9 ways to use the rain, wind, and sunshine to save money on your bills
27 July 2021 | Aimee Tweedale
To celebrate OVO’s sponsorship of Channel 4 Weather, we’re honouring the Great British weather’s role in powering Great British homes, with regular blogs on the UK’s favourite subject!
Come rain, wind, or shine, there are some smart ways to use the natural elements to your advantage. Some will make your house more eco-friendly, others will save you money on your energy bills, and others are just plain fun!
Here are our top tips for making the most of the UK’s blustery, beautiful weather.
How to collect rainwater to use around the home
Easy: water the plants with rainwater
Rainwater collection doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’ve not got much time or space to devote to it, collecting a little rainwater in a bucket is still worthwhile. After all, saving water isn’t just good for your energy bills, but for the planet, too!
Try putting a bucket or a large plastic bowl outside before your next downpour. Then, let your thirsty plants reap the benefits.
This is a particularly great idea because your plants need water the most when the weather's hot and dry. But hot days usually put a strain on water companies, as that’s when everyone turns their taps and hoses on.
Intermediate: make your own DIY rainwater butt or barrel
If you want to make your rainwater go even further, you’re going to need a bigger boat. Sorry, we mean, barrel.
You can buy purpose-built rainwater butts from DIY shops and some local councils. These usually have a tap on the front, to make the water you’ve collected easier to access. You’ll have to make sure it has a firm base to sit on, and that you clean it out at least once a year1.
Pro: install a rainwater harvesting tank
You’ve heard of saving money for a rainy day. But what about saving rain to make your money go further?
Rainwater harvesting systems (also known as RHS) can collect as much as 6,500 litres of rainwater2. They can be plumbed into your home, meaning you could use rainwater to do lots of your daily activities, including washing your laundry, or flushing your toilet.
You’ll only save money this way if you’re on a water meter. But if that applies to you, it’s an idea worth thinking about, as you could be cutting as much as 40-50% from your water bills3!
Find out more about how to find a rainwater harvesting system installer via the Renewable Energy Hub.
Is it illegal to collect rainwater?
No! Rainwater harvesting and rainwater collection are totally legal in the UK.
In fact, some water companies encourage people to do it. In the south east, Thames Water says: “Capturing rain with a water butt is a great way to save water and keep your garden looking lush at the same time.” And up north, Yorkshire Water have put together this guide for kids to make their own rainwater butts.
Can you drink rainwater?
Your plants might love it, but is rainwater too dirty for us humans to drink?
It’s not a great idea to drink rainwater that you’ve collected yourself without treating it first. This is because it can collect pollutants as it falls through the sky. It could also come into contact with bird poo and other nasties if it rolls into your rainwater butt from a gutter or a tree.
The good news is that most water can be made safe with water purification tablets. If you invest in a more complex rainwater harvesting system, your water may be clean enough to drink, as many come with filters built in. Check with your manufacturer before you buy!
How to use solar power around the home
Easy: get solar powered garden lights
Solar-powered lights are a low-maintenance, atmospheric addition to any back garden. And they won’t add a penny to your bills!
Because they charge directly from the sunshine, your solar-powered lights won’t need to be plugged into a mains outlet. This means they’re much easier and safer to install than regular lighting.
Intermediate: grow your own fruit and veggies
Photosynthesis is the sun’s super-power!
Using the sunshine to grow your own food can shave money off your grocery shop. But that’s far from the only benefit.
It’s also better for the environment, and better for you! Gardening won’t just yield fresh fruits and veggies, it’ll also keep you physically and mentally healthier4.
Pro: get solar panels (or solar thermal panels!)
If you’ve got the space on your roof and in your budget, it’s worth thinking about powering your home with your very own solar panels.
You might not think that the UK is the best place to generate solar power. After all, we’re not exactly known for our sunny days! But solar panels actually work in any kind of direct daylight – they don’t need intense heat. By installing them, you could save cash on your energy bills, as well as generating some extra income by selling any electricity you export back to the grid.
Find out more about how to get solar panels installed, and how many solar panels it takes to power the average home.
How to use the wind around the home
Easy: hang your laundry out to dry
Did you know that regularly using a tumble dryer could be costing you around £80 a year5?
Nature has a solution for that. Good old-fashioned air-drying, especially on a breezy day, can help you pocket those savings.
Plus: it’s the far more eco-friendly option. The Guardian points out that if every household with a tumble dryer used it once less per week, we’d collectively save around a million tonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere each year!
Intermediate: protect your plants from the birds
Fancy a DIY project that the kids can get involved with? Try your hand at making your own wind-powered garden gadgets!
A wind spinner or wind chime isn’t just a fun thing to spend an afternoon building. It can also be a fantastic way to scare away the birds, keeping your vegetable or herb garden safely intact.
Pro: Install a domestic wind turbine
Home wind turbines aren’t suitable for everyone. They need a lot of space and a strong breeze, to be really worthwhile. But if you live in the countryside where you’ve got a lot of unobstructed land, you could make big savings with your very own mini-wind farm!
Use the weather to power your home with OVO Energy
Your home energy makes up a mighty 28% of your personal carbon footprint6.
With OVO, you can rest easy knowing that you’re getting 100% renewable electricity7, generated from wind, sunshine, and the tides. Plus: we’ll plant 1 tree in your name every year8, and give you access to OVO Greenlight, our nifty energy-saving tool.
Want to go even further? Our green upgrade, OVO Beyond, comes with 100% carbon-neutral energy (including 15% green gas – one of the best mixes you can get in the UK9). We’ll also plant 5 extra trees for you each year.
Interested in joining us on the journey? Get a quote in less time than it takes to boil the kettle.
Sources and references:
6 Based on analysis carried out by the Carbon Trust for OVO Group (2020), 28% of an average individual’s carbon footprint in the UK comes from energy. In this analysis, the carbon footprint includes the following lifestyle categories: energy, transport, shopping, food and drink and holidays. See table below for each category. This carbon footprint data has been calculated using BEIS 2020 emission factors. This excludes emissions from things that the average person cannot directly control such as supporting the NHS, defence, government bodies, etc. Please note these figures are not reflective of potential changes to your habits during the coronavirus pandemic.
7 100% of the renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates and how these work. A proportion of the electricity we sell is also purchased directly from renewable generators in the UK.
8 Each year, OVO plants 1 tree for every member in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so tree-planting helps to slow down climate change.
9 Enjoy even greener energy with OVO Beyond in comparison with our standard OVO plans. In addition to 100% renewable electricity as available with our standard plans, OVO Beyond reduces your yearly carbon emissions from the energy used in your home that is supplied by OVO to net zero by providing 100% carbon-neutral gas (15% green gas and 85% offset) and offsetting all associated lifecycle carbon emissions involved in the production and consumption of your electricity & gas, you will also get 5 trees per year in UK schools and communities and other green benefits. The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates and how these work. The green gas we sell is backed via renewable certificates (Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin (RGGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin and how these work. A proportion of the electricity we sell is also purchased directly from renewable generators in the UK. We offset the remaining emissions by supporting UN REDD+ carbon reduction projects that are certified to the Verified Carbon Standard or the Gold Standard. See here for more information on how we restore nature and protect rainforests with our offsetting programmes.