How to cut your energy bill How to buy energy saving products
Energy-saving products promise to help you cut your bills - but how much money do they really help you save?
Which? tests the running costs and average energy and water consumption of a range of home appliances - from washing machines and dishwashers, to fridges and freezers - to help you find the top energy-saving products.
If you want to find out exactly how much a specific home appliance or television costs to run per year, check out our energy cost calculators.
You can use these to find the best cheap-to-run appliances and find out how much energy individual machines guzzle.
Energy efficiency labelling
The most visual indication of a product's energy efficiency is its EU energy-efficiency rating.
But Which? testing goes further than the EU requirements. We test energy consumption in a way that reflects how you actually use different appliances, so we can more accurately recommend the products that use less energy.
For example, we test washing machines on 40ºC normal cottons and synthetics programs - two of the most popular washing machine cycles - rather than the EU's preference to test on full and partial 60°C cotton loads and a 40°C partial cotton load.
With fridges and freezers, the energy label tells you only the appliance's energy consumption - Which? goes the extra length to calculate the running costs of the products, so you can see exactly how much they will add to your energy bills.
- To discover which appliances cost the least to run, go to energy-saving appliances.
Energy-saving products for your home
Below we've outlined some key energy-saving products to look out for, along with links to our expert reviews to help you find the best products for your needs and budget.
Energy-saving light bulbs
As traditional incandescent light bulbs have been phased out under EU rules, energy-saving light bulbs are now used in households throughout Europe.
Even though energy-saving light bulbs are slightly more expensive to buy than traditional types, you'll usually make back the difference in electricity savings in a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust (EST). On average, a single halogen bulb under normal usage will cost £8.42 a year to run, a CFL £2.04 and an LED £1.71.
- Find out how to buy energy-saving light bulbs
Boilers account for around 55% of your annual energy bill, according to the EST. This makes boiler efficiency a key priority if you're looking to cut your carbon footprint and your energy bills.
Sedbuk ratings measure boiler efficiency - they're similar to the energy-rating labels you find on fridge-freezers and washing machines. Sedbuk ratings are split into bands between A and G, with A-rated boilers being the most energy efficient.
A high-efficiency condensing boiler is a good choice if you're looking for a more efficient boiler. Condensing boilers capture waste heat released from the flue and use it to heat water returning from your central heating system.
But as well as an efficient model, you want a boiler that's going to last without fault for years to come. To ensure that we only award Best Buy status to the very best boiler brands, we ask thousands of gas boiler owners every year to tell us how reliable their boiler is. The unique research we gather helps us to identify which boilers are the most reliable.
- Want to buy a new boiler? Check out our boiler reviews.
Energy-saving washing machines, tumble dryers and fridge-freezers
Developments such as heat pumps in tumble dryers, cold-wash laundry detergents for washing machines and 'energy save' dishwasher programs are helping to bring energy-saving innovations into the mainstream.
If you're on an energy tariff that gives you cheaper energy at certain times of the day, such as Economy 7, appliances with a time-delay could also help you reduce your bills.
Otherwise, look out for eco program settings on washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers - these are designed to use less energy during a load.
However, the amount of money they can save you will depend on the machine you buy. For example, in our dishwasher testing we've found that using the eco program reduces both energy and water use by an average of 18% - with the most energy efficient reducing energy use by as much as 46%.
After central heating, refrigeration adds more to your energy bills than anything else, as appliances are on all the time. Running costs for fridge-freezers can be anything from £25 a year, all the way up to £87 a year for large American-style models, so buying an energy-saving appliance can make a real difference to your energy bills.
Energy monitors, smart meters and smart thermostats
Energy monitors give a real-time estimate of how much energy you're using. They aren't actually energy-saving products in themselves, but having a visual reminder of how much energy you're using can help you reduce your energy consumption. Energy monitors start at around £25, so they're a fairly low-cost way to keep an eye on your energy use.
However, you'll only make these savings if you buy an energy monitor that's accurate, easy to use and presents its data in a way that will help you to make changes.
- Discover which are the most accurate by checking out our energy monitor reviews.
Smart meters are an alternative to traditional gas and electricity meters. They measure your exact energy consumption and send all the information back to your gas or electricity supplier - so no more estimated bills. The government wants every home to have a smart meter by 2020, and plans to start officially rolling this out from 2016. However, some energy suppliers have already started installing smart meters in their customers' homes.
- Find out what what this means for you, plus learn more about how smart meters work, in our guide to smart meters explained.
Smart thermostats - such as Nest, Hive and Evohome - allow you to program your heating using a wireless controller, your PC or smartphone. As well as closely monitoring how much energy you use and giving you absolute control as to when your heating will turn on and off, some models claim to learn your routine so that they can intuitively fire up the heating at the times you most need it.
- But can smart thermostats save you money? We reveal what happened when our researchers tried out smart thermostats.
Other eco products we recommend
There are a lot of home appliances on the market that claim to help cut your energy bills. We road-tested a selection of them to find out which really do make a difference to the energy you consume - from shower heads to radiator boosters.
Six of the appliances we investigated have no effect on energy use, and one of them even increased it. Discover which products you should avoid, plus the eco products we recommend.