The truth behind common energy saving myths: How to save money on your bills
Energy prices are rising year on year, and this can really put a strain on finances – especially with the average household spending an average of £1,249 annually on heating their home – that’s according to new data from the Office of National Statistics. Taking steps to become more energy efficient not only helps save money for your household, it’s also great for the environment. Join us as we debunk some common misconceptions around energy saving and show you how to save money on your bills.
Common energy misconceptions
When it comes to energy saving advice, you shouldn’t believe everything you read. A prime example is leaving your heating on all day is better than just turning it on high when you need it. According to the Energy Saving Trust, this is not the case. They confirm that, in the long run, just having your heating on when you need it will indeed save energy. The key focus here is knowing how much energy is actually required to heat your home. By leaving your heating on for the full day, you are bound to be using energy that you really don’t need to.
In a similar fashion, some people still believe that leaving your lights on is better than turning them off and on again. Simply said, this isn’t true. Even if you leave the room for 10 minutes, make sure you get into the habit of turning the lights off behind you.
It’s also believed in some quarters that electrical appliances don’t use any power when they are not in use. While technology is advancing, and energy-saving techniques are in place, some appliances draw energy even when they aren’t in use. A prime example is a phone charger. Did you know that leaving the socket switched on with a phone charger attached can cost you up to £80 each year?
A rather bizarre claim is that you should put clingfilm on your windows to save energy. Even more surprising, perhaps, is that this one is actually true. Doing so can help you to keep your home warm, but it’s okay to use any material for the second layer of glazing so long as it’s airtight and transparent. Apply this technique and you can help to trap a small layer of air, which can prevent any heat from escaping. Of course, this should only ever be a short-term measure. If you need this second-layer, you should look into getting double glazing. By using this method to have a third layer, you may see a slight difference, but far less than if you had put it on a single glazed window.
The issue of fuel poverty
For some of us, saving energy is crucial – especially if you suffer from fuel poverty. This is when a household spends more than 10% of its income on domestic energy use, defining them as a fuel poor household. Northern Powergrid, who can help connect and disconnect electric supplies, has been a supporter of the fuel poverty charity, National Energy Action (NEA) for several years. The company’s head of stakeholder and customer engagement, Siobhan Barton, said: “Whilst we don’t sell electricity, as the company responsible for the power network which delivers electricity to 3.9 million homes and businesses across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, we do have a role to play in helping the industry tackle fuel poverty and encouraging energy efficiency.
“We’ve reduced our network charges, which form part of domestic customers’ bills from their chosen electricity supplier, funded a Citizens Advice Bureau fuel debt advice service and helped kick-start a number of projects through our community energy seed fund.”
How to save money for your household
Away from the myths, there are many tried and tested methods which you can rely on and are recognised across the board. Firstly, you should always be sure to shop around, especially if your energy contract is up for renewal. Simply staying with the same supplier as it’s ‘easier’ could see you spending hundreds of pounds more than you need to. There are many price comparison sites for you to benefit from, so make sure you log on and let them do all the hard work!
While we’ve already quashed the myth that you should leave your heating on, did you know that by turning it down by just 1⁰C, you can cut up to 10% off your heating bill? On average, this could equate to a saving of approximately £75 each year.
Elsewhere, tumble dryers are expensive to run, so try to air your washing whenever possible instead. If you do need to use a tumble dryer, make sure it’s full, as one full load uses less energy than two half-full loads. The same goes with loading your washing machine. Make sure you have a full machine and keep it to 30⁰C. Another simple energy-saving trick is to just boil the amount of water you need — especially if you are just making a cup of tea or coffee. While this won’t equate to huge savings, every little helps!
Another handy tip is to spend a little to save a lot. If you are in the position to be able to invest money on insulation, upgrading your boiler, or even using renewable technologies, then you should do so. Sometimes you can benefit from a grant for these services, but even if not, you can often pay back what you’ve spent quite quickly and start to save money.
Of course, while saving money is important, you should also be thinking about helping the environment. Britain is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 34% as early as next year. A key player in achieving this target would be by members of the public becoming energy efficient – both in the workplace and at home. Research has found that many power plants actually waste around two-thirds of the energy that goes into them. In our homes, we simply aren’t monitoring our energy use as closely as we should be, either.
That is where a new app could aid you. In July 2018, Northern Powergrid revealed how it has collaborated with GenGame to trial a mobile game to demonstrate how gaming could incentivise households to reduce their electricity consumption at times of high demand. Players receive an alert telling them the game is starting encouraging them to consider turning off washing machines, televisions, lights and other home devices for short periods of time to earn points and stand a chance of winning cash prizes.
For example, while pausing your washing machine may only be worth approximately 10p, if you include this in the game format, it gives players the chance to earn more money through prizes, which makes it a lot more interesting. Each month has hundreds of pounds worth of prizes available and each player reduces their electricity consumption by 11% on average.
Andrew Webster, Northern Powergrid Innovation Project Manager, said: “Household electricity use will grow significantly as electric vehicles and heat pumps become mainstream, increasing demand on the network. Mobile games offer a fun solution to help manage this demand, rewarding our customers for reducing their consumption at peak periods.”
There are, of course, many other tips and tricks that can help you to save money on your energy bills, reduce fuel poverty and help the environment, too. It’s also important to remember that if you are struggling to afford your gas and electric charges, your supplier should be able to help you come to a solution and negotiate a deal that helps both parties. Why not make sure you take on board some of the advice and do your part — both for your bank balance and the world you live in?