From using candles to heat rooms to charging up solar garden lights during to day to save switching on the lights at night, the internet is awash with advice on how to save energy – some more sensible than others.
According to GoCompare Energy, 83% of bill payers had seen their energy costs rise substantially since the latest increase in Ofgem’s energy price cap on April 1, which has led to two-thirds of those surveyed turning off lights and electronic devices to cut down on their usage.
Others are turning to new gadgets said to save energy instead of boiling a kettle, switching on the tumble dryer or using the oven. But how much money does doing it actually save and is it worth the effort? For example, did you know that switching off an LED light bulb for 12 hours in every 24 will save you less than 2p per day, or £6 per year?
That’s not to say it isn’t worth doing – but the huge cost savings promised online by self-styled ‘experts’ can look rather optimistic when compared to the reality.
In short, it’s worth using every trick you can to cut down your energy usage, but don’t expect miracles. That said, there might be some pleasant surprises in our list below.
Tip 1: Turn off your lights when leaving the room
Reality: It depends which bulbs you use
The least energy efficient bulbs are incandescent – or traditional – lights and the Energy Saving Trust estimates that switching to modern LED bulbs could save you up to £13 per year for every bulb to switch out. It costs around 17p to leave an incandescent light bulb on all day, every day, according to the Energy Saving Trust. If you were to leave an incandescent bulb lit for 24 hours a day for an entire year, you should expect a bill of around £62. By comparison, more energy efficient LED bulbs only cost approximately 3p per day or just under £11 per year.
Conclusion: Swapping to energy efficient bulbs will do more to save on energy than turning off lights.
Tip 2. Turn off all your appliances when they’re not being used
Reality: It depends which appliances you are switching off
According to GoCompare, over half of households have started turning their electronics off at the wall rather than leaving them on standby. However, the effort may not be worth the savings, as leaving your TV on standby could only be costing you 45p per year.
Research by boiler repair company JustServicesGroup.com suggests the biggest savings come from devices you wouldn’t want to turn off when not in use anyway, such as your wi-fi router or your smart speaker. However, you could be saving up to £25 per year by switching your games console off standby or leaving devices on charge for longer than necessary. Other devices with a high annual standby cost include microwaves at £16.37, electric showers at £9.80, washing machines at £4.73 and printers at £3.81.
Conclusion: A house with several games consoles might consider switching them off at the wall to save £25 per year, per console.
Tip 3. Wash up instead of using your dishwasher
Reality: It might cost you more to do so
The Energy Saving Trust worked out that washing your dishes by hand after each meal uses around four times as much water than one cycle of a dishwasher, which uses about 10 litres per cycle. Depending on your habits, washing up with the water running can use nine times more water than a dishwasher.
The average running cost of a dishwasher is as little as £37 per year, with an eco dishwasher costing just over 6p a day. The cost to heat water from your boiler to wash your dishes could set you back 4p, so assuming you washed your dishes after every meal, you could be better off with your dishwasher once a day.
Conclusion: Stick with your dishwasher.
Tip 4. Only boil one cup of water at a time
Reality: This is only really worth it if you drinks lots of tea.
This is a favourite on internet money-saving forums, with some people even buying gadgets that will only boil one cup of water at a time. Let’s do the maths.
A 3kW kettle boils one cup of water (235-250ml) in 45 seconds, costing 1p every minute to boil. This means £2.74 per year, if you had one cup of tea every day. Heating larger amounts of water IS more expensive. For example, filling the 3kW kettle up to its maximum of 1.7 litres means it will take up to four minutes to boil, and the cost will be 4p. So filling the kettle to the top could see you paying more for your energy, but the difference based on one boil of the kettle per day is just under £12 per year. If you drink more tea, the savings add up. A couple each drinking three cups per day and making them separately would spend £16.44 by boiling just one cup’s worth of water and almost £88 by filling the kettle to the top.
According to consumer group Which? a kettle and a hot water dispenser takes the same amount of time and the same amount of electricity to boil that one mug of water, so hot water dispensers are only cheaper and more efficient if you have a kettle with a minimum fill volume of more than 250ml. As the cheaper one-cup dispenser is about £40, buying one would be false economy
Reality: Per cup, you aren’t likely to save a significant amount – but more prolific tea drinkers could save around £70. Hot water dispensers probably aren’t worth getting to save money.
Tip 5. Wash your clothes on a lower heat setting
Reality: The long-term costs might outweigh savings if you don’t look after your machine
According to Which?, the majority of UK households wash their clothes at 40 degrees but they could cut the energy used by up to 40%, by turning it down to 30 or even lower.
So far, so good. But the problem arises when people only follow the advice to lower the temperatures, and don’t follow the other advice to run a regular monthly maintenance wash on the highest setting with a washing machine cleaner or soda crystals, to give the pipes a blast. Not doing so can increase the chance of mould and grease build-up, which can cause musty, damp smells and even causing the machine to break down faster.
Conclusion: So, as long as you maintain your washing machine, you should be able to see around £12 knocked off your energy bill each year by turning down the temperature.
Tip 6. Have a shower instead of a bath
Reality: This only really works if you are prepared to have short showers
Good news to those who prefer a soak in the bath – it might not necessarily cost you any more than a shower.
The average shower uses around nine litres of water every minute, of which six litres are heated at a cost of around 1p per litre. Therefore, a ten minute shower could cost around 60p per person, per day. Cutting shower time by two minutes would see you paying around 48p per person, per day, saving around £43 per year for each inhabitant of the house. Switching to a regulated shower head uses water even more efficiently, reducing the amount of water needed to between seven or eight litres per minute. And some shower heads can save up to £120 a year on the typical energy bill.
But if you enjoy 10 minute power showers, this uses about 150L of water, the same as a medium-sized bath, so they could both cost about the same, assuming the water used is heated in the same way.
Many of us have a gas boiler and an electric shower. Although electric showers are low flow and in ten minutes may use only use 50L of water, electricity costs over three times as much as gas at the moment, so the saving will be marginal if at all.
Conclusion: Cutting down on shower time is a solid money-saver but if you prefer a long shower, it might not be any cheaper than a bath.
Tip 7.Stop using the tumble dryer
Reality: Do your maths unless you are drying outdoors
Just under a quarter of households have said they will no longer be using a tumble dryer to dry their clothes in a bid to reduce their energy bills. If you are replacing it by drying clothes outside on the line, that’s free and a no-brainer. If you are considering investing in a heated airer to save money, do the maths first.
Shoppers have scrambled to buy bargain ones from Aldi, B&M and Home Bargains after they often feature on internet forums dedicated to saving cash. But the reality might not be as rosy as you think. Heated clothes airers are similar to a traditional clothes horse, but the bars of the dryer heat up, which speeds up the time it takes to dry the clothes, but still takes a lot longer than a tumble dryer.
Energyhelpline.com calculated the cost of running the 300w models, but beware that some models are as high as 1000w. A 300w dryer uses 0.3 kWh, which means it’s 8p per hour to run a 300w clothes airer. If you have it on for eight hours, it would cost 64p. A tumble dryer is a much higher wattage – around 2,500w – so it uses more electricity. Using the same calculation, it costs 67p per hour to run a tumble dryer. When you factor in the cost of the airer – they can be bought for about £40 but can cost nearly £200 for bigger models – it’s probably not worth making the switch, especially if you already have a tumble dryer.
The good news is, you may not have to give up your dryer entirely, if you can make the switch to a heat pump dryer. A recent report by Which? concluded that the average heat pump tumble dryer cost around £39 per year to run, based on drying three loads a week. This compares to around £80 for a vented dryer and £88 for a condenser model. The catch is the initial price, as you’d struggle to find a heat pump dryer for less than £400 compared to around £200 for a vented model, although costs are coming down.
Conclusion: Switching to air drying is guaranteed to save money, and worth considering a heat pump dryer if you can’t live without a tumble dryer.
Tip 8. Use the slow cooker instead of the oven
Reality: Prepare to be disappointed
An all-time favourite money-saving tip, even before the current energy crisis. But this energy-saving tip might be the biggest myth of all – depending on how you use your slow cooker.
Electric ovens usually have a power rating of 2.0-2.2 kWh, whereas slow cookers use 0.64 kWh of electricity on low settings and 1.65 kWh on high settings. So assuming someone used an oven five days a week, for one hour at a time, this would cost around £150 per year. Alternatively, if they used a slow cooker five days a week for eight hours at a time on the lowest setting it could around £370. However, slow cookers often use heat more efficiently than conventional ovens and waste less energy – so they may actually work out cheaper depending how they are used.
Conclusion: Just use whatever device best suits what you want to cook.
Tip 9. Use your appliances at night to save money
Reality: Whether you save money or not rests entirely on the tariff you are on.
This theory is also gaining traction online, with many people stating they are only using their washing machine and dishwasher at night as it’s cheaper to run then. The reality is that it can be – but only if you are on an Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariff.
These tariffs work by offering a cheaper rate on electricity used overnight – but the payoff is a much higher daytime rate. If you have this tariff, it is absolutely worth switching on before you go to bed. But for those on a standard variable tariff, which at the moment is most of us, you will save no money at all by waiting until overnight to wash your clothes or dishes.
Conclusion: Make sure you know which tariff you are on before you assume you are saving money.