As of April 2018, the average bill for a dual fuel energy tariff for UK households cost £94.83 per month, or £1,138 a year. We spend an average of 4% of our disposable income on energy, to heat and light our homes, store and cook food, and power entertainment devices. Vulnerable households can send up to 8% of their post-tax incomes to their energy suppliers. Energy is major expense for UK households and its share of our budgets will likely increase. Rising wholesale energy prices have seen energy suppliers levy 43 price hikes on domestic consumers in 2018 as of September, with some suppliers raising rates twice, and unhappy subscribers of renewable provider Bulb facing three increases since the start of the year.
You can still make large savings if you compare energy and switch your gas and electricity tariffs. Ofgem found that switching from a standard variable tariff to the cheapest dual fuel tariff on the market could shave £300 from your annual energy bills. But the search for savings shouldn’t end at a comparison site. A new tariff may reduce the amount you pay per unit of energy but if you reduce the amount of energy use, you can reduce your bills and your impact on the environment.
Where your energy is going
Energy conservation starts with identifying how your household is using energy. A smart meter can give you real-time insight into how much energy you’re using when but it’s not generally possible to work out from the in-home display how many of those kilowatts are going toward your lighting and how many toward your tumble drier. Some averages may help.
In general, British households use around 4,000 kWh of electricity a year, although the figure will depend on the size of your home and your heating system. Typically around 16% of that electricity goes toward cold appliances (refrigerators and freezers), which have low wattage compared to other appliances but run all the time. 15% of that electricity powers our lighting, 15% runs our consumer electronics, including television sets. Wet appliances (washing machines and dishwashers) and cooking each gobble up around 13% of our electricity budgets, with the rest used by computers, water heating, and other devices. These figures will be different for homes which use electricity for heating.
Heating, where most of a household’s gas use will go, typically accounts for two-thirds of our energy consumption and half of the costs.
Find energy savings at home
- Heat smart: Dialling down your thermostat by just 1 degree Celsius can shave 10% from your total energy costs. You can log even more savings by turning it down even further at night and when you’re not home, possibly using a timer or smart thermostat to regulate when your boiler is on. Use radiator valves to turn off the heat in rooms you’re not currently occupying.
- Insulate your home and block draughts: You could be losing a third or more of the cost of heating your home straight through your walls and roof, if your property isn’t properly insulated, especially if it’s an older home. Patch the holes and your boiler won’t have to work as hard to heat your home and your rooms feel more comfortable so your hands won’t constantly be moving to that thermostat dial. According to the Energy Savings Trust, cavity wall insulation can trim £70 to £250 from your annual energy bills, and loft insulation can cut a further £120 to £220. You can find further savings by blocking draughts: up to £20 a year from properly sealing doors and windows and up to £15 simply from using a draught excluder on your chimney.
- Invest in energy efficient appliances: Altogether appliances account for more than 40% of our average electricity consumption, a figure that can rise sharply if you’re running older, less energy efficient models. Appliances rated A+++ under the EU’s energy rating system are the most energy efficient on the market and can come with dramatic savings. When consumer group Which? tested fridge-freezers, the most efficient cost just £30 a year to run, while the least cost £115. That’s savings of £85, so a new model will pay for itself within just a few years.
- Air dry your clothing: Tumble driers are the most energy-intensive appliance in your home, gobbling up 2.5 kWh of electricity per standard-sized load and costing you 30p. Luckily, their effect can largely be replicated just with air and time. Regularly using a clothes rack rather than your drier can save you nearly £50 of electricity a year.
- Switch off your lights: It’s a simple habit but it can it can knock £15 off your annual energy bills.
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