Typically as winter knocks on our doors, the energy companies start to hike the bills! They raked in the profits earlier in the year and presume we have short memories so have forgotten their warm-weather windfall.
However, all is not lost. We can fight back. As next week (22nd to 27th October) is Big Energy Saving Week with Energy Saving Trust and the Citizens Advice Bureau, I thought it a good time to write a blog about some no-cost ideas on energy-saving. Most of which we do in our home.
No matter where you are – at home, at work or school there are a number of things you can do to save on your bills without costing a penny.
Research & Switch
We hear this the whole time, but still very few people actually check to see if another energy supplier can offer them a better deal. We have chosen to go with The Cooperative which provides a ‘greener’ deal, ie one that has a focus on renewable energy supply. Using Which! Energy Switching Service we could save about £120 a year still if we dropped the green aspect! So, if we wanted we could save quite a bit.
But, as we believe in supporting renewable energy, we will keep this tariff and instead have to save elsewhere – so what can we do?
TURN IT OFF – if it is not in use, then turn it off. Don’t just put it in standby. Essentially if you can see any lights (eg the standby button on a TV) then the machine is using power. It may only be a little, but a little every day adds up and over time will be a lot. Energy Savings Trust estimate that the average UK household spends £35 a year on powering standby mode!! Wow, that is a lot.
I am a bit of a ‘turn off fiend’, going round the house checking things are turned off at the mains. However, there are some things that never get turned off – the phones, the internet box, the cooker clock, the fridge-freezer and the fish-tank. I am borrowing one of those Owl Energy Monitors from the library and our average background energy usage is about 0.09kWh at a cost of about 11.3p per kWh, which works out at about 1p per hour. Though over the year, even this adds up… argh – just worked it out and it is £87 per year!!! This little bit of maths could be useful in persuading the family to turn off more things – don’t worry, I wont turn off the fish tank!
COMPUTERS – if you are on and off a computer during the day and turning it on is a pain in the backside as it takes so long, then look on your shut-down options and click the sleep or hibernate (often on laptops) button. This immediately puts your computer into a power-saving mode, but it is ready to restart again when you wake it with the mouse. An awake desktop uses about 120 watts of power (1000 watts = 1kW), but one that is asleep uses about 3.17 watts – quite a difference! If you (other family members) find it hard to remember to put the computer into sleep or hibernation, you can get one of these Eco Buttons to help remind you.
FULL LOADS – a half-load uses more than half the energy and water of a full load in washing machines, dish-washers and tumble driers. So it is best to only do full loads. Our washing machine has an ‘eco’ option for some of the wash cycles which uses less water and therefore less energy. For washing machines, it is best to wash at the lowest possible temperature – 30oC is the best. I do, however, wash the nappies at 60oC otherwise they can become germ breeding grounds – not good for Chimps wee bottom!
BOIL WHAT YOU NEED – Kettles use a lot of energy to boil water and if, like my Mum, you always boil a full kettle whether you need it or not, you are wasting a considerable amount of energy and money. (I have told her and sometimes she remembers). There are a lot of ‘Eco Kettles’ on the market that appear to work by allowing you to choose how much water will be boiled. You could spoil yourself with one of these, or alternatively just pour the number of cup/mug-fulls you want to have boiled into the kettle in the first place.
REPLACING ELECTRICAL ITEMS – when the time comes to buy a new electrical item, then do try to go for the most energy-efficient you can afford. It will save you money in the long run. The Energy Saving Trust have a lot of information about the most energy-efficient items and tips on how to decide which is most suitable for you.
I loathe being cold! And I feel the cold a lot more keenly than anyone else in my household it seems. My Other Half calls me a reptile as I need an external source of heat to warm up in cold weather (luckily he is always warm, don’t know why he complains when I warm my feet on him!). Monkey rarely feels the cold and Chimp is a bit young to tell me – all I’ll say is that at the moment he prefers to be naked and I get grief when putting his clothes back on!
Despite my dislike of cold, I rarely have the heating on through the day (except when Monkey was tiny and this year with Chimp) as this was not how I was brought up. As a child the heating went on in the morning for a couple of hours and the evening for a few more. Somehow this frugality has stuck with me and I feel terrible guilt having the heating on during the day.
I do have thermals, thick socks, fingerless gloves, fleecy hats, lined trousers, large numbers of fleeces and jumpers and one of those fleece blanket-coats, that are a bit twee but incredibly warm. I have been known to wear a lot indoors when I’m home alone. Slippers are also brilliant (not often sexy, chic, cool or trendy, but they do a great job) – I find that if my feet are warm then the rest of me is warm too (stands to reason as feet are furthest from the body and so as the body starts to cool, it keeps the core warm and lets the extremities cool).
If you are not prepared to dress up like the Michelin Man and turning the heating off then here are a few things you can do to keep your heating bill down.
INSULATE – many councils around the country will provide free or really cheap roof and cavity wall insulation for families with children under 5 years, for older people and for families on some types of benefit. Typically, we got our house insulated (through Newcastle’s Warm Zone project) before having children. However, it was still at a highly discounted rate and really worth it.
About 1/4 of your homes heat is lost through the loft and roof. So insulating your loft really well – at least 270mm thick – will save you a lot of money.
If you have a hot water tank, then give it a thick jacket to prevent the heat escaping. If buying a new jacket is too expensive, then see if you have some old sleeping bags or blankets around the house and use these.
DRAUGHT PROOF – does your house have any draughts? An easy way to check is to tape a bit of tissue paper or cling-film to a pencil and hold it close to windows/doors or other places cold air may get in. Any movement of the tissue paper or cling-film indicates a draught. Stopping the draughts is likely to cost – for example draught-proof taping around windows or flaps to go on doors or letter boxes, but the amount can vary. Cutting the leg off an old pair of trousers, sewing up one end and stuffing it with any other old material you have at home will make a great draught excluder.
TURN DOWN THE THERMOSTAT – having small children in the house, I have a number of thermometers in different rooms so I know if the house is too hot or cold for them. However, this has made me realise that we quite often heat the house in winter to a much warmer temperature than it is in summer. So now, I aim to keep the house at about 17 – 19oC when the heating is on. This is perfectly comfortable for even a cold-blooded person like me to sit around in. And lets face it – these are usual temperatures for much of the day during the warmer months (I hesitate to use the word summer this year!).
Even turning the thermostat down 1 or 2 degrees can save 10% or so on your heating bill.
DON’T HEAT UNUSED SPACES – when I work at home (before Chimp arrived) I spend most of my time in one room. So the rare days I do have the heating on during the day, I go round the rest of the house turning the radiator thermostats down to off. Then keeping my door shut, I am toasty and the rest of the house is chilly! Obviously, you need the right technology to do this, but as heating systems are getting increasingly clever, if you do need to do an upgrade of your radiators, it is probably worth getting ones that have temperature controls on.
FOLLOW THE SUN – on sunny days try to live/work/be on the side of the house that has the sun. Our house the back faces east and gets the morning sun and the front faces west so gets the afternoon sun. Sun power alone can make a real difference, especially in autumn and spring when the sun’s rays have some power to them.
GET UP AND GET ACTIVE – this is an obvious one, but one I am terrible at when working on the computer (before Chimp). You are supposed to take screen breaks every hour or so, and so you can use this time to warm yourself too. Run up and down the stairs, do some housework or tidying or something else that gets you warmed up. Now I rarely get more than 30 minutes on the computer before having to respond to Chimp’s demands (I rarely get on the computer when Monkey is at home), so he is good at keeping me active. Sometimes I pop him in a sling where he sleeps and this means I can do computer stuff too, now with my own hot water bottle!
HOT WATER – heating water uses energy so keeping showers short, baths shallow and not leaving the hot tap running when washing hands, washing up or other washing will save energy and money. This is one thing I fall down on big time! Showers and the occasional bath are my little luxury and I find short showers and shallow baths pretty incomprehensible. Luckily Monkey is always in bed on the rare occasions I have a bath, so she can’t ask to have a deep bath like Mummy!
Well, there you have some of the ways we save energy and money without costing us any money. If you have any other great tips, please do let us know.