They’re calling it the ‘perfect storm’ of rising costs. From tax changes and inflation to energy prices. Happy second half of 2022, everyone! Insert facepalm emoji. Sorry, but there’s not much I can do about the first two problems. However, if you, like me, are worried about rising energy costs at home, read this piece. I’ve put together a surfeit of tips to help you save energy specifically in your kitchen and bathroom.
As a child, my dad constantly reprimanded me for leaving the lights on in my bedroom. Or any room I had frequented, for that matter. And to be honest, not much has changed in two decades. Until recently. Now, being a homeowner myself, and with the rather scary notion of rising energy costs, I’ve changed. I’m making very sure no light is on that doesn’t have to be. It’s a little thing, but hopefully – in the long term – it will help.
And I’m not the only one who’s worried. The UK’s energy regulator, Ofgem, announced on February 3 that the price cap would increase by £693 from April. It will increase again in October.
Ofgem initially predicted it would rise to £2800 a year, but has since called that an underestimate. Analysts at Cornwall Insight are now saying it might rise to as much as £3359.
And that’s not all. Due to the spike in prices, Ofgem has decided to review the energy price cap every three months, rather than every six, which means it will likely go up again in January. If there is no change in how the market behaves, it could go beyond £4000.
You can find out more about the price cap and whether it affects you on their website here. Also keep in mind that it does not apply if you live in Northern Ireland.
What is the energy price cap?
It’s the maximum energy cost a supplier can charge its customers. This prevents the companies selling you energy from making excessive profits – but it doesn’t put a limit on the wholesale price, which is where most of the price rises come from.
Ofgem used to review the energy price cap every six months, once for summer and once for winter. However, Ofgem recently announced that it is going to review it every three months, due to the rapidly rising costs.
Can I get any help with my energy costs?
The government has announced that every household will receive a £400 rebate, starting from October. You will not need to repay this money. It will come in the form of a discount by your supplier that is added to your credit. If you’re on a meter, it will be added on there automatically or be given to you in the form of a voucher.
You should also have received a £150 rebate from your council in April to help with your energy costs. To be eligible, your home needed to be in council tax bands A-D and you needed to be the person paying council tax. There was only one rebate per household, but it was available to everyone, even if you received a council tax reduction or the Disabled Band Reduction. So if you haven’t received it, contact your local council.
To find out more, check out Citizens Advice’s line-up of help available.
Energy costs: a survey
Earlier this year, Hillarys conducted a snap poll of more than 550 UK residents. They found that more than four-fifths of UK homeowners have become more aware of their energy usage since the announcement of rising energy costs. And 34% admit that they often sit in a house that’s too cold in a bid to keep their heating bills down.
Now, there are lots of things we can do to help. And no, that doesn’t mean you’ll be sitting watching the latest Netflix craze while wearing your hats and gloves. You can take many of these actions in your kitchen and bathroom.
I’ve popped together a list of tips that will hopefully help keep your bills down.
Buy more energy efficient appliances
According to the Energy Saving Trust, cooking typically accounts for 13.8% of electricity demand in UK homes, with freezing or cooling food requiring a further 16.8% of electricity used on average. Wet appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines, are also energy hungry, accounting for around 10% of household energy bills.
About to embark on a kitchen remodel? Then it’s worth investing in appliances with the best energy rating to get you off to the best start.
Appliances are rated from A-G. The closer up the scale (towards A) an appliance is, the more energy efficient it will be. Once you’ve identified the most energy efficient appliances, make sure you only choose the appliances you’ll actually use.
For instance, is your fridge merely housing some tonic and limes (hello, Carrie Bradshaw)? Then you really don’t need a large American-style fridge-freezer gobbling up all that precious energy.
It’s also a good idea to switch off some of your appliances at the socket, such as your microwave, coffee machine and tumble dryer. This is because they still consume energy when left on stand by. (While writing this, I’ve just turned all mine off!)
Also, small pointer: where you can, using a microwave to heat your soup etc will use much less energy than your hob.
Watch out for energy costs when making your cuppas
If you haven’t heard this tip before, have you been living under a rock? – but it’s worth reiterating. Only boil the amount of water needed for your brew.
According to Shell Energy, it costs us 2.5p to boil an average full kettle, so heating more water than we need is essentially pouring money down the drain.
One way to combat this is to invest in a boiling-water tap. Their tanks under the sink are essentially a kind of thermos flask, which keeps the water at 110ºC, meaning very little energy is required to keep the water in the tank at boiling point. Quooker also claim that their average daily consumption costs around 3p – so these taps could potentially save money and energy.
Monitor energy costs with smart tech and apps
They’ve had a big push in the last couple of years, so I’m sure you’ve heard of them. Yes, I’m talking about smart meters. These are self-reading gas and electricity meters where you can set budgets and see much energy you’re using in pounds and pence. This means it’s easy to keep an eye on how much you’re spending.
There are also other clever apps and tech out there that can help. For instance, Bosch has partnered with Youreko to create a handy tool on their website. It compares running costs and real money savings over the lifetime of multiple appliances. You can also use it to see if there’s another Bosch appliance that could be more cost effective, therefore making informed decisions about which model to purchase.
In addition, you can download apps that connect to your boiler, such as Hive, or Energy Cost Calculator and Energy Consumption Analyzer. Even Amazon Alexa can help control your lights, heating and smart plugs.
Use less water
OK, so here’s an obvious point: long leisurely showers and deep luxurious baths will use more energy and water. So cut your time down and enjoy your soak with half the water to help reduce energy costs.
But there’s more you can do! For example, if you have a shower that’s fed directly from your boiler or hot water tank, you can fit an energy efficient shower head. This could seriously reduce the amount of hot water you use. Aerating shower heads, for instance, work by restricting the flow of water and mixing it with air. This makes the water appear to flow at the same volume as a normal shower head – albeit a bit more gentle. (They also reduce the heat a little – so if you like steaming hot showers, perhaps this isn’t for you.)
Some toilets now also come with different flushing options that use less water.
Other little things: fix leaking taps and use cold water, rather than hot, where you can. Also, be sure to turn the tap off when brushing your teeth!
Take a look at your radiators
The big one. In a typical household, over half of the fuel bills are spent on heating and hot water. So, what can we do to keep our homes warm, and our energy costs down?
Small things. Firstly, check you don’t have any unwanted draughts coming into your home. These get in through gaps in and around the windows and via improperly sealed frames. Then, buy thermal curtains to keep the heat in. They reduce the amount of air infiltration and transfer of heat by creating a block between the windows and the room. You could buy a nice thick rug to help if you have stone flooring, too.
Also, be sure you have curtains that properly fit the windows. Those that hang down too long and cover the tops of radiators will push heat behind the curtain, as opposed to into the room you’re trying to heat.
Next, check your radiators. If they’re leaking or aren’t properly and regularly bled, they won’t heat your home efficiently.
If you’re renovating a property and thinking about what type of heating to get, look for energy efficient radiators. Ensure you use a BTU (British Thermal Unit) calculator to help work out the appropriate heat output for each room of your home.
Alternatively, consider investing in underfloor heating, which can be more efficient than radiators and cheaper to run.
Finally, check your boiler and get it serviced at least once a year. Not having your boiler serviced could lead to faults, higher energy bills, and your warranty ending early.
A wiser approach to heating
So, with the energy price cap rises, around 45% of homeowners are paying closer attention to their utility bills. To help reduce the impact of rising costs, James Clark, technical training manager at Wiser, shares a few simple steps you can take to reduce your household energy usage:
“Over 50% of a home’s fuel bill is used for heating and hot water, so looking at new ways of controlling this can have a big impact on your bills. A smart multi-room heating system is a great long-term investment that will save you money by only heating the rooms you’re using.
“Upgrading from basic thermostat controls to the Wiser Multi-Zone smart heating system can save up to £295 a year on energy bills, by giving you the ability to control your heating room-to-room. The system also features clever smart modes such as Eco and Away Mode which work out the most economical way to run your heating and reduce temperatures when your home is empty. Using these features can also save you £157 on your energy bills every year!”
“One common issue many homeowners have is not having foresight on how much energy they are using and how it will impact bills. The new Wiser Insights+ feature gives you a real-time breakdown of your energy spend in monetary values by connecting to your smart meter via the Wiser Home app. The feature also enables you to set budgets and control spending, plus tips and advice on how to cut back on your spending.”
More tips on reducing energy bills
“Using a schedule to reduce consumption doesn’t end with the boiler,” James continues. “Setting your lights and other appliances on a timer for when you need them can also help save some money. I recommend people invest in a smart plug, such as the Wiser’s Smart Plug, which works by connecting to the Wiser Home app, where you can control up to 10 appliances, giving you even more control over your energy usage.”
“Another final way to reduce energy bills is getting your installer to lower the flow temperature to around 55º and to balance the heating system. It is advised that this is done by a heating engineer as there are other factors to consider. If not done correctly, homeowners are likely to find that the radiators furthest from the boiler do not heat up to the desired temperature.”
Turn those lights off!
Just like me, make sure you turn those lights off! I was horrified to find out that lighting accounts for around 15% of electrical demand at home. So, if you haven’t already, it’s certainly worth switching your bulbs to LEDs. And make sure to turn them off when you leave the room. Suddenly feeling very guilty for all those childhood years – sorry, Dad.
Featured image and images: iStock.com / ronstik
Enjoyed reading this feature on money saving? Then read about these ways to finance your new kitchen.