Skewer your spuds, and 15 more common-sense ways to cut energy use

Winter, as every Game of Thrones fan knows, is coming. And as temperatures fall and energy consumption climbs, now’s the time to start thinking about how to tackle your unnecessary energy usage.

We were inspired to put together this list, somewhat randomly, by MSE Jenny’s electrician Steve. He compiles and sends round a list of simple energy-saving tips to customers – so we thought we’d put together a similar list, sharing some of his and adding a few of our own.

While some of these are very simple, and most of them are common-sense, it just goes to show that some of the easiest ways to save energy – and money – are decidedly low-tech. A big thanks to Steve (of SW Bishop electricians in London) for some of the original ideas and also to British Gas, the Energy Saving Trust, the Electrical Contractors’ Association, Npower and Ovo for checking them out.

16 common-sense ways to cut your energy use

1) Skewer your spuds to cut cooking time. Putting stainless steel skewers through baked potatoes can cut the time they need in the oven (by 10 to 15 minutes according to some chefs). The same principle works with other food too – cutting it into smaller chunks will help it cook more quickly.

2) Don’t get your knickers or anything else in a twist when tumble-drying. Separating your washing before putting it in the tumble dryer can cut down drying time (although line drying would obviously be the clear energy-saving winner).

3) The DIY way to line your curtains. The thicker your curtains are, the more heat they should keep in. But don’t think you need to splash out on a new set of drapes – if you’re handy with a needle and thread, you can line them yourself with fleece (just double-check it’s fire retardant).

4) Keep bleeding, keep keep bleeding (radiators). Trapped air can mean your radiators aren’t working as well as they should. If you don’t know how, see how to bleed them with this short British Gas video.

5) Set different temperatures for different rooms. Be smart about how you heat your house, and set your radiator temperature according to each room. For example, your kitchen is likely to be fine on a lower temperature as any cooking will soon heat the place up. Turning your heating down by just one degree could save around £80 per year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

6) Shelves above radiators can help heat your room. Popping shelves above your radiators (but not right on top) can help stop the heat rising and keep your room warmer.

7) Feeling hot, hot, hot? Turn your oven off early. You can turn off your electric oven a few minutes before the end of your cooking time and it’ll keep the same temperature to the end.

8) With washing machines, it’s not a case of dirty thirty. The Energy Saving Trust reckons you can use up to 40% less energy washing at 30 rather than higher temperatures, and giving your load a good spin will cut drying time. Many washing powders say they work just as well at 30 degrees (unless you’ve got a particularly mucky load). Do a hot wash every now again to keep your washer clean though.

9) Don’t fall for the ‘leave your heating on low all day’ myth. Some reckon it’s cheaper to leave your heating on low all day, rather than turning it on and off. But the Energy Saving Trust and British Gas say that’s a myth – see why in our Energy Mythbusting guide.

10) Your oven – shut it and keep it shut. Don’t be tempted to keep opening the door, as it costs energy to get it back up to the correct temperature each time. Instead keep your oven door clean so you can peek through it instead.

11) Screensavers look good but cost. They may be pretty to look at, but setting your computer to go to sleep when you’re not using it – even for a short period – uses less energy.

12) Full steam ahead for veggies. Using a steamer to cook your veg lets you layer them one on top of the other – the same steam cooks ’em all, while just using one hob ring.

13) Don’t let a ‘vampire’ suck your energy – unplug your gadgets. TVs, DVDs, games consoles and speakers left on stand-by are still using energy (on average this costs about £30 per house per year according to the Energy Saving Trust) so turn ’em off. If you need to leave something plugged in – say, a TV box for live recordings – try using a separate plug socket for it.

14) Keep it clean – your dishwasher that is. Keeping the actual machine and filters clean will mean a better wash and less chance of having to rewash your dishes. You should also only use your dishwasher if you’ve a full load (if not it’s a job for the good ol’ kitchen sink) and open it after the rinse cycle to let your dishes drip dry.

15) De-fluff your tumble dryer. If moisture can easily leave the dryer through a clean lint trap it’ll take less time to dry your clothes.

16) Don’t charge your mobile overnight – it’s quicker to recharge than you are. Most smartphones will fully charge in a few hours – and keeping it plugged in for longer will just waste energy (admittedly it’s not a lot, but it’s still energy nonetheless). So charge your phone in the day and unplug it when you’re done, or use a time switch.

For more useful tips including how to make your own sausage dog draft excluder, the best way to stuff your chimney and why you should put reflective panels behind your radiators, see our Free Insulation and Boilers guide, plus our Energy Mythbusting guide has a full Q&A.

Now it’s your turn – let us know your handy common-sense energy-saving tips in the comments below.