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How to use less electricityMoney-saving tips

Using less energy isn't just greener - it will save you money! The Energy Saving Trust estimates the average household could save up to £250 annually by putting energy saving measures into place.

How much money can I save?

Every watt you save goes towards knocking money off your bill. Energy prices vary depending on your tariff and supplier, but as a general rule, 10W equates to around a penny.

This may not sound much, but when you realise a watt is the energy being drawn in any given instant, you'll see how the cost of running, say a 100W light bulb, can soon add up.

Get the best deal

To make sure you're paying the best price for the energy you use, use our switching site to get cheaper gas and cheaper electricity.

Make your own electricity

Solar power can generate electricity or, for a much lower initial outlay, just help you heat water, slashing your water heating bill in half.

Small domestic turbines can provide up to 35% of an average home’s electricity needs, with shorter payback periods than solar panels.

  • Saving: Up to 35% - that's £144 off the average nPower annual electricity bill of £414.

Unplug gadget chargers

If a charger feels warm when it's plugged in without being attached to a device, it's still converting energy. So unplug chargers when you're not using them to save electricity and money.

  • Saving: £1.50 per year. It costs less than a penny to charge a phone for eight hours, but unplugging when not in use is one of those changes that can make a big environmental impact if everyone does it.

Say bye to standby

We’ve covered standby in some detail (see the 'Standby and electricity' section). But here’s another fact: a computer monitor left on standby can cost you £30 a year.

Turning your DVD player off every night could save you enough money to light your house for six hours, according to Ecover.

  • Saving: Up to £40 per year.

Install low-energy lighting

Switch lights off in rooms that aren't being used.

Change traditional tungsten light bulbs to low-energy bulbs. The initial cost of bulbs may be higher but the pay back time is short and the bulbs can last ten years or more compared to an average of one year for a traditional bulb.

  • Saving: Each bulb can reduce your electricity bill by up to £10 per year.

Kitchen money-savers

A well-stocked kitchen is home to some of the most draining electrical appliances, with your fridge and freezer eating up energy 24 hours a day. Use our tips for using less electricity and saving money in the kitchen.

Save money with energy-efficient fridges

Don't leave the door of your fridge or freezer open longer than necessary. Avoid putting warm food in your freezer as it makes it work harder, allow food to cool first.

For optimum energy efficiency, aim to keep your fridge and freezer at least three quarters full. Your fridge and freezer runs most efficiently when it's defrosted regularly.

  • Saving: An energy efficient fridge will save around £35 a year.

Use less electricity for cleaning

Always clean full loads when using washing machines, tumble dryers, washer-dryers or dishwashers. The fuller the load, the more energy efficient the cycle.

Look for eco cycles on your domestic appliances. Most modern washing machines and dishwashers have them, and they're designed to use less water and electricity than traditional daily programs.

If you only run your dishwasher when it's full and have an energy-efficient model, it can use less energy than washing up in hot water at the sink.

  • Saving: Combining loads once a week to fill your washing machine could save you up to £4 per year, or £10 per year if you take the same approach to your tumble dryer as well.

Clean your fridge

Use a vacuum cleaner to clean the condenser coils at the back or underneath your fridge or freezer. Thick dust can reduce their efficiency by up to 25% if left unchecked.

  • Saving: Up to £4 per year. This may seem like a small money saving, but collectively the reduction in energy waste would be significant.

Boil up a better deal

Only fill and boil the kettle with as much water as you need. And de-scale it regularly. Build-up of scale means you use more energy to boil the same amount of water.

It’s more efficient to boil water for cooking in the kettle than wait for it to heat in the pan on the hob.

  • Saving: A kettle uses only a third as much electricity as a saucepan on an electric hob.

Dry clothes more efficiently

Don't hang wet clothes on radiators for drying - use a clothes horse instead. If you need to use a tumble dryer, wring out or spin dry your clothes before putting them in.

Hang clothes out to dry whenever the weather allows, rather than using the tumble dryer. If every family in the UK hung out just one load of washing a week, we could save £88 million in electricity bills every year.

  • Saving: Hanging out one load of washing per week for a year instead of using a tumble dryer could save you over £15 off your annual electricity bill.

Defrost using your fridge

Defrost frozen food in your fridge compartment. The frozen food will act like an ice pack to help cooling in the fridge.

  • Saving: Small savings vary depending on how much food you defrost.

Fit a SavaPlug in the kitchen

The SavaPlug saves you money on fridge and freezer running costs by reducing the energy supplied to your appliances by up to 20%. When fitted, it helps your fridge or freezer run more economically by adjusting the electricity supply according to the motor's needs.

  • Saving: £4.70 off the annual running costs of an A rated fridge freezer and over £6 on a B rated model.

Energy-efficient appliances

Domestic appliances account for 47% of total domestic electricity consumption, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

It's a hefty portion of your annual electricity bill, but there's plenty of ways to cut the costs. By investing in more energy efficient appliances, you could save up to £200 per year!

Fridges, freezers and fridge-freezers account for 18% of the electricity bill in a typical house. Washing machines, tumble-dryers and dishwashers account for a further 14%. And cooking appliances like hobs weigh in at 15%.

Buy energy efficient

There may seem little you can do to reduce your electricity usage - after all, few of us could function easily without a fridge or washing machine, and that Sunday roasts certainly won't cook itself!

But making more energy-efficient choices when purchasing essential appliances has the potential to cut electricity bills.

Most white goods and common kitchen appliances have an energy-efficiency rating. For laundry appliances and dishwashers, the most efficient are A rated. For cold appliances look for A++ or A+.

If your current appliance is rated B to G, it can use up to twice the electricity of an A++ product. The tables below show the difference in cost over one year.

Remember these costs stack up. A fridge freezer can last 10 years or more and expect washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers to last more than 6 years.

TVs

The bigger your TV, the more power it consumes. But some technologies are more power hungry than others, whatever the size.

Averaged out, conventional cathode ray TVs are the most energy efficient, followed by LCD, with plasma being the least efficient.

In tests in January 2008, the 42” plasma sets ranged from 200W to 300W. The 32” LCD sets measured from 100W to 200W.

Power use of TVs

Power consumption of different TVs
Type of TV Power used while switched on Power used when on stand-by Cost to run per yeara
Plasma (42”) 200-300 Watts 1-4 Watts £70 - £103
LCD (32") 100-200 Watts 1-4 Watts £35 - £70
CRT (32") 50-100 Watts 1-2 Watts £18 - £35

Table notes

  1. Based on an average tariff for five viewing hours per day

 

Low-energy light bulbs

Lighting a typical home accounts for around 16% of its electricity bill. The good news is that fitting low-energy light bulbs is one of the simplest ways to reduce energy waste and costs.

Low-energy vs traditional light bulbs

Replacing a traditional 100W light bulb in your home with a low-energy 100W-equivalent will save enough electricity to boil water for 1,200 cups of tea. This will knock around £6 of your annual electricity bill.

Typical energy use over 5 years
Electrical power consumed in watts (W) Low-energy
light bulb

Incandescent
light bulb
Savings over
5 years
40W or equivalent £5.35 £17.01 £11.66
60W or equivalent £6.80 £24.32 £17.52
100W or equivalent £9.70 £38.94 £29.24

The table shows the typical cost of running one incandescent bulb over five years versus the cost of a low energy bulb. This is for just one light fitting, so imagine the savings if you replaced all of your bulbs.

Remember, too, that low-energy light bulbs can last ten years or more. The average for a traditional bulb is one year.

Although a traditional bulb costs 50p to £1.50, and a low-energy one between £6 and £9, they quickly pay for themselves.

Read our comprehensive reviews of low-energy light bulbs for more information and Best Buy recommendations.

How to use less electricityStandby and electricity

Consumer electronics, such as TVs and hi-fis, use around 16% of total domestic electricity - and this figure is rising.

Unlike white goods, which are rated for energy efficiency, there’s little information on other electronics goods' efficiency – except for Which? tests, of course.

But there is one way to drastically reduce the amount of money you waste: switch them off when you’re not using them.

The tables shows the typical energy use of common household electronics in standby mode. A typical combination of the these products left on standby could cost you almost £40 a year.

TVs

The Energy Saving Trust recommends TV power consumption should be below 2 watts in standby.

Some TVs in our tests fail this. And, in general, conventional widescreen TVs use less power in standby (typically 1-2W) compared with or screens (typically 1-4W).

Freeview boxes can be a big drain on electricity. When in use, set-top boxes typically use 4-12W. Switch them to standby, and power consumption drops only marginally.

Most Freeview set-top boxes don’t have proper on/off switches. Plus you need the box in standby to pick up over-the-air software updates (which add functionality to the box, improve the EPG and so on).

You can get round this by keeping an eye on the DTG website or manufacturer websites. They provide a schedule of updates, so in the meantime you can switch your box off (at the mains if it doesn’t have an off button) without the fear of missing out.

Of course you could save energy by buying an IDTV – one less box, TVs use less power in standby and they usually come with an ‘off’ button.

Sky+

The Sky+ PVR doesn’t have a proper switch – to save wear on the hard drive, the standby mode doesn't switch if off. There’s not much you can do about this.

Why save electricity?

Burning fossil fuels to produce electricity releases carbon emissions, which in turn are linked to climate change.

Using less electricity will mean fewer damaging emissions are created each time you turn on a light, boil your kettle or charge your mobile phone.

The great news is that saving electricity will reduce your electricity bills, and as these costs are expected to rise by up to 17% in 2008 alone, there’s never been a better incentive to save electricity.

Start saving electricity

There’s lots you can do to start saving energy. As well as the household tips listed in this report, you can also invest in more energy-efficient household goods. If you want to go straight to the heart of the problem, consider generating your own electricity or switching to a green electricity tariff.

But it’s not all about grand gestures. Smaller changes, such as unplugging your mobile phone charger once the gadget is charged, may only save a few pence from your electricity bill, but can have a huge impact on the environment if we all get in the habit of doing it.