How to keep your energy bills down
Rising energy bills are an increasing strain on our wallets, but there are lots of ways to keep bills down while still keeping the lights on.
MYTH: My bill is for the energy I've actually used.
FACT: Many bills are estimated. Send monthly readings to your energy company to make sure you only pay for what you use. People who take regular readings typically use less energy than those who don't.
If you want to get geeky about it, consider buying an energy monitor. These cost around £25-30 and help you understand which appliances suck up most energy.
MYTH: If I leave the room for just 10 minutes I should leave the light on.
FACT: If you don't need a light on - even for a few minutes - it's cheaper to turn it off.
MYTH: Standby doesn't use much energy.
FACT: The average home spends £35 a year on electricity used when items like TVs, computers and consoles are left on standby. Leave chargers plugged in all the time and you'll waste even more money.
MYTH: It's best to leave the heating on low all the time.
FACT: You'll spend less if you have it on only when you need it. Set your heating to come on 20 minutes before you need it and to go off 20 minutes before you don't. That said, If you have radiators and go away in winter set the heating to come on for 10 minutes twice a day to prevent pipes from bursting.
MYTH: Curtains don't make much difference.
FACT: A pair of well-fitting, fully lined curtains will keep in almost as much heat as double glazing at a fraction of the cost. You can make the most of curtains by closing them at dusk, or as soon after as possible.
MTYH: Half loads use half the energy.
FACT: Two half loads in the washing machine or dishwasher will usually use more energy then one full load. Wash at 30°C unless something is really dirty.
MYTH: Small actions don't make a difference.
FACT: Turning down your room or radiator thermostats by 1°C will save around 10% on your heating bill. Replacing a 50W halogen bulb with a 6W LED will save £70 over the life of the bulb.
Long term investments to help you cut energy bills
Spending some money now could save you lots on future bills:
- Draughtproofing is inexpensive and you can usually do it yourself. Products available include strips to go around doors, brushes for letter boxes, jackets for hot water tanks, foam for pipes and products which stop heat escaping up chimneys.
- Programmers give you control over your heating system. Some allow you to change your heating settings wherever you are using an app on your phone. Purchase and installation will cost from around £200.
- An annual boiler service will make sure it's performing well. If you live in rented accommodation your landlord is obliged to have the boiler safety-checked once a year. If you have more money to spend (starting from £1500), then a boiler which is over 15 years old is worth replacing.
Grants and loans for insulation, double glazing and other measures
Green Deal loans cover the upfront cost of loft and cavity wall insulation, new boilers, solid wall insulation, double glazing and other measures. You make repayments through your electricity bills. Even so, your bills should fall as you will be using less energy, although this is not guaranteed. If you move house the repayments pass to the new occupier, so the person paying is always the person benefitting at the time.
The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) offers:
- Means-tested grants for heating and hot water saving measures, insulation, glazing and microgeneration technologies.
- Grants towards insulating solid wall houses (usually those built before 1930). You can couple the grant with a Green Deal loan.
- Free insulation and glazing for people living in the bottom 15% of the UK's most deprived areas.
If you can't pay a bill
If you tell your energy company you're struggling they will probably set up a payment plan that you can afford. If you're really struggling, ask if they have a special scheme for those in need. This might involve having your bills capped regardless of the amount of energy you use (usually for those with certain medical conditions) or being given a one-off grant.
Written by Caroline Harmon
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