A recent survey by the Home Heat Helpline found that one in three adults worry about how they will pay their winter energy bills, especially after being hit badly by last year’s big freeze.
So what can you do to make your home both greener and cheaper to run?
Taking just a few simple measures, such as turning your heating down, or switching to a lower washing machine setting, can have a significant effect on annual bills and the sooner you start making changes, the greater the savings will be.
Here are our 10 top ways for you to bring down your bills and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.
1. Insulate your loft
Earlier this year, the Department for Energy and Climate Change claimed that UK homes wasted £500 million pumping heat into their homes that escaped through poorly insulated roofs and walls.
In fact, with decent insulation, each home could save £160 each on average every year, it claimed.
So, lay down some decent loft insulation and you’ll soon see a difference.
2. Upgrade your boiler
Did you know inefficient boilers could be adding more than £200 to your energy bills? That means that upgrading yours could be a great way to cut what you pay in the long term. It’s also a great way to dramatically reduce your home’s carbon emissions – boilers account for 60% of the carbon dioxide emissions in a gas heated home.
Boilers are rated on a scale of A to G, with A being the most energy efficient. If yours is at the lower end of the scale then investing in a new one could save you a packet over the long-term.
3. Hang thick curtains and insulate your doors
Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best. Hanging thicker curtains over windows will prevent heat escaping and make your home much more snug, especially once the nights become longer.
You can also buy cheap stick-on insulation to run down the sides of drafty doors – it will all add up to a warmer home and lower bills.
4. Watch your energy consumption
Do you know how much energy you waste? Invest in an energy monitor – they cost around £30 but some gas and electricity companies give them to customers for free.
Put it somewhere your whole family can see it, like the kitchen. Some of these handy gadgets work out how much your energy use is costing, so that’s a really good reminder to cut back.
British Gas research shows that having a monitor helps families save as much as £110 a year simply by cutting back because they can actually see what they use.
5. Switch to a cheaper energy tariff
Make sure you find the cheapest energy deal for you – after all, you could use the savings to invest in making your home more energy efficient. There’s an exclusive deal with Scottish Power at the moment where if you switch to one of its dual fuel tariffs you could earn £70 cashback, so it’s a good time to consider moving.
One way householders can make a stand for the planet is by switching to a green energy tariff.
Many gas and electricity companies offer these kinds of tariffs, which mean that, for any power you use, they contribute energy from renewable sources to the grid.
You can compare green gas and electricity tariffs through our site but, bear in mind these are usually more expensive than standard tariffs.
6. Use a water-saving showerhead
We all know that baths can be wasteful and so a shower is a greener option, but just how green is your daily wash?
If you spend 20 minutes soaping yourself under a torrent of scalding water then you’re probably using more energy than you think. Some power showers use more water in five minutes than a whole bath.
By fitting a water saving showerhead, you’ll cut back on the amount of water and energy you use.
7. Fit double glazing
If you don’t yet have double glazing fitted, you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make to your annual energy bills.
Your initial investment will be fairly high but double-glazed windows will trap more heat inside your home, meaning they will save you money in the long term.
Double glazing is available in a variety of styles, so it doesn’t have to ruin the look of your home. When you are choosing your windows, look out for the ‘Energy Saving Trust recommended’ logo as this seal of approval is only given to the more efficient windows.
8. Invest in an eco kettle
Do you boil a whole kettleful of water each time you fancy one cup of tea? Kettles are incredibly wasteful but you can save on energy by only heating what you need and investing in an environmentally friendly alternative. Some eco kettles use as much as 30% less power.
In fact, it’s not just eco kettles that can help you save. Choosing appliances like TVs and fridges based on their energy efficiency can make a big difference. Which? says that the annual running costs for a fridge can vary from £13 to £92 a year – so finding the most efficient model is clearly a good idea.
9. Consider solar panels
Solar panels enable you to generate some of your own heat or power and even sell energy back to the National Grid with a feed-in tariff.
Some panels warm the water in your tanks by a small amount, reducing your overall bills.
But those with photovoltaic (PV) cells actually generate energy and the Energy Saving Trust thinks the average home can provide 40% of its power this way. If you’re generating energy at the wrong time of day for you to use, you can sell that back to grid and someone else will use it.
The average PV system costs £12,000, although it obviously depends on the amount you want to generate and the space you have for the panels.
Some companies are offering free solar panels in return for the income made through selling the energy to the grid. You get free energy through the panels, while any unused energy is sold and the proceeds given to the company.
Be very careful as it is early days for these schemes and there are some fraudsters taking advantage. However, for many people this could be a useful way to do their bit for the environment at no extra cost.
Solar panels work even when it’s cloudy, so don’t let the UK weather put you off.
10. Insulate your cavity walls
Uninsulated walls account for up to 33% of the heat lost in your home. Filling cavity walls could save you up to £180 a year and reduce carbon emissions by a tonne.
Of course, a job like this doesn’t come cheap – cavity wall insulation costs from £300 upwards depending on the size of your property – but there are grants available to help with the cost. Look under the ‘search for grants and offers’ section on the Energy Saving Trust website, which will tell you more about offers available in your area.
The size of grants may differ depending on your personal circumstances, age and geographical area, but they are not usually restricted to the elderly or those on low incomes.
Every little helps...
Of course, remembering to switch off lights or TVs does make some difference, so don’t give up on changing habits like this. If everyone makes the effort then it will have a larger impact.
You can read more about changing your behaviour to reduce your bills in our article ‘Be smart and cut your energy bills’.