120 ways to save and conserve energy, for a greener planet
11 March 2021 | Celia Topping
Being environmentally conscious and living sustainably is a habit. Once formed, it just comes naturally! So we’re here to help you embrace better habits that cut back your energy use, lower your bills and reduce carbon emissions. Whether it’s putting a lid on a saucepan or switching appliances off at the wall, here’s a list of ways you can save energy.
What’s the difference between energy efficiency and energy conservation?
Before we get started on those 120 tips, let’s get to grips with the difference between energy efficiency and energy conservation. Both are about saving energy, wasting fewer resources and reducing our carbon footprint. But there’s a slight, though distinct difference.
Energy efficiency is concerned with technology. For example, an energy-efficient fridge freezer uses far less energy than an old-style refrigerator. And an LED light bulb uses less energy to produce the same amount of light as an old incandescent. Efficiency is simply about using improved technology to waste less energy..
On the other hand, energy conservation relates to behaviour– like turning off the lights when you leave a room, or unplugging at the wall, rather than leaving appliances on standby. And that’s what this article’s really all about.
So, ready to get conserving? Here we go…
How can we conserve energy without spending any money?
The good news is that energy conservation doesn’t cost a thing. In fact, follow these quick and easy energy conservation methods and you can actually save money.
To find out more about how to reduce your gas and electricity bills without spending any money, check out our handy guide.
How to save energy in the kitchen
- If you’re boiling water, use a kettle or put a lid on the saucepan. The water will come to the boil sooner, and use less energy getting there.
- And if you’re boiling an egg, turn the heat off early and let the egg finish cooking in the residual heat.
- If you’re cooking something from frozen, plan in advance and take it out of the freezer in plenty of time to thaw properly. Otherwise you’ll waste energy by defrosting it in the oven or microwave.
- When you’ve been cooking something in the oven, leave the oven door open afterwards for a while, so the heat can warm up your kitchen. (But, don’t do this if there are small children or curious pets about.)
- Don’t place your fridge or freezer near a heat source (such as your cooker), or in direct sunlight.
- Don’t keep your fridge colder than it needs to be (another waste of energy). If it has a thermostat, set it at 3°C. If it just has a dial with numbers from 1 to 10, buy a cheap fridge thermometer from a kitchen shop and adjust the dial until the thermometer stabilises at 3°C.
- For the same reason, keep your freezer compartment set at -18°C.
- Defrost your fridge and freezer regularly. The more they ice up, the harder they have to work, and the more energy they use.
- An outdoor washing line is the most energy-saving way to dry clothes. And if it’s raining, an indoor airer is better than a tumble dryer.
How to save energy throughout the rest of your home
- One of the best ways of conserving energy is to turn down the thermostat on your heating. Even just one degree lower can save you around £80 a year1. Learn the ideal room temperature for different rooms in home, in our useful guide.
- Wear layers – a vest and a light pullover will trap heat better than a single thick jumper. Read even more about how to keep warm without turning up the heating.
- The government wants every home in the UK to be able to have a free smart meter installed by 2024. If you don’t have one yet, we’ll install one with our cheapest Better Smart energy plan. Your smart meter comes along with its handy pal, the In-Home Display (IHD). Together, they’ll help you track your energy use, and make easy tweaks to cut your bills.
- An energy-saving tado° smart thermostat allows you to control your heating and hot water from anywhere. It helps you make sure you’re only using energy when you need to. All from a handy phone app!
- Take showers rather than baths. According to the Energy Saving Trust, if everyone in a family of 4 swapped one bath a week for a 5-minute shower, they’d save up to £20 a year on gas bills2.
- Don’t spend hours in the shower. Just one minute less under the shower each day could shave £7 a year off your bills3. So in a 4 person household, that’s £28 a year.
- Keep curtains and blinds open during the day, to let in the warmth of the sun. Then close them at night, to keep the heat in and the cold out.
- Bleed your radiators regularly – it will help keep them working more efficiently.
- If you’ve got a garage attached to your house, keep the doors closed in winter, to create an extra layer of insulation for your home.
- If you’ve got friends coming over, turn down the thermostat a few notches when they arrive. Their combined body heat will keep the room warm. (You don’t need to tell them they’re your new radiator!)
- Repainting? Use satin or semi-gloss paint on your walls. It reflects light better, so you can use lower wattage bulbs.
We can help you create a greener, more sustainable future. Get a quote in less than 2 minutes and find out how you can start saving, the green way, today. We offer competitive prices, 100% renewable electricity as standard4, and a carbon-crunching tree5 planted every year in your name. To find out more, check out which of our green energy plans would suit you and your lifestyle.
How does housework help to conserve energy?
Dirt and dust clogs appliances and devices, so they don’t work as well as they should. Yes, even the coils behind your fridge! A clean home is an energy-efficient one – so find out here how to conserve energy with housework. And learn more about how to do a green clean, with our complete guide to eco-friendly cleaning.
- Keeping your hob clean will help it to heat more effectively.
- Dust and vacuum your radiators. Those layers of dust will stop heat flowing as freely.
- Dust your light bulbs. The dust lowers their brightness – which could mean you buy higher-wattage bulbs than you actually need. Or, if you’ve got dimmer switches, you might keep the lights brighter than necessary. And remember,energy-efficient LEDs are infinitely better than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs.
- 3 or 4 times a year, pull your fridge away from the wall and give the coils a good vacuuming. That build-up of dust and grime means the fridge motor has to work harder.
- Clean filters! In appliances like dishwashers and washing machines.They’ll perform better, and are less likely to clog up and break down.
- If you have a tumble dryer, clean the lint screen after each load. As with filters, a clogged lint screen means your dryer will take longer to dry your washing.
- For the same reason, check the vent hose regularly, and remove any fluff or obstructions.
How can I stop wasting energy in my home? Energy conservation tips
Your home isn’t energy-efficient if you’re wasting heat, water or cold air from the fridge. So here are some clever ideas to help you reduce leaks and waste.
Heat, cold and light
- Make sure there’s no warm air escaping, or cold air getting in, through gaps under your doors or in sash windows. If you can feel a draught under a door, buy or make a draught excluder – here’s one of our favourites. Draught-proofing your home doesn’t need to be expensive. Find out how to draught-proof on a budget, in our handy guide.
- Check the seals on your fridge and freezer to make sure they’re still airtight – the appliance has to work harder if cold air’s leaking out, and uses more energy to keep the temperature steady.
- Keep the fridge door closed. Opening it just once can let up to a quarter of the cold air out!. And remember to keep closing it while you’re going back and forth unloading your shopping.
- When you’re cooking on a hob, make sure the saucepan is the same size as the heating element. More heat will reach the pan, rather than just warming the air!
- If you’re cooking in the oven, don’t keep opening the door to check dinner, as heat will escape each time. Remember, ovens have glass doors for a reason!
- If you spend most of the time in one room, it might make sense to use a standalone heater in that room, rather than switching on the heating for the whole house.
- Keep your heating thermostat away from lamps, TVs, the back of the fridge, or any other appliances that give off heat. They’ll cause it to reach its set temperature too quickly and switch off, but then restart – which means your boiler will waste energy by constantly switching on and off.
- Install dimmer switches. That way, you can light a room just as much as you need, but no more. They work extremely well with new LED bulbs.
Energy-saving tips for water use
- Don’t leave the tap running while you’re cleaning your teeth, shaving or washing (whether it’s your face, or the dishes!). A running tap wastes more than 6 litres of water a minute.
- Get dripping taps repaired – they probably just need a new washer. A dripping tap can waste more than 5,500 litres of water a year.
- Garden hoses and sprinklers use as much as 1,000 litres of water per hour – that’s more than an average family uses in a whole day.
- Don’t overfill your kettle – if you just boil the amount you need, you could save up to £19 a year on your electricity bill.
- Unless something’s really dirty, select short, low-temperature cycles when you’re using your dishwasher or washing machine. Most of the time they’ll do the job just as well as a long, hot cycle. And use the eco-cycle, if there is one.
- Whenever possible, use a cold cycle in your washing machine. It’s a simple way to save money and energy and, unless your clothes are particularly grimy, it should work just as well as a hot wash.
- On the other hand, some washing machines need to be run on a very hot cycle every now and again, to keep them working well. Check your handbook.
- If you can skip the last rinse cycle on your washing machine settings, do. Just use less detergent so your clothes don’t need so much rinsing.
- If your shower draws hot water straight from your boiler or hot water tank (rather than an electric shower), get yourself a water-efficient shower head. This can cut down the amount of hot water you use, but still feels like a powerful shower.
How can I make the right energy-saving choices?
Saving energy is all about rethinking your lifestyle – so here are some energy conservation tips to help you cut costs.
- Switch to new, energy-efficient light bulbs and you could cut your lighting bill by up to 90% a year.
- Use a low-energy inkjet printer, rather than an energy-guzzling laser printer.
- Still using a full-size computer? Swap it for a laptop or ultrabook. They use half the energy6.
- If you’ve got one, use a microwave or a slow cooker, rather than a conventional oven whenever possible. A microwave uses about half as much energy as a normal oven, and a slow cooker can be up to 75% more efficient.
Does saving energy always mean using less?
Not necessarily! Conserving energy is usually all about cutting down – but sometimes it’s about filling up...
- It’s better to keep your fridge more full than empty, as it will use less energy when it’s well stocked. But that doesn’t mean you should buy more food than you need. It’s better to buy only what you’re likely to use, and then fill up the empty spaces with bowls of water.
- Only start your dishwasher when it’s full. A half load uses just as much electricity and hot water as a full load – so waiting until it’s full means fewer washes. But, don’t overload it, or stack everything too close together, as it won’t wash them properly.
- The same applies to washing machines – unless they have an economy function that works with half loads. So only wash when the drum is full.
- If you have a washer/dryer, or a tumble dryer, here’s a clever trick. Put a dry towel in with each load of clothes, if there’s room. It will help absorb dampness, and dry your clothes faster.
To conserve energy, should I always switch everything off?
Wasting energy means you’re also wasting money. If you want to know an easy way to save energy, just get into the habit of switching off any electrical appliances that aren’t in use.
- Don’t leave electrical devices on standby. According to the Energy Saving Trust, you could save around £30 a year simply by remembering to turn your appliances off standby mode7.
- Invest in a standby saver – a device that lets you turn all your appliances off standby at once. That should save you some energy going around switching them off one by one!
- Turn off the lights as you leave a room, unless you’re coming straight back.
- If you’ve set the thermostat to switch your heating off at 10am, but you’re leaving the house at 8.30am, change it to switch off as you leave the house.
- If you’ve got ventilation fans in your kitchen or bathroom, don’t leave them on for too long. Once they’ve cleared any condensation, switch them off. Or consider replacing them with heat recovery ventilation units, which continually pre-heat incoming air by warming it with outgoing air.
- If you’re not going to be using your computer for a while, switch it off, rather than leaving it in screensaver mode.
- Take chargers out of the wall socket. Never leave them switched on, whether they’re for your mobile, your tablet, your laptop or your digital camera. They still use power, even when the device isn’t charging.
- If you feel you need a second fridge for the garage or utility room – for example, to use at Christmas, or when you’re catering for a party – make sure you empty it and switch it off the rest of the time.
How do we conserve and save energy when we’re going on holiday?
Want to know how to conserve energy in your home while you’re away? It’s all about finding a happy medium. You need to keep your freezer contents frozen and your home secure, but you don’t want to waste money on electricity. Here are some suggestions to get you started. And you’ll also find plenty of methods to conserve energy in our ‘What should I do if I go on holiday’ guide.
- Before you go, switch off and unplug everything you can, and switch your boiler thermostat to the lowest safe setting. You could also think about shutting off the water supply to your washing machine, dishwasher and cistern.
- If you’re going away in summer, turn your hot water off. If you’re going away in the winter, turn your hot water and heating down to the lowest level that will still ensure your pipes don’t freeze.
- Planning a holiday? Look for eco-friendly hotels and green tourism sites. And of course, the less distance you have to travel, the less energy you’ll use. In fact, the most energy-saving choice of all is a staycation – or take a train instead of a plane.
- If you’re holidaying away from home, make sure you know the energy costs and carbon emissions of your chosen mode of transport. Cycling is the most energy-efficient way to travel, while long-haul air flights are probably the worst.
How can I save energy in the car?
The car is one place where you can clearly see your energy use – just by watching the petrol gauge. That makes it easy to monitor your use of fossil fuels. Here are a few energy conservation methods, to help the needle move more slowly:
Before you set off
- Before every trip, ask yourself whether you could just as easily walk, cycle or take public transport.
- Try not to travel during rush hours, as you’ll be stuck in slow-moving traffic, with an idling engine – both of which waste energy.
- Don’t leave unnecessary ‘stuff’ in the boot. If your car boot is full of bits and bobs that you don’t actually need on your journey – take them out. They increase the weight of the car, so it will chew through more fuel.
- The same applies to roof racks. They cause wind resistance, increasing the amount of fuel you’re using. So if you’re not actually using yours, remove it from the car.
- Plan ahead, or use a satnav – if you’re driving somewhere new, don’t add extra miles by getting lost!
- Keep a non-plastic, refillable water bottle in the car (and remember to refill it). It may not save you energy – but it will help to save the planet. Plastic bottles cause huge amounts of pollution. And if you leave one that’s made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in the car for a while, potentially harmful chemicals such as antimony can leach into the water.
- Get your car serviced regularly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A car that’s running efficiently saves energy.
- Check the tyre pressures regularly – particularly if you’re going on long journeys. Under-inflated tyres create more resistance to the road, so you’ll use more fuel. You’ll find the correct pressures for front and back tyres in your handbook.
- Use the right specification of engine oil (that’s in the handbook too).
- If you’re replacing your car, think about swapping a gas-guzzler for an eco-friendly hybrid or electric vehicle (EV).
You can read all about the pros and cons of EVs in our numerous guides.
Saving energy on the road
- Slow down! As your speed increases, so does the amount of fuel you’re using (and the amount of pollution you’re creating). According to the AA, driving at 70mph uses up to 9% more fuel than at 60mph, and up to 15% more than at 50mph8. And cruising at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph.
- Drive smoothly. Continually revving up and braking suddenly reduces the numbers of miles you’ll get per litre. Keep an eye on the road ahead, so you’re aware well in advance when you might need to stop, or restart.
- Don’t let your car idle for long periods. It’s probably better to switch off, if you think you’re going to be at a standstill for more than a minute – then restart when the queue begins moving again. Many modern cars have a built-in function that does this for you, as a way to conserve energy.
- Get in the right gear – driving at lower revs cuts down fuel use, so change up a gear at around 2,000 RPM in a diesel-powered car or 2,500 if you use petrol.
- Check the traffic news regularly, to make sure you avoid jams and queues.
- When you start up in the morning, drive off straight away – don’t waste time and fuel letting the car warm up. In very cold weather, scrape ice off the windows manually, rather than leave the car idling to heat the glass.
- Which is better, air-conditioning or opening a window? You might think it’s obvious that opening a window is better, but not always! At low speeds, opening the windows is more efficient. However, if you’re travelling at 60 miles per hour or more, closing the windows and using the air-con will save you more energy9.
- If you use air-conditioning regularly, get it serviced to make sure it works well, and doesn’t leak CFCs.
- In warm weather, park in the shade, to stop your car overheating.
How can we save energy in the workplace?
Don’t leave all your good energy-saving habits at home when you go to work. Whether you’re a freelancer, employee, manager or the head honcho – here are some great ways to save energy and make a difference in your workplace.
- Encourage your employers to install automatic door closers, to reduce the amount of warm (or air-conditioned) air escaping.
- Make sure the last person leaving a room always switches off the lights.
- … but just in case, fit motion-sensing light switches in meeting rooms, so if the last person out forgets to switch off the lights, it’ll happen automatically.
- Even if a room’s occupied, don’t keep lights on needlessly. If there’s enough light from windows, switch off internal lighting.
- At night or the weekend, or whenever your company’s not in the office, unplug computers, printers and kitchen equipment.
- Encourage colleagues to use the stairs rather than the lifts – it’s good exercise, too – particularly going up!
- Always print double-sided rather than single-sided when you can. And if paper’s only been printed on one side (and not for anything confidential), encourage people to take it home and re-use the blank side in their own printers.
- Getting a company car? In the UK, company cars are taxed on both value and emissions – so choose a low-emission model, to save costs. EVs are a great idea for company cars.
What major changes can I make in my home to save energy?
The ideas in this section are great ways to save energy, but some are expensive. So you’ll need to weigh up whether you can afford the initial cost, to benefit in the long run. There are a few grants and incentives available too, so check these out on our website. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Insulation tips and advice
- Insulate your loft or roof space. A quarter of heat is lost through the roof, so insulation will make your home warmer and reduce your heating bills.
- Insulate under the floorboards on the ground floor – it will save you about £45 to £55 a year. You can also seal the gaps between floors and skirting boards – it’s easy to do it yourself, with a tube of sealant from a DIY store. Floorboards need ventilation, however, or they’ll rot – so don't block any under-floor air-bricks in your outside walls.
- Replace heat-leaking doors and windows with double-glazed (or even triple-glazed) airtight UPVC versions.
- Lag your hot water tank. A properly-fitting tank jacket could save you around £25 to £35 a year – or even more if you heat your water by electricity.
- Insulate hot water pipes to save energy, and help your taps to run hot faster.
Insulate cavity walls
- If you have solid walls, they can be insulated too – either from the inside or the outside. It costs more than insulating standard cavity walls, but the savings on your heating bills will be bigger, too.
- If you can’t insulate your walls, books make a good alternative – and they’ll also help with soundproofing! Place bookcases against the walls, or build shelves and pack them with your favourite reads Wardrobes also work well.
Think about using natural resources and renewables
Invest in photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. These create electricity that can power appliances and light your home – and you can earn money by selling any surplus back to the national grid. Find out more by reading our guide to solar panels.
Install solar thermal panels. They take energy from the sun and use it to heat water, which can cut your heating bills and reduce your carbon emissions.
Use curtains and blinds to optimize natural resources. As the sun moves during the day, you can open or close your curtains to make the best use of natural light and heat. This, paired with the insulating warmth/coolness of curtains can help save energy costs.
Energy saving appliances and devices
Replace inefficient, energy-guzzling old appliances – even if they still seem to be doing their job. They could be costing you much more than you think.
Whenever you’re buying a new appliance, choose the most energy-efficient model you can afford. It will cost more, but the operating costs should be lower in the long-term. If you choose well, the savings could pay back the extra cost in just a few years. Look out for those energy rating labels. And check out our guide to the most energy-efficient fridge-freezers, to learn how to choose the best one for your home.
Shop during the sales. You may be able to get a more energy-efficient appliance for your budget.
Do your research. Make sure you know all about energy ratings, and which models have the best scores before you visit showrooms or websites.
You should also compare warranties, service contracts, delivery charges and installation costs. Once again, if a particular company is offering a free extended warranty and free delivery, it may mean you can afford a more energy-efficient model.
If you’re buying a new washing machine, try to plumb it in close to the boiler, to stop heat getting lost as it travels from the boiler to the washing machine (although you should also use a cold cycle whenever possible).
If you’re choosing a new dishwasher, look for one that includes an ‘eco’ or ‘overnight dry’ setting, so that your pots and pans dry naturally, rather than using heat (and energy).
If you’re buying a washing machine or dishwasher, choose one with a Water Efficient Product Label and/or the Waterwise Recommended Checkmark – which should help you to save water, energy and money.
Don’t buy appliances that are too large for your needs. You’ll simply waste money on heating water, or cooling spaces that you don’t need. It’s better to buy a smaller model, than a better rated one that’s too big.
If you use a dehumidifier in your home or workplace, place it away from walls and large items of furniture. Dehumidifiers work better if air can circulate around them. Make sure you clean the dehumidifier regularly, to keep it free from mould and bacteria that could compromise its performance.
Save energy by cutting your carbon footprint
If you’re installing a new heating or hot water system, carefully compare the costs of all your options. With our green upgrade, OVO Beyond, we supply 100% guaranteed carbon-neutral energy10. That includes 100% carbon-neutral gas11, with 15% green gas – one of the best fuel mixes around!
Combination boilers give instant heat when it’s needed. That makes them more cost-effective than a heated tank, which might run out of hot water if everyone in the family is trying to have a shower in the morning.
If you’re not ready to replace your boiler yet, invest in a smart thermostat, programmer and thermostatic radiator valves. According to the Energy Saving Trust, these could save you between £80 and £165 a year12. Whatever the age of your boiler, the right controls will let you:
- Set your heating and hot water to come on and off when you need them
- Heat only the rooms that need it
- Set different temperatures for different areas of your home
Read our practical guide on smart thermostats, and how they can help you control your heating from everywhere, and lower your energy bills.
- When installing a new boiler or water heating, make sure it’s as close to the kitchen and bathroom as possible. That way, the water doesn’t have to travel through miles of pipework, and lose heat on the way.
Energy-savings tips for outside your home
If you’re installing an external security lighting system, use energy-saving LED light bulbs.
Use timers, heat sensors or motion detectors, to make sure external lights only come on when needed.
Buying a new lawn mower? Look at electric models. They’re quieter, less polluting, and more energy-efficient than petrol-powered mowers. Of course, an old-fashioned manual push-and-pull lawn mower is the most energy-saving of all.
If you have a hot tub or swimming pool, keep it covered when you’re not using it. You can buy solar covers that use the sun’s warmth to heat the water.
And finally, for the sake of energy conservation for future generations, whenever you’re replacing old, inefficient appliances, please recycle them responsibly.
Read our guide on the world's best low-carbon heating options to help you save energy and the planet, from home.
Looking for further ways to reduce your bills and cut your carbon footprint? OVO offers 100% renewable electricity13 as standard And we’ll also plant a tree14 every year in your name, every year you’re with us.
So why not get a quote today and join Planet OVO!
Sources and references:
3 The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on REGO certificates and how these work.
4 The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on REGO certificates and how these work.
5 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.
10 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. 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.
11 OVO Energy's Green Gas is made up of 15% green gas, with the remaining 85% offset to make your gas carbon-neutral. As of 31st July 2020, the proportion of biogas offered vs. the amount offset was higher than all other providers who share details of their green gas offering, except Green Energy UK - and that's something we're pretty proud of. The green gas we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin (RGGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin and how these work. We offset the remaining emissions by supporting UN REDD+ carbon reduction projects that are certified to the Verified Carbon Standard.
13 The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on REGO certificates and how these work.
14 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.