With the cold weather here and temperatures dropping, learn how you can lower your energy bills while staying warm this week.
As winter seems to be having one final big push to keep us cold before spring arrives with us, it seems like a good time to have a quick re-cap on things, as energy consumers, we can do to be more frugal with our energy consumption, to try and save as much money as humanly possible on your gas and electricity bills. Some of these are pretty obvious, and others may well not have occurred to you but are likely to save us all some money. Here are some of my favourite energy-saving tips, some of which are only small changes but can make a difference.
I know it's obvious, but I'm going to 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 my house, then you may well find you go upstairs and see lights flickering like the Las Vegas Strip! Make sure everybody is aware that every light has a cost; if you turn it off, the cost diminishes, and so the obvious thing to do is to make sure that they're off when not needed!
Lightbulbs - if you are still using traditional incandescent light bulbs, then now is a really good time to give them an upgrade to more energy-efficient lightbulbs, such as LEDs. These types of 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 the energy efficiency of your home and will soon start to reduce your bills.
If you are using outside lights, look at the possibility of 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 couple of degrees will make a difference!
Are you heating every single room in your house, and if you are, do you need to? Do you have a spare bedroom perhaps that doesn't get used perhaps? If so, turn off the radiator in that room; it's costing you money to heat a room that isn't being used, which isn't very energy-efficient. Your heating system is expensive to use, so being selective about 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 efficiency of the heating of the room.
You may want to look at using a Smart Home system or a smart thermostat such as Hive or Nest, which will allow you to control your heating via an app or website. I use Hive, 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 really 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, so instead of messing with the temperature settings, 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 really do a great job of warming you up.
In regards to turning up your thermostat, increasing the temperature to a higher number won't make any difference to 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 to, so don't adjust that dial; you're wasting your time and money! If you need immediate warm air, consider using space heaters or fans for a quick warm-up, 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, just remember to close the doors!
Make sure 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. Proper insulation will really 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.
Make sure that your washing machine is full and you're not just washing a couple of items. It's perfectly reasonable to wash your clothes at 30°, the clothes will still be clean, and you will have reduced your electricity costs.
When it comes to a clothes dryer, 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.
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, then make use of it, as this will use less energy, and make sure your only use the dishwasher when you have a full load before you actually 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!
Turn off your TV and equipment at the plug when not in use. Keeping something on standby mode can actually be expensive and is simply wasting energy!
In the kitchen, you can save money as well by measuring the amount of water you are putting into a kettle. I think we're all guilty of just turning on the tap and filling up the kettle to boil when in actual fact, we are probably adding far more water than we are actually going to use, so if you're making a cup of tea, simply 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 it's actually cheaper than electricity to use. In fact, gas can be three times cheaper to use than electricity, so therefore try and make use of gas appliances such as your hob for cooking, as this will give you an overall saving.
It's definitely worth using a slow cooker, or a rice cooker (rice cooker price) where possible as it's dramatically cheaper to run (up to 90% cheaper), plus you have the added bonus that a slow cooker is great for cooking cheaper cuts of meat, which will save you money by not spending as much at the supermarket!
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!
I know that 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, but it will most certainly be cheaper!
I hadn't thought of this, but it makes perfect sense, always use the lid on a saucepan! It really does speed up the heating/boiling process, meaning you're not wasting energy heating something up for an excessive amount of time.
If you 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 also saves you time for tomorrow night's dinner and is a cheap dinner too!
It sounds obvious, but limit how long the freezer or refrigerator door is open for. The longer it's open, the warmer the appliance will become, and the more energy use will be needed to bring the appliance back to the correct temperature!
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 £140 a year on your energy bills; you can check online to see if you are eligible.
These tips are pretty basic; none of these is going to have a massive impact on the recent energy price increases, but they will all add up over time and help save you at least some 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 just need to be more aware of how you are spending your energy costs and do everything you can to reduce those.