Five smart ways to save energy
High energy costs are homeowners' biggest fear, according to a Europe-wide survey by Kingfisher, which runs B&Q in the UK - this is almost double the number who worried about paying the rent or mortgage. As a result, almost a third say they plan to improve their home's energy efficiency, as compared to just 4% in 2012. Are you doing enough to cut your energy bills?
Stop the standby habit
Seven out of 10 households leave electrical items on standby, with 38% admitting they do so all the time, according to research by uSwitch. The comparison site estimates homes across the UK are spending £227 million a year by not switching off appliances at the mains. TVs, phone chargers and set-top boxes are the devices most commonly left on standby.
It's not always convenient to go around the house unplugging appliances but an easy solution is to buy remote-controlled sockets. Just plug in these 'smart' sockets and use the remote control to switch off devices independently or in one go. Remote-controlled sockets are widely available from retailers including Amazon and Maplin - the Bye Bye Standby Starter Kit (£11.99) or the Energenie pack of four remote-controlled sockets (£29.99), for example.
Or go one step further with energy savers that will switch off your home entertainment system automatically. These multi-socket extension leads sense when the TV is turned off and then cut power to peripheral devices such as your games console, speakers and DVD player. Look out for Belkin's Conserve Smart AV (around £46) or the Energenie Automatic Standby Shutdown (£12.99).
If you want to control an appliance when you're out of the house, Belkin's WeMo Switch (£34.99) can be controlled from a smartphone, tablet or iPod Touch. Just plug the WeMo into a socket at home and connect it to your wi-fi using the WeMo app.
By making simple changes to their everyday behaviour, a family in a typical gas-heated, three-bedroom house could save as much as £130 on their annual energy bills, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
A room thermostat works by sensing the air temperature and switching the heating on when it falls below the thermostat setting. For a typical heating system with boiler and radiators, there will usually be one room thermostat to control the whole house. You can also fit a thermostatic radiator valve on to individual radiators to control the temperature in each room.
Wireless digital room thermostats are easy to install – take for example Honeywell's DT92E (around £79 from plumbers' merchants) or Drayton's MiStat RF with easitext intuitive controls (around £85).
According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, up to 82% of a typical home energy bill is attributed to heating and hot water, so you could maximise the saving you can make in the long term by having a smart energy system professionally installed.
It's something that three of the Big Six energy firms are promoting. British Gas launched Hive Active Heating (£199 including installation) in 2013, allowing you to control your heating and hot water from a smartphone, tablet or laptop, while ScottishPower Connect uses technology by Climote to control heating and hot water from a mobile.
You can pay for Connect with direct debit of £9.94 per month with an upfront payment of £66 or a direct debit of £12.69 per month for two years. You can also buy the Climite remote heating control direct from climote.com for £299 including installation.
Homeowners don't need British Gas or ScottishPower to supply their energy to take up these products.
Npower is offering the Nest Learning Thermostat for £99 including installation Nest is a heating programmer and thermostat in one, which automatically turns itself down when you're away and can be controlled from a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Within a few days, the Nest Thermostat learns the temperatures you like and creates a personalised schedule for you. If you don't want to be tied into a contract, you can buy Nest direct for £249 including installation from nest.com/uk.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch, says: “In some cases, it may be better to buy a smart system from the high street or online, rather than as part of a tie-in with a supplier, as it gives you more freedom to shop around for a better deal.”
Other names to look out for in intelligent heating are Heat Genius, Lightwave RF, Tado, Salus and Owl Intuition. 'Zoning' is another concept to consider – particularly in larger homes.
Honeywell's evohome control panel connects to your boiler and 'talks' wirelessly
with up to 12 sensors around your home. It can even work out when a window has been left open and then adjusts the heating.
The system isn't cheap, with the basic set-up costing £249 plus about £50 for each room sensor (excluding installation) but Honeywell claims that its smart technology will save up to 40% on heating costs.
Wireless monitors display how much electricity you use, so you can identify areas where you can cut back.
A small device clips on to your electricity meter, while a transmitter relays data on your electricity consumption to a hand-held screen where you can view your real-time electricity consumption in kWh or pounds and pence. You can instantly see the impact of daily activities such as boiling a kettle or switching on the tumble drier.
Energy monitors start from less than £30 - the Owl Micro+ 2, for example, is available from Amazon for £29.95 and includes historical data for up to three months. Or you can spend more on a computer- compatible system for online monitoring – like Efergy's Engage E2 hub kit (£94.90).
By 2020, the government plans to introduce smart meters throughout Britain. These will measure the gas and electricity you use, display what you're spending in pounds and pence and send meter readings direct to your gas and electricity supplier – so no more estimated bills.
Energy companies are fitting the meters but when you will get your smart meter will depend on your supplier, where you live and what type of house you live in.