As we approach winter here in the UK, the cost of coping with the cold days ahead remains a hot topic. Fortunately, the government has intervened, so the average annual home energy bill is now estimated to be around £2500, still horrible, but not as eye-watering as the predicted £3500 we were previously facing. However, worse is likely to follow in January and beyond. But there are steps you can take to save energy this winter.
With such significant increases in the price of electricity and other fuels, it’s difficult to stay warm without the worry of affording your energy bill. Managing gaps in your finances is stressful at the best of times.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to cut your energy bill and still feel warm and cosy:
1. Save on the cost of your hot water. The cost to operate your hot water heater can contribute to a large percentage of the energy consumption in your home. Heating water accounts for about 50% of your monthly electric bill.
* Turn your hot water thermostat down if your water is too hot. It should be set at 60C (140F). Any higher and you’re wasting energy.
* Install a timer so you aren’t paying to keep water hot when you’re asleep or away from home.
* Lower your bill by swapping your older electric hot water heater for a more energy-efficient model.
* Consider upgrading your hot water heater to one that uses alternative, renewable energy sources, such as an air-source heat pump or solar energy. You may be able to obtain a grant to cover some of the cost.
2. Plug the leaks. Air escaping from cracks and leaks in your home dramatically increases your energy costs.
* Repairing damaged window panes, installing double-glazed windows and adding extra caulk around the sash are easy ways to reduce your heating costs. Take the time to reduce the amount of warm air that escapes from your home.
* Many homeowners are unaware that their HVAC unit’s ductwork can leak. Ensure that it’s inspected regularly and make the necessary repairs.
* Make sure you have adequate insulation for your loft, walls, hot water tank and pipes.
* Fit radiator reflector sheets behind your radiators to reduce heat loss through the walls.
* About 10% of your home’s heat loss is through the floor. On uncarpeted floors, just buying a rug will help reduce this.
* Small fans in your kitchen or bathroom can quickly pull out all of the warm air in your home, so turn them off when not in use.
3. Consider using smart appliances and online apps. You can remotely control your sources of lighting, heating and cooling. This way, you can turn off lights and unused appliances at the touch of a button if you forget to turn them off before leaving your home for the day.
4. Take advantage of passive sources of energy. The sun is a powerful (and free) form of energy. Be on the lookout for easy ways to harness its power.
* Installing a simple kit to safely vent your dryer’s exhaust into your home can block lint while allowing additional warm air to flow into your home as you dry your clothes.
* Install insulated curtains to reduce drafts and block out the cold.
* On sunny winter days, open the curtains to windows that face south to allow the sun’s energy to increase the temperature inside your home.
* Be certain to prune any branches or bushes that might block the sun from entering your windows. This boosts the heating power of the sunlight and increases natural lighting, which can also help boost your mood.
5. Turn down your central heating thermostat, just a little. Turning down your thermostat just one degree for a whole day will help you save 3% on your heating costs.
* Fit Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) so you only heat the rooms you use. If you have a room you rarely use, turn the valve down low and shut the door.
* Add additional blankets to your bed and lower the thermostat while you sleep. You probably won’t notice any difference in temperature while under the covers.
6. Invest in low-energy alternatives where possible.
* Replace all traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs. They use a fraction of the energy and should last many years.
* Use an air fryer instead of a conventional oven. You can buy one new from about £50 and they can annually reduce your energy cost by about £200, compared to an electric oven.
* If the weather won’t allow you to dry your clothes outdoors, instead of using a tumble drier, try hanging the washing in a room and using a dehumidifier to save energy.
7. Get a Smart meter. These are available free from your energy provider and can help educate you on your energy usage. It will show your energy consumption in real-time. This will help identify which devices are drawing energy and how much.
* Be aware of ‘vampire’ devices. A lot of devices draw power even when not in use. Don’t leave anything on ‘standby’ mode such as TVs and game consoles. Turn off the power to chargers when not in use. Energy-efficient sockets will help to make further cost savings.
8. Heat the human, not the house.
* Stock up on a good selection of warm clothing. It’s your house so wear what’s warm and comfortable. I regularly wear a warm hat indoors. It can help reduce the need to put the heating on.
For many, this winter is going to be extremely challenging. We can’t control the cost of our energy but we can control our consumption. Being energy-savvy will help you stay warm and still afford your energy bill.