With the rising costs of gas and electricity and households paying on average £1420 a year for their bills, it pays to find the best deal you can for your supplier. However, even if you do ensure you are receiving the most economical rate, there are a range of steps that you can take around your home to reduce your bills further. Here we consider how you can cut back on your heat and electricity consumption.
Reduce heat losses
If you haven’t yet taken steps to insulate your property, were you aware that around a third of the heat generated by your heating system is probably escaping? It isn’t just better for the environment to improve the energy efficiency of your home, as the use of insulation would see both the excess carbon-dioxide emissions and your heating bills tumble. Far the biggest loss of heat occurs through the walls, with up to 50% of the escaping heat leaving your home by this method. However, two thirds of this escaping heat can be saved through the use of cavity wall insulation; if alternatively you have solid walls, you will require internal insulation. Meanwhile 20% of heat losses are through the roof; minimise these losses by using the recommended 6 to 8 inches of insulation in the loft, using either mineral wool, fibreglass or recycled paper as an insulating material. Investing in double glazing can seem an expensive outlay and as the windows only accounts for around 10% of heat losses you would be better putting the money you have into wall and loft insulation; though double glazing does have the bonus of making your home more secure. Another 10% of heat is lost due to draughts through doors, so the use of draught-proofing can help reduce associated costs; however, don’t use in rooms with a fire, as the lack of air flow can increase the risk of potentially fatal carbon monoxide production. The final 10% of heat is lost through flooring in your property, so put down boards if the floor is concrete and use underlay beneath carpets. Additionally, making use of your thermostat if you have one, to adjust the temperature to your actual requirements, can save you as much as 15% on your heating bills.
Reduce electricity consumption
There are various ways we can make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of electricity we use around the home:
- Many people do not realise that when appliances are left in standby mode they can still use up to 85% of the electricity they would when switched on fully. In 2010 regulations were introduced, so new products can’t have a standby power greater than 1 Watt, but as we use so many electrical home appliances and a lot are likely to have been manufactured prior to this, it still pays to be cautious of our use of standby mode. Instead either unplug electrical items or plug them into a power strip and turn this off when not in use.
- When buying new electrical appliances choose those with a higher energy efficient rating – this is scored from A to G, with A representing those which are most efficient, though A++ is used with fridges and freezers. Over the lifetime of a product you can expect on average to make the following savings by choosing a more efficient version – £89 on a fridge or freezer, £47 with a dishwasher and £45 with a cooker. When buying new appliances, your old ones need to be recycled rather than sent to landfill due to their chemical content; the retailer needs to take them from you or tell you where they can be recycled locally.
- As entertainment systems contribute around 20% towards our electricity bills bear this in mind when purchasing your next TV; the wider the screen the more electricity it uses, with a 56” screen costing £25 more a year to run than one which is 22”. They might be becoming popular, but 3-D televisions also use more electricity. When it comes to your computer, laptops use 85% less energy than a desktop computer, saving another £26 each year.
- Tumble dryers are the second largest electricity consumer in the home, so avoid buying one if you can; instead dry your clothes outside or on a clothes airer. If you have a tumble dryer and need to use it, put the clothes on a fast spin cycle in the washer to remove excess water to reduce how long you will need to tumble dry them for.
- It is more efficient to use a microwave oven than a conventional oven, as microwaves only heat the food, whereas ovens also heat the surrounding air. There is a misconception that microwaves can only be used for convenience food, but meals such as stews and pasta dishes work well, as does cooking fish this way.
- An electricity monitor can help to identify which electrical appliances in your home use the most electricity and how much this is costing you. With this information you can make informed decisions about where you will try to make savings. Electricity monitors are available to purchase at a range of high street stores and from your electricity supplier.
- If you sit out in the garden a lot at night, don’t forget the lighting costs. Use solar garden lights, which use solar cells to harness the sun’s energy and convert it to electricity; they store up power in the daytime then light up when the sun goes down. These are not as intrusive as bright lights and are far more energy efficient; they are also cheap and easy to install.
Even if you are only able to make some of the changes mentioned here, over the course of the year you will still be able to see the savings you have made from your bills.
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Beth writes for a leading landlord advice portal in the UK.