If your stomach lurches when your energy bill pops through your door, don’t worry – there are a few tricks you can employ to save a stack of cash, and make your home more energy-efficient while you’re at it.
The papers have been packed with stories of energy suppliers upping their prices. Last summer, British Gas announced that they were upping their electricity tariffs by 12.5% – adding an extra £76 a year onto a typical dual-fuel bill.
That’s £76 that a lot of customers would rather keep for themselves – especially with the weather still miserable. But as other energy suppliers follow suit, it can seem almost impossible to get your bills down, especially as we’re cranking up our heating and having to switch on lights as the colder, darker days draw in.
Thankfully, all hope is not lost. There are lots of clever tricks you can employ – from larger structural changes to your home to lifestyle alterations – which can curb your energy use and cut your bills too.
“We would recommend first of all, look at the house as a whole,” explains Ruth Gray from Energy Saving Trust Scotland. “One of the best ways you can start is to do a home energy check, which is a questionnaire on the Energy Saving Trust website. You give general details about your property, and it’ll give you a little report- recommendations on ways you can make your home warmer and reduce your bills. You can either get a digital report or have it posted out to you.”
It may be the case that your home requires a few upgrades. You lose a quarter of the heat from your home through the roof. Making sure your loft is properly insulated is a good starting point, as well as wall insulation and making sure your heating system is fully functioning and up-to-date.
“The Scottish Government actually funds an interest-free loan of up to £32,000 to help households install those measures,” Ruth says. “They can seem expensive to do, but with the savings that you make on them – they pay for themselves really quickly, and many times over. The interest-free loan takes away the up-front cost for things like loft insulation – the cost of installing it is probably about £300, but you save £135 a year.”
It’s also worthwhile changing energy supplier. While prices are going up, there are still deals to be had. While once upon a time, there were only five energy providers in the UK, these days there are over 80 – so the marketplace has got more competitive
“It’s an easy thing to do if you’ve got access to the internet – you can go on a lot of different price comparison sites to check online,” Ruth says. “Our main tip would be to check based on your usage, not your monthly cost. The amount you pay every month isn’t necessarily related to the amount you’re using. It’s more accurate if you’re able to look at your most recent bill.”
When you switch, all you have to do is supply up-to-date meter readings, your basic details, and the suppliers do the rest. Give your new supplier a note of your meter serial numbers too, just to make sure nothing goes awry in the switch process. You could save between £100 and £300 a year by changing suppliers – so it’s definitely worth investigating.
There are some clever gadgets on the market too which can really change your thinking around energy use. Smart meters, which are mainly designed to send your energy use straight to your supplier rather than asking you to provide readings, are making us all a bit more energy-savvy. You can see exactly how much energy you’re using, and it translates that into how much you’re spending.
Smart heating controls are becoming more common too. These enable you to control your heating from an app on your smartphone, tablet or on a computer. The big bonus is that you can switch your heating off or on at any time – so if your plans change, your heating won’t come on at its usual time.
Being more energy-conscious can also save you money. There are lots of simple lifestyle changes you can employ at home – for starters, your heating only needs to be between 18 and 21 degrees, so turn down the temperature.
“Another big one would be not leaving things on standby,” Ruth says. “Especially if you’ve got older appliances that use quite a lot of energy while they’re on standby. There are basic draught-proofing things that you can do too, like closing the curtains before it gets dark. Looking at your doors and windows to make sure they aren’t letting in any unwanted draughts. Lining your curtains to keep the heat in too.”
If you’d like more advice on how you can save energy, the Home Energy Scotland advice network is a great port of call. Offering free, impartial advice on everything from home upgrades to renewable energy, as well as information on grants and loans to help you out, their trained advisors tailor everything to you and your needs – so they’re definitely worth a call.
Small changes can make a big difference to your energy spend – meaning a little extra cash to treat yourself amidst the doom and gloom of winter…
Here’s how much a few simple lifestyle changes can save you – it all adds up…
Turning appliances off standby – £30 a year
Boiling only the water you need in the kettle – £7 a year
One washing machine cycle a week – £5 a year
Spending one minute less in the shower a day – £7 a year
Turning off lights when not in use – £14 a year
Using a washing up bowl rather than leaving the tap running – £25 a year
Installing a chimney draught excluder – £15 a year
Reducing your heating by one degree – £80 a year
Doing all of these things could save you an average of £183!