Put foil behind radiators and fill your freezer: Hacks to lower your energy bill

As electricity bills are set to skyrocket up 54%, many of us are desperately looking for ways to save energy and therefore money.

It’s not just a small rise. When Ofgem raises the cap on what providers can charge in April, the typical household in the UK will be paying about £700 more a year on gas and electricity.

That means that the average home energy bill will stand at an eye-watering £1,971, eating into families’ disposable incomes in a big way.

So what can we do?

While we’re mostly all aware that we should turn lights off when we leave a room and limit the time we have the heating on for, there are plenty more surprising – and surprisingly effective – ways to save money.

We’ve compiled a bumper list of some of our favourite tips – crowdsourced from a combination of experts and everyday people – to help keep your energy usage as low as possible over the coming months.

Although many of these may essentially be sticking plasters for the rises that are coming (and just one part of a much bigger problem) making some of these changes will hopefully cut costs in the meantime.

Keep on top of your tariff – although now is probably not the time to change

First thing’s first, it’s time to get to grips with what tariff you are on – and whether any savings could be made there.

Kevin Mountford, CEO of savings platforms Raisin UK, suggests checking with Ofgem if the price cap affects you. Don’t be afraid to compare gas and electricity prices, to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Price comparison websites would be the usual starting point, however GoCompare and Compare the Market have both removed the comparison function from their website.

‘Instead, compare energy prices through supplier’s websites,’ suggests Kevin.

‘Although variable tariffs may be cheaper and more likely to have offers, the tariff can go up,’ he adds. So be aware of that.

Kevin also suggests researching to check if you might be suitable for any grants and schemes that will help you cover your energy bills.

Look into things such as the Warm Home Discount, Cold Weather Payment, and the Winter Fuel Payment.

Don’t leave appliances on standby

Did you know that turning your appliances off, rather than leaving them on standby, could save you £80 per year on your energy bills?

According to personal finance company, Ocean Finance, even when we think we’re turning off our electrical devices, many stay in standby mode – which still uses a small amount of energy the entire time it’s left this way.

For example, a TV uses around 40 watts when it’s switched on, but still requires 10 while on standby. That alone can add up to £16.24 to your bills every year.

Turning off appliances as opposed to just leaving them on standby can actually slash around 20% off of your energy bills,’ Martin Desmond, energy expert at Wizer Energy explains.

He adds that some of the worst offenders are laptops, games consoles, set-top boxes (like Sky boxes), televisions – and even phone chargers.

Charge your phone during the day

On that note…

While many of us are in a habit of plugging our phone in before we go to bed and leaving it on charge all night, this means that the phone is plugged in for hours longer than it needs to be, wasting precious electricity.

Instead, charge it during the day and keep an eye on when the battery gets full, then unplug it.

Immediate energy saver – and better for your phone’s battery health.

Turn your thermostat down by one degree

According to Only Radiators, turning your thermostat down by just one degree can save you up to 10% off your heating bill.

It’s also not such a great idea to turn your thermostat up to a high heat in an attempt to get a room hot quicker (effectively by ‘tricking’ the system). This won’t work as the thermostat is a limiter, not an accelerator. 

‘This can also cost more money if you forget that you’ve turned your thermostat up super high, as each degree you increase your thermostat by can make a huge difference to the cost of your energy bill,’ a spokesperson adds.

Do your washing at night time

Business utility specialists 001 say that, for people on certain tariffs, using appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines at night time can save money.

The consultancy firm claims: ‘If you have a two-rate meter, use devices such as your washing machine and tumble dryer between midnight and 7am when rates are cheaper.’

And, a nifty tip is to set the timer for around 5am, so that the washing doesn’t lie damp for hours in the machine.

Cook food in batches

Meal times are one area of energy use that you might not give as much thought to. However, if you’re savvy, you can save a lot of energy – and money – this way.

Private chef and business owner, Michaela Hanna, advises always cooking more than you need.

‘Make enough for your meal the following lunch/dinner time, so you’re making the most of the energy you are using to cook that meal,’ she says.

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Additionally, if you’re using your oven to cook, think about what else you could be using the space for.

‘For example, if you’re roasting something on one shelf, can you roast some prepared vegetables on another, or cook off jacket potatoes that you can have for lunch for the next few days?’ Michaela adds.

Fill your freezer – yes, really

Another handy tip from professional chef Michaela is to keep your freezer full – even if it’s with bottles of water. This is because it takes more energy to freeze an empty freezer space than a full one, so you’re better off filling it up with something regardless.

According to Martin from Wizer Energy, it’s also important to maintain your fridge freezer and position it properly.

He advises: ‘Check the coils at the back of your unit and keep them free from dirt and debris. Try to keep your fridge at around three degrees celsius, with the freezer at around -17.’

Don’t bother separating your laundry

A study by Colour Catcher revealed that the average Brit is doing more than 10 washes a week.

To try to cut down on this, they suggest using laundry sheets that prevent colour running by trapping loose dyes. These – or similar solutions – allow you to mix all your washing into one load rather than separating by colour.

This, in theory, could reduce the number of loads a person has to do, saving them money and time.

Wash at low temperature and air dry your clothes

To further save money, consider washing your clothes at between 30-40 degrees to reduce the amount of energy your machines need to spend on heating the water.

Air-drying laundry over using a tumble dryer can additionally save you up to a third on your energy bills.

Identify cold spots in the home

Jenny Turner from Insulation Express advises that a key place to start is to identifying where your home is currently losing heat.

‘You can do this by simply seeing where there may be any gaps at the bottom of doors, or using your hand to feel around window frames to feel for any cold air coming in,’ she says.

Then you can look to rectify that, using weatherstripping self-adhesive strips around window frames, draft excluders on the bottom of doors, self-adhesive insulation tape, and heavy thermal curtains or blinds.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, sealing up the gaps in your home could lead to savings of £25 per year, and installing draught excluders in your unused chimneys could save you an additional £18.

As homes lose up to 25% of their heat via the roof, insulation in this area is also crucial to retain heat more effectively.

Put silver foil down the back of your radiators

Ocean Finance also recommends putting specialist foil behind your radiators to improve the heat flow in your home. The foil will bounce heat back into the room, rather than letting it disappear through the walls.

If your home isn’t very well insulated, then this could help you prevent further heat loss. It’s also an eco-friendlier way of keeping yourself a bit warmer.

Smarten your home

Mary Elizabeth is a personal finance expert and founder of MeMoreMoney.

She invested in a smart thermostat from Nest, which automatically adjusts the heating, saying: ‘It encourages you to use eco-friendly temperatures and, as a result, we more often than not put a jumper on rather than turn up the heating,’

She also recommends smart sockets, which you can set on a timer.

Mary says: ‘This makes saving energy very convenient. For instance, you can go to bed knowing you have turned everything off – certainly makes us sleep better!’

Switch to LED lights

You may also want to consider investing in LED lights, which Mary says use 90% less power.

She says: ‘They don’t have to be expensive either. You can pick them up for less than a fiver so it wasn’t too expensive to get kitted out.’

Research shows that incandescent bulbs cost around £12.40 to buy and power for a year, compared to just £2.05 for an LED smart bulb. Saving £10.35 per bulb, a house with 20 bulbs could save £207 every year by opting for energy-efficient lighting.

Even with the upfront costs (approximately £161.39 to buy 20 smart bulbs), after two years you could have saved up to £252.61 simply by using smart lighting.

Tackle your radiators

Some people think that drying clothes on radiators is a quick fix, but it should be avoided at all costs.

Tom Drake, heating expert at Only Radiators says: ‘Drying clothing, jeans, and towels on your radiators will block the heat from escaping, preventing your room from being heated efficiently.’

He also points out that, as our radiators become dirty and dusty over time, they can become less efficient.

Using long radiator brushes to clean inside your radiator will ensure that all dirt is removed, while the outside can be cleaned with soapy water.

Don’t forget to bleed them, either, as this will ensure all trapped air is removed, which prevents cold spots and leads to faster heating-up times. If you can, try to also keep furniture or other items from blocking a radiator (and therefore the heat you’re paying a pretty penny for).

Take a ‘navy shower’ to save £80 per year

Taking a navy shower means limiting yourself to just three minutes of hot water.

It may seem extreme, but Ocean Finance state that reducing your shower time from 10 minutes to three can save you up to £80 a year, so it could well be worth a try.

Improve your kitchen habits

The kitchen is one of the biggest drains on your electricity, says Martin from Wizer Energy.

He suggests, if you’re making a cup of tea or coffee, only filling the kettle with the amount of water you need.

Other savvy kitchen tips from Martin include matching your pots and pans to the size of your burners to keep heat in, and using a slow cooker wherever possible – they are incredibly energy efficient.

Write to your MP

Finally, a very important one from Dr Mari Martiskainen, Senior Research Fellow and Co-Director at Sussex Energy Group.

‘Write to your MP and ask them to support a windfall tax on energy companies, who are making £££££ profits while household bills are rising,’ she says.

Regardless of how much money you can save through the above methods, unless the root cause of the cost of living crisis are addressed by those in power, people will continue to struggle.

If you want more tips and tricks on saving money, as well as chat about cash and alerts on deals and discounts, join our Facebook Group, Money Pot.

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