Updated: Wednesday 18 July, 2012
By Martin Fagan
As a nation we waste around £6m worth of energy every year, meaning for every £3 spent on heating your home £1 is wasted through poor energy efficiency.
With the prospect of even higher energy bills this winter, more and more people are making an effort when it comes to saving energy. Follow our simple 10-step guide to find out how you can cut the cost of your gas and electricity bills...
This is one of the simplest ways of saving money. Many people have had the same gas or electricity supplier for years and are worried about the hassle of switching, but it is actually very easy. Read our step-by-step guide to find out more about switching energy suppliers.
More than four million people switched their energy supplier last year cutting their bills by around £150 each, according to energy regulator Ofgem. However, a separate Ofgem survey found that 58% of gas customers have never switched their supplier while 57% of electricity customers have never switched supplier.
Compare energy prices using our energy calculator to see the latest gas and electricity tariffs on the market available for your home, and see how much you could save by switching.
Savings depend on a number of factors, including who currently supplies your energy, how you pay for it and who you will be switching to. If you don’t already pay by direct debit, you should think about doing so, as the majority of suppliers offer discounts of up to 10% on bills that are paid by monthly direct debit.
The current lifespan of a boiler is around 10 years, after which it will begin to lose efficiency, wasting both your gas and cash. When replacing your boiler ensure you opt for an “A” rated one displaying the Energy Saving Recommended logo. In the long run, choosing a heating system with a condensing boiler and heating controls will certainly save you more money than if you’d stuck loyally with an old inefficient boiler.
Condensing boilers are the most efficient, as they waste the least amount of energy. They convert over 90% of the fuel they use into useful heat, compared to around 60% for an old conventional boiler. And having heating controls fitted could typically save you around 15% on your heating bill. What's more, fitting a condensing boiler along with a full set of heating controls could save as much as 45% on your heating fuel bill.
Getting your boiler serviced regularly helps to ensure you avoid paying a fortune for emergency repairs. Emergency callout charges and the cost of parts can total hundreds of pounds, or even more if your boiler decides to break down at the weekend or during a holiday. As well as being a safety priority, having it serviced regularly will catch any problems before they arise, saving you money in the long term.
Insulating your home is probably the most cost-effective way of reducing your home’s fuel consumption.
If your property has cavity walls, installing cavity wall insulation could significantly reduce the amount of energy you use to heat your home, reducing heating costs by 15% and saving about £135 a year on fuel bills, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Solid walls lose even more heat than cavity walls; so if your home has solid walls, the only way to reduce this heat loss is to insulate them on the inside or the outside. By adding a weatherproof insulating treatment to the outside of your wall, the average household could save about £380 a year. Internal wall insulation is considerably cheaper than external wall insulation, but the savings you make will be a lot less - normally around £130 a year.
As 15% of heat loss is through the roof, installing loft insulation is a simple and cost-effective way to reduce your heating bills, and it can easily be done without the need for professionals. The insulation works like a duvet on a bed, trapping the rising heat from the house below. If you install the recommended 270mm depth of loft insulation, you could save around £155 a year on your heating bills.
Read our guide to learn about the full benefits of insulating your home. And as energy efficiency renovations of this scale can be expensive, use the Energy Saving Trust’s calculator to see what grants/help you could be entitled to.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, turning down your thermostat by one degree centigrade can save up to 10% on your heating bill. You’re unlikely to notice such a small change in temperature, but far more likely to notice the savings!
One of the quickest and easiest ways you can immediately start saving energy is by switching to energy saving light bulbs.
Priced from around £3, they typically last 12 times longer than ordinary bulbs, and could potentially save you £7 per year per bulb. With the average home containing 17 incandescent bulbs, you could save up to £120 a year by swapping them over. And you won’t have to replace them as often.
Advances in technology mean that energy-saving bulbs are now available in a wide variety of fittings, shapes and sizes. These range from traditionally shaped bulbs to round and candle-shaped varieties, with small or medium screw and bayonet fittings. Nowadays, there are even halogen and dimmable energy saving bulbs on the market. And thanks to the invention of ‘soft tone’ bulbs, you can enjoy a warm glow rather than a cold light.
You can actually become more energy efficient without spending a penny, simply by changing certain habits around your home. If you’re conscious about saving energy it can have a significant impact on your energy bills.
According to the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, simply taking showers instead of baths can see you using 30% less water.
If you have more bedrooms than people in your home, you could save over £200 by switching to a water meter so you only pay for the water that you actually use. If you’re unsure, contact your water company and ask them to provide you with a "water meter calculator". With an accurate comparison this will make it easy for you to work out if you could save.
Leaking taps can also add to mounting fuel bills - in just one day, a severely dripping hot water tap can provide enough water to fill a bath. Make sure that all taps are turned off and leak free.
Domestic appliances account for 47% of a household’s total electricity consumption, according to the Energy Saving Trust. And more than a fifth of the average UK household’s annual electricity bill is spent powering consumer electronics and computer equipment alone - with a staggering £2.7billion spent overall each year.
In a typical house, fridges and freezers account for 18% of the electricity bill, while washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers account for a further 14%, and cooking appliances, like hobs, a further 15%.
Making sure you choose energy-efficient electronics and appliances when buying something new could not only help to cut down the amount of energy your household uses, but also your bills too. Visit the Energy Saving Trust’s website to see how much you could save.
Watch out for the AAA energy rating logo on washing machines, fridge and freezers. Replacing an old appliance with an AAA rated one could save up to £45 a year per appliance, costing you less to run as well as producing fewer carbon emissions.
Fridges and freezers should also be kept at least an inch away from the wall to allow the air to circulate behind them, as the condenser coils at the back of a refrigeration unit radiate and need to cool. Leaving a gap between the back of the fridge and the wall stops them over-heating and working too hard (and wasting energy).
If you’ve ever had to pay for emergency heating repairs, you’ll know just how much of a dent a broken boiler or clogged heating system can make in your finances. Calling out an engineer to fix your boiler can typically cost anywhere between £33 to £76 an hour if you live in London, so if you want the peace of mind heating cover offers then it’s time to think about where you’re going to get it from.
For example, British Gas (www.britishgas.co.uk) offer boiler insurance called HomeCare, where you can choose either basic or comprehensive insurance policies. For a small set fee per month (prices starting from around £10 a month), you can rest assured that you’re covered and won’t have to pay over the odds for boiler parts and spares if something goes wrong.
The price of heating cover is difficult to compare because one provider’s costs and cover differs so much from the next. Read our guide on boiler insurance so you know exactly what to look for, and the policies available.
For more energy efficiency advice, or information about switching, contact us.