10 ways to cut your energy bills
Energy prices rose again in 2013, leaving the average family forking out £136 a month to heat and light their home, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Gas and electricity are unavoidable costs over the winter months but that doesn't mean you have to pay top dollar. By being more energy efficient and making a few simple changes to your home you could save up to £280 a year on your bills, says the Energy Saving Trust.
Here are some ideas for how you can cut your energy bills.
1. Turn the thermostat down
For every degree above 21°C that you set your thermostat, you pay an extra 10% on your bills, according to Mark Todd, director of energyhelpline.com. That amounts to an extra £50 a year on the average energy bill, so turn that thermostat down.
2. Insulate properly
If your home is properly insulated you can save up to 30% on your energy bill. The walls of your property are responsible for around one third of heat loss so cut your bills by getting cavity wall insulation. For an average home, this costs between £100 and £350 but it can save the average family £135 a year on their bills.
3. Don't lose heat through your loft
Loft insulation, which can save a family £110 a year according to British Gas, acts as a blanket and traps heat inside your house.
The amount you spend and save depends on whether you have any insulation at all in your loft in the first place, and whether you decide to install it yourself or leave it to a professional.
For example, if you don't have any insulation and put in the 270mm recommended by the government on your own it will cost you between £50 and £350. Depending on the size of your home, this will pay for itself within two years.
4. Get rid of draughts
Around 20% of all heat-loss is through poor ventilation and draughts so make sure your windows and doors seal properly. Fully draught-proofing your house will reduce heating bills by £55 a year on average, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
5. Improve your radiators
Individual radiator thermostats allow you to control the temperature of every room, saving you money - around £70 per year - by not heating every room of your house.
By using a radiator reflector you can save energy that would otherwise be lost through an exterior wall. A three-pack of reflectors (which can be cut to fit six average-sized radiators) from Radflek costs £12.99 and they will pay for themselves in six months, with an annual saving of £40.
6. Look after your boiler
Boilers account for around 60% of what you spend in a year on energy bills, so the type of boiler you have makes a big difference. Replacing an old gas boiler with an A-rated high-efficiency condensing boiler could save you as much as £300 a year, estimates the Energy Saving Trust.
7. Monitor your energy use
An electricity monitor will show you how much electricity you are using in pence per hour and help you knock 15% off your energy bills each year - amounting to a £50 saving for the average household, according to Directgov.
The monitors can easily be connected to your electricity supply and the wireless display unit can be placed anywhere in your home to allow you to constantly review how much energy you're using - you'll quickly become obsessed with switching things off.
Some energy providers give out free monitors to new customers or you can buy an OWL energy monitor for around £28.
8. Buy efficient products
When buying items for your home, look out for the 'Energy Saving Recommended' label. This shows how energy efficient and cost-effective an appliance is to run. Only products that meet strict criteria on energy efficiency can carry the label.
For example, fridge freezers with the certified label use 60% less energy than those without, while laptops use 85% - a saving of £50 a year.
9. Don't waste electricity
"Energy-efficient light bulbs use up to 80% less electricity," says Joan Coe, spokesperson for npower. Energy-saving light bulbs can save you £60 over the lifespan of the bulb as they last up to 10 times longer than normal light bulbs.
Households in the UK waste around 8% of their electricity bills - about £40 per year - by leaving appliances on standby, so turn off lights and electrical products at the mains when not in use.
10. Check for benefit entitlement
One in 10 UK households is entitled to grants of on average £250 to help with paying for energy bills, according to the Home Heat Helpline. You can find out if you're able to claim on the Turn2us website (turn2us.org.uk).