How to save money on utilities
Utilities, such as gas, electricity and water, are a big part of our monthly outgoings that must be paid if we want to continue having hot showers, cooking meals and washing our clothes. According to Ofgem, the government regulator for gas and electricity markets in the UK, the average household spends nearly £1,300 a year just on heating and electricity and, besides your mortgage, is one of the biggest outgoings. While these utilities are essential in our everyday lives, there are some things you could do at home to reduce the amount of energy or water that you use to bring the cost of your utilities down.
How to save money on gas and electricity bills
Switch energy supplier
One of the quickest and easiest ways to save money on your gas and electricity bills is to switch suppliers. Switching allows you to save money without having to alter how much energy you use. Whether you’ve been with your current supplier for a long time or you’ve only been with them a year, switching is relatively straight forward. According to Ofgem, the average household can save around £300 a year by simply switching providers. This is a huge saving that could be made within just a few days, but many people are put off making the switch because they think it will be confusing and only complicate matters.
But the truth is, the whole switching process should take less than 21 days and your two suppliers (the previous one and the new one) will arrange most things between themselves so you don’t have to worry about unexpected costs, incorrect meter readings or anything else.
Even if you have a prepayment meter installed, you can still switch energy suppliers, so long as you switch to another provider that offers prepayment tariffs. Just do keep in mind that prepayment tariffs are often more expensive, and so you could save more money by switching to a standard policy.
The best place to start when you want to switch energy suppliers is a comparison website. To save as much money as possible on your gas and electricity bills, you’ll want to view all the available deals and pick the most reasonable one for you. The site will likely list any potential discounts as well as the individual prices of gas and electricity.
You can switch as long as you are out of contract with your current supplier. While you may have been tied into a fixed contract for the first 12 or 24 months, there is nothing stopping you looking to switch suppliers when this period is coming to an end. Just remember, before attempting to find a better price for your gas and electricity, do make sure that you are out of contract and able to make a switch. As already mentioned, the switch itself typically takes around three weeks and you should seamlessly transition from one supplier to another with no cut off of electricity or gas.
Install a new boiler
While the initial cost of a new boiler should be something you take into consideration, it may still be worth making the investment if it means you can make your home more energy efficient and reduce your monthly bills. Modern boilers tend to be more energy efficient than their older counterparts and this investment could save you up to 30 per cent on your energy bills each year.
You may also want to consider investing in all the accompanying devices that can come with a new boiler, such as a programmer and a smart room thermostat. These things will allow you to manage your heating in a more efficient and controlled way, turning it off remotely if you accidentally leave it on or making sure it’s switched off when you go away. Weather compensation modules can be included too, that allow your home to stay as warm but using less energy.
Reduce the thermostat by one degree
One degree celsius is such a small amount that you might not even notice the temperature change in your home. However, this tiny adjustment could save you around £80 per year and over 300 kg of carbon dioxide.
While you’re adjusting your thermostat, it might also be a good idea to recheck the schedule of your central heating. Do you still need the heating to be on at those times? Perhaps you could alter the heating system so that it comes on an hour later. Doing this could also save you money each year.
Set your boiler to the correct temperature
A combi boiler should be set to an output temperature of around 75 °C (use weather compensation if available). If it’s set higher than this, your boiler will be able to heat your home up faster, however it could waste a large amount of energy in doing so. In fact, your boiler’s efficiency could decrease by up to 20 per cent. Make sure that the boiler is set to or near this temperature to maintain efficiency and save money.
Turn the lights off when you leave a room
I’m sure most of us have been told this over and over again during our lifetimes, however, despite it sounding trivial, you may be surprised how much of a difference this small act can make. Leaving lights on could waste a significant amount of energy each year, and light isn’t needed when someone isn’t using that room.
Ensure that lights are always turned off when you are leaving a room. If you regularly forget, you could install a light switch that automatically turns the light off after a set amount of time, or even motion sensor technology that switches a light off when no regular movement is detected. This can be particularly useful in rooms that you go in just to put something away, such as an airing cupboard, cloak cupboard or utility room.
Use natural heat
The sun is naturally hot meaning, even in winter, its heat can still warm up your home. This can be done via solar collectors, a heat pump or just by opening your curtains during the daytime.
Solar thermal collectors work by taking advantage of the sun’s heat and channeling it to heat water that can be used in your home. This could save you money on gas. In a similar way, solar PV panels can also generate electricity, saving you money here too. Despite the initial investment on installation, you are likely to enjoy both financial and environmental benefits long term.
A heat pump works by taking natural heat from the air or ground. This ambient heat which is gathered is then used to heat refrigerant which is then compressed using electricity to increase the temperature further and heat water in your home, this can be used for heating or hot water usage. Ground source and air source heat pumps generally cost less to run than a standard gas boiler dependent on property type, making this kind of system both energy efficient and cost effective and kinder to the environment. This is further promoted through the Government Green Homes Grant Scheme.
Alternatively, you can simply allow the sun to stream into your home during the day. Keep curtains and blinds open and close them when the sun begins to go down. This should allow the heat to warm your home up and then retain it once the sun has gone down.
Turn off appliances on standby
When you turn a television or a computer off, they still use a tiny bit of electricity, and this could be costing you up to £30 a year. When you’re not using certain appliances or devices, you should be sure to fully turn off the electricity supply at the plug to save this money and energy.
How to save money on water
While your water bills will generally be lower than your electricity and gas bill, you may want to reduce your usage to try and save money if you're on a water meter. Below, you can find some of the best ways to do so.
Fix dripping taps
Did you know that a dripping tap could waste nearly 1,500 litres of water in one year? This could increase depending on how often it drips. If multiple taps are leaking, this figure will only increase and you’ll be spending money on water that has literally gone down the drain. Therefore, it’s important to fix any leaking taps to save money.
Fill your washing machine and dishwasher
A washing machine and dishwasher will use more water to complete two half loads than they do one full load. It’s important that, when you’re using these appliances, they are full so that you don’t have to run a second cycle any time soon.
Where possible, hang your washing on the line to avoid using your tumble dryer if you don’t have to. This will save you money on your electric bill too.
Make use of eco settings
Most dishwashers and washing machines will have an ‘eco’ setting. This usually means that they wash your clothes at a lower temperature and with less water. While this isn’t ideal for very dirty clothes or dishes with baked-on residue, it can be good for dishes that have light dirt, such as crumbs or clothes that don’t need a deep wash.
Choose a shower over a bath
Although it may sound obvious, did you know that running a bath or using a power shower can use nearly twice the amount of water as a normal shower? Try to choose a shower over a bath where possible. If you’re using a power shower, around 14 litres of water are used every minute. Therefore, taking a five minute shower instead of a 10 minute one could reduce your water usage from 140 litres to 70 litres and will therefore save you money.
Buy a water-saving shower head
No one wants a shower that has hardly any water pressure, but equally high-pressure showers can waste a lot of water too. These ingenious eco shower heads control the flow of water in a more manageable way, meaning you can get the water pressure that you want while also saving water.