You can control your utility bills!
There are believed to be a staggering 4.5 million people in “fuel poverty” in the UK (fuel poverty being defined as a household spending 10% of its income on keeping a house warm). Even those households that don’t fall into this category are finding heating, lighting and power eating away at their disposable income
Yet despite this, all too many of us almost seem to regard our utility bills as an inevitable burden rather than something that we can control. Working in the hope improvement sector we see a lot of advice about what steps homeowners can take to reduce their energy usage. In this blog we list some of our favourites. On their own, some of these may seem very small, but together they can make a real difference.
See the light!
Do you really need to leave on all the lights that you regularly use at home? If you are downstairs, are there any lights on upstairs? If you use timer plugs to automatically switch some lights on, can you reduce the amount of time these lights come on for? Are you using energy saving bulbs in all the lights you can? They may cost more in the first instance, but they pay for themselves many times over in their lifetime, though the energy they save.
Hot under the collar?
We all like to be comfortable in our own homes, but if you don’t wear a jumper in the house then are you overheating it? Try turning down the thermostat by a few degrees and if you have central heating that operates on a timer, can you reduce the amount of time it is on for each day? Turning your thermostat down by 1 degree could save you £60 a year in an average home.
Do you use all the rooms in your home all the time? If not, can you close a door on the unused room and turn off the radiator/heating in that room. Do you leave any windows ajar to let fresh air in that could also be letting heat out?
Think before you switch on
Kitchen appliances like kettles can use a surprising amount of energy. Do you fill a kettle any more than you need to? Do you leave appliances plugged in and on “standby mode”? Wherever possible switch appliances fully off or unplug them to ensure that they are not using power, without you being aware. If you don’t want to miss out on your favourite programme try and remember anything you may have set to record, although products like BBCiplayer can even get around this.
A typical household could save between £50 and £90 a year just by remembering to turn off appliances left on standby.
When you are doing washing up run a bowl of water rather than keeping the tap running and set the washing machine thermostat to 30 degrees. Encourage the family to take showers rather than baths on a regular basis.
Don’t move improve
We would say this wouldn’t we, but are your windows and doors as energy efficient as they could be? If you have single glazed or older double glazing you could be paying way more than you need on your energy bills. The latest double and triple glazed windows and doors are highly efficient, more secure and better at keeping out noise.
Measure, measure measure
There are a whole host of energy saving /monitoring devices that allow you to monitor everything from a whole house down to simple and relatively inexpensive plug in monitors that will show the energy used by one appliance. Which Magazine recently did a review of the some of the latter and you can see their tips here.
Invest to reduce
There are a number of measures you can take to invest in making your home more energy efficient (did we mention doors and windows). Depending on your circumstances you may even be able to get some grants, or finance these through future energy savings and the Government’s Green Deal.
If your home was built more than 100 years ago, the chances are that its external walls are made of two layers of brick with a gap or cavity between them. Cavity wall insulation fills that gap, keeping the warmth in to save energy. Cavity Wall insulation could pay for itself in around four years.
Heat rises, and in an un-insulated home a quarter of your heat is lost through the roof. Insulating your loft can be a simple and effective way to save that waste and reduce your heating bills. Loft insulation is effective for at least 40 years, and it will pay for itself over and over again in that time. If your loft was insulated many years ago you may want to review whether it is still considered adequate as the efficiency and understanding of this insulation has come on great strides over the years.
As energy prices have spiralled seemingly endlessly upwards, many have chosen to invest in renewable energy technology. The Feed in tariffs for electricity generated through solar PV or thermal may not be as high as it once was, but the effectiveness of units has increased greatly and the costs have come down.
It may also be worth considering renewable heating technologies, such as heat pumps, with the financial incentives available through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
Don’t feel daunted by the amount of steps you could take, this really is an area where doing something is better than nothing.