Every modern home needs heat and electricity. However these essentials needn’t cost you a fortune. It’s possible to spend very little on energy these days simply by making use of new tech and paying close attention to where you may be wasting energy. Here are 10 tricks that are certain to lower your energy costs dramatically.
Start monitoring your energy
If you’re the type of person that switches on the heating or keeps a light switch on without thinking about the consequences, it could be worth buying an energy monitor. This could make your more aware of your energy usage and possibly encourage you to limit it.
Smart monitors are the latest gadget on the market that can accurately get an idea of your energy usage. Previous everyday monitors have given an estimate of energy costs, whilst smart monitors link up directly with your energy provider so that everyone is getting the same information. Installing a smart monitor will cost a small fee, but you could make up the costs in savings, allowing you to tell when certain appliances are draining energy or even helping you to spot gas leaks and wiring faults earlier.
Check your bills for errors
Billing errors can occasionally be made. In fact, it’s thought 1 in 10 households were inaccurately billed in the last two years. If you believe you’ve been charged the wrong rate, it’s worth ringing up your billing company just to check. Some energy provider may ‘back-bill’ – this is when they themselves spot a billing error in which they may have charged you too little, after which they demand that you pay up the remaining amount after. Energy provider can only legally back-bill for errors within the last 12 months. If you’re being charged for a billing error beyond this time period, you can contest against it by ringing your supplier’s complaints department. You also shouldn’t ever have to pay for energy usage from a previous tenant or homeowner.
Sometimes an unusually high bill could be due to an energy leak. If you believe this to be the case, you should get a plumber of electrician to come round and inspect the problem immediately as such leaks can be dangerous as well as expensive.
If your rates have been steadily increasing, it could be worth shopping around to see if you can find a better deal elsewhere. Energy suppliers are constantly competing to provide the best deals for new customers. Rates may then go up over the years – consequently, it’s rarely worthwhile staying loyal to one company for more than a few years.
If you want to switch electricity or gas provider, try getting quotes from multiple suppliers. There are comparison sites out there that can find you the best deal. Also consider what kind of payment plan you want to choose. This could be anything from monthly instalments to getting a pre-paid meter fitted. Find the solution that will save you the most money.
Buy low-energy appliances
Certain appliances may use up less electricity than standard appliances. An Energy Star rating is given to such appliances that offer superior energy efficiency. Some of the biggest energy vampires are refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers and tumble-dryers. Refrigerators can be particularly power-draining as they’re constantly switched on. Old appliances are likely to be less economical, so bear this in mind. Some modern appliances such as washing machines and electric showers may have an economy setting. This is sometimes less effective – water pressure may be lower or heating may be affected – but it will use up less energy.
Opt for LED or halogen bulbs
Lighting can use up a lot of energy too. However, certain bulbs can make a big difference. Standard incandescent bulbs have been slowly going out of favour in exchange for LED bulbs and halogen bulbs that use up less wattage. Of the two types, LEDs are likely to save you more in the long run, although halogen bulbs are cheaper to buy. You may also be able to save money by getting rid of any plugged in garden lights and switching them for solar lights.
Turn off unused appliances in standby mode
Leaving many appliances plugged in with the switch on can use up power, even if the appliance itself is turned off. This could include everything from computers to TVs to extension cables. Most electrical appliances have a red light that illuminates to show that the appliance is plugged in and on standby mode. Consider unplugging all appliances in your home that don’t need to be left on permanently (i.e. not refrigerators or freezers). Turning off appliances at the switch is just as effective as unplugging them as no current will be going through that plugpoint when the switch is off.
Don’t use electricity for heating
Electric heating will cost you more than gas heating. In fact, those that run all their heating off electricity can end up spending three times as much per year. Plugged-in electric radiators are some of the worst offenders for energy consumption – if you can, avoid using these as a substitute for gas heating. It’s also worth noting that electric ovens cost more to run than gas ovens. Electric ovens certainly have perks such as being quicker to heat up and easier to clean, however those wanting to spend less on bills are better off with gas.
Insulate your home
Insulation will keep your home warm all year round and could stop you turning on the heating as often. There are many ways to insulate your home.
Roof insulation is one of the most effective measures and can stop heat being lost through the roof. You could be losing as much as a third of your heat this way and so it can be worth investing in insulation for this part of the house. You can buy thermal insulating materials to do this yourself or get a professional to do it.
You can also lose a lot of heat through the walls. Many houses built after the 90s already have cavity wall insulation, but those built before may not. Whilst filling the walls it’s also worth checking for cracks that could be letting hot air escape or letting drafts in. Caulking these up may be enough to solve the problem.
Windows can also result in a loss of heat. Double-glazing is a way of preventing heat from being lost through the glass. Thick curtains in the winter can also stop further heat escaping, whilst also keeping drafts out. Windows often exposed to wind should be a priority.
These are the three most common forms of insulation, but there are many more. You can also invest in underfloor insulation and pipe insulation to stop heat escaping this way. You can also buy a thermal jacket to go over the boiler to prevent heat getting lost here. Draft protectors on doors can also help, whilst any unused chimneys should always be blocked.
Use off-grid energy sources
You don’t have to rely on suppliers to bring energy to your home. It’s possible to survive off-grid and in some cases much cheaper.
Solar panels are an off-grid solution for supplying electricity to your home. These can be fitted on a roof or any outdoor flat surface. The cost of installing solar panels is expensive although it is falling as the technology becomes cheaper to produce. With enough solar panels fitted, you may not even have to pay another electricity bill ever again, making a return on the cost of installation within a few years. Contrary to popular belief, solar panels can still generate energy even in the cloudiest of weather.
When it comes to off-grid gas, there are lots of options, although few of these are cheaper than mains gas. Some modern LPG boilers may be able to offer the same costs as mains gas, but the hassle of constantly ordering propane tanks may put some people off. Wood burning stoves and coal fires are a more traditional method that is highly cost-effective. However, this is by far the least effective means of heating and rooms without direct access to a stove or fireplace may still be cold in winter. Biomass boilers are another option. These run off organic materials and whilst pricey to install, you will make a return off of them like solar panels. You can of course run all your heating electrically off of solar energy, however you may need a lot of solar panels to provide this necessary power.
Check for energy grants and allowances
Your government or local council may be able to provide some form of grant or allowance in certain situations. For example, pensioners on a low income are often entitled to a winter fuel allowance that can help pay for heating in the winter months. Those that live in old and uninsulated houses may also be eligible to an energy grant which can help to pay for insulation. It’s worth looking into these grants as they could be the solution to your high bills.