How to cut your energy bill How to buy energy saving products
To make running your home less expensive, see how our independent lab testing uncovers the products that really can help you cut your bills
The modern home is packed with products designed to make day-to-day tasks that bit easier. But using them on a daily basis means higher overall energy consumption, a mounting electricity bill and an ever-expanding carbon footprint. Energy-saving products can lessen that impact and save you money on your energy bills.
Which? tests and measures 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 savers, so you won't spend more than you need to. Our energy-saving appliances review shows the products that successfully achieve low energy consumption without compromising on performance.
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 calculator tools. Not only can these tools guide you to the best cheap-to-run appliances currently available, but they also tell you just how much electricity individual TVs, tumble dryers, fridge-freezers and dishwashers guzzle.
The most visual indication of a product's energy efficiency - including home appliances such as washing machines, fridge-freezers and tumble dryers - is its EU energy-efficiency rating. This rating is usually shown on the product using a label like the one pictured, right. Our guide will help you find out more about understanding energy labels.
But Which? testing goes further than the EU requirements so that we can more accurately recommend the products that use less energy. We test energy consumption in a way that reflects how you actually use different appliances.
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 actual running costs of the products, so you can see exactly how much they will add to your annual energy bills.
Energy-saving products for your home
Below we've outlined some key energy-saving products to look out for, along with quick links to our expert reviews to help you find the best products for your needs and budget.
Energy-saving light bulbs
With traditional incandescent light bulbs having been phased out under EU rules, energy-saving light bulbs are now used in households throughout Europe.
According to the Energy Saving Trust (EST), even though energy-saving light bulbs are slightly more expensive than traditional varieties to buy, you'll usually make back the difference in electricity savings in a year. 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
If you have gas central heating, your boiler will account for around 60% of your home's CO2 emissions, 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 - similar to the energy-rating labels you find on fridge-freezers and washing machines - 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 make better use of the heat they generate from burning fuels, such as gas or oil, as they 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 unit is. The information we gather on reliability helps us to calculate the overall customer score for the most popular boiler manufacturers.
- Want to buy a new boiler? Check out our boiler reviews.
Energy-saving washing and drying
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 time-delay functionality 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%.
To find out which machines are best, click on these links:
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 £26 a year, all the way up to £87 a year for cavernous American-style models.
So using our expert testing to buy an energy-saving appliance can make a real difference to your energy bills.
Energy monitors, smart meters and smart heating controls
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 become more mindful of reducing 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.
- So don't buy one until you've checked 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, meaning an end to bills based on estimated usage. The government wants every home to have a smart meter by 2020, and plans to start officially rolling this out from 2015. 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 heating controls allow you to digitally programme your heating, usually online or via a smartphone app. 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 heating controls save you money? We reveal what happened when our researchers tried out smart heating controls.
Other eco products we recommend
There are a lot of home appliances now 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.
Others talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. Six of the appliances we investigated have no effect on energy use, and one of them even increased it. Discover which eco products we recommend, and the ones you simply don't need.