Save cash while saving the earth
M OST households could save up to £300 a year by following just a handful of simple energy-saving tips. That's more than home energy bills went up at the last big price hike.
In a typical UK household, well over half the money spent on fuel bills goes towards providing heating and hot water. So in these times of ever increasing fuel costs, having an efficient and cost-effective heating system is vital – and it's one of the main steps you can take to reduce your carbon dioxide emissions.
One of the easiest ways to save is to turn down the central heating, which could save £60 a month for an average family in a three-bedroomed semi.
The Energy Saving Trust says many households have their heating set higher than they need it.
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A spokesperson advised: "Try turning your room thermostat down by one degree. Leave it for a day and if you still feel warm enough, try turning it down another degree. Carry on until it feels a bit too cool and then turn it back up one degree. Every degree that you turn it down could save you around £60 a year on your heating bill."
Investigate replacing your boiler with a newer, more efficient model. Or you could fit better controls for your space and water heating – and use them to make sure your boiler only provides heat where and when you want it.
You could also switch to a cheaper or lower carbon fuel or technology. Consider cutting your electricity bills by installing solar power. Sunlight is free, so once you've paid for the initial installation, your electricity costs will be reduced. You can even get paid for the electricity you generate.
Save even more money by turning off lights, appliances and chargers when not in use.
Turning a light off for just a few seconds will save more energy than it takes the light to start up again, no matter what sort of lights you have.
Virtually all electrical and electronic appliances can safely be turned off at the plug without upsetting their systems – the only exceptions are satellite and digi-boxes which should be left plugged in so they can keep track of any programmes you want to record.
A family could save around £40 a year by switching off.
Another £35 can be saved through care in the kitchen. Set the washing machine to 30°C; only use your tumble dryer when you can't dry your clothes outside and don't fill the kettle every time – just boil the amount of water you need.
The savings made can be invested in some simple measures that will pay back quickly, leading to savings of £200-£300 a year.
A quick shower is more environmentally friendly than a bath but showering can be made even more so by fitting a water efficient head.
"This will cut hot water use without you noticing any difference when you shower," said a spokesperson.
A shower head costs around £27, resulting in an annual saving of £72 on water heating for a family of four, plus another £78 on water bills if there is a water meter.
Lagging your tank and insulating any exposed hot pipes around the water cylinder and boiler is another way to make a saving. It's easy to fit yourself. Materials will cost around £115 but within three years you'll be quids in with an annual saving of £55.
Unless your home is very new, you're likely to lose some heat through draughts around doors and windows, gaps around the floor and maybe up a chimney. Investing up to £160 on proper draught-proofing products for doors and windows, sealing skirting boards with mastic and fitting chimney balloons and sealed fire guards will result in a saving of £90 a year.
Changing all old-fashioned light bulbs for low energy ones would cost £125 but save £55 a year. Even halogen spots can be replaced with LED spots.
The trust adds: "A great many households could save between £150 and £300 a year while spending less than that to fit everything in the first year. The savings you can achieve will depend on what you're currently doing, and how many changes you choose to make."