Five smart ways to save energy

Published by Hannah Nemeth on 07 October 2014.
Last updated on 06 January 2017


High energy costs remain a big issue for homeowners, according to thermostat provider Nest. It says 54% of Brits will ration their energy during the winter while one-tenth would consider going without heating or hot water to keep bills down.

But 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.

Or go one step further with energy savers that will switch off your home entertainment system automatically. These multi-socket extension leads - such as the Energenie Automatic Standby Shutdown (£17.50) - sense when the TV is turned off and then cut power to peripheral devices such as your games console, speakers and DVD player.

If you want to control an appliance when you're out of the house, the URANT WiFi Timer Plug (£19.99) uses a smartphone app to control plug sockets remotely.


Room thermostats

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 a 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 but are more expensive – take for example the Nest Learning Thermostat, which currently retails for £249.

Smart meters

According to the former Department of Energy and Climate Change (it became part of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in June 2016), 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.

Every household in Britain is to receive a smart meter as part of a government rollout.

Energy suppliers will install them in your home at no extra cost and if you’re the account holder who pays the energy bills, then you are automatically entitled to one.

The rollout is expected to be complete by 2020 and will show users how much energy is being used, as well as supply accurate meter readings to energy suppliers. This should signal the end of estimated bills as customers should receive more precise bills each month.

When you receive your smart meter depends on your supplier and where you live. Smart Energy GB says properties in towns and cities will be the first to receive smart meters, while houses will typically have them before flats.

You can contact your energy supplier to see when they will be installing in your area.

Intelligent heating

If you can’t wait, there are other gadgets which can help cut down energy bills.
The Evohome Wireless Radiator Zoning Kit, for example, connects to your boiler and 'talks' wirelessly with up to 12 sensors around your home. It can even works when a window has been left open and accordingly adjusts the heating through your radiators.

The system isn't cheap though, with the basic set-up costing £249 plus about £50 for each room sensor (excluding installation). But the maker claims that its smart technology will save up to 40% on heating costs.

The Hive Active Heating system can be installed by British Gas for a one-off fee of £249 or on a £9 per month subscription for existing customers.

Energy monitors

Cheaper 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.

These energy monitors – such as the Geo Minim Electricity Energy Monitor – retail for between £30 and £40.

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