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1 October 2020

10 ways to save on energy bills

Save hundreds of pounds on your energy bills with our expert tips. We reveal ways to save electricity and reduce your carbon footprint by making your home more energy efficient.
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Sasha Baker

From choosing the best energy tariff to cutting the amount of gas and electricity you use, our advice will help you to save money and make your home more comfortable. 

Some of our top tips take no longer than a few seconds – so you can get started on cutting your energy bill today. 

Keep reading to find out how some changes can save you more than £300 a year.

  1. Switch energy supplier
  2. Use your thermostat effectively
  3. Replace light bulbs
  4. Cut draughts
  5. Choose energy-efficient appliances
  6. Get a new boiler
  7. Insulate your walls and loft
  8. Quick energy-saving tips
  9. Find out if you can get free cash
  10. Keep your energy bill under control

1. Switch energy supplier: save up to £330

If you haven't switched your energy supplier or tariff recently, there’s a good chance you could save a lot of money. That’s because you will probably be paying out-of-contract rates. These are often the pricier deals on the market, even though they're price capped.

Out-of-contract rates, also called standard or default tariffs, are the automatic rates for customers who have not chosen their energy tariff or who took no action when their fixed deal expired.

Our research reveals that you could save around £330 in a year by switching from a standard or default tariff set at the level of the price cap to the cheapest available deal.

11 million households are on a standard or default tariff, according to energy regulator Ofgem, meaning there are likely big savings you could make on your energy bill.

Already switched energy supplier? Try these:

  • Check you're on its cheapest tariff.
  • Opt for paperless billing and manage your account online (some companies charge extra for paper bills).
  • Pay by direct debit. This is usually cheaper than paying when you receive a bill.
  • Send regular meter readings to keep your bill accurate. If you have a smart meter, it will do this automatically.

How often should I switch energy tariff?

If you let a fixed tariff run out, you'll end up on a standard variable tariff, and you could end up paying hundreds of pounds a year more than you should on your energy bills.

Most fixed tariffs last a year so, to avoid overpaying, switch once a year to a cheaper deal, timing the switch to coincide with your contract ending.  

Unless a particularly enticing deal comes along you don't need to worry about switching more often than this. 

We've crunched the numbers and found that, over a two year period from September 2018, switching twice or even four times a year wouldn't have saved a medium energy user more than switching just once a year. Some suppliers charge exit fees for switching mid-contract, which would eat into your savings, and it's more hassle. 

There may be exceptions to this rule if energy prices drop dramatically a few months after you've switched; it could be worth checking a price comparison site if you see in the news that energy prices are at record lows mid-way through your contract. 

2. Use your thermostat effectively: save £75

Reducing room temperatures by just 1ºC can cut heating bills by up to £75 a year in a typical home, according to the Energy Saving Trust. So put on a jumper before you turn up the heating.

If you don’t already have a room thermostat, programmer and thermostatic radiator valves, installing them – and using them well – could save you another £60 a year. It will also cut your home’s carbon emissions by 330kg a year.

Heating controls should let you:

  • set your heating and hot water to turn on and off to suit you
  • heat only the parts of your home that need it
  • set different temperatures for different areas of your home
  • keep your home at a temperature that’s comfortable, without wasting heat.

For more advice, see our five tips for using your home heating controls effectively.

Electric heaters

If you only need to heat one room in your house, it may be cheaper to use a portable electric heater and keep the thermostat turned down. For those who live alone or work from home, investing in an electric heater could save on heating bills over time as you're not heating the whole house unnecessarily. 

Check out our guide to buying the best electric heater for your home.

Smart heating controls

Also called smart thermostats, these let you operate your heating remotely via the internet using your mobile phone, tablet or computer. Some also have sophisticated features, such as learning your routine or adjusting settings depending on the weather forecast.

Whether a smart thermostat could save you money will depend on your lifestyle, how efficiently you control your heating already, and whether you’d prefer it to using traditional heating controls. Find out whether smart thermostats are worth it.

3. Replace light bulbs: save £180

Energy-saving light bulbs can help you to cut your energy bills easily. An LED light bulb costs around £1.71 a year to run . Over its lifetime, it could cut around £180 from your energy bills, compared with an old-style bulb.

Remember, energy-saving light bulbs last longer than traditional ones.

Light bulb costs compared

Type Lifetime Annual running cost
Halogen 2,000 hours (around 2 years) £8.42
CFL 10,000 hours (10 years) £2.04
LED 25,000 hours (25 years) £1.71

LEDs are the most energy-efficient light bulbs, and use almost 90% less energy than traditional incanadescents. LED bulbs can cost less than £5 for one, and some can pay for themselves through energy savings in a few months. To find out more, see our light bulb reviews.

Already use energy-saving bulbs? Remember to switch off lights when you leave the room, and use the best bulb for the size of room or the job it will do. See five top tips for choosing the right light bulb.

4. Cut draughts: save £19

Stopping heat from escaping through unwanted gaps could help you save up to £20 a year, although you could save far more with professional draught-proofing. Take a look at the following areas:

  • Windows Use draught-proofing strips around the frame. Brush strips work better for sash windows.
  • Doors Use draught-proofing strips for gaps around the edges, and brush or hinged-flap draught excluders on the bottom of doors.
  • Chimney and fireplace If you don't use your fireplace, use an inflatable pillow to block the chimney, or fit a cap over the chimney pot. If you have an open chimney, this alone could save you £15 a year.
  • Floorboards and skirting Floorboards need to move, so use a flexible silicone-based filler to fill the gaps.
  • Loft hatches You can prevent hot air escaping by using draught-proofing foam strips.

Already repaired large draughty areas? Consider smaller holes that let in air, such as keyholes and letterboxes. Find out more in our guide to draught proofing.

5. Choose energy-efficient appliances: save up to £124

If you're replacing an appliance, you can cut your electricity bills by choosing the most energy-efficient model. For example, running costs for washing machines, depending on size, vary between £15 and £60 a year. 

The most visual indication of a product’s energy efficiency is its EU energy-efficiency rating. But we test energy consumption in a way that reflects how you actually use different appliances, so we can more accurately tell you which ones use less energy. For example, we test washing machines on the 40°C cottons program most commonly used by Which? members, while the EU Energy Label tests are 60% based on the 60°C cottons program.

In our lab tests, we reveal the annual running costs for every large appliance, from TVs to dishwashers. You can use the results of our tests to find out how much appliances cost to run, and which ones will be the cheapest.

How much money energy-efficient appliances can save you per year

Our research shows that swapping power-guzzling kitchen appliances for energy-saving models could save you up to £124 a year.

Already have an energy-saving appliance? Check out our energy-saving tumble drying tips for more ways to cut energy costs.

6. Get a new boiler: save around £315 a year

More than half of what you spend on energy in a year goes on heating. So replacing an old, inefficient boiler with a modern energy-efficient one makes a big difference to your bill.

If you upgrade an old G-rated gas boiler with a new A-rated condensing model, including a programmer room, you could trim your fuel bills by as much as £315 a year. That’s based on the latest estimates from the Energy Saving Trust for a detached home.

If you don’t currently have heating controls, installing them at the same time will help you to save even more money.

A condensing boiler is a good choice if you’re looking for efficiency. They capture waste heat released from the flue, and use it to heat water returning from your central heating system.

But a new boiler is expensive, costing between £900 and £2,800 when you include installation. Expect to pay at the higher end of the scale if you’re replacing an conventional heat-only boiler with a condensing combi boiler. So if saving money is your priority, it’s probably not worth replacing your boiler until it’s beyond repair. 

For detailed information on the savings you could make by replacing different types of boilers, read the five things you need to know before you buy a new boiler.

Already replaced your boiler? Make sure you're using it efficiently. Ensure radiators are working properly, and use the boiler programmer so the heating only comes on when you need it.

If you don’t heat your home with a gas boiler, read about other home heating systems.

7. Home insulation: save up to £315

Insulating both your loft and cavity walls can save you up to £315 a year.

Laying loft insulation to a thickness of 270mm in a typical non-insulated three-bedroom semi could trim £150 a year from energy bills, as less heat will be lost through the roof. 

Insulating cavity walls can save up to £165 a year in a semi-detached house. Solid-wall insulation, although more expensive to fit, could save you £225 in the same type of house. 

Read our full loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and solid wall insulation guides for all you need to know.

Already installed loft insulation? Even if you already have some loft insulation, you could save an extra £14 a year by topping it up from 120mm to the recommended 270mm.

You can also reduce heat loss through your windows by replacing single glazing with double glazing.

8. Quick energy-saving tips

If you’re pushed for time or money, have done everything else on this list or simply want to get started cutting your energy bill straight away, try these tips:

  • Understand your energy bill. It’s the first step in knowing how much gas and electricity you’re using, and where you can cut back. A smart meter will tell you how much energy you use in real time, or you can buy an energy monitor.
  • Don’t leave your gadgets on standby. This could save you up to £35 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
  • Fit a water-efficient showerhead. These keep your shower feeling powerful while cutting down on your hot water use.
  • Only run your washing machine and dishwasher when they’re full, and use energy-efficient programs. Dry your washing outside, rather than using your tumble dryer.
  • If you live alone, it may be cheaper to use an electric heater for the room you working in, rather than heating the whole house.

For more tips, check our advice on how to use less electricity.

9. See if you're eligible for free cash – save £££s

Money off your electricity bill, money towards installing solar panels or insulation, and grants for buying a new boiler are just some of the schemes currently on offer to help you save money on energy, for less.

Find out what you could be eligible for in our home energy-grant guide.

10. Keep your energy bill under control

Paying your energy bill through direct debit means you spread your energy costs over the year, and avoid big shock winter bills. Providing your energy supplier with regular meter readings will keep your bill as accurate as possible. This helps to avoid building up a big credit or debit balance.

If you think you've been paying too much and are in credit with your energy supplier, send it meter readings. You can ask for a credit refund at any time, even if it doesn't fit with your energy supplier's automatic refund policy. 

Your right to do this is set out in suppliers’ licence conditions. These say that it must refund credit promptly when you ask, unless there are reasonable grounds not to.

It will check whether your payments and credit will cover your predicted use over the next year, and require an up-to-date meter reading to make sure that a refund won’t result in debt or increased payments in future. You’ll typically need to contact customer services or fill in a refund request form online.

Do remember that if it's summer, you should be building up credit for winter. But if you're owed money, don't hold back. Contact your energy supplier and ask for a refund.

Not happy with your energy supplier? Then choose a better one - we reveal the best and worst energy companies.