With household energy bills set to rise substantially, this article offers eight tips to help households use less electricity. Read on for an analysis of the electricity usage in an average home, followed by energy saving tips – so if you are keen to pay less for your electricity, let’s get started!
Average electricity usage
Making some simple changes to the way a house operates can save money on heating bills over the colder months. The average household spends around £1,277 on heating and power according to Ofgem, the industry regulator. Electricity usage has increased over recent years; the average home, with four occupants, now uses 13 electrical appliances whereas in 1990 just four items were used, according to an Energy Consumption in the UK (ECUK) 2017 report. Despite this, we are using around the same amount of energy, as our equipment has become more energy efficient.
The top five energy consuming appliances are dishwashers and washing machines; consumer electronic items such as laptops/TVs; cookers; fridge-freezers and lighting. They account for 25% of a household’s electrical use and can often be used more sparingly.
When replacing electrical goods, it is important to select energy efficient appliances: most display energy labels, with A+++ being the highest and F-G the lowest, which explain how much energy the item uses compared to similar products. An A+++ washing machine could use £65 less energy than a A+ product over an 11-year lifespan.
8 key ways to help you save money:
1. Wet appliances:
Washing machines and dishwashers use the most electricity and usually account for 25% of an average home’s electricity use, and 15% of total energy costs. To save money, make a few changes such as washing clothes at a lower temperature – selecting 30°C or 20°C can use around 57% less electricity than higher temperatures.
Wash a full load, avoid half loads, wash clothes less frequently and clean the washing machine’s filter regularly to prolong its life. Only use a dishwasher when it is full and select the eco or short wash cycle setting if available. Regularly clean the filters to keep the machine in good working order.
TVs and laptops account for 19% of the total electrical use in an average home. Avoid recharging mobile phones and other devices to 100%; most will last longer if the battery is half charged. Televisions are energy-hungry, accounting for 30% of the total electricity used by electronic devices. Switch off Smart home appliances at the wall socket where possible. Tumble dryers with an electronic humidity control are the most efficient as they automatically shit off when the clothes are dry. Make sure you use the correct settings to minimise use of electricity.
3. Kitchen items:
Hobs, kettles, ovens and microwave ovens account for 19% of an average house’s electrical use. Energy saving measures include filling a kettle with just the amount of water that is needed; heating water in a kettle for cooking rather than heating it on the hob and covering pans as water will boil faster, using less energy. Use a pressure cooker for food that takes a long time to cook.
A good tip is to turn off cooking plates or the hob before the end of cooking; residual heat will continue to finish cooking the food without using electricity. Remember that glass and ceramic pans retain heat for longer than metal ones, and matching the saucepan to the cooker plate size avoids wasting electricity.
4. Cold appliances:
Fridges and freezers account for 16% of electrical use and while they obviously must stay switched on to maintain a constant temperature, it is important not to overload them as this uses more power. Maintain the fridge temperature at 5°C or lower and regularly defrost both sections. Avoid opening the door unnecessarily and check that the door seal is undamaged. Turn off an empty fridge if you go away on holiday. Also, let food cool down properly before putting it in a fridge. Freezers should be regularly defrosted; if they are iced-up they have to work harder to maintain their temperature.
Lighting accounts for 16% of household electricity use. Installing energy efficient lighting can lower electricity bills. Traditional light bulbs are highly inefficient and halogen bulbs are only slightly more efficient. Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) use around 70-80% less electricity than traditional bulbs and last around 10 times longer.
Replacing halogen bulbs with light emitting diodes (LED) bulbs could help save energy; they are more efficient and offer a range of brightness options. Replacing all bulbs in a typical home with LED energy saving bulbs could save £30 per year on electricity costs. Fitting sensors or timers to external lights will ensure they are only used when needed.
If a shower takes hot water straight from a boiler or tank (not an electric shower), fit a water efficient shower head to reduce usage.
A boiler should be energy efficient, with heating controls which allow water and heating timers to be set to heat only the required areas, setting the temperature for each area. Installing a room thermostat, a programmer and thermostatic radiator valves could save around £70 per year if used efficiently. A Smart thermostat could also be fitted; these allow control of temperature and selection of which rooms to heat.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, each degree that a room thermostat is turned up will increase the energy bill by around 10%. It may also be worthwhile considering a renewable heating system such as an air source heat pump, but these do need to be installed in a properly insulated house to work well.
Switch to a new energy supplier for a cheaper deal. Be aware of the electricity you use with your current supplier, as when a tariff ends you can search energy companies for an alternative supplier and start saving. Compare energy quotes for electricity and check whether you are paying a fixed or variable rate. Consider time-based electricity tariffs: off-peak periods when cheaper electricity is available which may be useful for owners of electric cars or hybrids who can charge their vehicles more cheaply overnight. The way that you pay your bill may be relevant as there is often a discount for direct debit customers or those who pay quarterly – check with the supplier.
The best ways to stop overpaying on your energy bill:
Here are examples of the savings that can be made for a typical three bedroom, gas heated home over a year, using a gas price of 4.65p/kWh and electricity price of 20.06p/kWh according to the Energy Saving Trust estimates:
- Turn off standby switches: £40. Almost all electrical appliances can be turned off without interrupting their settings. Consider fitting Standby Savers that allow you to turn all appliances off standby at once.
- Fit a water efficient shower: £30.
- Insulation and draught proofing: fit draught excluders to doors and windows to prevent heat loss: £30. Insulating cavity walls and lofts to the recommended 270mm depth is advised. A cap could be installed over a chimney pot if the chimney is not used and the fireplace should be insulated.
- Turn a room thermostat down by just one degree: £55.
- Replace all light bulbs with LEDs: £30.
- Turn off lights when you leave a room: £14.
- Wash clothes at 30 degrees and reduce use by one load a week: £20.
- Avoid use of tumble dryer: £40.
- Take a 4-minute shower: £45. Fit a shower timer.
- Swap one bath a week for a shower: £7.
- Do not overfill the kettle and fit a tap aerator to reduce the amount of water coming from the tap: £22.
- Cut dishwasher use by one cycle a week: £10.
- Insulate the hot water cylinder: £20. Fit a British Standard 80mm thick jacket. Insulating the water tank and hot water pipes will stop heat escaping and make a big difference.
Check your eligibility for energy efficiency grants. These include:
Warm Home Discount
£40 is available for pensioners and those who receive certain benefits.
Winter Fuel Payment
This provides £100-£300 per winter for those born before 26th September 1955.
Renewable Heat Incentive
Quarterly payments for seven years are available if you install a heat pump, biomass boiler or solar water heating. The scheme closes in March 2022.
Boiler Upgrade Scheme
From April 2022, this will allow up to £5,000 to replace your current gas or oil heating with a low carbon heating system.
Help with loft insulation and boiler costs is available from some energy suppliers. If you are considering improvements, it is a good investment to prioritise a home’s energy efficiency. Take the opportunity to install features such as double glazing, solar panels, cavity walls, dimmer switches or insulation to help you spend less on household bills in the long run.