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15 useful tips to save energy

If you're one of the many people who transitioned to flexible or full-time work from home, you may have noticed your energy bills creeping up...

If you're one of the many people who transitioned to flexible or full-time work from home, you may have noticed your energy bills creeping up...

Sofia Hutson
Energy expert
4
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 15 JANUARY 2020 Last Updated 11 MAY 2022

Power costs have been rising rapidly and look set to continue soaring, affected by wider world issues.  

Prices have risen to such an extent that for some families it can unfortunately be a choice between heating or eating. We all need to use energy, but finding ways to cut back sufficiently is difficult, especially as standing charges have risen too. So in such tough times it’s good to know what you can do to mitigate rising power bills through your own actions. 

If you’re one of the many people finding it hard, take a look at our article on what help is available if you can’t pay your energy bills

And for advice on how to cut your day-to-day consumption, check out our useful tips right here. 

Basic energy-saving tips 

Simple changes to your daily habits can have a huge impact on the amount you save on energy every year. Keep reading to discover some quick fixes you can make to save on your next bill.

1. Don’t waste power with standby 

Did you know, it’s widely reported that the average household could be wasting as many as 7,374 hours of electricity every year when a device is left on standby? 

It’s so easy to leave devices plugged in and on standby, even when you aren’t using them for long periods. For example, most of us disconnect our phones but leave the charger plugged in. And some devices such as TVs don’t have an easily accessible on-off switch, so they stay on ready for you to press a button on your remote. Some estimates suggest that we can have just over 40 devices on standby on average in a home. 

But these kinds of devices are using power – sometimes known as vampire energy – and over the course of a year it can really add up. The amount you’ll actually be able to save by unplugging will depend what you’re currently paying for your power bills and on the energy efficiency of your device. Newer equipment typically uses less energy, even on standby. These are some indicative annual savings, found particularly among older devices: 

  • Turning off the light in an unused room - £25 
  • Television - £16-£24 
  • Set top box £20-£23 
  • Games devices - £16 
  • Smart speakers - £3.45 per speaker 
  • Microwave - £16 

And if you’re working from home don’t forget about office equipment: 

  • Printers (particularly those with LED displays) - £3-4 a year 
  • Laptops - £5 (but make sure you shut down and switch off rather than simply closing the lid) 

If you’re working from home, it’s worth knowing that a laptop typically uses less power than a desktop computer too – if you have the choice. 

Make switching things off part of your routine, or at the end of the working day if you are working from home. Make sure you’ve switched off as much as you can, at the wall if necessary.  

As switches can be tucked away, a smart power strip could be the perfect way to combat power drain. These devices let you choose what you want to keep on or turn off at any given time. (Remember you may want to keep your Sky Box or equivalent running to record programmes overnight).

2. Take control of your heating

A huge use of power in homes is for heating over the winter. So think carefully about how warm your home really needs to be. Different people feel the cold more easily and if you’re sitting still for long periods you’ll likely feel chillier than someone who’s moving around. The World Health Organisation recommends a home temperature of 18-22oC and Public Health England says 18-21 oC depending on the vulnerability of the person, the function of the room and the clothing being worn.

The government-endorsed Simple Energy Advice website suggests that you can save 10% on your energy bill by turning down your thermostat by just 1 degree.

If you haven’t already, give it a go and see how much you save. A good way to work out how low you can go is to turn the thermostat down a degree – if you find that OK after a day or two turn it down another degree. Carry on until you find that it’s not comfortable and turn it back up a degree. That way you know you’ve achieved the optimum point for you. Keep doors closed in the rooms that you spend time in to keep the heat in.  

If you have thermostats on your radiators you can turn them even lower in rooms that you use infrequently, such as a spare bedroom. 

Also check whether heat could be leaving your home through gaps. Thick curtains, draught excluders and even a piece of putty in a small gap around a window will help keep the heat in. And it goes without saying – don’t leave windows and doors open if it’s not warmer outside than in. 

3. Bleed your radiators

If you’ve got gas central heating with radiators, you’ll need to bleed them every so often to keep them running efficiently. If you’ve got air in the system it can stop hot water circulating effectively. It’s a good idea to do it at least once a year and ideally before you switch on your heating for the winter. Get tips on how to bleed a central heating system

And while we’re talking radiators, make sure your sofa isn’t backed up right against one. Leave a gap of a few inches to allow heat to circulate better around the room. 

4. Switch to low energy lighting

Swapping to LED (Light emitting diode) or CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) lightbulbs can save you up to £5 a year according to Simple Energy Advice. LEDs are the most energy efficient and reach full brightness quicker than CFLs. They are now available for a wide range of light fittings and found in supermarkets, home stores and DIY shops. Not all bulbs are dimmable, so check before buying if you want this. It might be useful to take the old bulb with you to compare fittings. 

LEDs and CFLs last much longer than old fashioned filament bulbs, so although they cost a bit more to buy, they’re more cost-effective over time. Light output is now shown in lumens rather than watts. You’ll need about 1,200-1,300 Lm to replace an old 100-watt bulb. LEDs are good replacements for halogen downlighters and produce far less heat. CFLs can be good if your room has one single bulb that needs to be bright enough to light the whole space. 

Always turn lights off – even if you only leave a room empty for a minute or two.

5. Insulate your hot water cylinder if you have one

Many properties have a hot water cylinder, so hot water is available when you need it (rather than using a gas boiler to heat it as the tap runs). It’s important to make sure your cylinder doesn’t lose heat. Some cylinders are covered in insulation foam, while others may have a detachable tank jacket, or nothing at all. Ideally you should have three inches (76mm) of insulation around the tank. Look for a British Standard jacket (BS 5615:1985) as these must be 80mm thick. Make sure there are no gaps and that the insulation fits well and is properly secured to avoid heat escape.

6. Opt for a shower, not a bath

A short shower - around five minutes max - will use about a third of the water of a bath, meaning you have to heat far less water. And if you have a water meter this can cut costs there too. 

Consider changing your shower head to an eco-version too. This type of device can give a similar shower experience as a standard shower head but save water and money. 

7. Wash as much as possible at 30oc

Today’s washing detergents are very effective at 30 degrees, so try to avoid washing laundry on a higher setting. Wait until you have a full load too – that saves on water as well as energy. Use an eco-wash setting if you can, as this will save on your bills in the long term. If not, opt for the shortest programme possible that will get your clothes clean. 

If someone in your home has been ill, you may want to wash their towels, bedlinen and so on separately from the rest of your washing, at 60 degrees. You should also avoid shaking these clothes before you put them in the machine.

8. Reduce your tumble dryer usage

Tumble dryers use up a lot of energy, so try to avoid them as much as you can. If you have to dry indoors, make sure the space is well ventilated to avoid the build-up of damp and condensation. Ideally open the windows and shut the door.

When replacing a tumble dryer, check the energy rating – the better the rating the less it’ll cost to run.

9. Optimise your oven use

If you’re turning your oven on for one thing, see if you can use the rest of the space to batch cook something for a meal on another day. Get used to how long your oven takes to heat up so you’re ready to pop food in straight away without wasting heat. And if you’ve got an electric oven, you can usually turn it off 5-10 minutes before the end of cooking as it will retain the heat for sufficient time to continue cooking. 

Consider investing in a slow cooker, these can be much cheaper to use than having your oven on for the duration of a casserole or stew. But you do have to be organised with them for best effect.

10. Optimise your fridge use

Your fridge can struggle to function at full capacity if it gets dusty. Make sure to regularly clean the coils at the back to optimise its performance and keep it fire safe. Unplug and gently use a vacuum or brush. 

Free-standing fridges should ideally have around 5cm of space around the sides, back and top to allow heat from the compressor to escape. Without it your fridge will have to work harder. 

Keep your fridge around two thirds full as it has less air to cool that way. If it’s getting empty, consider adding a jug of water or two.  

Putting warm food in the freezer is another big no. It takes much more energy for your freezer to retain its temperature when you stack it with food that’s still warm. Let your leftovers cool before you stash them away. Glass containers can be better than plastic as they retain the cold better. 

Defrost your fridge and freezer regularly to keep everything working at its best. 

11. Use your kettle wisely

Use a kettle rather than boiling water for cooking in a pan. While it might seem logical to boil water in the same pan you’re going to use for cooking, it’s not always cost effective depending on the energy efficiency of your kettle, stove or microwave and cost of the energy to run it. It is typically faster to heat water in a kettle and usually more efficient. This is because the heat is generally transferred directly from the heating element to the water, compared with a pan on the stove where more heat is potentially lost to the pan and to the room.

The average kettle is about 80% efficient, while boiling water on the hob is only 70%. But whether there’s a cost saving may depend on the price you are paying for your gas hob compared with your electricity. 

When making a brew, don’t overfill – just use as much water as you need. And remember you boiled the kettle. It sounds like a silly one, but how many times have you boiled a kettle, then walked away and forgotten you’ve done it? By the time you remember you’re after a hot drink, the water will have cooled and you may need to boil the kettle all over again. A total waste of energy.  

If you live in a hard water area, descale your kettle regularly as this can affect its energy efficiency too.

12. Think about the washing up

Don’t wash up under a running tap. Use a washing-up bowl and fill it up as needed for the level of washing up you have. If it’s just a few plates and cups, a third to a half of the bowl is all that’s required. You could also avoid rinsing your plates, as this wastes excess water. 

Using a dishwasher? It can be cheaper to run a dishwasher than doing the washing up by hand. Just make sure you fill it completely before you turn it on, to make the most out of the energy it uses each cycle.

13. Monitor your energy use

Energy companies tend to use local data to estimate how much gas and electricity you’re using. While these are often close to reality, it’s impossible for them to be completely right every time. 

By checking your own meters on a monthly basis, you’ll be able make sure you only pay for the energy you’re actually using

But remember, some people prefer to pay roughly the same amount every month to even out the cost of paying for heating over the winter throughout the year and having more expensive bills then.  

If you don’t already have a smart meter, it might be worth asking your power company for one if they’re available in your area. These cut out the middle man, ensuring you get an accurate reading throughout the year without having to check yourself. A smart meter is unlikely to save you money, but will help you monitor your power use. Test out your appliances by using one at a time and seeing which are the most energy-hungry so you can adapt your usage. You can also use it to see also the impact of having appliances on standby as well as when being used.

14. Manage your energy smarter

Smart thermostats such as Nest and Hive give you maximum flexibility when it comes to managing your heating on a room-by-room basis. You can even control your heating when you’re out using your smartphone, tablet or laptop. 

Smart appliances, lights and plugs can also be programmed to switch off at particular times or when you leave the house or even a room, saving you money.

15. Make long-term investments

If you’re not planning to move in the near future, it may be worth looking at more long-term energy-saving solutions. Insulate your home to avoid energy wastage – double or triple glazing and insulating walls and lofts can reduce heat loss, making your home more energy efficient. Replacing your boiler if it’s getting old could be a good investment too.  

Solar panels, ground source heat pumps or air sources heat pumps could be really cost effective for you in the long run and be good for the environment too.  

And make sure you choose the most energy efficient models when replacing household appliances. See which appliances are the most expensive to run.