs only pennies an hour to run – 6p an hour, according to one estimate, depending on the rate at the time of day – you can keep rooms free of cold and damp for way less than using radiators. But bear in mind that this amounts to taking the chill off a room; it won’t really heat it. Still, better than being cold. Plus you should turn it off for at least a couple of hours each day; the more expensive version has a timer. And may I say that this product used as an anti-chill device has the imprimatur of The Spectator's very own agony aunt Mary Killen. Nuff said.

The big, fancy version is £240 but there’s a small scale one for £99.

The second useful device is a Remoska Electric Cooker. It looks like a big saucepan with an electric lid; come to think of it, that’s just what it is. The heating element is in the top, enabling you to cook anything from a chicken to a cake in the deep bottom part; the glass centre in the lid allows you to see what’s happening. It heats up to about 185-190 degrees; so only suitable for a uniform, fairly high temperature. But the crucial thing is, it’s big enough to cook a dinner – there’s a standard and extra large version – for about a third of the energy used by a standard conventional oven. It’s very handy and costs £159 for the standard size.

Lakeland also report an increase in sales of microwave ovens, for obvious reasons. But I’d prefer myself to use those other energy savers, pressure cookers and slow cookers, both of which save on energy, and the latter has the bonus that it enables you to make something delicious out of cheap cuts of meat. Win, win. Dig them out of the back of the cupboard now.