About a year ago we wrote a blog titled ‘7 ways to lower your energy bills’. This proved very popular but it solely focused on ways to actually reduce the energy bill itself by moving to dual fuel tariffs, using switching sites and that sort of thing.
We thought it might be a good idea to revisit the topic with 10 ways to lower your bills by reducing the amount of fuel used. They are all very simple and you should see decent energy bill savings if you try to implement a few of them into your life.
So without further ado lets get cracking!
Control your heating with a thermostat
A thermostat is a great way to lower your energy bill. A thermostat works by recording the temperature of the room and then sending a signal to the boiler to switch off if the temperature exceeds the thermostat setting. Take for example a thermostat set to 18 degrees – the boiler would come on whenever the room was less than 18 degrees and then turn off when it hit this temperature. The theory is that the room will stay a pretty even temperature just fluctuating around the 18-degree mark.
Lots of people also like to have a programmer coupled with the thermostat, which means that the heating will automatically be switched off at certain times. For example if everyone is in bed between 11pm and 6am then there isn’t much point in having the heating come on at all except potentially in the middle of winter. A programmer can be used to tell the heating only to come on between certain times – the thermostat will then be used to control the temperature of the home when it is on.
Nowadays thermostats are becoming more and more ‘intelligent’ with lots of additional features like the ability to control them from your smartphone. Regardless of how ‘intelligent’ your heating control system is, they have the ability to save you lots of money so make sure yours is working. The energy saving trust (who you should normally trust with a pinch of salt!) state that turning down the thermostat by 1 degree could save you £50 a year on your heating bill – so a pretty easy way to lower your energy bill.
Insulate your home to an inch of its life
One of the cheapest and easiest ways to lower your energy bill is to insulate your home. The insulation slows the movement of heat out of your home during the cooler winter months so you don’t need your heating system to work as hard to keep the home warm.
The best place to start is the loft – loft insulation is really cheap and you can get rolls of it down at the local hardware store (for approximately £20-30 a roll). The aim is to get the insulation to a depth of 300mm – which is the optimum energy saving depth.
Now, for those of you that have ever handled loft insulation – you will know it is pretty miserable stuff to come in contact with. Some companies still offer free loft insulation, so it is worth ringing your energy provider to see if this is the case, then they will do it all for you and normally at no cost.
The other option is to use a different insulating material – sheep wool insulation, hemp or other cellulose insulation. Our favourite is sheep wool insulation because it also purifies the air and can absorb lots of moisture, but it will cost you more than the standard mineral wool insulation.
Once you have insulated the loft, the next step is to look at the walls – it is likely that in your home you will either have solid walls or cavity walls. These are both made out of brick and if you looked at either of them you would have trouble telling the difference but the method of insulating them is actually very different. With a cavity wall you can inject them with insulation, but a solid wall (like the name suggests) doesn’t have a cavity and therefore you need to add insulation to the internal or external surface. In older cavity wall properties the cavity between the two skins of brick tends to be quite thin so this limits the amount of insulation you can actually inject so if you really want to maximise the energy savings you might want to still apply the insulation to the outside brick since you will be able to use thicker insulation.
Neither of these types of walls can be insulated as a DIY job – it is time to bring the pros in! Again there are some companies that offer free cavity wall insulation so take a look at Google or if you want us to do all the hard work fill in the form here.
Solid wall insulation is a bit more expensive and unfortunately the GDHIF grant is no longer running – you are looking at approximately £100 per m2 to get this done – but the energy savings from doing this are huge – the u-value of the wall insulated with 100mm of EPS insulation is just 0.3w/m2k which is better than a brand new wall built today.
Again, we can help you with this if you are interested in getting it done on your home – just fill in the form on this page and we will get the ball rolling.
Swap all your lights to LED bulbs
Remember about 10-15 years ago when your local council sent you energy saving lightbulbs? You plugged them into your fittings, flicked the switch and the light then took about 5 minutes to warm up before producing a really artificial light? Well the good news is that those days are over. LED lights are the real deal when it comes to energy saving bulbs – these turn on instantly, use 90% less energy than conventional bulbs and come in a huge number of colours to ensure you can light your home just right. They are slightly more expensive than traditional bulbs (about £3-5 instead of £1) but they last about 20 times longer and since they use 90% less energy will pay for themselves in less than a year.
We recently went on BBC radio 4 (yes bragging!) to discuss the merits of LED lighting so if they are willing to listen to us we must be right!
When appliances break, replace them with energy efficient ones
We have all been there – a fridge breaks and we want to get a quick cheap replacement so we jump on to Ebay to find one. The problem is that while cheap to buy, these units are typically second or third hand and old. An old chest freezer for example can cost as much as £115 to run but a new energy efficient one can cost just £20.
Obviously the outlay for a new energy efficient unit will be higher, but the savings will quickly add up. Now for smaller appliances the savings will be smaller, but the principal is the same – if an appliance breaks, invest in a decent energy efficient model now to help lower your energy bills.
Stop cool draughts entering your home
In the UK, the majority of us use convection heating. This includes radiators, storage heaters and even electric panels heaters. They work by warming air and so when you walk into a room heated by this method you feel warm because the air is warm. The problem is just as heaters can add hot air very easily, cold draughts can strip this heat just as quickly.
Common areas for cold draughts include chimneys, doors (and letterboxes) as well as windows. Having a draughty house is by no means the end of the world – the movement of air can help remove any excess moisture to help alleviate mould and damp build up. At the same time sitting next to a cold draught isn’t particularly fun and they are pretty easy to sort out.
Chimneys can be blocked with a chimney sheep or balloon to stop the flow of air up and down them. These are a fantastic solution to stop cold draughts entering your home and will quickly help to lower your energy bill. For about a £25 investment the energy savings from installing either of these solutions will cover the initial outlay over one winter period.
Likewise, draught proofing your door is relatively easy with draught proofing strips around the frame itself. In addition you can use a Magflap or similar solution to stop cold draughts entering through the letter box.
Monitor your energy
An energy monitor itself won’t save you any money – they are simply a way of gauging exactly how much a particular appliance will use. This is a very useful tool for helping educating a household in terms of which appliances to not over use. As soon as you have a visual cue that shows you exactly how much it costs to boil the kettle you won’t keep boiling a full kettle when all you want is one cup of coffee. Likewise, once you see how much energy a dryer uses you might think twice when the sun is shinning over whether to simply hang your wet clothes outside.
Get paid to produce electricity and hot water
Right now the Government will pay to produce hot water from a renewable source (e.g. a biomass boiler, a heat pump or solar thermal). They will also pay you if you produce electricity from a renewable source like solar PV or a wind turbine.
The subsidies are likely to be cut in the relatively near future, but right now if you spend £6,000 on solar panels you could benefit from an annual return of over £1,000 guaranteed for the next 20 years. Not a bad investment and it is all tax free!
Likewise, if your boiler is on it’s last legs, you could produce it with a like for like equivalent heating system or you could make the investment in a renewable heating system and benefit from the Renewable heat incentive (known as the RHI). This is a quarterly payment based on the amount of renewable heat you produce – but we have seen homeowners get over £25,000 in RHI payments – so again a nice return (and all tax free!)
Swap energy provider
You would have to have buried your head deep in the sand to avoid the Governments ‘Be an Energy Shopper’ campaign. OFGEM reckon 21 million Brits are missing a trick by not swapping energy tariff and we have seen people save literally thousands on their energy bills by swapping to a more competitive tariff. It normally arises because people either want a supplier they have heard of and therefore trust, or because they wouldn’t know how to switch.
Well the first thing to say is that it doesn’t matter who you buy your electricity or gas from – I could buy it from British Gas, Sainsbury’s energy or even Good Energy – to be honest it is completely irrelevant, the electricity or gas that I get supplied with is identical.
It is all coming from the closest power plant or gas depot to your home. So even if I buy from Scottish power (and I am based in London), if I have a nuclear power plant just down the road, the chances are that the electricity reaching my home is coming from there. Please don’t assume that the supplier you pay on a monthly or quarterly basis is actually providing you directly with your electricity or power – in choosing an energy supplier you are basically paying for their customer service (which is why we always suggest not going with British Gas – they are expensive and unhelpful on the phone in our experience!).
Bearing this in mind – how do you switch then? Well in truth it is incredibly easy even if you have no idea of how much energy you are using at the moment. The only actual pieces of information you need is your current energy supplier and your gas meter and electricity meter numbers.
If you happen to know exactly how many kWh of electricity or gas you use, then the software will tell you the exact energy savings you can expect on a yearly basis, but it really doesn’t matter if you don’t have this to hand. You should try and make a habit of swapping once a year – we recommend uSwitch because it is really easy to use, but there are lots of comparison sites – visit the Government’s ‘Be an Energy Shopper’ website to choose your energy comparison site and then just follow the online instructions.
It honestly does take just five minutes and the great thing is that they do everything for you – you don’t have to do a thing – you simply put in your current energy supplier and the new one you want to go too and the comparison site will deal with everything in the background.
Use less water
Obviously if you are on a water meter and you use less water you are going to save on your water bill, but people often look at us blankly when we say that using less water can save on your energy bill too. But if you think about it is pretty obvious – every time you have a hot shower in the morning that water needs to be heated by something. If it is an electric shower the unit itself heats the water but most people actually use the boiler to produce hot water.
Therefore it makes sense that if you use less hot water, then you are going to save on your energy bills. Now you have a couple of options of how to go about this, although these can be done together if you are really looking to maximise savings. Firstly, you can take shorter showers or run the bath less full each time you wash. Likewise you can run a sink of hot water instead of keep the tap running while you are doing the washing up.
The other option is to use water saving appliances – which includes things like tap aerators and eco showerheads. On the whole these work by reducing the flow rate out of the tap (or showerhead), but we recommend going for the aerating shower head units if in doubt. The reason for this is that quite often the complaints of standard water saving shower heads is that the flow rate out of them is dramatically reduced so the quality of the shower is diminished. With the aerating showerheads, the water is mixed with air before it comes out of the showerhead. Since the water come out of the showerhead is a higher volume because of the addition of the air, it replicates the performance of a normal shower.
Considering hot water accounts for 10% of the average energy bill, if you can minimise the amount of hot water used you are going to get decent energy savings on your bills. The best news is that the water companies tend to offer these water saving gadgets to their customers free of charge – so call your water company and see if they can sort it out for you.
Shove on some extra clothes
We don’t want to be patronising here but it is often the simple things that provide the biggest benefits. You would be amazed by the number of clients we visit who are wearing shorts in their boiling hot houses in the middle of winter. Common sense would suggest that as the weather gets colder, more clothes should be worn – which would negate the need to crank up the heating.
So there you have it, 10 really easy ways to lower your energy bills – all of which are very doable for the average household. As the cooler weather fast approaches – if you are looking to minimise your energy bills then we really do suggest taking on board a few of these points. The energy savings will be considerable and therefore the cash savings to you will also be pretty good!