Energy saving tips

Energy saving tips

How to save energy at home

Cutting energy costs isn't just about cheaper tariffs, which are tough to find right now anyway, as there are no deals meaningfully cheaper than the regulator's price cap. The main way to save during the current energy crisis is to use less, so see if you can adopt any of the easy methods below.

 

This guide deals in the facts and figures of saving energy, but there are some grey areas and a lot of disputed claims – our Energy mythbusters guide looks at these. If you've any feedback or tips you think we should add to this guide, please let us know in the Energy saving tips forum thread.

How to save energy

These figures are largely based on calculations from the Energy Saving Trust, but don't worry, we've also crunched the numbers ourselves where possible to check they add up (savings are based on a typical three-bedroom household with a family of four, correct as of November 2021).

  1. Turn your thermostat down

    This is one of the easiest things to do on this list. For each degree you cut the thermostat, expect to cut bills by 4%-ish, or about £65 a year on average for a typical home.

    Of course, it might cause some arguments with family, flatmates or fussy pets, but the World Health Organisation says that 18 degrees is enough for healthy adults, with slightly higher temperatures needed for the very old or young. So consider popping on a jumper at home and seeing what temperature your household is comfortable at.

    And while we're talking heating, a common debate is whether it is cheaper to leave the heating on low all day, rather than just turning it on when you need it. The Energy Saving Trust is adamant you should only have your heating on when required – see our Energy mythbusters guide for more.

  2. 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 may be your best bet. We can't promise you won't still be told to hurry up by impatient family members, but you will have more money in your pocket. For a typical family, it's a 2%-ish saving, or about £35 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.

  3. Don't assume all energy-saving light bulbs are equal

    LED uses about half the energy of the bigger fluorescent spiral 'energy-saving bulbs'. Obviously turning 'em off when you're not in the room helps too. There will be an initial outlay, but you should recoup it fairly quickly. See our forum for discussion on prices of LED bulbs.

    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 £14 a year doing this.

  4. Turn draught detective

    Walk round your home spotting window and door draughts. You can even make your own sausage dog draught excluder. Decent draught-proofing can cut 2% off energy bills, so about £30 a year on average for a typical home. This applies to chimneys too, where you can get a 1.5%-ish further reduction. Again, this is subject to an initial outlay, but you will make it back over time.

    Some also say that putting clingfilm on your windows can help trap the heat in to stop it escaping. And oddly enough, 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 using clingfilm for their sandwiches.

  5. Cut your shower time

    Cutting just a minute off your shower time could save £75 a year in energy bills, and a further £105 a year in water bills if you have a meter – £180 a year for an average four-person household.

    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.

  6. 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.

    The savings aren't huge, around £10 a year for modern machines, but can be much more with old ones. 

    You could also try doing your washing on a colder setting. By washing your clothes at 30 degrees, you could save £28 a year, leading to a £38 overall saving. 

  7. 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 £8 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.

  8. Don't leave your devices on standby (though it's not the problem it used to be)

    Switching off your devices is better than leaving them on standby, of course, as otherwise you're using energy for something you're not making use of. But it's nowhere near the problem it once was.

    The Energy Saving Trust says you can save £40 a year by switching devices off standby, while British Gas says it could be £110 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 £1.03 a year.

  9. Use radiator thermostats

    Don't heat the whole house when you're spending all day in one room. 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 almost 6%, so about £85 a year on average for a typical home, although an initial outlay is needed.

    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, paint and money.

  10. 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 Curry's, 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.

     

  11. Fill the dishwasher up

    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 can manage one less run of the machine a week. According to the Energy Saving Trust, reducing your dishwasher use by one run a week could save £14 annually. 

    Obviously, it's best to not use the dishwasher at all if you can avoid it, but we know time and energy are precious. 

  12. Avoid using the tumble dryer

    You could save by avoiding using the tumble dryer where possible, as it uses a lot of energy. The Energy Saving Trust reckons you could save £60 a year if you never use it.

    Try drying your clothes on an airer, but make sure you leave a window open, as it can cause damp in poorly ventilated homes. In the warmer summer months, if you've a garden or balcony, dry them outside. 

  13. Use the microwave instead of the oven

    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 jacket potato, we calculated that cooking it in the microwave uses 25% of the energy it takes to cook it in the oven.

Easy ways to save by adjusting boiler settings & radiators

While it's hard to put savings figures on most of these tips, industry experts all agree that they'll make your heating system more efficient and cut costs.

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. 

  1. Turn down the hot water temperature on your combi boiler

    If you've a combi boiler (in other words, you don't have a hot water cylinder), you will easily be able to adjust the hot water temperature – 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.

    Major energy provider Octopus Energy says a temperature of about 55 degrees 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.

  2. Reduce the heating temperature on your combi boiler

    The radiator heating temperature on your condensing combi boiler is another setting you should check as it's usually set too high by default. Often referred to as the output 'flow' temperature, it is basically the water that circulates around the system and heats your radiators.

    According to Octopus Energy, if you've a condensing combi boiler you should set it to about 50 degrees to max your boiler's efficiency. You can set this with the control that usually has a radiator symbol next to it. If you set the temperature too high, the boiler won't be able to operate in condensing mode, so you're wasting money. The Heating and Hotwater Industry Council reckons you can save up to 8% on bills by lowering the temperature on your boiler.

    And to be clear, this is different from turning down your main heating thermostat or the valves on your radiators. Changing the flow temperature won't lower the temperature of your home. Your radiators will just feel slightly cooler. Home heating experts at the Heating Hub say for homes with modern double glazing and good insulation, dropping your flow temperature will have no impact on comfort. Even those in older homes that have been modernised and draught-proofed can do this. Some in older homes may need to set it higher, but for most, it's a simple way to save.

    Experts in this field the Heating Hub and Heating Force have more info if you need it.

  3. Reduce the temperature on your non-combi boiler

    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 degrees to be safe, according to the Heating Hub (see point 11). The Health and Safety Executive requires hot water cylinders to be kept at 60 degrees – 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 degrees – you should be able to change this on the boiler control panel, indicated by a radiator icon. If you can stay warm at 60 degrees you could try lowering it further to save more money. 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 still maintain 70 degrees unless you've been advised by a heating expert that it is safe to lower it further.

  4. Turn off the 'pre-heat' function on your combi boiler

    Most modern combi boilers 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 per model).

  5. Insulate your hot water cylinder

    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%, saving around £40/year on typical energy bills.

    It is recommended that you buy a cylinder jacket that displays the British Standard Kitemark. Jackets typically cost around £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. 

  6. Bleed your radiators

    You should bleed your radiators regularly to prevent air being trapped inside, which will leave cold spots in your radiators. 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 are doing before you start. Major supplier E.on has a handy guide on how to bleed your radiators.

  7. Keep an eye on your boiler pressure

    It’s also 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 slow, 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.

    Big energy firm EDF also has a useful guide on how to check your boiler pressure.

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