We had a power cut recently, in the throes of which I tried to persuade my panicking nine-year-old son that people used to live very happily without electricity. He wasn’t convinced and I’m ashamed to say that one candlelit evening without an oven, television or phone charger proved that I’m as much of an energy addict as he is – an alarming reality, given the current crisis. Our previously escalating energy bills have spiked by up to 50 per cent as of April, with the average household having to be prepared to spend £3,000.
Yet the experience of no power was also motivating. I’ve got into bad habits – heating rooms that we’re not using, leaving devices on charge indefinitely and forgetting to turn off lights; from now on, I want to be less wasteful. Josh Jackman, from the energy comparison website theecoexperts.co.uk, confirms that small changes in behavior and a few cheap investments can save hundreds of pounds in energy bills every year. “It’s a myth that you have to spend a fortune replacing old appliances and building a new roof to make a difference,” he says. “We need to stop being stuck in our ways and start adopting money-saving habits. By turning down your thermostat by just one degree, you’ll save £80 a year.”
First up, he suggests installing a smart meter and asking your energy provider for an energy audit – these won’t reduce your costs, but they will show you where you can cut down your usage. Also, look into any government schemes that might help you make your home more energy efficient. From April, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme will provide grants for homeowners to replace their boiler with a heat pump or a biomass boiler, while ECO4 is the final part of an ongoing government scheme to support low-income households to create more energy efficient homes, offering free electric storage heaters and grants for insulation. There are also boiler upgrade schemes and incentives for generating renewable energy (for more information, see simpleenergyadvice.org.uk/grants).
Then it’s a question of chipping away at your bill, Jackman says, by making energy-saving decisions in every room of the house. “It all adds up – and the great thing is that by being energy efficient, you’re also being greener,” he says. According to Tashema Jackson, consumer champion at energyhelpline.com, these changes don’t have an impact on your quality of life, although you might want to put on an extra layer. “Wearing a thicker jumper is one of the best ways to save money,” she says, not least because you can turn down the thermostat by two or three degrees instead of just one.
How to keep costs down with energy bills price increase
- Use the microwave to cook jacket potatoes twice a week ⇒ Save £34
- Opt for the dishwasher rather than wash up ⇒ Save £160
- £64 Place smaller pots on smaller burners ⇒ Save £64
The less time we spend cooking, the cheaper our energy bills will be, according to Jackman. This means using the microwave to cook jacket potatoes and reheat stews and bolognese. When we do use the oven, we must rid it of all extraneous baking trays and shelves, which waste energy, and we should look to use ceramic pots and glass baking dishes, which best retain the heat. “And never preheat the oven – it’s an energy drain,” Jackman warns. “Put the food straight in and then add a couple of extra minutes to your cooking time, instead.”
On the hob, use lids on your pans to speed up cooking, he continues, and be strategic about what size pan you use. “Place a small pot on a small burner and a large pot on a large burner to avoid excess heat escaping,” Jackman reminds. “A 15cm pan on a 20cm burner could waste as much as 25 per cent of the cooking energy.” Gas burners are still cheaper than electric, although electric hobs are more efficient, he continues.
Happily for our nation of tea drinkers, boiling a kettle doesn’t add much to your energy bill: £2.56 a year for one cup of tea a day, according to uswitch.com, which might deter you from investing in a boiling water tap just yet. And by not overfilling the kettle and using just what you need, this figure will be even lower.
Defrosting your freezer every now and again will give you much more of a cost saving (£150 per year) and, contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing wrong with keeping your fridge full. “Cold food helps to keep the fridge cooler,” Jackman explains.
You should also give up on washing up and just use the dishwasher instead, he says, as you waste more water washing things by hand.
- Invest in a power strip ⇒ Save £100
- Install a chimney balloon ⇒ Save £17
- Don’t block radiators with furniture ⇒ Save £300
Phantom energy is a big problem in the living room: studies by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggest that the average home contains 40 appliances that are constantly sucking power in standby mode, including televisions, sound systems and gaming consoles. By plugging these into a smart power strip (£26.99; box.co.uk), you can set them to turn off at night, saving you up to £100 a year on your bill. Turning down the brightness on your television will also reduce your energy consumption, Jackman adds.