Energy saving tips: Checklist to save £100s
How to save energy at home this winter
Even after the Government intervened in the energy market and introduced the energy price guarantee, many will still struggle to pay their bills, and cutting energy use is a key way to save. We've rounded up a full list of tips on how to cut your energy usage, including simple changes to your boiler and appliance settings you can make to save large, mixed in with some thrifty crowd-sourced tips.
Key energy-saving guides
In this guide we've the big savings, plus thrifty crowd-sourced tips...
Martin's energy-saving tips video
We've a full list of energy-saving tips below, but if you prefer to watch rather than read, Martin Lewis explained the key tips in the fourth episode of the latest series of ITV's The Martin Lewis Money Show Live.
Simple changes to your boiler and heating system that can save you large
These points should be easy to do for most, but if in any doubt, check your boiler instruction manual or consult a Gas Safe-registered professional.
Turning your thermostat down by just one degree has a much bigger impact than most people think
This is one of the easiest things to do on this list and British Gas says dropping the temperature by one degree could save £115 a year on average for a typical home.
The World Health Organisation says that 18°C is enough for healthy adults, with slightly higher temperatures needed for the very old or young. Yet many have their thermostats set in the 20s. So consider popping on a jumper at home and seeing what temperature your household is comfortable at.
While cutting from, say, 21°C to 20°C doesn't sound much, it may reduce your heating bill by 10%. As a 'way to think of it' concept (not science), imagine your home was already at 13°C, dropping the difference between that and what it's warmed to by one degree will make up a big chunk of that.
And remember, there's no need to turn up the temperature when it's colder outside. The thermostat's job is to heat the home to the set temperature, it just may take longer in colder weather.
While we're talking heating, a common debate we tackle in our mythbusting guide is whether it is cheaper to leave the heating on low all day, or just when you need it.
Got a combi boiler? The small tweak to the flow temperature that could cut your gas bill by £100/year
If you have a combi boiler (the most common type, one without a hot water cylinder), a key way to save is to reduce the flow temperature – basically the water that circulates around the system and heats your radiators. It's usually set higher than needed by default, which means it doesn't operate in its most efficient mode.
Innovation charity Nesta has launched a MoneySaving boiler challenge with a nifty tool on how to do it, which it says could cut gas bills by an average 9% (£112 a year).
Combi boilers work best when they heat radiators to 60°C or below. But this flow temperature is often set much too high, often between 70°C and 80°C.
To be clear, this is different from turning down your main heating thermostat or the valves on your radiators – it won't lower the temperature of your home. Your radiators will just feel slightly cooler and rooms may take a little longer to warm up, but they will still heat your home effectively.
Octopus Energy suggests you could even drop it to 50°C, though this will typically be right for those in better insulated homes.
Got a non-combi boiler? You can also tweak your settings to save
If you've a boiler and a hot water cylinder, there are still adjustments you can make to improve your system's efficiency, though the temperatures generally need to be set a little higher than with a combi and it is more complicated.
Most condensing non-combi boilers are set up to supply one temperature for heating and hot water, in which case you should have it set to 70°C to be safe, according to the Heating Hub (see point 12).
The Health and Safety Executive requires hot water cylinders to be kept at 60°C – to avoid the dangers of legionella bacteria in water that is stored in the cylinder – so the boiler has to supply a higher temperature to allow for any heat losses as the water makes its way to the cylinder.
You can get your boiler reconfigured so you can set the temperatures separately, but make sure you use a Gas Safe engineer to help you. This means you can lower the flow temperature for heating and reduce your gas bills without potentially making your hot water unsafe to use.
If you're able to set two different temperatures, to maximise efficiency, Octopus Energy recommends setting your radiator flow temperature to 60°C – you should be able to change this on the boiler control panel, indicated by a radiator icon. Check your boiler manual if you're not sure what to do, and if you're in any doubt, always consult a professional.
For your hot water, you should keep it no lower than 70°C unless you've been advised by a heating expert that it is safe to lower it further.
Do you dilute your hot water with cold to stop your bath/shower being too hot?
The hot water temperature on your combi boiler is another setting you should check. This controls the temperature of the water that comes out of your hot water taps.
By default this temperature is often too high, so a simple change will ensure you're not overspending by heating your water to a higher temperature than you need to.
Octopus Energy says a temperature of about 55°C should be enough for most. Essentially, if you are diluting the hot water with a lot of cold to reach the desired temperature in your bath, it is likely too hot and you're wasting cash.
There should be an option to change the temperature on the front of your combi boiler – usually indicated by a little tap icon. If you're not sure, check your boiler manual. You can then lower it to a temperature you are comfortable with.
If you don't need hot water on demand all day, check your boiler's 'pre-heat' settings
Most modern combi boilers also have a 'pre-heat' function, so the hot water in your pipes is set at a certain temperature, to ensure you don't have to wait too long for your water to heat up. However, experts at the Heating Hub say while pre-heating is more convenient and less water is wasted, it is hugely inefficient from an energy-saving perspective, particularly in homes where the occupants are out at work all day.
So to save cash, check your boiler manual for instructions on how to turn the pre-heat off (it varies by model).
Your hot water cylinder could be leaking heat – insulate it for cheap to save big
If you have a hot water cylinder that is uninsulated, it'll be losing heat, allowing the water to cool down more quickly. This means you'll be wasting cash heating it up again.
According to the Centre for Sustainable Energy, fitting a hot water cylinder jacket could reduce heat loss by up to 75%. The Energy Saving Trust says doing this could save you as much as £80 a year.
It is recommended that you buy a cylinder jacket that displays the British Standard Kitemark. Jackets typically cost about £15 and should be at least 80mm thick.
For most, this will be a DIY job as you just need to wrap it around the hot water cylinder and secure it with string or something similar, but do consult a professional if your tank is hard to reach or you're unsure.
Turn down radiators in rooms you’re not using
Make sure you control which rooms you heat, so you're not wasting cash heating empty rooms. You can simply go round the house and turn down the radiators in the rooms you don't want to heat. The Government says you could save around £70 a year turning radiator valves down to between 2.5 and 3 in rooms you don’t use.
Though do be aware that in some homes, colder rooms could lead to more condensation, which can increase the risk of mould. Also, be aware that fridges and freezers generally can't function properly if room temperatures drop too low (typically below 10 degrees).
Thermostatic radiator valves are an extra control which you can use to set the temperature of each individual room (other than where your main thermostat is). When the temperature in that room rises above what's set on the radiator valve, it will stop water flowing through that particular radiator – the boiler will still be on to heat other rooms, but it will use less energy.
Installing them and using them with your thermostat allows you to control the temperature room by room, and could save you around £55 a year on energy bills, but there will of course be an initial cost for the valves, which cost about £10 plus installation costs.
Most thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) have a frost prevention setting – usually a snowflake symbol. So when the valve is fully turned off, it'll still let a small amount of hot water through to prevent pipes from freezing. If your radiators don't have TRVs, be careful not to turn them off completely, as this could result in burst pipes in very cold weather.
Some also say that painting your radiators black can help them heat rooms more efficiently, but as far as the Energy Saving Trust is concerned, this is a waste of time and money (and paint).
Noisy radiators? Cold patches when you're blasting the heating? Check and bleed 'em
You should bleed your radiators regularly to prevent air being trapped inside, which will leave cold spots at the top. This will make your heating system less efficient, as you'll be using more energy to get adequate heat out of them.
You'll know you need to bleed your radiators if they are taking more time to heat up than usual, you can feel cold patches at the top, or you can hear gurgling noises.
Bleeding radiators is relatively straightforward, but ensure you know what you're doing before you start. E.on has a handy guide on how to bleed your radiators.
Make sure your boiler is healthy and running efficiently
If you've not had your boiler serviced in a while, it's a good idea to get it done ahead of the worst of the winter. Ideally, you should be getting it serviced every 12 months, to ensure it's working efficiently and to spot any issues early before they become costly or beyond repair.
Annual boiler servicing is relatively cheap (it can be as little as £60), and in the long run it could help keep your heating bill down and save you £1,000s in repairs.
If you have boiler cover, it's worth checking if your policy includes boiler servicing – many do. If you don't have boiler cover, it could be worth looking into, to protect yourself against the cost of getting yours up and running again if something goes wrong. See Best boiler cover for full info.
If you've an older, less energy-efficient boiler and you're thinking of replacing it, a new efficient one could save you as much as £840 a year in energy bills, according to the Energy Saving Trust, though it could set you back as much as £4,000.
Is your boiler under (the right amount of) pressure? Check now
It's worth checking the pressure gauge on your boiler regularly. This tells you the pressure of the water circulating in the heating system. If it's too low, it'll make your system inefficient, using more energy to heat your home to the required temperature.
The exact recommended pressure level will vary depending on the boiler manufacturer, but generally, anywhere between 1.0 and 2.0 bar is ideal.
On most newer boilers, the pressure gauge will be on the front of your boiler or under the control panel. On older boilers, it may be harder to find. Check your boiler manual if you can't find it and for help with increasing the pressure.
EDF has a useful guide on how to check and increase your boiler pressure.
If your home takes ages to heat up and gets cold quickly, consider insulation
Many homes lack sufficient insulation, meaning a huge amount of heat is wasted each year as it escapes through walls and roofs. To address this, you could consider investing in cavity wall insulation or loft insulation.
Cavity walls are made up of two walls with a gap between, and are common in houses built between 1920 and 1990. With cavity wall insulation, you fill this gap by injecting insulation material into the cavity from the outside.
It can be expensive to install, costing an average semi-detached home about £1,000. Yet it should soon pay for itself – according to the Energy Saving Trust, it could save an average home about £395 a year. Be aware that cavity wall insulation is not for everyone, with reports over the years of damp problems emerging in certain parts of the country. See 'Is cavity wall insulation right for you?' for full info.
Loft insulation is much easier and cheaper to install. The Energy Saving Trust estimates typical installation costs at about £480 for a semi-detached house, and annual energy bill savings of £355 once installed.
What's more, if you're on certain benefits, you may be able to get insulation installed for free by your supplier. See Free loft and cavity wall insulation for more.
Easy ways to save energy on your appliances and around your home
Know how to check how much appliances cost you
To help you figure out where it's worth cutting back, it's good to know how much appliances cost you to run. To help, we've a simple rule of thumb to get a general idea of the cost of each appliance. You can also check our round-up of how much popular appliances cost to run based on current prices under the energy price guarantee.
Martin's 'How much does it cost to run my appliance?' rule of thumb
So a 100-watt (a tenth of a kW) appliance on for two hours is a maximum 3.4p an hour x 2 = 6.8p.
The reason it says "is a maximum" is many appliances, especially heating appliances, don't run at full power the whole time. Yet this is a useful rule of thumb for getting a general idea of the cost. For example, a single jacket potato in a 1,000-watt microwave on for 10 minutes is far cheaper than cooking it in a 1,000-watt oven for an hour. But cook five potatoes and, as the microwave would need to be on far longer, it'd be closer.
Wash more clothes less – and try a cooler setting
Try to do one fewer load of washing a week and make sure you fill up the machine each time. No more washing just one shirt or dress that you need for a big night out.
You could also try doing your washing on a colder setting. By washing your clothes at 30°C and washing one fewer load each week, you could save £34 a year. Washing at lower temperatures will be fine for everyday cleaning, though you may need to set it slightly higher for tougher stains.
Tumble dryers are one of the most expensive appliances to run, so minimise use, maximise load.
You're typically paying up to £1 a load, so drying clothes on an airer indoors (with a window open to avoid damp) or outside, to shorten or even avoid the tumble dryer completely, can heavily cut costs. The Energy Saving Trust reckons you could save £70 a year if you never use it.
Fire safety warning: If you have an Economy 7 or similar tariff, where you get a cheaper rate for your electricity overnight, the fire service says you should never run the tumble dryer while you're asleep, as it's a common cause of fires in the home.
Don't run your dishwasher half empty
It might be tempting to run your dishwasher when it's only partially full, just to get your stuff clean, but it's an extremely inefficient way to use energy.
If you wait till it's full, you could manage one fewer run of the machine a week. According to the Energy Saving Trust, reducing your dishwasher use by one run a week could save £17 a year.
And don't rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher – you're wasting hot water on a job your dishwasher is about to do.
Check if your fridge and freezer are too cool
According to the Food Standards Agency, you should keep fridges at 5°C and freezers at -18°C. Don't waste energy by having them set colder than this – it won't make any difference to the quality of your food, just the size of your energy bill. Most modern fridges and freezers have temperature gauges that you can adjust yourself, so check your settings.
If your fridge or freezer has a numbered scale, rather than a temperature gauge, you could buy a fridge thermometer for as little as £4 and check your temperature settings that way, to ensure they aren't set too cold.
Using an air fryer can be cheaper than using an oven
Air fryers are essentially a compact oven, with a fan circulating hot air at high speed to cook food. This means they don't take as long to heat up and the small compartment helps speed up cooking time considerably. But they can be power hungry.
The argument for air frying is that because they're smaller and more powerful, cooking times are quicker, and can therefore save you energy against cooking similar meals in the oven.
How much you can save exactly depends on the size and efficiency of your oven, how much power your air fryer uses, and how much you cook – but generally air fryers will be cheaper to run, but you do have to factor in the upfront cost of buying one, and they can be pricey.
As an example, energy efficiency site Sust-it tested a 2000-watt air fryer against a standard oven with no fan and a 900-watt microwave by cooking a single jacket potato. While the microwave was cheapest (with a eight-minute cooking time, costing just 7p), the air fryer proved quicker and cheaper than an oven, cooking the potato in 60 minutes at a cost of 27p, compared with 70 minutes in the oven for 37p.
I've found a fantastic way to save money on cooking. Don't use your oven, but invest in an air fryer. They are very efficient, reducing cooking times and they cook food brilliantly. A fantastic investment.
Think 'How many cuppas am I making?'
The more water you boil, the more energy you use. Be conscious about this when filling the kettle, so you don't overfill. Simple, but effective, with a saving of £13 a year possible.
Some Forumites even recommend buying a smaller kettle, so you aren't tempted to overfill. But if you can be strict with yourself with your larger kettle and only fill it with what you are going to use, you shouldn't need to.
Others recommend boiling one full kettle's worth and filling up a large flask to use throughout the day. This prevents repeated use of the kettle, but the jury's out on whether the longer time it takes to boil one full kettle outweighs multiple smaller boils.
If you've ever wondered if it's cheaper to boil your water in the microwave as opposed to your kettle, we attempt to answer that in our Energy mythbusting guide.
When you have boiled your kettle, fill it up straightaway to the next number of cups you will need and the retained heat will warm up the new water, reducing the time to boil next time.
Use the microwave instead of the oven for smaller dishes
If you can use your microwave instead of the oven to cook certain foods, do. They use less energy than ovens because they only heat the food, not the air around it.
To take the example of a 240g jacket potato, Sust-it calculated that cooking it in a 900-watt microwave uses 18% of the energy that it takes to cook it in a standard single (top) oven at 200°C. It would cost you 7p in the microwave, 37p in the oven – it's about 80% cheaper.
Fit a free water-saving shower head
Reducing your water usage can cut bills for those on water meters, help the environment, and reduce energy costs too, as when you use less water, you usually heat less water.
There's no shortage of free water-saving gadgets available from water firms. What you can get depends on where you live and varies throughout the year – see free water-saving gadgets for what's available and how to get 'em.
If you balk at the idea of having shorter showers or showering less often – the easiest way to save – a water-saving shower head (which pushes air through too, so you feel little difference) may be your best bet. For a typical family, it's a 2%-ish saving, or about £50 a year on average for a typical home.
And if you're not on a water meter, you can get one fitted for free in England and Wales. Some – especially in homes with fewer residents than bedrooms – can save large. You can use a water meter calculator to see if you can save.
Leaving devices on standby won't use as much as rumoured, but turn them off if you can
While switching off devices instead of leaving them on standby is a good idea – as you're using energy for something you're not making use of – the amount you can save is likely fairly low.
The Energy Saving Trust says you can save £65 a year by switching devices off standby, while British Gas says it could be £147 a year, but we reckon either figure is a bit overblown.
It's EU law that TVs and other devices made since 2013 can't use more than 0.5 watts in standby mode. To show the scale of it, a TV watched four hours a day and left on standby the rest of the time would cost £1.24 a year for the time it's on standby.
Similarly, even power-hungry devices such as games consoles use only small amounts of energy while on standby. A PlayStation 5, for example, uses just 0.4 watts in standby mode (assuming it's not downloading any updates or charging controllers). This would cost less than a penny if left on standby all day.
So an easy rule of thumb is: "If you're unlikely to use it more than once a week, definitely 'off it'; if more, it's a judgement call."
Don't assume all energy-saving light bulbs are equal
LED lights use about half the energy of the bigger fluorescent spiral 'energy-saving bulbs' and last for a lot longer too. The Energy Saving Trust says that by switching your 50-watt halogen bulbs to LEDs, you could save up to £6 per bulb per year. As a rule of thumb, you'll want to look for light bulbs with the lowest watts.
There will be an initial outlay, but you should recoup it fairly quickly. See MSE Forumites discuss the prices of LED bulbs.
Obviously turning any lights off when you're not in the room helps too. Some worry that constantly turning lights on and off wastes energy but, according to the Energy Saving Trust, you're better off turning them off when you leave the room, no matter how long for. It reckons you could save £25 a year doing this.
Cut your shower time to save energy and water
Cutting just a minute off your shower time could save £35 a year in energy bills, and a further £30 a year in water bills if you have a meter – £65 a year for an average four-person household, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Try buying a shower timer to keep your eye on the ball (or just set an alarm on your phone). You could also sing along to a shorter song while you're in there – those within earshot may thank you.
Some MoneySavers even turn the water off to lather and back on to rinse, and reckon you need barely any water at all to shower. This may sound a bit extreme, but the numbers could add up. There are also the often-touted health benefits of cold showers, but that's too much, even for us.
While shower timers aren't usually free, there are a whole host of other water-saving freebies you can get.
Use 'eco' mode on appliances where possible
Many appliances have modes which make them operate at different speeds, temperatures and levels of power. Often, they have an 'eco' mode, which is marketed as being more environmentally friendly.
For most appliances, 'eco' mode means operating at a lower speed, and often, heat. It's frequently an option on washing machines and dishwashers. Using these modes will use less energy, in some cases even less than washing on a short cycle, and therefore will save you money on your energy bills. According to Currys, up to 90% of the energy a washing machine uses is to heat the water. So the lower temperature eco wash can use far less energy, sometimes up to 59%.
Be warned, though, these modes are likely to struggle with, for example, really messy dishes or very dirty clothes. They're also not ideal if you're in a rush, as eco mode cycles typically take a lot longer.
Turn draught detective
Walk round your home spotting window and door draughts. You can even make your own sausage dog draught excluder. Decent draughtproofing can cut 2.5% off energy bills, so about £60 a year on average for a typical home. This applies to chimneys too, where you can get a 3.5%-ish further reduction. Again, this is subject to an initial outlay, but you will make it back over time.
If you've an open, uninsulated chimney, you could try a chimney sheep to reduce draughts. Chimney Sheep is a wool draught excluder, starting at £18. It's made from felted sheep wool, so it's naturally breathable and allows moisture to pass through. Be fire aware though – make sure there's nothing blocking your chimney if you're planning to use it.
Another option is a chimney balloon, which is an inflatable 'pillow' that can block your chimney. You can pick them up from DIY shops for around £15.
The UK fuel crisis charity, Fuel Bank Foundation, suggests putting bubble wrap on cold bathroom windows and some also say that putting clingfilm on your windows can help trap the heat in to stop it escaping. And the Energy Saving Trust told us putting clingfilm on windows actually works. It says adding a second layer, as long as it's transparent and airtight, will make a difference. But some may just want to keep their clingfilm for their sandwiches.
How much does a meter-read energy unit cost?
For electricity, the meter in your cupboard records in kilowatt hours (kWh), which is what suppliers use to bill you. Yet for gas, the meter usually records in cubic meters, so a conversion's needed, yet roughly...
How much energy do different appliances use?
To save energy, it can help to know just how much each appliance is costing. We've crunched some numbers for you, using standard appliances and rates under the energy price guarantee for electricity (34p per kilowatt hour, or kWh). These are ballpark figures as different models use different amounts of power, but it should give you a rough idea.
Appliance kWh (1) Cost per hour (2) Tumble dryer (3,000 watts) 3 £1.02 Oven (2,000W) 2 68p Kettle (1,800W) 1.8 61p Electric hob (1,700W) 1.7 58p Vacuum cleaner (1,400W) 1.4 48p Dishwasher (1,200W) 1.2 41p Microwave (1,200W) 1.2 41p Toaster (1,200W) 1.2 41p Iron (1,100W) 1.1 37p Air fryer (1,000W) 1 34p Washer (700W) 0.7 24p Electric clothes airer (250W) 0.25 8.5p Slow cooker (225W) 0.225 8p PlayStation 5 (201W) 0.201 7p Electric blanket (100W) 0.1 3.4p Sky Q box (45W) 0.045 1.5p TV (30W) 0.03 1.02p Fridge (28W) 0.028 0.95p BT Hub (12W) 0.012 0.41p Light bulb (10W) 0.01 0.34p Sky Q box (standby) (9W) 0.009 0.31p Microwave (standby) (7W) 0.007 0.24p Phone charger (5W) 0.005 0.17p PlayStation 5 (standby) (0.36W) 0.00036 0.01p
Thrifty energy-saving tips
There are loads of other small, often simple tips to cut energy use out there. While these tips generally have much less of an impact on their own, put together they could add up to a decent saving. Many of these are crowd-sourced, and we aren't able to get saving figures for these, but they are worth a try.
Keep your doors closed
A simple but effective way of reducing draughts and keeping in the heat is to always keep doors closed when you're in a room – it'll help keep the heat in, and means your central heating doesn't have to work as hard. For more on draughtproofing see turn draught detective.
Line your curtains with cheap fleece
Chunky curtains, especially lined and insulated, will keep the warmth in. If you're on a budget, you could line curtains yourself with cheap fleece blankets (which you can find from about £2) – but remember to check it's fire retardant.
Or, if you need new curtains anyway, you could look into ones that come with thermal lining.
Hang curtains on interior doors
To tackle draughts and keep the heat within a particular room, you could consider hanging curtains on interior doors – such as between your living room and hallway. It may take some DIY knowledge and some initial outlay, but it should help stop heat escaping.
I put a full-length curtain at the front door. It makes such a difference downstairs and keeps the draught out from around the side of the door.
Pet owner? Considering installing pet doors on your internal doors
This comes with an upfront cost, yet the upside here is you can keep your interior doors closed, keeping draughts at bay, while still allowing your pets the freedom to roam.
Put clingfilm on your windows for DIY draughtproofing
Strangely, this tip can help keep your home warm. Putting a sheet of clingfilm on your windows can trap a small layer of air to help stop heat escaping.
You can use any material, not just clingfilm, as long as it's transparent and airtight. Yet while clingfilm would work, you'd likely want to consider a specialist secondary glazing film.
You'll see a greater benefit if your windows are only single glazed, but it's possible adding a third layer to double glazed windows could help a little. See our Energy mythbusting guide for more on this.
LED lights can cut the cost of Christmas displays
With Christmas fast approaching, and energy prices at all-time highs, many people are worried if they can afford Christmas lights. We've crunched the numbers to see how much those lights actually cost. The big difference is whether they're LED lights or incandescent:
- LED lights. One 100-bulb string of white LED fairy lights that we found uses just three watts of energy. At current electricity rates, it would cost you a total of just 18p on average, if you had them on for six hours every day for 30 days.
Bigger sets of lights, with more bulbs, will of course use more energy and therefore cost a bit more – for example, a 32-metre string of outside lights would cost a total of £1.90.
- Incandescent lights. These tend to be older, and are 80% to 90% less efficient to run than LED varieties, and so cost much more. For example, a 40-watt 100-bulb string of incandescent fairy lights would cost you about £2.45 to run for 30 days over Christmas. Yet some prefer the softer glow these give.
To see which type of lights you have, first check if the bulbs are glass or plastic. Incandescent lights are usually made of glass and get hot when they've been left on a while. You may also be able to see a filament inside. LEDs are generally made of plastic and are cool to touch. If you kept the packaging, some boxes show the lights' wattage, which you can use to work out the costs.
We've rounded up a selection of different sized lights and other decorations that we found on sale this year, and worked out how much they'd cost to run, but bear in mind that different products will use different amounts of energy.
Size Cost to run for six hours a day for 30 days LED white 'string' lights (3 watts) 100 bulbs £0.18 LED coloured 'pickwick' lights (4.5 watts) 100 bulbs £0.37 TABLE_CELL_STYLELED 'icicle' lights (5 watts) TABLE_CELL_STYLE360 bulbs £0.43 TABLE_CELL_STYLEIncandescent 'string' lights (40 watts) TABLE_CELL_STYLE100 bulbs £2.45 LED 'string' lights (31 watts) 32 metres £1.90 LED 'rope' lights (46 watts) 20 metres £2.82 Light-up inflatable snowman (9 watts) 6 feet £0.73 LED 'icicle' lights (9 watts) 75 metres £0.73
Should you switch to LED lights?
If the only thing to be concerned about was electricity costs, you should make the switch. However, there's the upfront cost of buying new lights to think about. To give you an idea, we found a string of 100 LED lights for a fiver, while a larger 20-metre string of outdoor rope lights might set you back £15.
You'd likely save in the long-run if you're planning to use the lights year after year, as LED lights also last a lot longer (up to 50 times) than incandescent bulbs and are cheaper to run.
But if you've incandescent bulbs, and money's tight this Christmas, you're likely better rationing how often you turn the Christmas lights on than shelling out to replace them.
Fire safety warning: If you do use traditional incandescent lights at Christmas, avoid leaving them on for long periods of time and do not leave them unattended, as they can get hot and cause fires.
- LED lights. One 100-bulb string of white LED fairy lights that we found uses just three watts of energy. At current electricity rates, it would cost you a total of just 18p on average, if you had them on for six hours every day for 30 days.
Energy monitors can show you exactly how much energy your devices use
If you really want to know exactly how much energy an appliance is using – to help identify the worst offenders – you could invest in an energy monitor (you can find them for as little as £15).
You plug your appliance into the energy monitor, then plug the monitor into a wall socket, and it'll give you information on how much electricity the appliance is using (some can even tell you the cost).
However, unless you want to buy lots of these, which can quickly become expensive, you'll need to measure your appliances one by one, as you're using them, and keep a record of the results so you can compare.
It takes a bit of time and effort, but it should help you identify what's costing you the most to run.
Use the power of the sun
Make the most of natural light during the day – open curtains and blinds throughout the house to let the light and heat in. Just remember to close them again as soon it starts to get darker in the evenings.
Charge solar lights outside during the day and bring them in at night
Using solar lights instead of electric lamps indoors could help save small amounts on your electricity bill. While solar lights are generally kept outside, where they harness the sun's energy, solar lights can still be used indoors.
You can leave them outside during the day to charge, then bring them inside in the evening. This is harder in winter, when there is less sunlight, so make sure to position them in the best place to get the most sunlight – away from trees, buildings and anything else that may cast a shadow.
You could also try charging the lights during the day through a window. This should work, providing lots of light comes through, and you don't even have to open the window.
Tweak your TV's settings to improve its efficiency
We spend about four hours a day watching TV on average. All that viewing uses a lot of energy, but most TVs these days have special settings aimed at making them run as efficiently as possible.
Most have special 'power saving' settings, which will adjust the brightness of your screen to reduce power consumption. If not, you can tinker with the brightness and contrast of your TV yourself – lowering these will help. Some newer TVs also have sensors that can detect how much light is in a room and adjusts the brightness to match, so you're not using more than necessary.
You can also change the picture mode. Most TVs have multiple options, and generally the 'standard' option is the most energy efficient.
Many TV boxes also have an 'eco mode' setting. For example, Sky Q has an eco mode that will power down the box between 2.30am and 5.45am. Others, such as Virgin and BT, have similar settings – look for 'eco' or 'power saving' settings on your device.
Finally, always check if your TV has a sleep timer, which switches the TV off when it has been idle for a set amount of time.
Don't leave your mobile phone to charge overnight
The average mobile phone can take about three hours to fully charge. So if you're guilty of plugging your mobile phone in overnight, you're likely wasting some energy unnecessarily.
Instead, top up your mobile's battery throughout the day, and always unplug it when fully charged. It's also worth looking at some of your settings, such as screen brightness, battery saving mode and airplane mode – these can all make the charging time much quicker (and the battery last longer). Better still, turn off your phone completely when charging it. The less power your device is using, the quicker the charge time.
Try solar portable charging banks for your devices
You can get some fairly cheap solar-powered charging banks these days (we've seen some for about £25), which are great for keeping your devices such as phones and tablets juiced up, rather than plugging them into the mains every time they need a charge.
Clean your tumble dryer filters
Modern tumble dryers usually have an easily accessible filter that catches dust, fluff and lint from your clothes. Over time this can build up to form a thick layer on your filter, which means your dryer has to work harder to do its job. Try and clean this filter before every load of washing goes in.
To save even more energy, you could try to completely avoid using the tumble dryer if you can.
Replace old or broken appliances with energy efficient ones
We're not suggesting you go around replacing working appliances, but when your old ones are ready to be retired, try replacing them with more energy efficient models.
The aim is to buy new appliances that are as energy efficient as possible, but still within your budget. All electrical appliances in the UK have an energy rating label ('A' usually being the most efficient and 'G' the least). For more info, the Energy Saving Trust has full info on energy labels for appliances or check Sust-it, which aims to rank products by energy use.
Put reflective panels behind radiators
Reflective panels behind radiators could help cut energy use. These are sheets of reflective material that you place between the back of the radiator and the wall so heat doesn't escape through the external wall.
You could do this yourself with tin foil, though it won't be as effective as actual reflector panels, as foil can crinkle, rip and oxidise more easily, reducing its effectiveness.
Install a radiator shelf to stop heat escaping
Radiator shelves are thin shelves you install just above your radiators. The idea is that they stop heat rising, and therefore escaping, deflecting it back into the room to heat up the space more efficiently.
Don't block your radiators
If you have the space, it's good practice to move big items of furniture away from radiators. Items such as sofas or chests of drawers could block heat from the radiator flowing into the room if they're pushed right up against the radiator – so your central heating will have to work harder to hit your desired temperature.
Invest in a radiator brush to keep them running efficiently
Radiator brushes are relatively cheap, but really any thin duster that can fit in the small holes at the top of some radiators will do. Getting to the hard-to-reach places in your radiator can free it from dust and help it run more efficiently.
Considering using radiator fans and heat diverters
Radiator fans – sometimes known as radiator boosters – are an add-on to your radiator that help redirect heat across the room, helping to prevent heat from rising and escaping.
They're fairly universal in size and simple to install on most standard radiators, and you can even pick them up and slot them on different radiators depending on where you are. However, they are electric, so will use small amounts of energy to work.
You also can't use them if you have storage heaters or oil-filled radiators.
Defrost your freezer
If your freezer is looking a little frosty, you might want to consider defrosting it. This can improve its efficiency, as the motor doesn't have to work as hard.
Clean your fridge's condenser coils
To keep your fridge running at maximum efficiency it's a good idea to give the condenser coils a clean. These are usually located on the back of the fridge and will usually have some kind of grate or cover over them.
It's a good idea to turn the fridge off first, just in case. Then you'll likely need to pull the fridge away from the wall (if you can) and find a screwdriver to remove the panel covering the coils.
Once you see the coils, you'll want to clean the dust off gently, to avoid doing any damage.
Fill your freezer to help keep it cold
A well-stocked freezer retains cold better than an empty one. Generally, freezers work hardest when they're cooling down again after you've opened the door to take something out.
All the frozen food in a well-stocked freezer can help with this, preventing it from heating up as much as an empty one when opened, and will help cool down newly added items quicker.
Check if your freezer's 'fast freeze' switch is on
Many freezers have a fast freeze button (also known as super frost or super freeze). It's there to quickly freeze fresh foods that you put in your freezer and stop the overall freezer temperature from rising. It's a useful function, but generally doesn't need to be switched on all of the time.
Check if yours is on and only use it when needed, as the freezer will likely work harder when activated, consuming more energy.
Use the holiday mode on your fridge (or fridge freezer) if you're going away
If you're going away for a few days or more, check if your fridge has a 'holiday mode' or 'eco mode'. It'll typically keep the internal temperature of the fridge at 15°C, which will prevent odour and mould from occurring (it won't change the freezer temperature). But make sure you empty the fridge first as it won't keep food fresh on this setting.
Batch-cook meals to cut oven use
If you have the time, batch-cooking dinner for the next few days or for the week ahead is the most energy efficient way to cook.
You can double or triple portion sizes, or cook multiple different meals at once, freeze anything you don't use, then portion that out over the coming days.
Just remember to defrost each portion in the fridge overnight so you're not using the microwave to defrost food.
Put a lid on your pans
If you're boiling water for pasta or veg, for example, keep the lid on the pan, as it'll keep the heat in and cook faster, using less energy.
Use the smallest saucepan you can – unless you’re warming liquids
Don't waste energy by boiling water in a giant pan. It only needs to cover the food, not drown it.
But if you're just using a pan to warm liquids like soup or custard, it's actually better to choose a bigger one, as a larger surface area will heat up quicker and so use less energy.
Use the right size hob ring for your pan
By putting a smaller pan on a larger hob ring, you're wasting energy as the heat will just escape around the edges of the pan. Try to match the pan size to the hob ring every time you cook.
Only boil pasta for a few minutes, then let it sit in the hot water to finish cooking
One MoneySaver shared food company Barilla's passive cooking timing guide for dried pasta, which cuts active boiling time down to just two minutes.
Many supermarkets also sell 'quick cook' pasta, which shaves down cooking time.
Steam vegetables in a microwave
You can steam veg in the microwave, like Mark did below with broccoli – though if you don't want to use clingfilm, you can use a plate to cover it or buy a microwave steamer box.
Try using copper pans and glass dishes for quicker cooking times
Ditching your stainless steel pans for copper ones could save you energy, as copper heats up more quickly and retains it better than stainless steel. But bear in mind they’re not cheap.
Similarly, using glass or ceramic ovenproof dishes in the oven can be better than metal, as it'll hold the heat more and so your food takes less time - and energy - to cook.
Get your oven cleaned to boost its efficiency
When your oven is deep-cleaned on the inside, it'll reach the desired temperature more quickly and distribute heat more efficiently, which means it uses less energy.
Many newer ovens have a self-cleaning mode, so check yours. You could also get a professional in, but expect to pay at least £40 depending on where you live and the size of your oven.
Alternatively, you could do it yourself, but be careful as powerful cleaning products can be harmful to skin and eyes, and may damage your oven if not used correctly.
Leave the oven door open after cooking and turning it off
It may not make a huge difference, but after you've finished cooking, you could consider leaving the oven door open, to help warm up your home (though even with door closed, it will still heat your kitchen, just more slowly). But do make sure the open door isn't a hazard for small children and pets. And always make sure the oven is switched off.
Defrost food in a fridge and don't cook from frozen
Avoid using the microwave to defrost frozen foods. Defrosting food in the fridge won't cost you any extra, while using the microwave will use electricity. So plan ahead and factor in a longer defrosting time for your next meal, rather than a more expensive blast in the microwave.
Don't put piping hot food straight into the fridge
Cooked a big meal and have plenty of leftovers for tomorrow? You may want to wait an hour or so before you put the leftovers in the fridge. Putting piping hot food straight in the fridge will mean it'll need to work harder to stay cool.
But don't leave it out too long, otherwise harmful bacteria could form. The Food Standards Agency recommends cooling cooked food at room temperature and placing it in the fridge within one to two hours.
Don't overfill your fridge
Leaving spaces in the fridge allows air to circulate, so the fridge can more easily maintain the set temperature.
Use a washing-up bowl – rather than leaving the tap running when washing up
Fill a washing-up bowl to do the dishes rather than the whole sink, or just washing dishes under a running hot tap. This way, you'll save on the heating and the water.
Or you can use a dishwasher, which can be more efficient if you've got lots of dirty dishes to clean. See our energy-saving dishwasher tip.
One MoneySaver also suggested using the residual heat from your oven to give you warm washing up water:
Safety warning: If you try this yourself, be careful when removing the tray from the oven and always check the water temperature before putting your hands in, to avoid scalding.
Don't leave the water running while brushing your teeth or shaving
If you habitually leave the water running while brushing your teeth or shaving – stop. Get into the habit of only using water to rinse your toothbrush before and after brushing, or filling a small glass with water while shaving, otherwise you're pouring money down the plughole.
Swap your bath for a shower
According to Waterwise (a non-profit aimed at reducing water use) the average shower uses 12 litres of water a minute, while power showers use even more. So a five-minute shower is likely to be using 60 litres of hot water versus the 80 litres it takes to fill a bath. That's potentially thousands of litres of water saved a year (assuming you wash more than once a week...), as well as the energy saved from heating all that water.
Turn the shower off when lathering up
To really save water and energy, don't keep the hot water running while using shampoo, shower gel or soap. Pop the water on to get wet, turn it off, lather up and only then turn it back on when you're ready to rinse.
Only use the bathroom extractor fan when necessary
Some bathroom extractor fans can be switched on and off manually. One MoneySaver has suggested that, if you can, only turn it on when showering or bathing. Though do be aware that not using the extractor fan in your bathroom – especially one without windows – could increase the risk of mould.
Don't drain the hot water out of the bath too quickly
You've paid to heat it, so let it sit for a bit when you get out and heat your home, rather than pulling the plug to heat the drains. Though do note, for some in cold homes it may not work as the extra humidity could actually make it feel cooler and may cause mould.
Also be vigilant if you have small children at home – make sure they can't get into the water unattended.
It's a tad extreme, but you could take cold showers
If you can tolerate it, you could go full Wim Hof and have a cold shower. It will not only reduce your energy usage, but it's said to have many physical and mental health benefits as well. And let's face it: you're likely to spend less time under a cold shower than a warm one, meaning you'll save on water too.
Got wooden floors? Swap your vacuum for a broom
It's not likely to take you any more time to sweep than it will to vacuum, and it won't cost you a penny in electricity – plus you might burn a few calories while you're at it.
Don't iron items that people never see
Irons use almost as much energy as a dishwasher. Save your time and energy and only iron clothes and items that are absolutely necessary. Ironing bed sheets, pyjamas and undies is just a waste of energy – no one will know if you're wearing crinkly pants.
Try out tumble dryer balls to speed up drying time
While avoiding using the tumble dryer is best, if you do need to use it, you could try adding tumble dryer balls to the load, which it's claimed will speed up drying time. They're typically made of wool, rubber or plastic. You can even make your own. We've not tested them, so can't vouch for how good they are, but one Forumite has had success:
I use a couple of the spikey type of dryer balls and they help cut the drying time. Tested them on our king-sized bedding load over a couple of weeks and it was 25% faster with the balls.
- Forumite Alnat1
Use your tumble dryer's sensor programme rather than the timer
Most modern tumble dryers have a sensor drying programme, which ends automatically when your laundry is at a certain level of dryness. This is different to timed programs, which run for the allocated time you set. If you're using a tumble dryer, avoid using the timed programmes, as you could be over-drying, using unnecessary energy.
Use smart plugs to cut down the running time of your dishwasher
You could get clever with smart plugs (which allow you to turn off an appliance remotely using a device such as your phone, and which you can find from about £7). For example, John now avoids using the drying function on his dishwasher, instead allowing its residual heat to dry the clean dishes.
I decided to get rid of the drying cycle. By programming a Tapo smart plug, the dishwasher is turned off automatically after one hour 35 minutes – just before the drying cycle starts. I then open the door a couple of inches to let the steam escape (as newer models now do) – the dishes are hot. Leaving the dishes in the dishwasher for an hour means they come out dry!
Move your thermostat to your most used room (if you can)
If you have a thermostat you can move, make sure it's in the best position. A thermostat works by measuring the ambient temperature in the area it sits in and sends a signal to your boiler if the temperature drops too low.
As a result, the location of the thermostat can have a big impact on your heating bill. If it's positioned in a draughty hallway, but you spend most of your time in the living room where it's generally warmer, your heating could be staying on for longer than necessary to heat the actual room you're in.
So if you can, move it to where you spend most of your time.
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