What can households do to offset soaring energy costs?

Homeowners can take steps to cut back on energy use to lessen the impact of rocketing costs.

Energy bill
Energy bill

Households are bracing for a new energy price cap that is widely expected to plunge many into significant financial hardship.

While price cap predictions may be terrifying, households can still take plenty of measures to ensure they are only using the energy they need.

It pays to remember that although individual savings might look relatively small, they can add up to significant savings across a year.

– First step: switch off and unplug

Households should by now have done a complete check of every power outlet, unplugging anything that is not necessary and turning devices off standby mode – and getting into the habit of doing this regularly.

Electrical plugs
Unplugging anything that is not necessary and turning devices off standby mode will save cash (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Energy Saving Trust calculates that you can save around £55 a year just by remembering to turn your appliances off standby mode.

Almost all electrical appliances can be turned off at the plug without upsetting their programming. You may want to think about getting a standby saver or smart plug which allows you to turn all your appliances off standby in one go.

Check the instructions for any appliances you’re not sure about. Some satellite and digital TV recorders may need to be left plugged in so they can keep track of any programmes you want to record.

– Check your boiler

A recent report by the Heating and Hot Water Council found that households can save around 6% to 8% on their gas bill just by turning down the heating flow temperature on their condensing combi boiler.

Doing this will allow the boiler to run more efficiently and could save around £200 off an average energy bill.

Use the controls on the front of your boiler – not your room thermostat – to set the flow temperature for the boiler, which is the temperature your boiler heats the water to before sending it off to your radiators. The way you adjust the flow temperature and the display information available varies a great deal. There is a handy online guide at theheatinghub.co.uk.

Another easy saving is to turn off the pre-heat mode on the boiler, which could mean hot water taps taking longer to heat up, but could save hundreds of pounds a year.

– Forget about your tumble dryer and use other appliances wisely

Laundry drying on clothes rack
Invest in a laundry drying rack for cooler months (Alamy/PA)

Tumble dryers are massive energy drains, so on warm days hang clothes outside to dry instead and invest in a drying rack for cooler months.

Use your washing machine on a 30C cycle and reduce use by one run a week. Only run your dishwasher when it is full and use eco settings if possible.

Avoid overfilling the kettle – only boil the amount you need.

– Defrost your fridge and freezer

Remember to regularly defrost your fridge and freezer, as the more they ice up the more energy they will use.

A full freezer is more economical to run. With a full freezer, the cold air does not need to circulate as much, so less power is needed. If you have lots of free space, half-fill plastic bottles with water and use these to fill gaps.

BBC Good Food suggests you fill the freezer with everyday items you are bound to use, such as sliced bread, milk or frozen peas.

Frozen food in freezer
A full freezer is more economical to run (Alamy/PA)

– Turn off lights

Turn lights off when you are not using them or when you leave a room.

Replacing all the lights in your home with LED bulbs could help save even more.

– Keep windows closed when temperatures get hot

The obvious thing to do when homes warm up is to open all the windows. However all this does is fill the house with hot air.

It is best to use blinds and curtains to block direct sunlight during the day and then open the windows at night when temperatures drop, helping you to save energy by reducing the need for power-hungry fans.

– Use fans sparingly and wisely

Fans, even when used on cooling settings, will send bills soaring. You should not stop using them when necessary, but there are ways of maximising their effect and cutting the time they are switched on.

Putting fans at floor level helps to circulate the lower cold air rather than the warmer air that naturally rises in a room. You can also create the ideal combination for energy saving by pairing smart fan usage with closed windows, keeping the fans working during the day and the windows open at night.

Fan on a wooden floor
Putting fans at floor level helps to maximise their effect (Alamy/PA)

– Invest in insulation

New analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit has found homes rated band F on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) system, a measure of the home’s efficiency, are set to have a gas bill £968 higher than a home rated EPC band C, the Government’s target for 2035.

The average home in the UK is rated band D and these homes will pay £420 more for their gas this winter, compared with band C.

Energy Saving Trust also says that for those wishing to future-proof their homes, investing in professional draught-proofing and insulation in preparation for the winter months could lead to a reduction in bills by £405 for a semi-detached home. DIY draught-proofing is much cheaper and anything is better than nothing.

Installing solar panels for a similar property could lead to additional annual savings of around £450.

A quarter of heat in an uninsulated home is lost through the roof. Most homes have at least some loft insulation but often not enough. Topping up from 120mm to at least 270mm of insulation will help.

– And here are some myths…

Turning boilers off is not advisable or an effective way to save energy. Instead, thermostats and timers should be used effectively to regulate their operation.

Fridges and freezers are designed to be kept on all the time and energy will not be saved by turning them off for short periods because more energy will be used to cool them down again when turned back on. There are also important safety issues that can arise if food partially defrosts before it is prepared for eating.

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