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How to save on your electric bill

How to save on your electric bill

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

Guide written by:

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

14 guides

While heating appliances and insulation are getting more efficient all the time, electricity bills continue to increase. To combat the hike in prices, we've put together a few practical tips to help you save on your electric bill from choosing more cost-effective appliances to changing your energy usage.

Important features

  • Energy consumption and suppliers
  • Programming and managing
  • Forming new habits
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Your electricity bill adds up your consumption over a certain period of time and calculates the total amount you owe based on the supplier's unit rate. But a few different factors are taken into account when calculating your usage and knowing exactly how to decode the details of your bill will mean you're better equipped to compare your bill with other suppliers.

Tariff type

Some contracts offer different rates based on the time of day; i.e. peak and off-peak times. Using the bulk of your energy during off-peak times could allow you to save as much as 30% on your electricity bill. Bear in mind, however, that rates during peak times might be higher than other tariffs.

Economy 7 is a differential tariff that offers seven hours of cheaper electricity overnight. Depending on your electricity supplier and the appliances you have, this could mean savings of up to 50% compared to a fixed rate tariff.

Electricity consumption

Your electricity consumption is measured in kWh and this may appear on your bill as a metered value (i.e. the exact number shown on your meter) or an estimated value. In the latter case, your bill will be estimated based on average consumption from previous years.

Price per kWh

Unit rates are measured in kilowatt hours (or kWh) of energy. The unit rate you pay depends on your contract but this is likely to change. You also pay a standing rate which is decided by the supplier; this is a fixed daily rate that customers have to pay regardless of usage.

Energy prices go up and down all the time, but most fixed rate tariffs run for 12 months. This means that the price of your electricity will stay the same until the tariff elapses. Once it has run out it might be time to start shopping around.

Claiming tax relief

If you work from home and complete a self-assessment tax return each year, don't forget that you can claim for your office utility bills and that includes your electricity bill.

You can either calculate exactly how much electricity is used for work purposes (by working out total dedicated workspace used in the home and hours of work) or use a flat rate to add up your deductions.

Your electricity can be provided by one of many different suppliers, but the majority of UK energy comes from six main suppliers, known as the Big Six. So, why would you want to consider changing suppliers? First of all, to make savings. Secondly, to find a contract that really fits your needs.

Changing suppliers is usually fairly straightforward but may incur a charge, especially if you're only halfway through your current deal. However, doing so may still work out cheaper than sticking with an expensive plan. Furthermore, it will allow you to choose a company that better aligns with your values. From renewable energy to super off-peak tariffs, there's a wide range of contracts available whether you're looking to transition to green energy or choose a more ethical company.

Online comparison sites are available to guide you in your decision. These sites will provide all the information you need including kWh price, contract details and any additional incentives on offer. It's important to note that while kWh price will vary from one provider to another, your meter will always stay the same.

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Meters

If your heating and water heater is powered by electricity, this will make up the bulk of your consumption. If this is the case, lowering the temperature of your heating by just one degree can lower your energy bill by 7%. But before you rush off to turn down the thermostat or cut off your hot water, you should start by tackling any thermal bridges in the home, checking your insulation and ensuring that your heaters and water heater are working as efficiently as possible.

  • In winter, you can prevent draughts around windows using draught seals while doors can be blocked with draught excluders.
  • If your home still has single glazing, fitting double-glazed windows or applying secondary glazing film can make a big difference.
  • Design your rooms in a way that really makes the most of natural light sources.
  • If natural light is limited, go for light colours to brighten up your spaces.
  • Place work zones or reading spots near windows.
  • Fit your water heater with a programmer for better control over your usage.
  • Invest in low energy heaters like inertia heaters and get rid of any old, energy-guzzling convector heaters.
  • Control your heaters with an energy management system, especially if you have a differential tariff.

Change your habits

These basic rules for responsible electricity consumption should always be backed up by taking care of your appliances and adopting good day-to-day habits. Taking showers rather than baths, covering your pots when you cook, drying your laundry outdoors... all these little actions will add up to make big savings. In fact, one of the best ways to save electricity is simply to form new habits!

Lower temperatures

Lower the thermostat of your water heater to 60°C; note that this temperature is still high enough to prevent bacteria and limescale build-up. In terms of heating follow the basic temperature recommendations of 20°C during the day and 18°C at night. Don't heat any rooms that are not in use and close doors to limit heat loss. Install thermal curtains and close your blinds as soon as night falls.

Washing your laundry at 30°C can cut your energy consumption by a third compared to washing at 90°C. Use low temperature or even coldcycles wherever possible.

Turn off the lights

Get into the habit of turning off the light as soon as you leave a room.

You can even install timers or motion detectors to ensure you stick to this rule.

Unplug your electrical appliances

Appliances kept on standby still consume electricity. It's therefore important to systematically turn off all household appliances such as stand mixers, DVD players and speakers when they're not in use. To make this easier, you can plug your appliances into a single extension plug with one switch. Remember to unplug chargers when your devices have finished charging and don't keep your phone on charge all night.

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Motion sensor switches

Manage your consumption

An energy management system allows you to monitor your electricity consumption from your heating appliances or your instantaneous water heater. You can also monitor the temperature of your home or fridge using a thermometer.

Maintain your water heater

If you have hard water, fit your water heater with a limescale inhibitor. This will help to limit scale build-up on the heating element which means the heater won't have to work as hard to heat up your water. Annual maintenance is recommended to keep your system producing and distributing heat correctly. It's also a good idea to flush your hot water heater from time to time.

Take care of your household appliances

Ensure that the air is circulating freely around your fridge and freezer and that they are set up far away from any heat sources.

  • Defrost on a regular basis.
  • Clean the doors, seals and the back vent.
  • Monitor the temperature of both appliances; fridges should be kept at 3°C to 4°C while a freezer should be around -18°C.
  • Remove the filters from your washing machine and dishwasher and wash them.

Install a smart programmer and thermostat

Managing your heaters as one system can help you to save money and make your home more comfortable.

A smart thermostat is the best way to manage your radiators according to temperature fluctuations. These systems can even be used for remote control.

Opt for eco cycles

While eco programmes or cycles usually take longer, the do consume much less energy than traditional settings.

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Thermometers

Buy new appliances

Replacing any energy intensive equipment with devices that don't consume as much energy is a great way to reduce your electricity bill. Light bulbs, hobs and washing machines can all be replaced by more efficient models.

Choose energy-efficient appliances

Energy labels split household appliances into different classifications according to how they use energy from A++++ for the most efficient to G for the least efficient.

This rating depends on:

  • energy consumption;
  • appliance volume;
  • the type of equipment.

Manufacturers are always putting out more efficient appliances and each additional '+' can help you make extra savings.

Size your appliances to your household

For optimal efficiency, the volume of your fridge and freezer should match the number of people in your household. As a general guide, 100 to 150 litres should suffice for one person while 500 litres will do for a family of four.

When choosing a dishwasher or washing machine think about what kind of volume you need for a full load – and always avoid running the machine when it's half-empty!

Change your lightbulbs

LED lightbulbs are much more energy efficient. Choose your wattage based on the room you want to light; for example, you'll generally need more light in a kitchen or living room than you will in a bedroom.

Cut down on cooking times

In the kitchen, a combined oven or fan-powered oven can reduce cooking times by up to 75%, lowering your energy consumption in the process. Similarly, induction hobs are about 20% more efficient than ceramic hobs and about 25% more efficient than a solid-plate hob.

Limit the amount of appliances you have

You can also lower your consumption by simply having fewer appliances. Consider investing in multi-purpose appliances in future and give away that second TV set!

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Guide written by:

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford, 14 guides

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

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