10 ways to reduce energy bills

Monday, November 21, 2022

10 ways to reduce energy bills

Here's what you can do to save money on electricity and gas by making your home more energy efficient.

For most people, it's not a good time to switch energy provider.

Very few, if any, suppliers are currently offering fixed tariffs worth swapping to. The price cap on out-of-contract tariffs rose on 1 October 2022. Even though bills are being discounted by the government's Energy Price Guarantee, the new rates are still higher than they've been before. That means the majority of households in the country are now facing larger energy bills than they're used to. 

1. Review your energy bill for small savings 

There are some small ways you can keep your energy payments as low as possible with your energy provider:

  • Choose paperless bills and manage your account online (some companies charge extra for paper bills)
  • Pay by direct debit. This is usually cheaper than paying when you receive a bill
  • Send regular meter readings to keep your bill accurate. If you have a smart meter, it will do this automatically
  • Question any direct debit increases that seem too high. Your energy company should be able to explain the changes and your usage and payments should balance out over a year.

2. Use appliances more efficiently

A lot of your annual electricity usage is down to the appliances in your home. Using your appliances more efficiently can shave precious pounds off your annual bills.

Our guide to saving energy in the kitchen details how to make energy saving changes to your habits. 

Our lab tests reveal the annual running costs for every large appliance. You can use the results to find out how much appliances cost to run on average, and therefore where to make savings.

Read more about how much appliances will cost to run from October 2022 and get tips on how to minimise your electricity spend.

Buying new energy efficient appliances

If you're in the market for a new appliance, you can cut your electricity bills by choosing energy-efficient models. 

For example, depending on size, washing machine running costs under the new October 2022 electricity unit rates can vary from £31 to £115 a year - over an appliance's lifetime that can rack up to big differences in total costs. See our guide to energy efficient washing machines to find out more. 

The most obvious indication of a product’s energy efficiency is its EU energy-efficiency rating. But we test energy consumption in a way that reflects how you actually use different appliances, so we can more accurately tell you which ones use less energy. 

For example, we test washing machines on the 40°C cottons program most commonly used by Which? members, while the EU Energy Label tests are 60% based on the 60°C cottons program.

Below are the maximum savings based on the difference between the highest and lowest annual running costs from Which? product tests. These figures are based on the October 2022 Energy Price Guarantee:

< >Fridge freezer – £167.61Tumble dryer – £188.21Washing machine – £83.78Dishwasher – £71.09 Hypothetically if you had the most power-guzzling of these four appliances and switched them for the most energy-saving models, you would save as much as £510 a year on energy costs.

 

Find out more: the most efficient dishwashers and energy-efficient fridge freezers

3. Add insulation

Insulating your loft can save you as much as £590 a year in a detached house, according to data released by the Energy Saving Trust using October 2022 figures.

Laying loft insulation from zero to a thickness of 270mm in a typical semi-detached home could trim £355 a year from energy bills, as less heat will be lost through the roof. In a mid-terraced house it's £330 a year. With costs around £480 for a semi-detached home, you'd see the savings back in under two years.

Insulating cavity walls is more expensive to do, but can save an average £395 a year in a semi-detached house. In a deteched home you'd save an average £690 a year, and in a mid-terrace you'd save £235 a year.

In a mid-floor flat without a loft, cavity wall insulation would cost around £395 to install, with annual bill savings of around £180. So you'd see your money back in around two years.

Solid-wall insulation is more difficult to do, making it more expensive to fit. But a detached home could see energy bill savings of £930 a year. In a semi-deteched house, that would be £540 a year, and for a mid-terrace you'd save around £315 a year. 

Read our full loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and solid wall insulation guides for all you need to know about the process of adding insulation to your home.

If you've got loft insulation that's been there a while, you could still save an extra £50 a year by topping it up from 120mm to the recommended 270mm. 

If you have some money to spend, you can significantly insulate your home and reduce heat loss through your windows by replacing single glazing with double glazing.

4. Get your boiler serviced and adjust its flow temperature

For most households, central heating is responsible for more than half of your energy bill each year. So replacing an old, inefficient gas boiler with a modern energy-efficient one could make a big difference to your payments.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, and based on October 2022 energy prices, upgrading an old G-rated gas boiler to a new A-rated condensing one with a programmer, room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves in a typical three-bed semi-detached house would save £540 a year. If you live in a detached home, you could save £840 a year. In a mid-floor flat you would save £230 a year.

Of course, you should only replace your boiler if it's old and faulty. Buying a new boiler can cost around £4,000, including installation and new radiator valves, so you need to weigh that up against any potential savings.

Find out: how much a new boiler costs

If your boiler is still working, there are still savings to be made. Booking a boiler service and asking your engineer to make sure it's running as efficiently as possible can be a quick and cheap way to make savings. 

Adjusting your boiler's flow temperature 

This quick adjustment can lead to instant savings without compromising on the temperature you heat your home to. 

The Heating & Hot Water Industry Council (HHIC) recommends that people adapt their boiler settings with the advice of a boiler engineer. This is particularly true if you have a system or regular boiler that keeps water stored in a tank. Because stored water needs to be heated a certain amount to avoid Legionnella bacteria, you should only change settings with professional advice if you have one of these. 

However, if you have a combi boiler, you've made sure it's safe and you've checked your boiler's technical manual, you can adjust these settings yourself. 

This setting is accessible to anyone and it can be changed using your boiler controls. The flow temperature for heating is generally symbolised by a little picture of a radiator, and for hot water, a picture of a tap. Up and down arrows will change the temperature settings.

Nesta has created an interactive boiler temperature tool

to walk combi boiler owners through the step-by-step process of changing flow temperature settings for your heating. 

Note that it recommends a 55°C setting, but we recommend starting a bit higher initially to see if you're comfortable with the change.  

Find out more about this one simple way to adjust your boiler to lower your heating bills.

5. Replace light bulbs 

It's the age-old tip that most of us have already done. But it's still worth mentioning – energy-saving light bulbs can help you to cut your energy bills easily. Lighting makes up 11% of the average UK home's electricity consumption, so it's well worth considering.

LEDs are the most energy-efficient light bulbs, and use almost 90% less energy than traditional incandescents. CFL bulbs use 70-80% less energy than traditional bulbs. 

Switching a single 100-watt incandescent bulb for an LED one would save £15 per year, according to Energy Saving Trust. Switching a 50-watt halogen bulb for an LED would save £6 per bulb per year. When you add up all the lightbulbs in your house, those can be some big savings. 

Remember, energy-saving light bulbs last a lot longer than traditional ones, too, so their lifetime costs are even lower.

LED bulbs can cost less than £3 for one, which means they can pay for themselves through energy savings in just a few months. To find out more, see our light bulb reviews.

Already made the switch to energy-saving bulbs? Remember to use the best bulb for the size of room or the job it will do. See five top tips for choosing the right light bulb.

6. Install and use central heating controls

In a typical household, over half your fuel bills are spent on heating and hot water. Having an efficient heating system and using it well can have a considerable impact on your annual bills.

If you don’t already have a room thermostat, programmer and thermostatic radiator valves, installing them – and using them well – could cut your home’s carbon emissions by 320kg a year and lead to large savings on your bills. Upgrading your boiler is an expensive job, but updating your heating controls is a much more affordable way to get a handle on your energy costs. 

Heating controls should let you:

< >Set your heating and hot water to turn on and off to suit youHeat only the parts of your home that need itSet different temperatures for different areas of your homeKeep your home at a temperature that’s comfortable, without wasting heat.If you only have one thermostat for the whole house, each degree you turn it up will increase your heating bill by around 10%, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Having thermostatic radiator valves that can be adjusted in each room - whether they are smart valves or just traditional analogue ones - can lead to large savings and give you much tighter control.

 

Electric heaters

For those who live alone or work from home, investing in an electric heater could save on heating bills if you just want occasional short, sharp bursts of heat while your central heating is off.

It's worth noting that in all circumstances, electric heaters are best used sparingly though. Electricity is much pricier than gas per hour. Plus our tests found that some heaters don't have very good thermostats so don't give you the room temperature you wanted. 

Using radiator valves to only heat the one room you need in your home with central heating is a more cost-effective way of keeping a small space warm.

Find out which electric heaters excelled in our tests and more about buying the best electric heater for your home.

Smart thermostats

With a smart thermostat you can operate your heating remotely via the internet using your mobile phone, tablet or computer. Some can also learn your routine or adjust your settings depending on the weather forecast.

Coupled with smart thermostatic radiator valves, you can control exactly which rooms are heated, and which aren't. 

You can still do this if your thermostatic radiator valves aren't smart - you'll need to turn them off in each room manually.

Whether a smart thermostat could save you money will depend on your lifestyle, how efficiently you control your heating already and whether you’d prefer it to using traditional heating controls. Find out how to buy the best smart thermostat.

7. Draught proofing

Stopping heat from escaping through unwanted gaps around doors and windows could help you save around £60 a year in a typical home, according to the Energy Saving Trust. And if you have an open chimney, draught-proofing it when it's not in use could save a further £90 a year. These savings are based on a typical, gas-fuelled, semi-detached home.

Even though it's not a huge amount of money, draught-proofing is one of the energy-saving measures that can also really help you to feel comfortable in your home and make a big difference to your quality of life, so it's well worth doing, especially if you're considering using the heating a little less than you're used to this year.

Take a look at the following areas:

< >Windows - Use draught-proofing strips around the frame. Brush strips work better for sash windows.Doors - Use draught-proofing strips around the edges and brush or hinged-flap draught excluders at the bottom.Chimney and fireplace - If you don't use your fireplace, use an inflatable pillow to block the chimney, or fit a cap over the chimney pot. If you have an open chimney, this alone could save you £90 a year.Floorboards and skirting -  Floorboards need to move, so use a flexible silicone-based filler to fill the gaps.Loft hatches - Use draught-proofing foam strips to keep heat in.Remember that homes do still need some level of ventilation, so make sure you don't block or seal any intentional air vents, including extractor fans, trickle vents (small, adjustable openings found above many modern windows) or underfloor grilles in wooden flooring. 

 

Already repaired large draughty areas? Consider smaller holes that let in cold air, such as keyholes and letterboxes. Find out more in our guide to draught proofing.

8. Use less hot water

Though you might only use your heating in winter, you use energy year-round to heat your water. So heating and using it wisely will impact your bills.

Plus, if you have a water meter, these tips will help you save money there too.

If you have a hot water tank (rather than a combi boiler), make sure you're using your heating controls to turn your water heating on and off, so you only heat as much water as you need at certain times of day. 

High-volume power showers can use more water in less than five minutes than running a bath. So fit an eco shower head. Your shower will still feel powerful but it'll cut down on your hot water use. 

Other tips to try:

< >Use a shower timer so you know how long you're spending in there. Keeping your shower time to four minutes or under and swapping one bath a week with a four minute shower can save you £115 per person per year, the Energy Saving Trust estimatesYou can also use a timer to see how long you're washing up for and try not to have the hot tap running for too long. Make sure you're washing up in the sink or a bowl rather than under a free running tap.Insulate your hot water tank and pipes so water stays warmer for longer.9. Find out if you could get energy efficiency grants or free cash

Energy schemes and grants are available to help pay your energy bills or to support you with the costs of renewable heating. These include:

< >Warm Home Discount - £140 (increasing to £150 in October 2022) mainly to pensioners and those who get certain benefitsWinter Fuel Payment - £100 - £300 per winter for those born before 26 September 1955Boiler Upgrade scheme (launched in May 2022) - up to £5,000 to replace your current gas or oil heating with low-carbon heatingHelp with loft insulation and boiler costs from energy suppliers.Find out what home energy grants you're eligible for. For winter 2022, the government's cost of living help package will also be automatically given to recipients of certain benefits, and a £400 energy bill discount will be given to every household in the UK. Find out more about what energy help you are eligible for in winter 2022

 

10. Quick energy-saving tips

If you’re pushed for time or money, have done everything else on this list or simply want to get started cutting your energy bill straight away, try these steps:

  • Know where your energy costs are coming from. A smart meter shows how much energy you use in real time and how much it costs. Use this information to work out where you can cut back.
  • Get your boiler serviced, or ask your landlord to do so. An engineer can make energy saving adjustments, such as reducing your boiler's flow temperature, that can cut your bills.
  • Get to grips with your home heating, and ask a plumber to install thermostatic radiator valves where you can. This means you're only heating the rooms you are actually using rather than your whole house. You might want to keep your bedroom cooler than your living room, for example.
  • Don’t leave your gadgets on standby. There are limits on standby power consumption of more recent electronics but take more care with older gadgets. Turning appliances off properly could save you £65 a year, according to figures published in March 2022 by the Energy Savings Trust.
  • Dry your washing outside or on a clothes horse, rather than using your tumble dryer. Don't forget to ventilate well and run a dehumidifier if possible if you're drying clothes indoors (to prevent condensation/damp).
  • Only run your washing machine and dishwasher when they’re full, reduce your use by one run per week and wash clothes at 30°C where possible (unless you're washing really soiled clothes) as Best Buy washing machines will still do a good job. These steps can cut bills by £34 a year, the Energy Savings Trust estimates (figures published in October 2022).
  • Defrost food in your fridge to help cool the fridge temperature down, and cool hot food before you put it into the fridge or freezer.
  • Only boil as much water in the kettle as you need and fit a tap aerator to save £43 a year. Clean your tumble dryer and fridge's filters to keep them running efficiently.
  • Dust the condenser coils behind your fridge so that it runs 25% more efficiently. 
  • Insulate your hot water tank if you have one to save £70 a year.