14 ways to cut your energy bills

Winter is coming. Well, in about 3 months. But it’s getting cold now so here are 14 things you can do to save money

Felicity Hannah
Thursday 13 September 2018 15:29 BST
Tenants have the right to ask landlords for consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements to their privately rented homes
Tenants have the right to ask landlords for consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements to their privately rented homes

There are still 14 weeks to go until winter officially starts. The nights may be getting longer, the house spiders may be getting braver but the official astronomical winter season begins on the 21 December.

Of course, energy bills are going to start climbing sooner than that because it’s already getting chilly. In many homes the debate about when to turn the heating on is already in full swing.

As well as the cold, many people are seeing their prices begin to rise.

Earlier this week, Bulb Energy announced it was raising prices again, marking the 41st price increase announced by an energy firm this year alone.

A typical annual bill from the company is now £102 extra a year. Whoever your supplier, though, there are ways to seriously cut the cost of energy. With 14 weeks to go until winter, here are 14 ways to bring the bills down.

(Yes, we know that the meteorological season begins on 1 December but then we would only have had 11 ways to save and we felt we could do better.)

1. Compare and switch

This is probably the most common advice for saving money on energy bills but that’s because it’s the easiest way to save a substantial amount.

Switching is simple, can be done online and, according to Ofgem, means average savings of £300 a year.

The price comparison site uSwitch says it could be even more, with some households saving as much as £482 a year by switching.

That’s substantial and easy to do, and then any other savings you make are a bonus.

2. Get used to a cooler indoors

Probably the most frustrating energy saving advice is to turn the thermostat down – a bit like suggesting people save money on food by eating less.

However, rather than turning the heating down, this time of year is a good opportunity to simply avoid turning it up as high as normal and acclimatising to a slightly lower indoor temperature.

If you can avoid cranking up the thermostat the savings can be big. According to the Energy Saving Trust, reducing your heating by just 1°C could cut 10 per cent off your heating bill – typically saving roughly £75 per year.

Of course, that’s only good advice if you can do so safely. It’s generally not considered safe to go lower than 18 degrees.

If you’ve already cut the heating back, or you’re elderly or in poor health then it’s important to look for other ways to save money. Try talking to your energy provider to see if they can help.

3. Be smarter about appliances

Energy use is not just heating, it’s also about the dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer if you have them.

Using them efficiently can make a big difference to bills, especially in the winter when it’s well-nigh impossible to dry clothes outside. Running one full load uses less energy than two half loads, for example.

Keeping efficiency in mind can keep bills down.

4. Get some ideas

If you’ve changed to energy saving bulbs and now you’re at a bit of a loss what to do next, then you could seek out some inspiration.

Green Open Homes arranges for people to visit low-carbon, energy efficient properties near them to learn about what’s possible. Find an open home near you here.

5. MOT your property for winter

It’s not just energy bills that can rocket in autumn and winter, the cost of maintaining your house can too. And failure to keep all in order can lead to home insurance claims that then cause your premiums to climb.

Take the time now to ensure your property is winter-ready. Lloyds Bank Home Insurance suggests: “Check the guttering is secure and free of debris and that the drains are not blocked. Inspect any timbers and brickwork to see if anything needs fixing. Check external pipes, taps and hoses and make sure they are drained, turned off and insulated to prevent freezing.”

6. Fit a water-efficient shower head

You may not be thinking about energy bills when you shower but water heating is a major part of the cost.

The Energy Saving Trust suggests that if you have a shower which takes hot water straight from the boiler or tank then fitting a water-efficient shower head can make a big difference.

It says that a household of four could save as much as £75 a year on gas for heating water, not to mention a further £120 on water bills if they have a water meter.

7. Draught-proof your home

New builds can be very energy efficient and well-insulated but most homes lose a lot of warmth through gaps in doors and windows, or through chimneys.

Draught-proofing those gaps is relatively simple and the supplies can be bought in most DIY stores. Doing so can save roughly £20 a year on energy but, best of all, it also makes a home feel cosier so there’s an immediate comfort payoff.

8. Get a home energy check

If you’re in Scotland then you can use the Energy Saving Trust’s free home energy check tool, which highlights ways to save on bills in your specific home.

The service is currently unavailable in England and Wales, however, it’s expected to be back online in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, many councils and local authorities offer free home energy surveys, it’s worth searching online to see what’s available to you.

9. Insulate your loft

Loft insulation is effective for at least 40 years but pays for itself much faster than that. It can cost roughly £500 to have professionally installed but many people can do so themselves for around £100.

Even if you have some insulation in your loft, topping it up to the recommended depth can make a real difference. The depth required depends on the material but it’s usually roughly a third of a metre.

The average saving on bills is around £46 a year, but if you have no insulation at all then it can be as much as £174 a year. Best of all it’s totally passive; once you’ve done the DIY you can just sit back and enjoy the lower heating bills.

10. Talk to your landlord

These kinds of lists can be frustrating for people who rent. Yes, they can switch their energy bills but they may not be in a position to retro-fit their homes with energy saving technology.

However, since April 2016, tenants have had the right to ask landlords for consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements to their privately rented homes and the landlord is not allowed to unreasonably refuse consent.

That’s all well and good but few tenants will want to pay to upgrade someone else’s property. However, working out some easy wins, looking for grants available in the area and highlighting how such work could improve a property’s value might be the incentive a landlord needs to stump up the funds or agree to pay half.

If your landlord is not on board then there are still many ways to save – like these next ones.

11. Move the furniture around

If you have furniture pushed up against the radiators then that can block off the heat. Move sofas and shelving away from them to allow the warmth to circulate better.

12. Don’t heat wasted space

If there is a room in your home that’s not used regularly then turn down the radiator in that particular room and you won’t end up paying to heat an unused space.

Don’t turn it off completely, however, as that can lead to problems with damp.

13. Turn your immersion heater down

The Centre for Sustainable Energy suggests: “If you have an electric immersion heater, turn it down one degree – you won’t notice the difference. But don’t go below 60°C – you need it that hot to kill all harmful bacteria in the tank.”

14. Standby for savings

It’s possible to save as much as £30 a year by turning appliances off rather than onto standby mode, according to analysis from the Energy Saving Trust.

Pretty much all appliances can be turned off at the plug, except of course things that need to remain on such as digital TV recorders. And if you can’t face constantly switching things on and off at the wall then a standby saver allows you to turn it all off in one go.

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