The Boffin Speaks!

When I posed a question about switching your iron on and off whilst pressing, you answered in your droves. Thank you all! I never knew irons existed that switched themselves off automatically.

There was one particularly interesting response from Stitch and Witter. (Have you SEEN her cord Beignet? I’m so going to make a version.) Stitch and Witter works for a company that monitors energy wastage. She offered to ask her boffin colleagues which was better: to leave the iron on for an hour, or keep switching it on and off.

Yesterday, she came back with a response. The Boffins had spoken! I know we’ll all find this really interesting, so here’s what they said in full:

I have a response from our boffins! Here’s my question and their answer:
Q: As a seamstress I have to use the iron a lot when making clothes (you have to press every time you sew a seam). I’m not sure if it’s better to keep the iron on for (typically) an hour or whether it would be more energy saving to turn it off in between. But say for example over the course of the hour I have to turn it on and wait for it to heat up maybe six or seven times… is it better just to leave it on for the whole hour?
A: Interesting question! The way to find out the answer for sure would be to find out how long it takes to warm up from cold, and then how long it takes to warm up when it’s already fairly hot (you can tell by listening to it click on and off).Our estimate, based on the data we’ve seen, is that turning it on only when needed is probably slightly more efficient, but it probably won’t make a huge amount of difference. Running a typical iron for an hour costs about 7p, so the amount you’d save by turning it off for some of that time is probably only about 1p. So if it makes life easier to just leave it on, it’s probably reasonable to do that, and look for other ways to save more significant amounts of energy!

Hope that helps everyone! Joanne x

Woah! I love it. The boffins are giving us permission to stop feeling guilty about ourselves. We can do what the heck we like.

Thanks so much for finding out, Stitch and Witter!

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25 Responses to The Boffin Speaks!

  1. Lucy says:

    A good question and a very helpful answer! Enviro-guilt is a killer, isn’t it….

  2. Portia says:

    Yay! Well done Joanne and thanks for posting this “off the hook” post Karen! I don’t feel like a naughty schoolgirl anymore!

  3. Vicki Kate says:

    Ooh, interesting! I can leave it on now with no guilt (or looks from the husband as he looks from me, to the iron to the energy monitor!). Still thinking about investing in a new iron though. Be more economical and enviro friendly if I just clean the sole plate though. Best I go find out how to get fusible interfacing glue off it then…

  4. Felicity from Down Under says:

    thanks for sharing, that’s very helpful indeed. I’m sure the boffins enjoyed the challenge too. 😉

  5. Joanne says:

    Yay am glad it was of help 🙂 At some point I’m going to get a smart plug to see how much energy my sewing machine uses – I’ve no idea! Boffins rock.

  6. LOL, brilliant, I love the networking of blogging, could probably find an answer to anything. Alas to be really green we’d probs need to use organic cotton or only charity shop finds. The only way to be totally environmentally friendly seems to be by doing nothing and consuming nothing 🙁

  7. mooncalf says:

    Brilliant! I’m very relieved that the boffins have spoken.

    As they recommend, I am now looking for ways to make more significant energy savings and will be ironing and sewing in the dark in future to cut down on light bulb usage. What could possibly go wrong?

  8. Marie says:

    Haha, this is brilliant! I don’t feel so bad now for leaving mine on. Mine turns itself to a semi-off state if i havent used it for a couple of minutes and then pings back to life when it detects movement. so that can’t be too abd eh!

  9. shivani says:

    brilliant! boffins rule! I usually switch my iron off between pressing, but yesterday by way of experiment I left it on. And it turns out it’s one of those that switches itself off and on based on movement/lack thereof. yay!

  10. mujerboricua says:

    Great to know! Now all I need is an iron that shuts itself off because let me tell you my current iron doesn’t have an off switch so having to unplug it all.the.time gets old…and makes my back feel old.

  11. Shelly says:

    Phew!! I can rest easy now. I used to own an iron which beeped when not in use (about 5 mins) which nearly drove me crazy making me turn it off between pressing. I replaced it with one that has no on/off switch and doesn’t beep and I have to admit that I do leave it on during my sewing sessions. I’m always concerned about stepping lightly on our planet, so thanks to ‘The Boffin’ I don’t have to feel guilty anymore.

  12. Claire says:

    I had to look up what a boffin is. What a cool word! I’m gonna introduce it over here across the pond.

  13. Erika says:

    Oh, this is great news! I’ve always just assumed it must be better to switch it off =) But then I 1) learned about pressing from my mother who had two younger children as well. The point was not energy savings, but avoiding the ER. And 2) I’m not a speedy sewist. So I still think I’ll sew a bunch of seams and press those at once, as long as they’re not intersecting.
    But when I get a bit more speed to my sewing, I’ll now be able to leave the iron on without feeling guilty! And my new iron has the automatic turn-off. Practical to avoid households disaster, but no so practical when fusing interfacing…

  14. That is very good to know. I didn’t personally beat myself up about it, but it is nice to have facts.

  15. Alessa says:

    Good to know! Also, I love how they could tell that and iron “costs” 7p of energy an hour!
    As a person who had to google “boffin”, I’m wondering if it’s the origin for the word “buff”… 😀

  16. redsilvia says:

    I had to look up boffin too…

    I’m glad I can keep the iron on, I hate waiting for it to heat up when it shuts itself off – it’s like it’s telling me I’m sewing too slowly.

  17. Very informative!
    I know some sewists talk about how they try to do as much stitching in one go and then take piles of stuff to the ironing board to do their pressing all together where possible this is to: a) increase overall sewing-time efficiency (i.e. less getting up/down from the machine all the time), and b) decrease the time that the iron is left turned on & heated up. However, I shall now feel less enviro-angst over leaving my iron turned on in future. But why, if they can make hair straighteners that heat up to around 200 degrees celcius in mere seconds, can they not make us irons that do the same *sighs*??

  18. Carly says:

    Ooh I’ve been wonderingb about this for a while, thanks for the investigative work Karen (and Stitch and Witter)!

  19. kuby2u says:

    I learned the hard way that if you do decide to leave the iron on a long time and you happen to have a steam button, release the steam every so often. I did have an episode where the steam decided to release it self!

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