No one wants to overspend on energy.
Whether you’re trying to consume less for the benefit of the environment or simply for the sake of your wallet, read on for twenty top hacks to lower your energy bills.
Top Tips to Save Energy and Money at Home
20 Ways to Lower Your Gas and Electric Consumption
Using electricity or gas to heat your home is likely to be your biggest monthly spend besides your mortgage or rent, especially throughout the colder months. Some of the following ideas are simple common sense but there are many ways to improve your efficiency at home when it comes to staying warm.
1. Crack Out the Long Johns
Let’s start with the obvious. You can save a packet on your heating bills in the winter if you layer up your clothing. This doesn’t mean that you have to wear a down-filled parka jacket to breakfast, but a thermal layer underneath your normal clothes will make a big difference.
Modern versions of long johns and tops are ultra-thin and efficient, so you won’t even know you’re wearing them. The same goes for the hot summer months- wear light and airy clothes to try and beat the heat without turning on the aircon. With just a little preparation, you can avoid throwing money away on heating and cooling.
2. Shut That Door
One of the quickest and most effective ways to boost the temperature in your home is to close all your doors. External doors go without saying, but internal doors are almost as bad when it comes to cold draughts. Keeping rooms, especially ones used less frequently, sealed off will make an instant change to the feel of your home.
3. Upgrade Your Electric Heaters
There are times at home that you want to spot heat a room without turning on your whole heating system. Or, you might want to heat your garage or shed when you’re out there working. A standalone heater is useful for those times when you want instant warmth in a specific room.
If you’re using an old-style electric bar fire or a fan heater to do this though, you’ll be burning electricity far too quickly. There are much more efficient systems available now, and they’re much cheaper to run.
For cost-effective portable heat, you can’t beat an oil-filled electric radiator. They draw much less energy than a fan heater, and most use a thermostat to turn off when they get too warm. They vary wildly in terms of size and quality, so be sure to opt for one that’s got excellent reviews.
4. Supercharge Your Radiators
Radiators are great, they heat up and warm your rooms for you, allowing you to live a normal life when it’s cold outside. How can you go wrong? There are a few ways you can check they are working their hardest for you, and some easy hacks to get the most out of them in the long term.
When they are attached to external walls, you can lose a lot of heat to the outside without knowing it. This is where radiator reflector foil will become your new best friend. You don’t have to remove the radiators to install them, just cut slits in the sheet and slide it down behind your radiators. This bounces the heat back into your room, increasing their efficiency.
Make sure your radiators are not obstructed. The heat needs a clear path above and in front of a radiator to circulate around the room. Furniture in front of a radiator or shelving above it are both great ways to stop your radiators working properly. The same goes for curtains in front of radiators- make sure they don’t hang over them and redirect the heat out the window.
5. Stop Your Down Lights from Becoming Heat Drains
Down lights are becoming the go-to lighting solution for plenty of homeowners. They don’t hang down below the ceiling, meaning that you can maximise the space in a room, and they can be positioned wherever you want them. They flood a kitchen or living room with more light than a single bulb could ever dream of and tend to look pretty great too.
However, the holes in your ceiling that your lights sit in? They will act like mini chimneys when you turn on your heating, sucking all of the heat from the room as quickly as you can generate it. Before you rush to rip them out and light your house with lamps though, there is a clever solution.
Sold under a variety of brand names, you can buy clever little covers that seal up the hole above your down lights, are fire-rated and will make a surprising difference. Your heat will stay in the room with you, where you want it, and not escape up into the roof.
6. Insulate Your Roof
This one’s a biggie. As we all remember from school science class, heat rises. That means that when you turn on your heating system at home, the hot air rises up through the building and tries to find the highest point.
In older homes, the attic will be a large open space with beams, tiles and probably a box or two of old Christmas lights. You might even be able to see daylight through the gaps under the tiles. Guess where your precious heat is going? Straight up and out through your roof.
The way to fix this is with proper insulation. There are many different kinds, from insulating foam sprayed on by specialist contractors to insulation boards that you cut and fit between the joists. You could even go for eco-friendly sheep wool insulation that comes in big rolls that you lay across the floor in your loft.
But where are you going to keep all of your old junk if the loft is filled with insulation? Simple – you can lay loft boards across the insulation using miniature piers that stop it from compressing down, leaving you with plenty of useable space. The difference in warmth in your house will be noticeable immediately.
7. Beat the Draught
As houses get older, they settle into their foundations and certain parts warp with the changing seasons and temperatures. This is a natural part of owning a home, but the gaps in the building that this movement opens up can make your life a misery.
Draughts are really good at leaking the heat you created at great expense into the outside world. Not to mention that chilly feeling you get from the draughts themselves. There are plenty of places that are prone to draughts, so check these ones first:
- Front and back doors- keyholes, letterboxes, gaps around the door if it’s old
- Windows- broken seals, blown double glazing, broken locks and old timber frames
- Loft hatch- A badly fitted hatch, no insulation above the hatch itself
- Chimneys and fireplaces- Uncapped chimney pots, no draught excluder when not in use
- Skirting boards and wooden floors- Gaps in the bottoms of walls, gaps between floorboards
- Bath and sink overflow- A direct pipeline to the outside of your home
And if you can’t find where the draught is coming from, use the oldest trick in the book: Light a candle and keep a close eye on the flame. You’ll quickly see where the draughts are originating.
8. Seal Up Those Draughts Once and For All
Now that you’ve located the draughts, it’s time to tackle them. You can properly seal any door, window or other opening with brushes and draught excluding tape. Just make sure that you can still close it afterwards.
Expanding foam is an effective, if messy solution to difficult gaps and cracks in any part of your home. You can cut it back with a utility knife once it’s hardened and even paint over it. Remember to wear gloves when you are spraying it, and that it really does expand; a little goes a long way.
It’s a wise idea to check the rubber or silicone seals around the outside of your windows. Even if you have marvellous double glazing, icy draughts can get around the window unit itself. Silicone sealant is cost-effective and easy to apply as long as you wipe away the excess before it dries.
Lofts are common places to lose heat to. And the biggest culprit? The hatch itself. Some people spend serious money on deep loft insulation but leave their loft hatch- usually a thin piece of plastic- with no seals at all. Invest in a proper hatch, or use draught excluding tape and a square of insulation to make sure you’re not losing heat through your roof.
Note: Don’t interfere with or block intentional ventilation in your home. They are vital for keeping your home from becoming damp, so leave your trickle vents and air bricks alone.
9. Invest in Double or Even Triple Glazing
There’s not much point in investing in insulation or crawling around your home with draught excluding tape if you’re still living behind single-glazed windows. Often, the old wooden window frames have gaps from warping over the years as well.
You have to start thinking about your home like a professional if you want to get the most out of your heating system. Insulation experts will talk about the “building envelope” when it comes to isolating the warm and cosy inside from the icy cold outside on a winter’s day.
If you have single-glazed windows, it’s easy to see where your heat is going. Stand next to one and you can feel the cold. Double glazing on the other hand traps a cushion of air between two panes of glass, creating an insulated layer between your living room and the bitter world outside.
But how is this going to save you money? In the long term, double or triple-glazing is a solid investment. It’s a way of saving money on your heating bills because it takes less energy to get your house up to a comfortable temperature, and your home then stays warmer for longer. Double glazing will also block out noisy neighbours and even make your home more secure. What’s not to like?
10. You’ll Become a Huge Fan of This
Ceiling fans. Popular in hot countries, Vietnam War films and houses remodelled in the 1980s, they don’t really serve a purpose in the winter, do they? Actually, you might be surprised to know that they can be set to spin in both directions. The same fan that blows cool air on you in the summer can be set to circulate warm air around the room in the winter.
Instead of spinning at a high speed to push cool air down towards you, set the ceiling fan to rotate slowly in the opposite direction. This could save you money on heating bills, as they make you feel warmer and use only a small amount of energy to keep turning.
Besides heating, the rest of your energy bill is going to go on your electronic devices. Whether you have a hundred gadgets running at once, or just a couple, there are a few clever ways to bust your bills and save a few pounds for good.
11. Get Smart
Smart metering has been around for a few years now and is a massive improvement to the old billing system of guessing what you use and paying the difference later. Having the ability to see what you are using up to the minute can really help you to understand your consumption. Knowing how much energy you are using is the best way to start to reduce it.
12. Save Money with LED Lights
On any home energy audit, one of the quickest ways to save a significant amount of money is through the lightbulbs that you use. LEDs use up just a fraction of the energy that a traditional filament bulb does, and they last much longer as well. The cost of LED bulbs is also decreasing, making them a sensible choice for savvy homeowners.
One of the issues that people used to have with LEDs was the “cold” light they put out. They lacked the warmth of a traditional filament bulb and didn’t create the cosy atmosphere that we were used to. Thankfully, this is a thing of the past. LEDs are now available in a mind-boggling array of colours, from the warmest of warm whites to bright purple, and everything in between.
13. Switch Off
It’s not much of a secret anymore that the electronic devices in your home draw almost as much energy when they’re “turned off” as when they’re on. This so-called standby mode makes you feel like your TV is off, but it’s far from that. A study carried out by the Energy Saving Trust showed that households can overspend by up to £86 per year, just by leaving items with the red light glowing.
The only way to ensure that your TV, games console, laptop, ice cream maker and novelty singing fish are completely switched off, is to unplug them. Only by physically breaking the electrical connection can you avoid paying for needless trickle charges and what energy experts call phantom load.
14. Buy A+++ For Efficiency
If you’re in the market for a new home appliance, pay special attention to the energy rating that comes with it, and make sure you include it in your must haves when you make a purchase. The worst offenders are in the kitchen or utility room- a general rule of thumb is the appliances that have moving parts and heating elements are the most power-hungry.
Luckily, most new appliances display their energy efficiency clearly. The rating system ranges from G, the worst, all the way up to A. Devices are even becoming so efficient now that the A rating is split into A-A+++. If you pay attention to these ratings when making large purchases, especially washing machines, tumble driers and dishwashers, you can make serious savings in the long run.
15. Get Smart and Save Money
Smart homes are still in their infancy but it won’t be long before more and more of us are using technology to save money on electricity.
Things like lights, heating and cooling systems can all be controlled from your smartphone, wherever you are in the world. This means that when you’re not at home, you can effectively power everything down to put your property on standby mode.
16. Solar Power Energy
This one is a big investment, but not all of these hacks are for instant gains. By investing in solar energy, you have the opportunity to create all of your own electricity and in some cases even feed back into the power grid. That would mean creating more than you use and, in some cases, getting paid by your energy supplier. When it comes to lowering your energy bill, that has to be the gold standard.
Not only can you reduce your bills, but you will be making a bold statement about the future of green energy consumption. The cost of solar panels has dropped significantly in the last few years, so it is becoming more affordable to go “off grid” and commit to a low consumption future.
17. A Cold Cycle
If you have, like most people, only ever used one setting on your washing machine, it’s time to explore some of the lower temperature washes and save a fortune. Forget what your mum told you about boiling clothes to get rid of stains and take advantage of advances in washing powder technology.
Most washing detergents now work as well in cold water as they do in hot. Washing clothes constantly in 40-60°C temperatures can damage them over time and doesn’t always result in a better clean. Even heavily soiled clothes from dirty jobs or muddy sports can come out looking great in a cold wash.
18. Get Yourself Out of Hot Water
When you turn on your hot tap, does is scald you? If you consider how hot you need your water to be when you take a shower or do the washing up, you could turn down the heat and save a few pounds. You can set the water temperature on most boilers in the same way that you can for radiators.
By lowering the temperature of your hot water, even by just a few degrees, you might not notice the difference in your washing up bowl, but you will in your wallet. Getting a large volume of water up to temperature and keeping it there is one of the most energy-hungry parts of your heating system.
19. Go Off Peak for Cheaper Rates
This doesn’t apply to all energy suppliers, but it’s worth looking into whether your tariff includes peak and off-peak rates during the day and night. The most common of these is Economy 7, which is found in a lot of flats with night storage heaters. Designed to take advantage of lower demand during the night, you could save money by programming other devices to run overnight.
Take your washing machine. Most modern devices have a timer that can be set to run anywhere from one to 24 hours in advance, so take advantage of the cheaper hours of (usually) midnight to 7am to save every time you do a wash. Just make sure you and your neighbours are deep sleepers to avoid making enemies with your loud spin cycle at 4am.
20. Only Run Your Appliances Full
If you run your washing machine with only a few items in it, you’re wasting money. The same goes for your dishwasher. They use as much water and energy to heat up when they’re half-full as when they’re full, so maximise their efficiency and only run them when you really need to. Although you shouldn’t overload your washing machine or dishwasher, because a broken appliance will wipe out any savings you can hope to make.
Perhaps surprisingly, your fridge freezer also likes to be kept full to work at optimum efficiency. This is great news for shopaholics, because once items are in the fridge and cooled down, they act as insulation and help to keep things cool. Opening the door to the fridge or freezer is the real killer though, so make up your mind quickly when you reach for a cold snack.
Is It All Worth the Hassle?
There are clearly quite a few ways that you can save money on your energy bills, but just like everything worthwhile, it’s going to take a bit of investment. Whether that means getting down on your hands and knees looking for draughts or putting on another layer indoors is up to you. But it’s good to know that you can save yourself money just by changing your habits for the better.