Autumn is upon us, which means that our use of energy in the home is also on the increase. This time last year, there was huge concern about energy prices, to the extent that the government was giving everyone extra payments to help towards the bills.
But what is happening now with energy prices? And how can you ensure that you use energy economically so that your energy bills are as low as they can be?
In this article we take a look at the latest news on energy prices and tips to save energy in your home.
Energy prices in the UK are monitored by the energy regulator Ofgem. Every three months they review energy prices and set a level for how much an energy supplier can charge for each unit of energy. This level is known as the energy price cap.
The energy price cap also sets a maximum amount for the standing charge on standard tariffs charged by energy companies.
When setting the energy price cap, Ofgem takes into account the wholesale cost of gas and electricity, the costs to the providers of supplying energy on their network, and VAT.
From 1 October 2023 the price for energy for a typical household – which uses both gas and electricity and pays by Direct Debit – will go down to £1,923 per year. This is a fall of 7% from its current level of £2,074, and much lower than the earlier levels of £3,280 in April and a previous high of £3549 from October-December 2022.
It’s important to understand that it is still possible for a household to pay more than £1,923 per year, as the energy price cap is based on typical domestic consumption per year, with bills paid by direct debit. Your actual bill will depend on the size of your home, the number of people living there, and how much energy you use.
So to keep your bills as low as possible this winter, you need to ensure that you use energy as economically as possible in your home.
Here are ten possible ways to save energy in your home. Even if you only manage to do a few of them, they could make a considerable difference to your energy bills this winter:
For most households, heating is the largest element of our energy bill. So anything that can be done to keep your home warm but also cut costs has got to be a good thing.
There has been some debate about whether it is more economical to keep your heating on constantly on a low heat setting, or turn it on and off as needed. The idea being that most energy is used when the heating starts up so if this could be reduced it would save money. However, the latest advice from the Energy Saving Trust is that having the heating on only when you need it is more economical. This prevents energy leaking out of the home and being wasted.
But bear in mind that when you do have the heating on, keep it as low as is comfortable. Even turning your thermostat down by just 1°C can save money. And it’s better to have a lower temperature and put on an extra layer of clothing than blast out – and pay for – more heat than you need.
We’ve just referred to energy leaking out of the home, and this is a major problem for many households. Which means that your money is literally vanishing into thin air!
Many homes have draughts, particularly around doors, windows, chimneys, ventilation panels and also sometimes from gaps in the floor. So the first thing to do is to check your home thoroughly for draughts. One quick way to do this is to light a candle near the places that draughts may enter, and see if there is any change to the direction of the smoke from the candle.
If you do find a draught you can then either find a way to seal it, or may want to consider adding some kind of insulating material. There are many DIY materials gadgets available such as draught-proofing strips/weatherstripping tape, clingfilm on the windows or even old-fashioned fabric draught excluders. Another option would be to get professional draught-proofing done. Whilst this would mean an initial layout it would then mean a significant saving on energy bills afterwards.
The oven is another major user of energy. So as well as only using your oven when you really need to, it also makes sense to cook several items together to make the maximum use of it. This may need a bit of advance planning but will be well worth it. Also where possible cook food at lower temperatures as this will save energy.
Bear in mind that most modern electric ovens do not need pre-heating so you don’t need to switch it on for long before you need it. Your electric oven will also retain its heat for some time after it is switched off, so the residual heat is often enough to finish cooking your food.
You need to experiment with timings and temperatures to find a combination that works for you and for the things you need to cook, but once you have found that combination it should save you energy.
Also recycle the heat from your oven by leaving the door open after use so that it warms up your kitchen.
You can save energy used by your fridge and freezer by keeping them full. This seems counter-intuitive, as you’d expect a full fridge or freezer to have to work harder and therefore use more energy. But the biggest use of energy for a fridge or freezer is when the door is opened, cold air escapes and warm air comes in. Your appliance then has to work harder to cool things down again.
So try keeping your fridge and freezer full : if necessary use jugs or plastic bags of water to fill up empty space.
With a bit of thought, and careful use, you can use less energy every time you use a kitchen appliance. Here are three examples:
Showers tend to use less water than baths, and if you have a water efficient shower head this can reduce the amount of hot water and energy used whilst still providing a powerful shower.
Also try to spend a little less time in the shower. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that spending just one minute less in the shower each day could save up to £80 a year for a family of four.
You could save around £60 a year just by turning your appliances off standby mode, as a small amount of energy will still be used unless appliances are turned off at the socket.
Most electronic appliances can be turned off at the plug without upsetting their programming but check the instructions for any appliances you aren’t sure about, for example some satellite and digital TV recorders may need to be left plugged in to ensure they record the programmes you want.
Get into the habit of always switching off the lights when you leave a room, unless you are planning to come straight back in again. Bear in mind that switching off a light even for a few seconds could save you around £15 on your annual energy bills.
Also make sure you are using energy saving bulbs throughout your home as this can save around £35 a year on bills.
We referred earlier to draught-proofing, and it could also be worth looking at more significant energy saving measures for your home. These include cavity wall insulation, loft insulation, and solar panels.
During the energy bills crisis last year, consumers were advised not to change suppliers. But now that things have eased slightly, it may be worth looking around for another supplier if you are not happy with your current one. The comparison site Uswitch has a price comparison tool to help you find good energy deals available in your area.
To get the most out of switching your supplier, it helps to know how much energy you are using, what kind of tariff you are on, and how much you are being charged. You can find this information from your energy bill : The Energy Saving Trust has a helpful Youtube video on how to understand your energy bill.
We hope that this article helps you to start saving energy in your home and that you will see reduced energy bills this winter as a result.