A Guide to Saving Energy in Your Home
With the cooler weather now upon us and energy prices rising at a steady rate over the
last few years, there is a good chance that you are needing to save money on your energy
bills. There are all kinds of ways to save energy and many of them are free, it is just a
matter of knowing where to look.
With government scheme, grants and specialised systems you can invest in, saving
money on your energy bills is now easier than ever – and more needed than ever. This
guide is designed to give you a basic idea of the what is available and how you can make
your money go further.
Free energy saving in the home
While there are plenty of ways to improve your home, take advantage of grants and
schemes or to invest in energy saving – all of this should come second to ensuring you are
making the most of what you already have. With no investment at all, the following tips will
show you how to easily save money in your home.
Don't forget that turning down your thermostat by just one degree can save you £60
a year. If you put on a jumper, you could turn it down two degrees!
Ensure your heating timer has been correctly set and that your heating only comes
on when you are at home and you need it.
By turning down the water pressure on your power shower you can save both water
Ovens use plenty of energy, but they can be used efficiently by cooking several
meals at once. Plus leaving the door open once it is switched off will heat your
kitchen for free!
Your fridge and freezer need to be kept full – they work more efficiently when you
do. Used filled water bottles or even bricks to fill it if necessary.
When using your dishwasher and washing machine, make sure the water is at the
lowest temperature needed and that it is always full.
Try not to use your tumble dryer unless absolutely necessary. Use a heated room to
dry your clothes or hang them outside.
Switch off everything in your home when you are not using it.
Heavy curtains can work wonders at keeping the heat in and the sunlight from
outside will heat your home during the day.
Energy saving in the home – more ideas
Electric radiators are a great way to heat your home – especially if you don't have access
to gas. They allow you to heat only the room you are in and electric radiators can be
moved from room to room. These days they are extremely efficient and use the minimum
amount of electricity possible. Having your radiators on individual thermostats is also a
positive, allowing you to set the temperature in each room as required.
The Energy Saving Trust tells us that simply installing double glazing into your home can
save you around £170 a year compared to single glazed. If you have trouble affording to
do this you may be eligible for help under various government schemes or you can get a
Green Deal loan (keep reading for more information on these).
Loft and wall cavity insulation
If your loft is one of the many in the UK which has less than the recommended 270mm of
insulation, you should take advantage of one of the many currently available free insulation
schemes which can be found at this link. Even without one of these schemes, loft
insulation can cost as little as £300 to install and the savings can be £180 a year. You
could have it paid off in just two winters.
Wall cavity insulation is harder to install yourself and should be done by a professional, but
it could still save you a further £140 each year. You need to have a professional check
your home to make sure this is suitable for your needs.
You could save as much as £300 each year if you replace a boiler which is more than 15
years old with an “A” rated one. It is not a cheap thing to do, but our section on grants
should point you in the right direction to find energy supplier and government schemes to
help you with the cost.
A smart meter
Between now and 2020, the government is hoping to install a smart meter in every UK
home. The advantages of using one are many – they allow you to see exactly how much
energy you are using and to adjust your usage accordingly and they allow more accurate
billing, avoiding the issue of estimated bills. Smart meters are known to reduce energy
Switching energy companies
If you have never switched your energy supplier or you do it very infrequently, you will
almost certainly save money by doing so and it could be several hundreds of pounds over
the course of a year. Many suppliers offer their best tariffs to new customers or they keep
old customers on tariffs which do not suit them.
It is easy to switch, just use a comparison site such as Uswitch and input your details. The
process can take around 6 weeks to complete, but your new supplier will take care of all
the details. All you need to do is supply your meter readings when asked and the rest is
taken care of. It is hoped that the switching process will be reduced to less than a week –
the government is working on this.
Making your own energy
The ultimate way to have true control over your energy costs is to generate your own
energy. You will certainly need to make an investment to do so, but the rewards can be
good and the government has a number of schemes in place to make doing this
worthwhile and cheaper.
Solar panels (photovoltaic panels)
For an investment of around £8,000 (and this is dropping in price all the time) you can
install solar panels on your roof. For each unit of energy you create, you will be paid a
certain amount from the government via the feed-in-tariff, you will be able to sell the
excess back to the grid and you will save money on your own energy bills. This sounds
like a great deal and it is. You will get an estimated 6% return or around £800 each year.
Air and ground source heat pumps
If you don't have gas in your home, these heating options are very versatile, easy to install
and eco-friendly. They take the heat from the ground or the air and send it into your home
in a condensed form. You can then send the warmth around your home via underfloor
heating, radiators or just use it to heat your hot water. You may be able to use the
Renewable Heat Incentive to receive an income from your energy generation (once
available) and you can get a Green Deal loan on air source heat pumps via the Green
Deal. You may have to pay between £6,000 and £10,000 for the installation of these
systems, but could save up to £650 a year.
Roof or garden wind turbines
Don't worry, you won't need a wind turbine the size of a skyscraper in your back garden –
these ones are designed to be fixed to your roof. As well as the savings you will make from
the energy generated, you will also be able to claim a feed-in-tariff for a wind turbine. With
a wide range of prices (dependent on the size) from £2,000 to £22,000, a wind turbine will
need planning permission, but allows you to save energy for future use – something solar
panels cannot do.
Government grants and other schemes
The Green Deal
The government has described the Green Deal as their flagship scheme, despite the fact
that it has made a lukewarm reception since it started at the beginning of 2013. The idea is
that you will take out a loan to pay for home improvements which will help you to save
energy. You pay back the loan via your energy bills which will be reduced by at least as
much as the savings you have made. You will be expected to have your home assessed to
ensure it is suitable and this process makes you eligible for a cashback scheme – the part
of the Green Deal which has been very popular.
ECO (Energy Company Obligation)
Energy suppliers are currently expected to use a portion of the money paid to them by
their customers to help subsidise home improvements measures for other customers who
are struggling. Known as ECO, this help might include free insulation, help with new
boilers or new double glazing. This is paid for via a levy, which is now under debate by the
government. It seems that this levy may be reduced with a view to making energy bills
cheaper, meaning that energy companies will have less to give to vulnerable customers.
Microgeneration systems such as wind turbines and solar panels are eligible for a feed-intariff on the energy which is generated. The government offers a tariff which is based on a
number of factors, but in particular the cost of the system. It is looked at on a regular basis
to ensure that the tariff is representative of the cost. In order for you to qualify for a tariff
payment you must have your system installed under the Microgeneration Certification
The Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP)
The RHPP is a one off payment designed to help you pay for the costs of installing your
microgeneration heating system. The amount you will receive depends on it being installed
by a certified person and the type of system you have chosen. It was expected that this
scheme would finish once the Green Deal was in place, but it has been extended until
2014, when the Renewable Heat Incentive will start.
Council offers and grants
You may be lucky enough to live in an area where the council still offers help to residents
to improve their homes. Often schemes are advertised on the council website or the
Citizens Advice may be able to help you. Generally these are available only to those who
are on benefits or a very low income.
If you are on a benefit, disabled or elderly, you may have access to one or more of the
following grants to help you with the costs associated with your energy bills:
Fuel Direct: Anyone who is struggling to pay their energy bills or are already in debt to their
supplier can apply for the benefits department to pay their energy bills on their behalf
at an agreed rate.
Winter Fuel Payment: Those aged over 80 will get £300, while those aged over 60 (if
retired) will get £200. This is usually paid in December of each year.
Cold Weather Payment: If you are on a benefit, you may be able to get £25 extra for each
week long period when the weather is consistently lower than 0 degrees Celsius
during the day.
Warm Home Discount: Energy suppliers are able to offer a payment of £130 to struggling
customers to go towards their energy bills if they are struggling.
For more help and advice, visit the Citizens Advice or the Energy Saving Trust to see what
you might be able to get help with.