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How do I work out how much energy I use?

By Mof Gimmers | Friday, June 18th 2021

Working out energy usage from your bill can seem daunting, and seeing as energy companies compile their bills in several different ways, it isn’t surprising that consumers can feel confused.

Whether you are looking to save on gas or electricity or both, there are tools to help you understand how much you’re using, and ways to both save money and become more energy-efficient in the process. But the first stage is to make friends with your energy bill and understand what it is really telling you. Here's how to do just that.

Understand your energy bill

Most people throw their energy bills into a drawer after only a brief glance to see how much they owe, but there is information on that bill that could help you to save money – especially if you’re on the wrong type of deal. There’s a great tool on the Citizens Advice site, which helps you to break down what your energy bill means.

There are so many variables between bills and the way providers compile everything that there’s no universal key to understanding it all. However, Citizens Advice has done the heavy lifting for you, so you can start to get a handle on what you’re being charged for.

The most useful bit you need to know is usage. That’s normally hidden away on your bill, but essentially it’s a breakdown of how much energy you’re using. It is usually shown as ‘kilowatt hours used’ or ‘kWh’.

If you’re reading your gas meter, and want to convert it into kWh, there’s a number of online converters that can help you do that, whether you have an imperial meter (which measures in feet) or a metric reader (which measures in meters).

Depending on which provider you’re with, the cost per kWh can vary enormously, but by using price comparison tools, you can start to save money on your bills by switching to a provider that can offer a better rate.

Know how to read your meter

Looking at your bill is all well and good but looking at your meter can be a quicker way of working out what’s going on.

There’s no magic process for this, rather, just make a note of what your meter says, and then a week later, make another note. This is useful because your energy supplier will bill you based on an estimate, which probably means you’re getting overcharged. Giving your provider more accurate readings means you’ll be charged for what you actually use, which is almost certainly going to be less than what you’ve been billed for.

  • Standard Meter or electric mechanical meter: take a reading of five black numbers from left to right, and if there are any red numbers, you can ignore them.
  • Dial Meter: read the numbers on the clock-like dials from left to right, ignoring the last red dial.
  • Digital Meter: jot down the first five figures on the digital display and ignore any last figure that begins 0.1.
  • Smart Meter: this should be sending an accurate reading to your supplier, as it tracks your usage in real-time.

Should you be in the position where you’ve been overpaying, you are entitled to a refund from your energy provider. It may offer you money off your future bills, or it could debit your account with the money – it is entirely up to you which one you choose.

Check your supplier’s website for ways of getting in touch with them regarding your accurate meter reading – it will likely have a dedicated phoneline for this.

Calculate your energy consumption

If you want to work out how much energy an appliance uses in a day, then all you have to do is multiply the device’s wattage by the number of hours you use it. So, if you have a 150W television that’s on for five hours of the day, that’s 750 watt-hours per day.

As your bill marks these things in kilowatts, there’s another bit of maths you need to do. To work this out, get your previous total (in this case, 750) and divide it by 1,000 (because 1 kilowatt equals 1,000 watts). So, 750 watt-hours per day/1000 = 0.75 kWh (per day).

If you multiply that number by 30, you’ll have a pretty accurate total for how much your appliance uses in an average month. With that number, you can find out how much your supplier is charging you. On your bill, find out where it says how much they’re charging 'per kWh’, and multiply it with the monthly figure you worked out before, and you’ll have your total.

Switch supplier to save money

Even if you haven’t been doing your sums to work out your energy consumption, if you feel like you’re being overcharged, you can switch supplier.

Call your current provider and tell them you want a cheaper deal, and they will most likely try to keep your custom by offering you something better. Should they fail to do so, there’s a lot of options for you. Comparison sites like uSwitch will let you compare deals from a host of companies, and you’ll be able to work out what’s best for you, based on your postcode, current usage, and what tariff you’re using with your current supplier.

Have as much information at your disposal as you can realistically manage, and shop around. Your energy supplier isn’t loyal to you, so don’t feel any sense of obligation to them.

Ways to save energy

You’ve done what you can with your energy firm, but you feel like you could do more to lower your bills yourself? Well, there’s lots of ways of using less energy, whether you’re doing it to help the environment, or because you want to save money.

All appliances use energy, but some are bigger hogs than others. Sometimes, simply unplugging a device when not in use can make a noticeable difference on your bill. Most devices and appliances have a label on them, which shows you the wattage it uses. The bigger the number, the more it uses! So, if it doesn’t need to be on all the time, turn it off. Very simple.

Turn the thermostat down

Even if you only turn your thermostat down by one degree, you could save as much as £80 per year. While that might not seem like much, imagine how much you could save by turning it down even more, and just putting a jumper on if you’re feeling a little chilly?

Keep the freezer full

It might seem odd, but a full freezer is more efficient than an empty one. Freezers don’t have to work as hard as when they are empty.

Wash clothes at lower temperatures

Washing machines use most of their energy trying to heat the water up, so save money and energy by washing your clothes at 30°C.

Air-dry your clothes

If you have a garden, hang your clothes on the line. If not, buy an airer, and save money by not using a tumble dryer. They cost a lot to run, and you don’t even really need one. Heated airers are another option, and use far less energy than a tumble dryer.

Unplug what you’re not using

You’ve not used the microwave for three weeks? Unplug it. That little TV in the spare-room that’s been on stand-by for the past six6 months? Unplug it. Turn things off at the socket, and save money.

Don’t pay over the odds for the energy you are using

It's easy to just stay with the same energy provider as switching can seem like a hassle. Read our energy switching guide for more help with switching providers, as doing so could save you up to £300 over the course of a year. Or if you're ready to start comparing different deals now, then click the link below.

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