A recent power cut proved that I’m as much of an energy addict as my son 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 prices having gone up
- 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.
The design of your living room will also affect your bills: put down rugs to keep in heat, hang heavy curtains at windows to prevent drafts and don’t block radiators with furniture, Jackman warns. “Move your sofa out of the way of radiators to allow heat to circulate,” he says. “If you position your furniture towards the center of the room, rather than on external walls, you’ll need less heating.”
If your living room has a fireplace, installing a Chimney Sheep, a thick layer of felt that can be inserted up the chimney when the fireplace isn’t in use, or a chimney balloon, can save £17 per year on wasted energy, according to the Energy Savings Trust. You might want to use your fire, though; if you live in an area where wood-burning stoves are permitted, burning logs can save you up to £400 per year on energy bills.
- Swap your desktop computer for a laptop ⇒ Save £230
- Go paperless rather than print out ⇒ Save £15
- Use a portable heater rather than cranking up the heating ⇒ Save £30
By using a laptop rather than a desktop computer you will cut energy consumption by 75 per cent. Power strips (see previous page) are another way to save, as they automatically disconnect devices overnight. And activate sleep mode on your computer, adds Jackman: it will use the same amount of power whether you’re in front of it or no
If your workspace is chilly and you’re the only person at home during the day, a portable electric heater will be a more economical heat source than cranking up the thermostat, according to Which? The most energy-efficient home offices are paperless, Jackman says, but if you must print, an inkjet printer will use less energy than a laser.
- Turn off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth ⇒ Save £100
- Spend one less minute in the shower ⇒ Save £75
- Install a smart showerhead ⇒ Save £75
We are very wasteful when it comes to washing: if we turned off the tap while brushing our teeth, we would save £100 (and more than 4,300 liters of water) each year, according to the Waterworks Project; and if we limited flushing the lavatory to number twos, we’d gain a further £15.
Those of us who like to use electric toothbrushes should be careful not to leave them on charge indefinitely, Jackman adds.
Swapping baths for quick showers (of up to five minutes) makes a £40 difference to your energy bill, while spending one minute less in the shower each day could save a family of four £75 a year on energy and water bills, according to the Energy Saving Trust. And you’ll save an extra £10 if you have your showers cold, Jackman adds. “Whether that’s worth it is up to you,” he says.
Any leaky taps should be fixed, adds Tashema Jackson, and if you’re upgrading your shower, go for a smart showerhead, she says, which can save £75 per year on your water and energy bills. “They reduce your bills by allowing you to control the water pressure and temperature via an app,” she says.
- Invest in an electric blanket rather than turning up the heating ⇒ Save £65
- Don’t charge your phone overnight ⇒ Save £5
If you drape your windows with heavy curtains and double up on blankets on your bed, rather than cranking up the central heating, you can save £240 on your energy bills, advises Jackman. Although if your room is an icebox, you might want to consider using an electric blanket. Unlike a heater or a radiator, electric blankets don’t become scorching hot; they’re also cheap to run (about 1p a night) and you only need to have them on for 10 to 30 minutes to make a difference.
Another bedroom energy saver is to break the habit of charging your phone overnight; do it during the day, says Jackman, when you can see when the battery is full.
- Use a draft excluder beneath the front door ⇒ Save £30
- Install dimmer switches or sensor lights ⇒ Save £60
- Put rugs over wood flooring ⇒ Save £20
A basic draft excluder (£10.99; amazon.co.uk) positioned beneath your front door will stop heat seeping out of your home, according to Jackson. “Another culprit is the letter box: make sure you have a cover for it, or a brush, to prevent heat escaping,” she says. If you have wooden floors in your hall, a wool runner or rug will prevent warm air escaping through the flooring. If you like to keep your hallway lit even when you’re not home, you’ll be wasting up to £60 a year, although you can cut this down by using a dimmer switch or sensor light, Jackman adds.
- Insulate your loft ⇒ Save £315
- Buy a jacket for your water tank ⇒ Save £350
- Insulate the loft door ⇒ Save £20
Insulate, insulate, insulate: about 25 per cent of all heat loss from homes is directly through the loft, as heat rises, says Jackman. Insulation isn’t cheap – around £20 per roll for mineral wool, and £75 for sheep’s wool quilt – but it typically pays for itself within two to three years, before saving up to £315 per year, according to Which?
While you’re at it, wrap your hot-water tank with a thermal jacket, which costs about £20 and can save you up to £350 per year, according to lowenergysupermarket.com, and insulate the gaps around your loft door.
- Insulate your greenhouse with bubble wrap ⇒ Save £50
- Switch to solar garden lighting ⇒ Save £30
- Get rid of your patio heater ⇒ Save £65
Greenhouse heaters add up to £30 to your energy bill, according to Loop; Using a thermostat or timer can reduce this cost, as can improving the insulation with a layer of bubble wrap. Garden lighting is an energy drain, adding more than £30 per light to your bill, so switch to solar if you can; or at least make sure your lights are on a timer. Patio heaters are another drain on your energy resources, though electric heaters are 15 per cent more efficient than gas.
- Line-dry clothes rather than use a dryer ⇒ Save £120
- Clean the lint out of your dryer ⇒ Save £20
Of all household appliances, a new energy-efficient washing machine can save the most money on your bills – £308 per year, according to Which? Otherwise, stick to the mantra that short cycles with low temperatures (30C or less) are the way forward, although make sure you do the occasional hot wash to kill bacteria, Jackman says.
If you’re on an Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariff, your energy will be cheaper at night, but for most of us it doesn’t make a difference when you set off your wash.
By not using a dryer, you’ll immediately save £120 a year; if you can’t give it up, use a low temperature setting and clean the lint trap regularly. “If it’s clogged up, the machine has to work much harder,” Jackman says.
8 simple energy saving tips for 2022 and beyond
1. Clean your windows: grubby windows block out the sunlight, preventing the room heating up naturally.
2. Leave internal doors open: they will allow warm air from sunny rooms to circulate through the house.
3. Clean your radiators: they will radiate heat more efficiently if they’re not caked in dust.
4. And bleed them: when air is trapped inside, water can’t circulate properly, so you use more energy.
5. Upgrade your boiler: it’ll cost between £1,500 to £3,000, but will save you up to £360 per year.
6. Only heat the room you’re in, and when the heating is on, keep the windows and doors closed.
7. Switch to LEDs: energy-efficient bulbs cost £1.71 a year each to run, compared with £8.42 for halogen.
8. Don’t overwork your boiler: the optimum temperature for hot water is 60C; any higher and you’re wasting energy.
This article has been updated with the latest advice.
What are some ways you help save energy at home? Let us know in the comments section below
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.