The unseasonably warm weather has certainly gone - Learn how you can lower your energy bills while staying warm this Autumn?
We've been fortunate recently with the weather; who would expect such warm weather all the way through to nearly mid-October? It's undoubtedly saved a lot of us from having to add money to our expenses by turning on the radiator, so I, for one, am very grateful for that; however, as our Indian summer seems to have now gone, inevitably, we may start reaching for the radiator control soon!
The energy price cap has been lowered, which is good news for consumers; however, the price is still very high, and with talk of rising gas prices, we all need to think about how we can conserve the amount of energy we use and keep our bills as low as possible. Many of us now use a smart meter to see how much energy we're using, and this is especially important during colder months as this is when the average household will significantly increase their energy bills. Hence, a smart meter helps you keep track of your spending and usage, but there are ways to reduce your spending, and we have a selection here of our favourite tips on ways to conserve energy this autumn and winter. Some of these are obvious, and others may not have occurred to you but will likely save us all some money. Here are some of my favourite energy-saving tips, some of which are small changes that can make a difference.
I know it's obvious, but I will say it anyway: if you leave a room and nobody is there, turn off the lights! See, I told you it was obvious, but if your house is anything like mine, you may well find you go upstairs and see lights flickering like the Las Vegas Strip! Ensure everybody knows that every light has a cost; if you turn it off, the cost diminishes, so the obvious thing to do is to ensure that they're off when not needed! Switching a light off for just a few seconds will save more energy than it takes for the light to start up again!
Lightbulbs - if you are still using traditional incandescent light bulbs, then now is a perfect time to give them an upgrade to more energy-efficient lightbulbs, such as LEDs. These lightbulbs use a dramatically smaller amount of energy, which you will notice on your energy bills when you've swapped over. It might cost you a few quid to get the bulbs, but they are a great way to increase your home's energy efficiency and will soon start to reduce your bills.
If you are using outside lights, consider changing those to solar lights, which will be free to run. My parents use garden solar lights in their bathroom, and these lights charge up during the day by being left next to the bathroom window in direct sunlight; then, at night, the sensor turns the lights on when they enter and off again when they leave and means they don't have to pay to light up the bathroom!
Turn down your hot water and heating temperature on your boiler; even just turning these down a few degrees will make a difference! Turning down your central thermostat by 1 degree could save around 10% on your energy bill. Set a timer to limit your shower time; less than 4 minutes is ideal. A high-volume power shower can use more water in less than five minutes than running a bath, so fit an eco shower head. Your shower will still feel powerful, but it'll reduce your hot water use. You can pick up a highly rated Hansgrohe model from PCS Bathrooms for £14.97 + £4.99 P&P, or if you have Amazon Prime, you can get it for about £19.03 with free delivery. You could save around £70 a year off gas bills and around £115 a year off water bills by simply using these eco shower heads!
If you have dripping taps, get them fixed or replaced, you can waste thousands of litres of water a year with just one leaking tap, and if it's the hot tap, it can force your combi boiler to keep heating the water as it detects the water usage and this can ramp up your energy consumption dramatically!
South East Water customers can claim several water-saving devices for free. You can claim free showerheads, plugs, shower and teeth timers, flow regulators, and more. Eligible customers can claim the free products here.
Are you washing up by hand? If so, use a washing-up bowl rather than just keeping your hot water running; your boiler will be using a considerable amount of energy keeping you supplied with hot water, so reduce this as much as possible by using your washing-up bowl, and you'll then not use as much water as running the tap constantly.
Are you heating every room in your house, and if you are, do you need to? Do you have a spare bedroom that doesn't get used? If so, turn off the radiator in that room; it's costing you money to heat a room that isn't being used, which could be more energy-efficient. Your heating system is expensive, so selecting which radiators operate will help lower your energy costs.
If you have water radiators, bleed these every few months, and by doing this, the air leaks out of the radiator, and this space is then replaced by water, which, when heated, will increase the room's heating efficiency. You could also invest in thermostatic radiator valves, which allow you to program your individual radiators to specific temperatures around the house and this means you can make specific rooms you use a lot warmer than rooms that you aren't using as much, so you're spreading your energy costs around the house and not paying to heat rooms to a higher temperature, that you are actually using.
You should consider using a Smart Home system or a smart thermostat such as Hive or Nest, allowing you to control your heating via an app or website. I use Hive (Use this link for 15% off a purchase of the equipment), and this allows me to keep an eye on the temperature of the house and to turn off the heating or on, when needed, from anywhere in the world; using the app easily allows me to put our heating on a timer, so it's only on when we are there and not when we're out and about; therefore I'm not paying to heat an empty house, and those energy savings can add up, (the cat can look after itself, after all, it does have fur!)
If you feel cold, then instead of instinctively heading for the thermostat to turn it up, put on some additional clothing first; it costs nothing to add an extra jumper or another pair of socks, but it does cost money for you to heat your house! Maybe use a blanket, electric blanket or a duvet when you're sitting on the sofa watching TV; this will keep you warm and cosy but won't cost you a penny apart from an electric blanket, but these are very energy efficient and do a great job of warming you up.
Regarding turning up your thermostat, increasing the temperature to a higher number will not affect how fast your home will warm up! The water heating system will only work at the same speed, no matter how high you turn the number, so don't adjust that dial; you're wasting your time and money! Consider using space heaters or fans for a quick warm-up if you need immediate warm air. It is worse for your electric bill, but in some situations, such as older homes or homes with poor insulation, it can be easier to use such a device to heat just one room; remember to close the doors!
Ensure to use draught excludes around window frames and doors if you notice cool air coming in from outside. The letterbox is often a problem area. Make sure you close doors around the house to keep the heat and cold where you want it to be, and make sure that you close and tuck your curtains behind the radiator to ensure that the heat from the radiator is radiating to the room, not the window. Use draught-proofing foam strips to keep heat in around loft hatches; I know my loft hatch leaks cold air from the roof, so that's high on my priority list to sort out. If you don't use your fireplace, block the chimney with an inflatable pillow or fit a cap over the chimney pot to keep the cold air from coming down and lowering the temperature in your home. Proper insulation will help your energy bill by reducing heat loss, attic insulation will make a big difference, but the more you do, the more expensive it is, of course, but the savings on your heating bills and your lower energy usage may make this more cost-effective than you think, over time.
If you or someone you live with is receiving benefits, talk to your energy supplier to see what help is available through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). Under the ECO scheme, available in England, Scotland and Wales, energy suppliers must install energy efficiency measures in the homes of those who need them most. You may get help with the cost of: * insulation work, for example, loft insulation or cavity wall insulation. * replacing or repairing your boiler - or other upgrades to your heating. You might be eligible for help if you live in private housing and get one of the following benefits:
Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit
Pension Guarantee Credit
Pension Savings Credit
income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
If you own your house, it must have an energy efficiency rating of D, E, F or G to be eligible.
If you rent from a private landlord, the house must have an energy efficiency rating of E, F or G to be eligible. You must have the owner’s permission to do the work.
Ensure your washing machine is full and you're not just washing a few items. Wash your clothes at a lower temperature; washing your laundry at 30ºC (rather than 40ºC) cuts the cost by up to 38%, according to recent Which? research.
When it comes to clothes dryers, we all know they cost a fortune to run, and needless to say, if you don't have to use them, don't! That said, I have been using mine over the winter, purely down to me living in a really old house that's always cold, and so trying to dry the clothes on a close horse doesn't really work; they just stay damp and don't smell good, so instead I'll put the clothes on an extra spin cycle on the washing machine, which means they tend to come out drier, and so take up less time in the tumble dryer. If you need to replace any of your appliances, make sure you're buying more energy-efficient appliances, as that makes sense to help keep your energy bills lower. These appliances may be more expensive to buy initially, but the overall savings will add up, and you'll find they work out cheaper in the long run than the cheaper appliances you could buy but have worse energy ratings and, therefore, cost more to run.
Cheap dryers are notoriously expensive to run, so if, when buying a tumble dryer, you have the opportunity to pay a little bit more and get a better-rated machine, then the initial extra cost will definitely be cost-effective, as you will use less energy with a higher rated machine. This goes for all household appliances; get the most energy-efficient home appliances you can afford, and it will make a difference. I've just upgraded my washing machine from a D-rated appliance to an A-rated, and just a few weeks in, we're already seeing a dramatic decrease in the energy we are using, plus as the washing machine drum is bigger, we are using it less, as we can get more in the machine, and we are using less water and the efficiency of the programmes the machine offers, means we can wash at a lower temperature, with no effect on the cleanliness of the clothes, so a win all round! Who knew clothes washers could make such a difference?
If you do need to use the tumble dryer, maybe look only to use it for 50% of the drying time. You could use the tumble dryer for the first half of the drying process, then remove the clothes and dry them in another way; this will reduce the amount of money you're spending.
If your dishwasher has an eco-mode, make use of it, as this will use less energy, and make sure you only use the dishwasher when you have a full load before you put it on. Don't be put off by a longer cycle time; that doesn't always mean it costs more to run; most eco modes are longer cycles! Avoid using the half-load program on the dishwasher or washing machines; it's much better to wait and then do a full load as this will save you money in the long run as you'll be doing less washes, which uses less water and, of course, less electricity.
Turn off your TV and equipment at the plug when not in use. Keeping something on standby mode can be expensive and wastes energy! This includes any DVD player, console, soundbar or similar device; they are power-hungry!
You can also save money in the kitchen by measuring the water you put into a kettle. I think we're all guilty of just turning on the tap and filling up the kettle to boil when, in fact, we are probably adding far more water than we are actually going to use, so if you're making a cup of tea, measure out one cup of water and put that into the kettle, not only will it save electricity and save water, it will also boil faster as well! It can cost up to a pound a day to boil water for your cup of tea, depending on how much you drink, so maybe make use of a thermos, boil a kettle of water and fill the thermos with it, then use this water to make your brew, as this means you're only heating the water once, and the thermos will keep the water hot for ages.
When it comes to cooking, gas is actually cheaper than electricity to use, although with rising gas prices being threatened by suppliers, this may change, but for now gas can be three times cheaper to use than electricity, so try and make use of gas appliances such as your hob for cooking, as this will give you an overall saving.
It's worth using a slow cooker, air fryer or rice cooker where possible, as it's dramatically cheaper to run (up to 90% cheaper), plus you have the bonus that using slow cookers is a great way to cook cheaper cuts of meat, which will save you money by not spending as much at the supermarket! Many supermarkets are now adding air fryer instructions to their own brand products, making it even easier to use your air fryer for everyday cooking.
Invest in a vegetable steamer. Not the electric ones, the traditional style, as that way you can cook your veggies using just one pan, and more importantly one gas burner, which will most certainly save you money.
Once you've used your oven to cook something, then as long as health and safety allows for it (no kids running around), then leave the oven door open, as the heat from the oven will help heat the house, and means you are not wasting all the hot air you have paid for it to produce!
Most recipes will tell you to preheat your oven, but that's really not necessary unless you're baking cakes or pastries. Preheating your oven uses energy for nothing, so there is no reason why you can't put food into a cold oven and allow it to warm up at the same time as the oven; it may actually cook faster to use a preheated oven, but it will most certainly not be cheaper!
I hadn't thought of this, but it makes perfect sense: always use the lid on a saucepan! It speeds up the heating/boiling process, meaning you're not wasting energy heating something up for an excessive amount of time.
If you are only cooking something small in the oven, look at adding something else as well at the same time. Jacket potatoes are an excellent option; you can cook those today and then reheat them for dinner tomorrow, meaning you are saving an entire cooking cycle's worth of energy; plus, it saves you time for tomorrow night's dinner and reduces your food costs!
Limit how long the freezer or refrigerator door is open for. The longer it's open, the warmer the appliance will become, and more energy will be needed to bring it back to the correct temperature! For similar reasons, make sure you cool anything before you put it in the fridge or freezer, as adding anything warm to these devices increases the temperature of the unit and makes it work harder to reduce the temperature, and it's that extra work that costs extra money in electricity usage.
Ask yourself if you really need to iron those clothes! I'm sure we're all looking for an excuse not to have to do the ironing, but actually, it's a lot more cost-effective not to iron your clothes unless you absolutely have to.
Check to see if you are eligible for a warm home discount. This could save you £150 a year on your energy bills; you can check online to see if you are eligible. Around 2.8 million people - including some pensioners and those on a low income and receiving certain benefits - will qualify for the discount. Qualifying benefits include: * Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) * Housing Benefit * Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) * Income Support * "Savings Credit" part of Pension Credit * Universal Credit You’ll get a letter by early January 2024 if you are eligible. If you do not get a letter and think you’re eligible, you must contact the Warm Home Discount Scheme before 29 February 2024. The money is not paid to you - it’s a one-off discount applied to your electricity bill between early October 2023 and 31 March 2024. If you have a traditional prepayment meter, you should be sent a top-up voucher, while smart prepayment meter customers should see the discount automatically added to their account.
These tips are basic; none of these will have a massive impact on the recent energy bills individually, but the more of these tips you implement, the more you will save; it will all add up over time and help save you some extra money. There are some things you can't control, such as the standing charge for your gas/electricity, but you can control your usage, and that's the key; you need to be more aware of how you are spending your energy costs and do everything you can to reduce those.