TV blaring, lights blazing, computer screens glowing... just imagine the size of your energy bill after weeks or months of the whole family being stuck at home. It could be fairly steep.
So, it’s worth taking some energy-saving steps and forming some good habits to ensure efficient energy use at home.
This energy saving-mission needn’t fall on your shoulders alone. Get the whole family involved, including your children.
Of course, as well as saving money, you can reduce your impact on the environment too.
Here are some tips to get you started, with an indication of how much effort each requires - whether that’s time taken or money invested - and what sort of impact you can expect each to make on your pocket and on the environment.
Get kids involved
Before thinking about the individual energy-saving measures, first consider how you can spread the energy-saving load across the household.
Getting kids involved may not necessarily be as difficult as you think. They often make willing eco-warriors. You’ll need to lead by example, explain why you’re doing it, consider offering rewards, and above all, make it fun!
Here are a few more ways you can turn your children into energy-saving heroes - you might find a little bit of energy education fits nicely into your home schooling efforts.
Reduce your Phantom Load
Some appliances need to be left on all the time (like a fridge or freezer) or kept on standby (like a smart speaker) but many appliances are left on that don’t need to be. This background electricity use is known as “Phantom Load”, because of the way in which energy is invisibly drained without users necessarily knowing about it.
Analysis of Loop data found the average UK household wastes an average of £140 unnecessarily through their Phantom Load, while in some homes this could be as much as £450.
Make sure you keep your Phantom Load low by turning items off when they’re not in use, such as laptops and desktops you are using to work from home. Household appliances like multi-room speakers and digital TV boxes can also contribute to rising costs, so switching things off at the plug when they’re not in use is a must.
Turn your central heating thermostat down by 1 degree
With the recent good weather, it sounds odd talking about heating, but the nights are still cold and folks are still using their central heating. Turning the temperature down by just 1 degree could save you up to £80 and reduce your home’s carbon dioxide emissions by up to 320kg, all without you even noticing.
The potential £80 saving is about enough to treat yourself to a smart thermostat, allowing you to better manage the temperature of your home.
Order a new shower head
Some water suppliers, such as Thames Water, provide water-saving freebies, including efficient showerheads. If yours doesn’t, then you’ll need to spend around £20.
You won’t be sacrificing the joy of a powerful blast of hot water. Water-efficient showerheads produce water flows that feel far higher than they actually are.
Save Water Save Money has a selection here.
Give your radiators some attention
Depending on the weather, you may have the heating on for longer than normal while you’re working from home so make sure you move any sofas away from radiators to ensure heat can circulate the room properly.
Also, now is a good time to give your radiators a bit of TLC. Bleed them to ensure that hot water can circulate effectively. You’ll know a radiator needs bleeding if it feels hot at the bottom but cold at the top, takes a long time to warm up or if it’s making gurgling noises.
Use your dishwasher (properly)
A modern energy efficient dishwasher uses less energy than washing dishes by hand. But you need to avoid pre-washing and put your machine on an eco or economy setting, which means it uses less power to heat the water.
You also need to learn the art of dishwasher filling: underfill it and you’ll use just as much electricity and hot water as a full load; stack things too tightly and you’ll end up finishing the job yourself by hand, as the dishwasher won’t be able to wash them properly.
Use your microwave more
Microwaves are often unfairly associated with TV dinners and processed food. But you can be a gourmet and still regularly use a microwave. Besides, they’re more energy efficient than using a hob or oven, as they heat the food directly rather than the air around it.
Slow cookers are also highly energy efficient, using just a little more energy than a traditional light bulb.
Don’t leave you phone charging all night
If you plug your phone in to charge overnight, it could still sap energy even when your phone is fully charged. So, try and avoid leaving it plugged in for hours on end. You'll know if this is the case if the charger feels warm when your phone is fully charged.
It may only be a small saving, but every bit helps, especially across millions of households.
Buy a more efficient TV
The average Briton spends almost 10 years of their life sat in front of the box and televisions account for 50% of home electronics energy use.
The savings from buying a more efficient TV can be surprising. An energy efficient A+ rated 40'' TV typically costs £11 to run each year, much less than the average new 40'' TV, at £29 to run each year.
In general, whenever you’re buying a new appliance, choose the most energy-efficient model you can afford to make long-term savings.
Even if you’re not in the market to buy a new television, you can make a difference by simply turning down the brightness on your existing set.
Look after your fridge
Try, if you can, to keep your fridge and freezer full, as this enables it to retain the cold better, meaning it won’t have to work as hard.
If you don’t have enough food, you can always add bags of ice to your freezer or put a jug of water in your fridge.
Also, make sure your fridge is set at the right temperature of 5 degrees Celsius or less, and check there is a gap of around 10cm behind your fridge to let heat flow away more easily.
Don’t overdo it on Netflix
Digital technology accounts 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report by French think tank Shift, published in 2019. That’s more than civil aviation.
Video streaming is one of the worst culprits. Shift calculated that online video viewing generated more than 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) during 2018, to generate a carbon footprint comparable to the annual emissions of Spain.
You’re not expected to reduce your consumption right now, that’s for sure; Netflix and other streaming services are a great tool for keeping boredom at bay. But it is important to understand the impact of streaming and consider alternatives. The "Carbonalyser" browser extension helps people understand how much electricity their internet browsing consumes and what impact this has on the environment.
Swap to LED bulbs
If you’re at home, it’s reasonable to expect your lights will be on more often, even with the clocks about to go forward, so there’s even more reason to swap to LEDs.
If you replace all of the bulbs in your home with LEDs, then for an initial outlay of around £100 for an average house, you’ll save about £35 a year on your energy bill.
Switch your energy supplier or tariff
If you’re not sure which energy tariff you’re on, or when it’s due to come to an end, now could be the perfect time to check you’re still on the cheapest deal. If you haven’t switched supplier or tariff for over a year, there’s a chance you could be on a pricey standard variable tariff.
But in fact, changing tariffs could save you a cool £300 on your annual energy bill. Collectively, with almost half of consumers reporting to have never switched, the UK could save more than £8 billion in 2020 by switching to a cheaper energy tariff at the right time.
Make a cuppa
Get that kettle on and make a cuppa - you’ll probably feel better for it.
Only, make sure you just fill the kettle with the water that you actually need. The savings are around £6 a year, but every penny counts!
Fit solar panels
This one is a bit more ambitious than, say, filling up your kettle less. But once you start generating your own renewable energy, you’ll really be making a big difference to your impact on the environment.
Having solar panels installed will also help you become more self-sufficient, as you won’t be reliant on the national grid.
The government incentivises people to have solar panels fitted through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), under which people are paid for excess electricity that they export to the national grid.
Upgrade your boiler
If your boiler is old and unreliable, then consider an upgrade.
Investing in a more eco-friendly modern boiler can be well worth it. For example, if you live in a detached house and have an old G rated gas boiler, you could save £315 a year by upgrading to a new A-rated condensing boiler with a programmer, room thermostat and thermostatic radiator controls. You’ll need to spend around £2,300 initially, so it’s a long-term investment.
You could, however, go one step further and do away with a gas-powered boiler altogether. Sooner or later, everyone is going to have to consider alternatives to gas for heating their home.
You may have never given your hot water pipes much thought. But it’s important - and easy - to keep them insulated to reduce heat loss. You just need to buy some foam lagging to wrap around pipes, which you can easily fit yourself.
Depending on the size of your house, you’ll probably only need to spend £20 or so on lagging, which you’ll soon make back as you could save as much as £7 a year on your energy bills. Lagging also reduces the chances of pipes getting too cold and bursting during colder months.
Draught-proof your house
You want to keep hold of the warmth in your home and block its escape. That means draught-proofing windows, doors, floorboards, loft hatches and any other gaps. The exceptions are rooms like bathrooms that need ventilation.
If you’re a bit behind on your draught-proofing, then you’re not alone. Energy Saving Trust research has found that 46% of people still need to draught-proof their windows and doors.
You’re likely to need to spend between £85 and £275 for materials and professional installation, but it’s worth the effort as it could save you £10 to £30 a year on heating bills. You’ll also create a cosier, more comfortable home.
Alternatively, if you’ve got most parts of your house draught-proofed, consider any gaps you might have missed. How about fitting keyhole or letterbox covers?
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