Balancing the budget can be tricky, especially when you’re trying to be as green as possible. By saving energy at home, you can do both in one fell swoop. The average U.K. household spends far too much money and resources on electricity, to the tune of hundreds of pounds. Each home also produces roughly six tonnes of CO2 per year, as much as a first-class flight from London to Sydney.
In order to protect the world and your wallet, you can cut your energy usage with a few easy tips. From insulating against harsh weather to upgrading your home management technology, here is a set of hacks to teach you how to save energy at home.
Adding insulation to draughty parts of the house helps keep the heating costs down. Buildings always benefit from extra layers of warmth, and the results can be astounding.
Insulating the Walls
Layers of material in and around external walls make a home stay warmer in the winter and can even help the rooms stay cooler during the summer.
Many residences built after 1930 use cavity walls. Filling these cavities up with insulating material like foam, mineral wool, or cladding, is a one-time cost with long-term rewards. Cavity insulators can often be pumped throughout a house without much damage or disruption at all.
Pre-1930s house owners can save money with external wall insulators. Customisable in texture and colour, these insulators can improve a building’s aesthetics along with its efficiency. They also save up to £450 per year in heating costs.
Everyone knows the chill of a single-glazed window. These days, double or even triple-glazed panes cut heating costs and keep homes cosy. Thermodynamic UPVC frames and draft-excluding seals also ensure heating systems work at peak efficiency.
Drafts are the enemy of energy saving. Every time you feel a draft, you also feel the chill of lost savings. To safeguard your heating budget, block drafts with excluders. You can even get keyhole and letterbox protectors to make sure your home is completely draught-proof.
Heat rises, and when lofts are uninsulated, so do energy bills. To keep the heat from seeping through your ceiling, loft insulation packs material over the joists and under the roof. Once you buy the material, recommended around 27 centimetres thick, it only takes a couple of hours to install. In the long run, loft insulation pays handsomely, saving hundreds of pounds every year.
Saving Energy with Insulating Furniture
When it comes to energy efficiency in heating, make your furniture work for you. Thick sofas and full wardrobes are actually great insulators. It will therefore cost you to park a settee in front of a radiator and stop the heat properly circulating. However, placing a stacked bookshelf against an exterior wall will prevent heat loss and add a layer of free insulation to your home.
In every home, interior design, environmentalism, and budgeting can work together for the better.
Insulating the Boiler
Insulating the house itself helps get the energy bills under control, but lagging the boiler enforces efficiency at the source. Adding a tank jacket to your boiler saves over £100 a year in energy costs, with roughly £30 of material costs alone. Jackets around seven centimetres thick keep the boiler cosy and let you keep your house warm for less.
Conserving Extra Energy when Heating the Home
While it is important to make sure heat doesn’t leak through the walls, there are also a few tricks to make the most of the radiators within the building.
Clean and bleed your radiators regularly for peak energy efficiency. Bleeding them helps remove air pockets and ensures flawless circulation. Also, dust and grime can hamper a radiator’s impact: you want it heating the room, not heating up smudges and spiderwebs. Even on a small scale, little tweaks like these keep a home running smoothly.
Mind your Internal Doors
Remember to keep internal doors shut as much as possible, for maximum climate control. That way, each radiator (or fan) focusses on each room, rather than the whole home. This way, the rooms aren’t too hot or too cold, but just right.
The only exception to this rule arrives through sunny, south-facing windows on cold days. If the sun warms up a particular room during the winter, why not share it with the rest of the house?
Managing the Thermostat
It is nice staying toasty and warm, but small changes make a big difference to both money and resources. Every degree on your thermostat could be worth £80+ every year, so consider lowering it from your go-to. Many money-savers find 20 to 21 degrees more than enough. It may also be worth making sure the thermostat stays away from lamps or other heat-producing devices, to keep it stable and save on boiler costs.
At the risk of sounding like a Mum, you could just put an extra layer on. Accessorising with a jumper or a vest is often worthwhile on an annual scale. Also, warmer clothes are the cosiest.
Saving energy isn’t always about switching off or going back to basics. Upgrading to newer heating systems or downloading efficient software can create green solutions with cutting-edge tech.
If any household appliances break down, consider switching to a more efficient model. The EU provides graded energy efficiency scales for most household appliances. Between Grade G and Grade A boilers, the cost can span up to a third of your gas bill, or a similar chunk of your electricity costs.
Many utility providers also offer smart meters for heating and energy. These devices keep track of your usage and can update you to avoid peak tariffs. Going forward, app-controlled smart homes look set to become commonplace.
Even now, you can control your energy usage from apps like Nest, to optimise your budget and protect the planet from your phone.
Lighting your Home Efficiently
Inventive energy-saving techniques can help you light up your home efficiently too. Energy-saving experts often highlight Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) which conserve far more energy than conventional bulbs. Compared with a standard bulb’s energy cost, CFLs will save £3 every year each: that works out to £50 over each bulb’s lifetime. If a bulb blows, it’s definitely worth switching to a low-consumption alternative.
Dimmer switches can also help cut costs, pairing especially well with LEDs. You don’t need a full-beam light bulb when you’re winding down for the day. With a cosily dimmed glow, you can use less energy every evening. In rooms with satin or gloss paint, the walls provide enough reflection to light the room with less. In reflectively painted rooms, you may never need full beams at all.
Just like with heating systems, many modern lighting systems offer smart management software. Some available light bulbs offer wi-fi connectivity and remote app access. The tech-savvy among us are already discovering ways to change light bulb colours and set bulbs on timers with a command to the smart speaker.
With that in mind, the simplest energy saving tip is often just to switch it off when you’re done with it. Dimmer switches do make this easier, as you can simply click a light off with an open-palmed smack as you leave a room.
As with all appliances, dusting and cleaning light bulbs regularly also improves their efficiency, saving money through the uninterrupted glow.
If you have outside lights, it’s also worth checking the type of bulb they use. Exterior light bulbs using halogen only need a quarter of the energy of their incandescent counterparts. Lights which use timers rather than switches use less energy in either case. Better yet, solar-powered lights use no extra electricity at all.
Hot Water Costs
Saving water and saving energy often go hand in hand: for gas-powered homes, heating water takes up a fifth of the bill or more, and it is not much kinder energy-wise.
Apart from central heating, the main energy costs in heating water arise in the kitchen and the bathroom. It can make a difference in energy costs to ensure that hot water appliances like showers and dishwashers are plumbed in nearer the boiler. This limits energy loss through heat escaping in hot water transit.
Saving Energy in the Shower
Showers are far more efficient than baths in terms of heating energy. Replacing bath-times with showers in your schedule can save around £5 per person, which really stacks up in larger households.
To capitalise on these gains, it may be worth investing in an energy-saving showerhead. They add precision water distribution to a shower, and some come with pulsating or aerating settings to cut down water usage. With heads like these, you can maintain the quality of a shower, while being kinder on water and energy costs simultaneously.
Many energy-saving pros also set timers in their showers to cut down excess washing time and make sure cleaning is environmentally friendly. As every minute of a daily shower adds up to £10 in annual costs, they may be on to something in a financial sense too.
Dishwashers Versus Washing up
When used properly, dishwashers beat out manual washing up in energy and time costs. It becomes a similar situation to the shower versus bath debate: in general, a quicker wash requires less heating energy. While an individual batch of handwashing can be quicker than a dishwasher cycle, a fully-loaded dishwasher can complete several batches worth of dishes. It, therefore, saves the boiler the work of heating up and cooling down for separate hand washes after each meal.
Even the difference between a bowl of washing up and tap-running washing up proves huge over the course of a year. The difference in electricity cost for energy alone spans up to £30, let alone water costs.
Of course, to make sure dishwashers stay ahead in this race, it’s essential to make sure they work at maximum capacity. Regularly cleaning the filters, wiping away leftovers, and fully filling the dishwasher keeps energy costs in tip-top shape.
In hot tea and coffee cultures like Britain, boiling kettles create a significant strain on the national grid across the country. On an individual scale, the energy cost to boil a full kettle might surprise you too. Depending on the time of day, a full kettle of boiling water costs around 4p each and every time.
Most Brits love tea or coffee, and use the kettle for anything from boiling water for pasta or a hot shave. In households that use a kettle multiple times every day, the long term energy wastage really boils over.
To avoid this wastage, only boil as much water as you need. Most kettles have cup markers on the side. If you’re boiling the kettle for a saucepan, it might be worth measuring the water in the pan first, then pouring it into the kettle to boil afterwards. By boiling only what you need, you’ll save around £7 a year.
Using less Energy: Green Laundry
Washers and dryers might seem like an unavoidable energy absorber, but with a few tips, you can save big in the long run. It might be worth trying out your washing machine’s cool wash setting, particularly on cleaner batches. In fact, water heating uses a full 90 per cent of a washing machine’s energy cycle. Using a cool wash will therefore slash heating costs, and with cleaner laundry a cool wash almost certain to do the trick anyway.
The last few rinses of each cycle often prove unnecessary. Switching the machine off a couple of minutes early could save time, money, and energy.
When it comes to drying, natural air drying is clearly better for the environment, and for the energy bills. It seems like a waste not to use the natural heat from the sun on hot, dry days.
However, if you’re too busy, or worried the weather will turn, there are ways to streamline your tumble dryer. Apart from clicking it off early, as discussed with the washing machine, adding an absorbent cloth can speed up the cycle. Placing a clean dry towel in with wet laundry helps the clothes dry quicker in the tumble dryer, and tops up the towel’s freshness.
This saves drying time, and with energy costs, time really is money. Regularly replacing the filters on both washer and dryer, as with the dishwasher, also boosts efficiency and slashes energy costs. Depending on your aversion to the damp, you can even wear clothes out of the tumble dryer, and let your natural body heat dry them for free. Similarly, you can save ironing costs with slightly damp laundry from the tumble dryer. Due to its water content, freshly tumble-dried clothes actually iron quicker. By cutting time from tumble drying and ironing, you also save double the energy costs from each step.
How to Save Energy at Home in the Kitchen
While we’ve already covered energy guzzlers that keep the house warm, clean and brightly lit, the kitchen also proves to be an energy wastage hotspot. Cooking and cooling foodstuffs use large swathes of electricity in the home. Streamlining the process with a few tips and tricks conserves energy whilst ensuring food prep stays quick and easy.
The standard kitchen oven, a staple of many homecooked meals, is relatively inefficient when it comes to energy usage. On top of that, many people leave unnecessary racks and trays in the oven at all times, missing out on vital energy conservation. Remove unused trays and make sure you are heating up the food, not the metalware.
Simply put, preheating wastes energy, and leftover heat wastes energy. To fight back against this energy waste, put your food in the oven during preheating, and simply knock a couple of minutes off the cooking time.
To prevent residual heat wastage, you can simply turn off the heat a minute or so before the food is cooked, to let the food finish to perfection of its own accord. Be it frying, grilling, or boiling, the heat of the appliance holds enough power to cook for minutes after it is switched off.
Some energy saving experts also recommend using this leftover heat to help warm the house, yet it raises the risk of singeing people, pets or possessions. For that tip, save energy at your own risk.
Microwaves and Slow Cookers
Microwaves sit at the apex of cooking efficiency, followed by the grill, followed by the oven. While once appliance might not do the job on its own, consider combining techniques to save your resources.
When preparing food from frozen, melt costs while you melt frosts and let food defrost naturally. By planning in advance, you can optimise your time and your money in the kitchen. Similarly, slow cookers use far less energy than ovens, and they produce amazingly tender, low maintenance meals. While microwaves use about half of the power of ovens, slow cookers use a mere quarter. When it comes to cooking, the method is worth bearing in mind.
Top Home Food Prep Tips
Most energy-saving cookery tips are extremely straightforward, and if you bear them in mind, they fit right into your existing routine. Something as simple as cooking and baking in bulk uses far less electricity, as the appliances maximise their space, heating up and cooling down far fewer times.
Of course, marching the hob size to the pan size maximises heat energy efficiency. Using lids brings pans to the boil quicker, and therefore cheaper. Stacking pans on the hob to put your excess steam to good cooking use also keeps things streamlined. As a plus, steamed vegetables are incredibly healthy.
Like all appliances, regular cleaning saves on electricity costs in ovens, hobs and microwaves alike. These efficiency gains come only at the price of a little elbow grease.
Energy Conservation in the Fridge
Fridge-freezers keep chugging power 24-7. Their constant use means that small changes to efficiency create huge gains over time.
One energy-saving tip in the fridge catches many people by surprise: more is actually less. A well-stocked fridge is actually more efficient than an empty one, as the food itself acts as an insulator to maintain a cool temperature.
Keeping a jug of water in your fridge, especially when you’re in need of a shop, will thereby minimise energy usage. With a bit of cucumber or lemon, chilled water is also really refreshing.
To make sure the fridge isn’t under any undue strain, treat it like a foodstuff itself. Keep it out of direct sunlight, and make sure it stays in a cool, dry place. The best place in the kitchen for a fridge is as far away from the cooker or dishwasher as possible. Temperature fluctuations in the air can send fridges, and their energy usage, into overdrive.
Optimising your Freezer
Most fridge tips apply to freezers, and vice versa. Whether they come separate or combined, it may be worth regularly cleaning the coils at the back of your cooling devices. The build-up of dust and muck can hamper their heat transfer, using more power than necessary. On top of that, ensure their seals are fully intact and that the door is open as little as possible to maintain peak efficiency.
As with the thermostat, precise degrees of temperature add up to large energy costs. Your freezer should be set to 5 degrees Celsius and your fridge to around 33. It may be well worth buying an inexpensive thermometer, to check that your fridge and freezer are performing as they should. If either is too cold, adjusting the dials will set you back on the energy-saving path.
Clearing out and regularly defrosting the freezer also improves its performance dramatically. Spilt liquid from ice cube trays and unwanted leftovers take up space, whilst wasting valuable electricity.
Ways to Save: General Tips for Household Appliances
We’ve already covered the majority of energy efficiency go-to’s, like upgrading to streamlined models and regular cleaning. There is also another major mantra in the energy efficiency world worth making a note of: say goodbye to standby.
An extension of the rule about turning off light switches in empty rooms, this tip eliminates yet more energy wastage. Devices still use a large proportion of their power whilst on standby, and you could save £30 every year by eliminating standby from your home.
Similarly, charging devices over 100 per cent wastes energy, while often damaging their internal batteries. Aiming to avoid charging your appliances overnight is a great way to go easier on the planet and the purse.
Essentially, the best energy saving tip is this: if something has a light on it and but it is not in use, switch it off and pull the plug out.
Grow your Own Energy
Beyond just cutting down your energy usage, you can produce your own power too. Many turn to modern photovoltaic cell solar panels to reduce their reliance on the grid. If you have the roof space, solar panels are a no-brainer. They get cheaper every year, and produce enough energy over time to make a profit, let alone a saving. On a deeper level, sustainable energy also helps shift the world in the right direction. Whether it’s solar panels, thermal generators, or even home wind turbines, green energy pushes us towards a brighter, cleaner future.
How to Save Energy at Home (and the World)
With these tips, you can cut costs while protecting the climate. By conserving energy and finding new and exciting green solutions, you can create a financially and environmentally sustainable home. With the money you save, you can even invest in further efficiency gains, like cutting edge appliances or standby eliminating devices.
While it is important to take these tips to heart, spreading the word will save exponential energy as you pass the efficiency on. Make sure the whole household are on board with the energy-saving project and spread the savings even further afield.
Save energy, save money, save the world!