When did you last change your energy supplier? Can’t remember? If it’s more than a year, or if you have never changed, you’re probably on a high tariff standard variable rate. Energy suppliers don’t reward loyalty; in fact, they make more money from customers who are loyal or don’t get around to switching.
Although switching supplier will make the biggest savings, there are plenty of other ways in which to get cheaper energy bills. Here we look at the major things you can control (and those you can’t); ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency; and habits that you can change.
Your energy bill includes some things that you can’t control. About half of the bill is the wholesale cost of electricity and gas; the remainder is your supplier’s costs for distribution and transmission, green energy obligations, supplying meters and profit. Finally, there is VAT charged by the Government.
The UK is a net importer of gas; wholesale gas prices are highly influenced by global events, particularly ones that affect the oil price.
Between 35-50% of the UK’s electricity is generated using gas-fired power stations, so the wholesale electricity price is also highly dependent on the wholesale gas price. This will change as the UK moves towards more renewable energy sources.
The Government has established a programme to improve energy efficiency and environmental impacts. This accounts for around £100 on a typical energy bill.
The most significant change you can make to your energy bill is to switch your supplier. Ofgem recently reported that energy suppliers were letting down their customers through a combination of “tariff complexity, poor supplier behaviour and lack of transparency”
Suppliers promise cheaper energy bills by encouraging customers to switch to a fixed rate tariff, which usually lasts for a year. However, at the end of the fixed period, the customer is moved onto a standard variable tariff, resulting in much higher bills.
The most efficient method of paying for your energy is by using a monthly or quarterly direct debit. You won’t need to remember to pay your bill and the cost will be balanced over the year. Energy suppliers often give a discount for paying by direct debit and some banks will give reward you for paying this way, for example, Santander gives a cashback of 2%.
Your main thermostat controls the temperature in your home, so it should be located in your main living room. Once the room is up to temperature, the boiler will stop using energy, so reducing the temperature on the thermostat, even by one degree, will result in cheaper energy bills.
Thermostatic radiator valves will give you even more control, as you can set these independently, for example, to lower the heat in a room which you use less often.
Getting cheaper energy bills is not just about the big savings. If you are looking into how to save electricity, you can invest in more energy-efficient appliances as well as DIY measures which are proven to improve energy efficiency in houses.
LED bulbs are much more energy-efficient than classic energy-saving bulbs (CFLs) or halogens. In comparison with old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, halogens use 20-30% less electricity, CFLs use 60-80% less and LEDs use around 90% less. LEDs are also instantly bright as soon as they are switched on.
When choosing energy efficiency heaters, a new cooker, washing machine or household appliance, check their energy efficiency rating. As an example, an A+++ rated fridge freezer would save around £320 compared to an A+ unit over the lifetime of the product.
Heating your home accounts for around 55% of your energy bill. A modern boiler will make a big difference to your bills by being more energy-efficient.
Dealing with draughts is not only energy saving, but it also makes your home more comfortable and it’s not expensive. Check that hinges and latches close doors and windows tightly and seal any gaps with a draught excluder or weather seal.
Replacing single-glazed windows with A++ double-glazed units would save between £60 and £115 per year. Clearly it would take many years to recoup the cost of fitting new double-glazing throughout based upon saving energy alone, but it will improve comfort and security too.
A poorly insulated home loses heat through the walls and roof. A home built since 1920 will probably have cavity walls, which can be insulated using injection, this should pay for itself within 5 years. Loft insulation can have an even shorter payback time of 2 years.
The Energy Company Obligations scheme (ECO) means that people on certain benefits and income limits may be entitled to free cavity wall and loft insulation or help towards a new boiler.
It costs on average £30 per year to leave appliances in standby mode. The worst offenders are TVs, but other devices such as a router will still consume power.
Curtains will reduce heat loss by 15-17% or by 13-14% for blinds. They effectively act as another layer of double-glazing.
Gas central heating, with a full set of thermostatic radiator valves is the most efficient way to heat your home as each room’s temperature can be individually controlled.
Energy suppliers fit smart meters for free, giving householders a real-time view of their energy usage. Smart thermostats allow them to control their central heating remotely from a smartphone, which is useful for people who come and go at different times each day.
Finally, changing your habits can help with energy conservation:
Energy suppliers save their best deals for new customers. They offer cheaper tariffs to encourage people to switch from a competitor and subsidise them by charging loyal customers more.
If you’re looking into how to save energy, there are plenty of ways to invest in your home or change your habits. However, if you want cheaper energy bills there is one simple step. Change your energy supplier!
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