Energy saving tips

Published:
14 August 2008
Topic:
News,Gas & Electricity

Two weeks on from British Gas's record-breaking price increase that saw its gas prices sky rocket by 35%, industry analysts are widely predicting more movement in the market.

With EDF Energy having already increased its prices by 22% for gas and 17% for electricity, Scottish Power, Npower, Eon and Scottish & Southern Energy are expected to announce increases of their own, possibly within the next few days, leaving consumers scrambling to find the best deals.

However, most consumers are caught in a catch 22 situation - the temptation is to fix, giving yourself protection against further prices increases, but with the average fixed price tariff costing around £1,200 compared to the average online variable rate deal at roughly £850, many are prepared to hold-fire and wait to see what happens. We look at the dilemma facing consumers in greater depth in our latest video blog, 'reduce your energy costs'.

With rumours that energy prices could increase by 60% over the next few years the emphasis is on the consumer to search for the best deals and do everything they can to drive their energy costs down. With a few money-saving techniques it is possible to slash bills by hundreds of pounds a year, without even switching provider. Here are our top tips:

Tip one: Insulate your home
Loft insulation can save the average household £155 a year on their bills. At a cost of around £200 to £250 if you do it yourself or about £500 to have the insulation professionally installed, this could pay for itself quickly.

Around 33% of the heat lost in a home disappears through the walls. Not all buildings are suitable for cavity wall insulation but if your home was built between the 1920s and the 1980s then it's likely to be eligible. It can cost as little as £150 depending on your circumstances and the home you live in, but could save between £130 and £160 a year, paying for itself almost immediately. If you have solid walls you could use either internal or external insulation and save around £380 a year on your energy bills.

Grants are available for both loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. As well as being accessible from energy providers such as British Gas and EDF Energy, your local authority should be able to offer a grant in the region of 75-100% depending on your circumstances. There are also a number of independent contractors operating under grant schemes such as Affordable Energy and All Insulation Grants, which can offer cavity wall insulation for as little as £149 and loft insulation from £169. Visit the grants section of the Energy Saving Trust website to find out more.

Tip two: Invest in energy saving lightbulbs
One of the cheapest and easiest energy saving improvements we can make is to install energy saving lightbulbs in our homes. A standard lightbulb may set you back around 25p compared to energy saving lightbulbs which cost around £1.50. However, energy saving lightbulbs can last up to 12 times longer for each bulb you fit - by comparison, 12 standard lightbulbs would set you back around £3. Furthermore, energy saving lightbulbs will create savings in the region of £9 on your annual electricity bill.

Tip three: Choose your appliance carefully
UK households use around £1.5billion of electricity each year with their fridges and freezers - nearly as much electricity as all offices.
You could buy a second hand fridge-freezer for less than £100, whereas energy efficient models start at around £300 (prices can be more expensive depending on the model and brand name you choose). However, an energy efficient model uses only a third of the energy of a 10-year-old appliance - equating to a saving of around £45 a year, meaning it will only take four to five years to get your money back on a model that's likely to be much more reliable. Look for products rated 'A+' rather than 'A' rated models.

With washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers the savings are even more significant. An energy efficient washing machine can use a third less energy than an older model and cut water consumption. A 40°C cycle rather than a 60°C cycle will use a third less electricity. Also remember to wait for a full load, or use an economy cycle, rather than overuse the appliance.

Consider integrated appliances too - such as a TV combined with a digital receiver, as this will save you money and help the environment. Also look out for the 'Energy Saving Recommended' logo when buying new appliances.

Tip four: Don't leave appliances on standby
The average household wastes around £37 a year by leaving appliances on standby - the equivalent of the annual output of around two and a half 700 Mega Watt power stations. Every year in the UK, televisions alone use around £116million of electricity just waiting to be switched on, while DVD and video players consume more than £255 million worth of electricity while on standby.

To put it into perspective, when left on standby a microwave uses 0.096kilo Watts per hour (kWh) each day. By contrast, taking a single shower will use just 1.4kWh. Therefore, leaving the microwave on standby for two weeks uses the same amount of power as having a 40litre shower at 40°C.

Some of the devices with the largest standby usage figures are: laser printers (14.2W), desktop computers (3.4W), Plasma TVs (4W), DVD recorders (9.4W), cable boxes (15.2W), satellite boxes (15.0W) and terrestrial set-top boxes (6.4W).

Tip five: Buy a lagging jacket
A 75mm thick hot water cylinder jacket will cost only around £15 and yet can save you £30 a year - meaning you will have reclaimed your initial outlay in around six months. Furthermore, insulation for hot water pipes only costs around £5-£10 and yet could save you around £10 a year.

Tip six: double glazing
Double glazing is not just a good security measure it will also trap air between two panes of glass creating an insulating barrier that reduces heat loss. It can be expensive, and though prices vary, having six windows double glazed will set you back around £3,000.

Heat loss through windows is cut by around 50% - saving you around £100 a year on energy bills. This means it would take 30 years to recoup your initial outlay of £3,000, but you can get secondary glazing which is much cheaper and can still offer large savings. In addition, many home insurance providers will offer discounts if you install double glazing - so it could still be cost-effective.

Tip seven: take to the floor
Floor insulation is a good way to save energy quickly. To lift floorboards and lay mineral wool insulation would cost around £90 if you did it yourself. However, this could save you £40 a year meaning you'll recoup your outlay in around two years.

A cheaper method is to fill the gaps between the floor and skirting boards with a regular tube sealant such as silicon - although you should be careful not to block under-floor airbricks. This will cost around £20 and you should effectively get your money back with the energy you save in around a year.

Tip eight: draught proofing
Filling gaps to stop cold air entering your home, such as through the letterbox, is one of the simplest ways to save energy. There are many materials available for draught proofing dependent on your home - you can find more information at the Draught Proofing Advisory Association website. However, most materials are available from DIY stores and could save you around £25 a year on energy bills.

The initial outlay will be around £200 if you choose to have your draught proofing professionally installed - meaning it would take eight years to earn payback. However, with DIY this time can be halved - DIY draught proofing only costs around £90.

Tip nine: take a shower not a bath
A typical bath will use around 100litres of water - whereas a shower will use just a third of that. All water usage demands energy but its hot water that uses the most energy of all - therefore the less hot water we use, the more energy we save.

Importantly however, avoid power showers which can pump out as much as 16litres of water a minute and can therefore quickly use more than a bath. Moving to a low power shower instead could save you around £20 in bills over the course of the year. If you don't want to fit a low power head, then at least turn the rate of the high-flow shower down.

Tip ten: Don't let problems boil over
Only use the amount of water you need each time you make a cup of tea or coffee - filling the kettle each time wastes enough electricity to run the street lighting in the UK for seven months.

It is estimated that on average we boil twice the water we need to when boiling a kettle - which means using twice the energy. You can now buy Eco-Kettles for as little as £30, which accurately measure the amount of water you need for each task and use approximately 20% less electricity than a standard kettle. If every household in the UK switched to an Eco-Kettle it is estimated that the savings could reach £100million of electricity a year.

If you'd like more details on how to save money in your home you can arrange for a Home Energy Check. Visit the Energy Saving Trust website for more information. Remember too to ensure you're on the most competitive tariff for your consumption levels with our gas and electricity comparison tool - if you are currently on your provider's standard tariff and are paying quarterly by cash or cheque you could save around £250 a year by switching to an online deal and paying monthly by direct debit.

Have your say: Do you have any other energy saving tips or maybe you need some advice because you are struggling to pay your energy bills and can't see any way of lowering your bills? Visit our forum and share your advice with others, or tell other members about your problems, as they may be able to help.

Disclaimer: Please note that any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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