Lowering bills, cutting carbon
24 Oct 2022
The internet is awash with tips on how to use less energy and save money, but how many of them will actually lower your bills? We’ve crunched the numbers and selected 7 ways to reduce your energy bill that will actually make a difference. And best of all? They won’t cost you a penny.
Almost 20% of UK households say their thermostat is set at 22℃ or higher. Energy experts suggest that 18℃ – 21℃ should feel comfortable for most people (and there is some evidence that having the temperature above that level can be unhealthy).
UK homes are generally older than homes in other European countries, and therefore lose heat faster than homes in any other European country. That means our boilers have to work harder to get our homes to a comfortable temperature – and the higher we set the thermostat, the more energy they’ll use to get there. Turning your thermostat down by 1℃ could lead to savings of around 10% on your total energy bill. If you have a condensing combi boiler, you’ll benefit from turning down your flow temperature, too.
Ninety percent of the energy used by a washing machine goes towards heating the water. You may already be washing your clothes at a lower temperature to be more environmentally friendly, but it will save you money too. The Energy Saving Trust suggest that washing at 30℃ instead of 40℃ can reduce your laundry energy bill by 40% over the course of a year. Depending on the efficiency of your washing machine and how often you use it, that could add up to almost £50 a year. Additionally, washing your clothes at 20℃-30℃ will prevent colours running and minimises the risk of shrinking.
If you’re in the habit of locking your laptop screen or leaving the screensaver to kick in when you finish for the day, did you know you could save up to £350 a year by putting it into sleep mode instead? Exact savings will depend on the size of your laptop and how long you leave it on, but even with less power-hungry models, the savings could be over £100 a year if you normally leave it on for long periods when not in use.
Electricity consumed by your devices when they’re not being used is known as ‘vampire power’. The biggest culprits are laptops and game consoles – but even the clock on your microwave quietly eats power (although the cost is small compared with the laptop). Turning a few devices off, or making better use of their standby settings, could reduce your energy bill by over £250 a year at October 2022 price cap levels*. The exact figure will depend very much on your household’s current routines and which devices you use, so here’s how that savings figure breaks down:
|Laptop (average size)
|Leave screensaver on when not in use
|Put to sleep when not in use
|Leaving in ‘quick start’ standby when not in use
|Putting into full standby when not in use
|Leaving on for four hours a day when not watching
|Putting into standby for four hours a day when not watching
|Set top box
|Leaving in responsive standby overnight
|Putting into full standby overnight
|Wi-fi range extender
|Leaving on overnight
|Turning off overnight
Cutting your ‘vampire power bill’ doesn’t mean you have to turn everything off, though. Some devices use relatively little power when not in use, so the savings from turning them off will be much smaller:
And the one that surprised us the most? Your mobile phone. Charging your phone every day costs between £3 and £7 per year at October 2022 Energy Price Guarantee levels. If you disconnected your phone but left the charger plugged in the rest of the time, it would cost you less than £2 extra per year.
(We’re not saying this wasted power doesn’t matter. If our back-of-a-napkin calculations are correct, then if every mobile phone charger in the country were left plugged in when not in use, it would waste around 110,000 megawatt hours of electricity a year – enough to power more than 35,000 homes. But, if you’re trying to prioritise the things that will save the most money (and carbon) while juggling everything else in your life, mobile phone chargers probably aren’t a great place to start**.)
Finally, if you’re wondering why we haven’t mentioned broadband routers, it’s because turning them off regularly could end up killing your internet speed. Internet service providers monitor connections, and if they find a household is regularly offline, they assume there is a problem and throttle bandwidth to try and help solve the issue – not realising the home at the other end is just trying to save money on their energy bills!***
This one’s pretty straightforward: using your tumble dryer less will save you money. A fully loaded tumble dryer cycle on a standard, ‘cottons’ setting will cost you between 71p and £1.82. This means that for a typical user, halving the number of tumble dryer cycles could reduce your energy bill by as much as £140 a year at October 2022 energy price guarantee levels****.
The type of tumble dryer you have is important. Based on October 2022 Energy Price Guarantee levels, the least efficient dryers can cost you up to £170 more per year than most efficient models.
If you have no choice but to use the tumble dryer, you could try reducing the temperature setting. The standard setting on a tumble dryer is usually the warmest setting, meaning it uses more energy. You can also reduce the amount of time the tumble dryer is used for by putting your washing machine on a faster, or extra spin cycle. This helps remove excess water which would take the tumble dryer longer to dry your clothes.
It might seem practical to boil more water than you think you need to avoid having to re-fill the kettle, but be careful to not boil too much. Based on October 2022 Energy Price Guarantee levels, each cup of water you boil costs around 2p. So, for every extra cup, you’re spending an extra 2p. Even if you only over-fill by one cup once a day, that still adds up to £7.30 over a year. If you have a serious coffee or tea habit, avoiding over-filling could really help reduce your energy bill.
Your energy bills can tell you a lot if you know your way around them. Suppliers can sometimes make mistakes (with estimated meter readings, for example) so it’s worth checking every bill. Our guide on understanding your bill is a good place to start.
Big Clean Switch works with employers of all sizes to help inform and equip their workforce to lower their bills and cut emissions. Ask your employer what help they can offer, or to learn more about our solutions, arrange a call with our team.
* Based on 20W power use for the set-top box, running 18 hours a day in standby; 1.5W power use for the networked TV running 18 hours a day in standby; 13W power use for the games console running 18 hours a day in ‘quick start’ standby; 2W power use for the inactive microwave, assuming active use for 15 minutes a day; 2.75W for the smart speaker, assuming 18 hours of standby a day; and 1.5W power use for the laptop, assuming 14 hours a day in sleep mode. Costs estimated based on electricity unit rates averaged across Great Britain and assume payment by direct debit on a single rate tariff.
** At the start of 2022, there were 71.8 million mobile phone connections in the UK. According to slate.com, leaving a phone charger plugged in for a full year without the phone connected would use 2.3 kWh of electricity. In reality, the phone is probably plugged in and actually charging for eight hours a day, so the power consumption for the remaining 16 hours would be closer to 1.5 kWh a year. Multiply that by the mobile phone connections and you have 110,093,333 kWh, or 110,093 MWh. According to the UK energy regulator, a typical home in the UK uses 2,900 kWh of electricity (we’ve rounded this up to 3,000, equivalent to 3 MWh), so that 110,093 MWh could power 36,698 homes.
*** If this has piqued your interest and you’d like to know more, the official term to pop into Google is ‘dynamic line management’.
**** Costs vary by type of tumble dryer, drying programme selected, region of the UK and tariff. Our figures assume a heat pump tumble dryer will use 2.1kWh on a standard cotton cycle, while a condensing tumble dryer will use 5kWh and a vented tumble dryer will use 5.2kWh.