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Rising energy bills: Clever energy-saving tricks for renters and homeowners

·7-min read
Smart thermostats allow you to control your heating remotely, particularly useful if you need to adjust it for a change of weather or plans  (Hive)
Smart thermostats allow you to control your heating remotely, particularly useful if you need to adjust it for a change of weather or plans (Hive)

Winter on its way and energy bills at a record high is not a great combination during a cost of living crisis.

But there are smart ways to keep your energy spending to a minimum, from dining on stir fries, to floating a “balloon” up your chimney to reduce draughts and going easy on the bubble bath.

From completely free to seriously expensive, this is how to beat the bills.

Invest in draught proofing

Winter proof your home by installing draught proofing strips around window frames and door edges. Consumer group Which? suggests using a special inflatable balloon designed to block unused open chimneys, and  silicone based filler to fill gaps in floorboards and skirting.

COST: Diall self-adhesive draught seal, 98p per metre (www.diy.com); chimney balloon, £18.99 (www.amazon.co.uk)’ Osmo gap sealer, £10.27 (www.rawlinspaints.com).

Unplug gadgets

Stop leaving gadgets on standby, particularly if they are old. Unplugging could save £55 a year, according to the Energy Savings Trust. And once your phone is charged, unplug it. If a charger feels warm it means its still using energy, even if it’s not attached to a device.

COST: Free.

Cut background usage

Be aware of how much appliances cost to run. According to the Energy Savings Trust an LCD TV, on for six hours per day, will cost £130 per year, so don’t be tempted to have it on for background noise.

COST: Free.

Swap your lightbulbs

Swap to LED lightbulbs to save around £180 per year. And remember the constant refrain of childhood and Switch Those Lights Off.

COST: Around £3 per bulb.

Defrost slower

Your fridge-freezer costs £115 to run, but you can cut this down by defrosting food in your fridge to help cool your fridge temperature down. Don’t put hot food in the fridge or freezer. Let it cool down first. And don’t let ice build up, as this makes freezers less efficient.

COST: Free.

Insulate your loft

Getting your loft insulated saves up to £135-a-year according to Which? Make sure it is at least 270mm thick for optimum impact. This will make your loft colder so, at the same time, insulate any water pipes up there.

COST: Between £400 and £600 according to checkatrade.com, significantly less if you do it yourself.

Reflect heat

Fitting reflector panels behind radiators on uninsulated external walls will keep your room warmer and could save you around £25 a year, said Joanna O’Loan, knowledge manager at the Energy Saving Trust.

COST: £7.59 for 1.88 sq m (www.screwfix.com).

Screwfix has reflector panels for sale for £7.59 (Product)
Screwfix has reflector panels for sale for £7.59 (Product)

Heat only what you need

Save hot water by using a washing up bowl.

COST: Recycled plastic washing up bowl, £4 (www.johnlewis.com).

Air dry clothes

Hang washing out to dry (or on the radiator in winter) rather than using a power-guzzling tumble dryer. A tumble dryer costs £105 (based on 148 cycles per year) to run.

COST: Free.

Be savvy with appliance use

Electric hobs cost £85 per year, versus £60 for an electric oven (based on 135 uses), so theoretically baking is cheaper than boiling. However it also takes longer. Think fast food, like stir fries, and eat your steak rare.

Dishwashers cost £55 for 135 uses, and should only be run when full.

Boiling your kettle 1,524 times in a year will cost £48. Reduce this by only boiling the amount of water you actually need.

COST: Free.

Get smart with tech

Harness the power of tech to help you cut costs. A smart thermostat allows you to operate your heating remotely, so you can adjust it depending on the weather and your plans.

COST: Depends on what kind of radiator valves you have, but a smart thermostat costs around £225, including installation, according to checkatrade.com.

Smart thermostats like this one from Hive can be operated remotely, so you can adjust your heating depending on the weather and your plans (Product)
Smart thermostats like this one from Hive can be operated remotely, so you can adjust your heating depending on the weather and your plans (Product)

Upgrade your heating

Running your boiler accounts for around half of your energy use. If you’ve got an old boiler you could save around £195 per year by upgrading to an A-rated condensing boiler.

COST: Around £2,000.

Choose showers

Shower rather than bath. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that swapping a weekly bath with a four-minute shower will save £35 per person per year. A water-saving shower head will reduce the amount of hot water you use by adjusting the flow and spray pattern of water.

COST: Hansgrohe Crometta 85 Eco Shower Handset, £32.99 (www.screwfix.com).

Microwave on

Microwaves are cheaper to run than cookers and hobs, said Joanna O’Loan, knowledge manager at the Energy Saving Trust. Use it for anything that is slow to cook, for example baked potatoes and risotto. Nigella Lawson famously uses her ‘meekro-wav-ay’ to make colcannon while Jamie Oliver has a nifty recipe for a microwaved steamed pudding which would help with insulating your tummy.

COST: Beko 20L Solo Microwave, £64.97 (www.appliancesdirect.co.uk).

Fit solar panels

Generating your own power is the most drastic option for energy savers, reducing bills by up to £400-per-year although the entry costs are high.

Solar panels work best on south-facing roofs, which are not shaded during the day and you will need expert advice to check if your home is suitable, and what kind of panels you will need (start by checking out: https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/).

If you do install solar panels you may be able to export the power you don’t use back to the grid, and get paid for it – the Energy Saving Trust estimates that typical earnings would come in at £80 to £110 per year. On this basis breaking even will take around 14 years, but in the current climate solar panels are turning into a real selling point if you are considering moving home.

COST: An average £6,500 according to www.moneysavingexpert.com.

Turn down by one degree

Turning your thermostat down a degree will reduce your heating bills by ten per cent, according to simpleenergyadvice.org.uk .

Turn off the radiators in rooms not in use. If you have a hot water cylinder try turning it on for a couple of hours morning and evening only.

COST: Free.

Turn off radiators in rooms not in use (@ri/Pixabay)
Turn off radiators in rooms not in use (@ri/Pixabay)

Set up a direct debit

Change the way you pay. According to Which? , opting for paperless bills and managing your account online could cut your bills, a little. Paying by direct debit is usually better value than paying when you get a bill.

COST: Free.

Look for efficiency

If you buy a new washing machine go for an energy efficient model to save. Which? research found that different model’s running costs vary from £15 per year to £70. Inthewash.com recommends the Haier HW80-B1439N 8kg washing machine for its combination of good value and low energy consumption.

COST: £399 (www.ao.com).

Wash at 30°C

Whatever model you have don’t run half empty machines, wait until you have a full load.

Washing clothes at 30°C instead of 40°C can save you around £9 a year.

COST: Free.

Adjust your combi boiler

Turn down the temperature on your combi boiler can cut your gas bill by six to eight per cent according to research by the Heating and Hot Water Council.

Most boilers are set to provide water to radiators and taps at around 80°C – try turning it down to 70°C to save.

COST: Free.

Go for double glazing

Double glazing is another big ticket item but switching over from single to A-rated double glazing should save up to £110 per year.

COST: £200 to £700 per window according to doubleglazingnetwork.com

Call in an expert

Call the Green Doctor, a charity which offers free and impartial advice to help Londoners stay warm – they offer telephone consultations and home visits.

If you live in south-east London another organisation, Selce, offers a similar service, and will also help you claim for grants for energy improvements. And Shine is another charity helping people across London keep warm and save money.

COST: Free.