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How do I lower my energy bills?

By Marc Shoffman | Tuesday, June 15th 2021

Energy can be expensive but that doesn’t mean you have to sit in the dark with lots of layers on or take cold baths instead of hot showers. Here is how to take control of your energy use and lower your bills – it's a lot easier than you might think.

Change the way you meter your usage

There are different types of energy meter that monitor your usage. Prepayment meters are effectively pay-as-you-go devices that you top up as you need to, while a standard meter provides a rate that shows how much you have actually been using. Smart meters do the same, but can also show where most energy is being consumed, and can even send readings directly to a supplier rather than you having to provide them.

Prepayment devices tend to cost more than £200 more each year than other types, so it is worth asking your provider to install a standard or smart device to save money instead. This doesn’t usually cost anything.

It's also worth noting that suppliers will often charge less for customers paying by direct debit and choosing paperless billing.

Take accurate meter readings

Suppliers work out your bill based on how much energy you use each month. This data is based on meter readings that you need to provide. If you don’t submit these each month, the supplier will make an estimate based on your previous usage and how much you said you typically use a year when you signed up. You could end up paying too much if your supplier overestimates how much you are using.

Providing accurate meter readings on a regular basis should ensure you only pay for what you use, which should be lower than letting your supplier simply guess. You should also monitor your energy account to see if you are building up a big credit as this may mean your monthly payments have been set too high and need to be lowered to reflect your use.

Control your heating

Heating can be the biggest cost on an energy bill, but you could keep this down by ensuring you only heat the rooms you are using. The Energy Saving Trust advises that getting controls on your boiler to time when your heating comes on could save you around £75 a year, while turning the thermostat down by just one degree can save around £60.

You can also use energy-saving apps and smart thermostats such as Nest and Hive to monitor your usage and alter timings if you are going to be home later than usual so you don’t end up heating an empty house.

Manage your lighting

The type of lightbulbs you use can also make a difference to your energy usage. Halogen bulbs tend to be cheaper but use more of your electricity. Instead, you could consider energy saving bulbs or LED lights. Energy-saving bulbs have a bad reputation for being a bit too dark but have improved in recent years, while LED spotlights can be as bright as halogen and use less energy.

Plus, at the risk of sounding like your dad, turning off the lights when you leave the room will also lower your usage and save you around £15 a year.

Change your household habits

Changing how you watch television, use the internet, heat your home or how much water you use will all help lower your bills. UK households waste £80 a year just by leaving electrical appliances such as televisions, games consoles or modems on standby, according to the Energy Savings Trust. It's worth turning these appliances off at the power button or the socket so you are not using needless energy just powering that little red light.

You could also save a bit of cash by not leaving the tap running while washing up and by only boiling the water you need for that cup of tea, the Energy Savings Trust says.

The body also recommends spending less time in the shower, claiming a minute less each day could knock £8 off your annual bill, which, combined with installing a water meter, could save a family of four £75 per year.

Insulate your home

Make sure any heat you are paying for is kept inside your home through draught proofing and insulation. A draught-proof and well-insulated property should mean you are using heat more efficiently since you aren’t paying for the bits that keep escaping. Heat is lost through any cracks in your windows, doors, floorboards and chimney so any gaps are just taking it out of your home and creating wasted energy.

The upfront cost of insulation will pay off in the long run

Your loft is a pretty big culprit when it comes to losing heat, and installing insulation is relatively cheap at around £400. The Energy Saving Trust says you will save around £150-£200 a year on your bills thereafter. It's also possible to insulate around your floorboards, walls and pipes.

These options can be a bit pricey depending on the type of property. It could cost around £725 to install cavity wall insulation inside a typical detached property, but this can save around £225 a year so you would pay it off within three and a half years through your energy bill.

Go green to save on bills

The government has set a target for reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. You can also do your bit by using green sources of energy such as solar panels that will lower your energy bills as you will be using less from the National Grid, plus in some cases the government will pay you for energy you create.

Invest in solar power

You can use the power of the sun to power your home by installing solar panels on your roof. Energy is generated from any daylight absorbed and you can use it for free to power your home. This is likely to reduce your bills but it is unlikely to power your whole home so you will most probably need a standard energy deal.

You also get paid for the amount of energy you use and any excess amount that goes back to the National Grid. This is covered by the government’s feed-in tariff scheme (http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/renewable-energy/electricity/solar-panels.) Installation can typically cost around £5,000 and you need to ensure this is done by a reputable firm.

Wind turbines

You can harness the power of the wind by fitting a turbine to your roof or having a freestanding option in your garden. This is like having your own windmill but you will be generating energy in the same way solar panels would, just using wind instead of sunlight.

It can cost from £2,000 up to £40,000 depending how much power you are looking to generate and will pay you a feed-in tariff similar to the way solar panels operate.

Micro combined heat and power (micro CHP)

These systems work similar to a boiler. Costing around £5,000, they get hung on a wall the same way a boiler would and use gas to generate heat and electricity at the same time while heating the water inside. You are technically still using fossil fuels but are saving some energy by not needing to take any electricity from the National Grid as it is being created at the same time. Users can get feed-tariffs for any electricity generated and returned.

Hydro power

Forget the sun or wind, if you have a lake or any sort of stream running near your home you could install a hydro system. This uses a turbine that is powered by the flowing water and then generates electricity. This is a more expensive option and will cost a six-figure sum so you would probably need to get together with a lot of your neighbours to make this one work. Also you will most probably need planning permission.

Shop around

Energy prices change all the time and if you have fallen off a recent deal and onto a standard variable tariff it is likely that you can make a saving. In fact you could save up to £300 a year by switching energy supplier. Before you do, it is worth checking whether your current supplier can offer you a better deal. Energy providers are obliged to show on your monthly bill if you could be paying less on another tariff and how much you could save.

Use an energy comparison website

Energy comparison websites, such as uSwitch, will let you compare deals from other providers based on your current usage.

You will need to enter your postcode, how much energy you use, and the tariff you are currently on in order for the website to be able to calculate the best deals for you and show how much you can save.

Comparison websites will show you how much alternative deals will cost both on a monthly and annual basis, so you can see what savings are available.

Make sure you select an option to see all providers as often these websites will automatically only show providers it can help switch you to. These are typically those that have agreed to pay referral fees and in return the website will manage the switching process. There may be others you need to switch to yourself that could be cheaper but you usually need to select an option in the search results to see these as well. Read our energy switching guide.

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