What can households do to offset rising energy costs?
Households are bracing for a new energy price cap that is expected to plunge many into significant financial hardship.
While peak price predictions can be scary, there are still many steps households can take to ensure they only use the energy they need.
It’s worth remembering that while individual savings may seem relatively small, they can add up to significant savings over the course of a year.
– First step: turn off and unplug
Households should already have done a full check of every outlet, unplugging anything that isn’t needed and turning devices off to standby, and getting into the habit of doing it regularly.
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that you can save around £55 a year simply by remembering to switch your appliances off to standby.
Almost all electrical appliances can be turned off at the plug without altering its programming. You might want to think about getting a standby saver or a smart plug that allows you to turn off all your appliances in one go.
Check the instructions for appliances you are unsure about. Some satellite and digital TV recorders may need to be left plugged in so they can keep track of the shows you want to record.
– Check your boiler
A recent report from the Heating and Hot Water Council found that households can save 6% to 8% on their gas bill simply by lowering the heating flow temperature in their condensing combination boiler.
Doing this will allow the boiler to run more efficiently and could save around £200 on an average energy bill.
Use the controls on the front of your boiler, not your room thermostat, to set the boiler flow temperature, which is the temperature your boiler heats water to before sending it to your radiators. The way to adjust the flow temperature and the information available on the screen varies a lot. There is a handy guide online at theheatinghub.co.uk.
Another easy saving is to turn off the pre-heat mode on the boiler, which could mean hot water taps take longer to heat up, but could save hundreds of pounds a year.
– Forget your dryer and use other appliances wisely
Clothes dryers use a lot of energy, so on warm days, hang clothes outside to dry and invest in a drying rack for cooler months.
Use your washing machine on a 30C cycle and reduce usage to once a week. Run your dishwasher only when it’s full and use the eco setting if possible.
Avoid overfilling the kettle; he only boils the amount he needs.
– Defrost your fridge and freezer
Remember to regularly defrost your fridge and freezer, as the more they freeze, the more energy they will consume.
A full freezer is cheaper to operate. With a full freezer, cold air doesn’t need to circulate as much, so less energy is needed. If you have a lot of free space, fill plastic bottles halfway with water and use them to fill in the gaps.
BBC Good Food suggests that you stock your freezer with everyday items you’ll be sure to use, such as sliced bread, milk or frozen peas.
– Turn off the lights
Turn off lights when you’re not using them or when you’re leaving a room.
Replacing all the lights in your home with LED bulbs could help save even more.
– Keep windows closed when temperatures rise
The most obvious thing to do when houses get hot is to open all the windows. However all this does is fill the house with warm air.
It’s best to use blinds and shades to block out direct sunlight during the day and then open the windows at night when temperatures drop, helping you save energy by reducing the need for power-hungry fans.
– Use fans sparingly and wisely
Fans, even when used in cooling configurations, will cause bills to skyrocket. You shouldn’t stop using them when needed, but there are ways to maximize their effect and reduce burn time.
Putting fans at floor level helps circulate cooler lower air instead of the warmer air that naturally rises in a room. You can also create the ideal combination to save energy by combining the use of smart fans with closed windows, keeping the fans running during the day and the windows open at night.
– Invest in insulation
A new analysis by the Climate and Energy Intelligence Unit has found that homes classified in band F in the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) system, a measure of home efficiency, are set to have a gas bill £968 higher than a household classified in EPC band C. the government’s target for 2035.
The average UK home has a Band D rating and these homes will pay £420 more for their gas this winter, compared to Band C.
The Energy Saving Trust also says that for those who want to future-proof their homes, investing in professional insulation and draft protection in preparation for the winter months could lead to a reduction in bills of £405 for a semi-detached house. DIY draft testing is much cheaper and anything is better than nothing.
Installing solar panels for a similar property could result in additional annual savings of around £450.
A quarter of the heat in an uninsulated house is lost through the roof. Most homes have at least some insulation in the attic, but it’s often not enough. Backfilling 120mm to at least 270mm of insulation will help.
– And here are some myths…
Turning off boilers is neither advisable nor an effective way to save energy. Instead, thermostats and timers must be used effectively to regulate their operation.
Refrigerators and freezers are designed to be left on all the time and turning them off for short periods will not save energy because more energy will be used to cool them down again when they are turned back on. There are also significant safety issues that can arise if food is partially thawed before it is prepared for eating.