Thrifty Living: Can you afford not to go green anymore?

Over three quarters of households (78 per cent) have become more energy efficient in the past 12 months and over a third of these (36 per cent) have done so because of the rising cost of gas and electricity. It now seems that the recession is achieving what years of educated debate hasn't – it is making Britain's householders go green.

Now that every penny counts, turning lights off, the heating down and not leaving every gadget in the house on standby suddenly seem far more worthwhile. Taken in isolation, these things may seem like small fry. But, when used as part of an overall strategy to cut the size of your household bills, they could make a real difference to your pocket.

Energy bills

There are two key steps to cutting your energy bills – paying the lowest possible price for the energy you use and learning to use less of it.

Moving to dual fuel, paying by direct debit and signing up to an online energy plan could save up to £350 on your annual household energy bill. Simple measures such as fitting energy-efficient light bulbs, using standby savers and putting on a jumper rather than switching on the heating will help you reduce the amount of energy you use.

Visit the Energy Saving Trust ( www.energysavingtrust.org.uk) or ask your energy supplier for more information. But the biggest impact could be made by reinvesting the money you've saved on your energy bills into bigger energy efficiency projects that will, in turn, help you to save even more energy.

Three out of five people recognise that buying Energy Saving Recommended white goods will save them money in the long run. And a £350 saving on your energy bills through switching to a cheaper plan could be enough to upgrade your old washing machine to a new energy-efficient model.

The other option is to invest in home improvements that will make your property more energy efficient – a new boiler, loft and cavity wall insulation. Again, you could invest savings made on your energy plan, but you should also talk to your energy supplier to see what help they might offer.

Under the Carbon Emission Reduction Targets (CERT) scheme, we are all paying an extra £19 a year on gas and £18 on electricity to provide funding to support energy efficiency measures. This isn't just about giving away free energy efficient light bulbs – energy suppliers are also tasked with helping people to cut their bills by making their homes more efficient. Speak to your supplier to find out if you can benefit from this scheme too.

Green energy plans

In the face of a recession, it may seem counter-intuitive to pay more to have a 'green' energy plan. But don't rule green plans out. If you have never switched before, the chances are that you are on a highly uncompetitive energy plan, so even if you do switch to a green plan you could still be saving money. To find out for sure, make a comparison. Don't worry if you don't have full details of your annual energy usage, it is still possible to get an accurate comparison based on your personal circumstances. A green plan could be the perfect balance for those who are worried about their household budget, but also want to do their bit for the environment.

Ann Robinson is director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

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