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This guide is intended to provide general guidance only. It is not intended to give you advice on your personal financial circumstances. You should seek independent professional advice if you’re unsure about anything mentioned in this guide or what choices to make
From putting a lid on a saucepan to buying an electric car, here’s a list of ways to cut back your energy use, lower your bills and reduce your carbon emissions.
How can we conserve energy without spending any money?
To start with, here are some quick and easy energy conservation methods that won’t cost you anything; in fact they’ll probably save you money.
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.
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. However, don’t do this if there are small children or curious pets about that could get burnt.
Don’t place your fridge or freezer near a heat source (such as your cooker) or in direct sunlight.
Don’t let your fridge use too much energy by keeping it colder than it needs to be. If it has a thermostat, set it at 38o Fahrenheit (that’s 3.33333o recurring in Celsius). 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 habitually shows 38o.
For the same reason, keep your freezer compartment set at 5o.
Defrost your fridge and freezer regularly. The more ice builds up, the harder they have to work and the more energy they use. Even if they’re supposed to defrost automatically, keep an eye on them to make sure the automatic function is still working.
An outdoor clothes line is the most energy-saving way to dry clothes – and a great example of how to conserve energy resources. If it’s raining, using an indoor airer is better than a tumble dryer.
Throughout the rest of your home
One of the best ways of conserving energy is to turn down the thermostat on your heating. Even turning it down by just one degree can save between £85 and £90 a year. If you feel a bit chilly, just put on an extra sweater …
… and wear layers – a vest and a light pullover will retain heat better than a single thick jumper.
Get a smart meter upgrade free of charge – ask your energy supplier whether they can install one in your home. The government wants every home in the UK to have one by 2020. At OVO, we’re aiming to smarten up all our customers well before the deadline. Smart meters come with a handy In-Home Display that shows you all kinds of data about your energy use. You can then use that information to see where you’re using more energy than you need, and how you could cut back.
Take showers rather than baths. According to the Energy Saving Trust, if everyone in a family of four replaced one bath a week with a five-minute shower, they’d save up to £20 a year on gas bills.
Don’t spend hours in the shower. Just one minute less under the shower each day could shave £10 a year off your bills.
Keep curtains and blinds open during the day to let the warmth of the sunshine into your home. Close them at night to keep the heat in and the cold out.
Bleed your radiators regularly – it will help to keep them working more efficiently.
If you’ve got an integral garage, keep the doors closed in winter, to create an extra layer of insulation for your home.
If you’re entertaining guests, turn down the thermostat a few notches when they arrive. Their combined body heat will keep the room warm.
Repainting? Use satin or semi-gloss paint on your walls. It reflects light better so you can use lower wattage bulbs.
Dirt and dust can clog appliances and devices so they don’t work as well as they should. A clean home is an energy-efficient one – so find out here how to conserve energy with housework.
Keep your hob clean to make sure it works as effectively as possible.
Dust and vacuum your radiators. Layers of dust stop heat from flowing freely.
Dust your light bulbs. The dust reduces their intensity, which could encourage you to buy higher-wattage bulbs than you actually need, or, if you’ve got dimmer switches, to keep the lights brighter than necessary.
Three or four times a year, pull your fridge away from the wall and give the coils a good vacuuming. Once again, leaving an accumulation of dust and grime means the fridge motor has to work harder.
Clean filters! In dishwashers, washing machines and heat recovery ventilators. They’ll all perform better, and your washing machine and dishwasher are less likely to clog up and then break down.
If you have a tumble dryer, clean the lint screen after each load. As with filters, a clogged line screen means your dryer will be less efficient and 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?
Your home isn’t energy efficient if you’re wasting heat or water – or cold air from the fridge. Here are some energy conservation methods that will help you reduce leaks and wastage.
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.
Check the seals on your fridge and freezer to make sure they’re still airtight – otherwise the appliance has to work harder and use more energy to maintain a steady temperature.
And keep the fridge door closed – opening it just once can let up to ¼ of the cold air escape. Don’t leave it open while you’re going back and forth to unload 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, and less will be wasted.
If you’re cooking in the oven, don’t keep opening the oven door to check things, as you’ll let heat escape each time.
If you spend most of the time in one room, it might make sense to use a portable 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 emit heat. They’ll cause it to reach its set temperature too quickly and switch off, but then restart, and your boiler will waste energy by constantly switching on and off.
Indoors, 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.
Don’t leave the tap running while you’re cleaning your teeth, shaving or washing (your face or the washing up). A running tap wastes more than six 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.
Use a bowl to wash up rather than letting the tap run – you could cut about £30 a year off your energy bills.
Don’t overfill your kettle; just boil exactly the amount you need and you could save up to £7 a year on your electricity bill. This is one of the easiest ways to conserve energy.
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.
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 greasy, it should work just as well as a hot wash.
On the other hand, some washing machines need you to run a very hot cycle every now and again to prevent problems. 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 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 making choices and rethinking your lifestyle, so here are some energy conservation tips to help you make the right decisions.
Switch to new, energy-efficient light bulbs: Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) or Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). According to the Energy Saving Trust, replacing a traditional light bulb with a CFL of the same brightness will save you about £3 per year, or £50 over the lifetime of the bulb. If you do need to use traditional incandescent bulbs, make sure you buy the lowest wattage possible.
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.
If you’ve got a microwave or a slow cooker (or both), use them 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.
If you’re storing leftover food or making a packed lunch, put it in reusable containers rather than using foil or clingfilm.
Does saving energy always mean using less?
Not necessarily – conserving energy is usually all about cutting down – but sometimes it’s all about filling up
It’s better to keep your fridge full, as it will use less energy when it’s well stocked. However, that doesn’t mean you should buy more food than you need and waste it – it’s better to buy only what you’re likely to use, and fill up the space by stacking the fridge shelves 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 you’ll do fewer washes. However, don’t overload it or stack everything close together or on top of each other, as it won’t be able to wash them properly.
The same methods of energy conservation apply to washing machines, unless they have an economy function that only works with half loads.
If you have a washer/dryer, or a tumble dryer, put a dry towel in with each load of clothes if there’s room. It will absorb the dampness and dry the 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 mode.
Invest in a standby saver – a device that lets you turn all your appliances off standby at once.
Turn off the lights as you leave a room, unless you’re coming straight back.
If you’ve set the timer to switch the 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 the 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 e-reader, your laptop or your digital camera. They use power even when the device isn’t charging.
If you’re tempted to get a second fridge – for example, to put in the garage or utility room – and use it 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 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 safe and your home secure, but you don’t want to waste money on electricity. Here are some suggestions to get you started; you’ll find plenty of methods to conserve energy in our ‘What should I do if I go on holiday’ guide in OVO Answers.
Before you go, switch off and unplug everything you can and switch your boiler thermostat to the lowest safe setting. You could also consider 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 – that’s when you stay in your own home and have fun visiting local attractions, restaurants and leisure facilities.
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 consumption by watching the petrol gauge, so it’s easy to understand how to save fossil fuels. Here are a few energy conservation methods to make sure the needle moves more slowly:
Before you set off
Before every trip, ask yourself whether you could just as easily walk or take public transport.
Try not to travel during rush hours, as you’ll be stuck in slow-moving traffic and often letting the engine idle, 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 use more fuel.
The same applies to roof racks. They cause wind resistance and increase 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 on extra miles by getting lost.
Keep a refillable water bottle in the car (and remember to refill it). It may not save you any 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.
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, consider the possibilities of a hybrid model.
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 50mph. Cruising at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph .
Drive smoothly. Continually revving up and then 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, and restart when the queue begins to move 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 consumption, 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.
If you use air conditioning regularly, get it serviced to make sure it works efficiently and doesn’t leak CFCs.
In warm weather, park in the shade to stop your car overheating.
How can we conserve energy resources in the workplace?
Don’t leave all your good energy-saving habits at home when you go to work. Whether you’re an employee, a manager or the head honcho, here are some ways to conserve 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 is occupied, don’t keep lights on needlessly. If there’s enough light from picture windows, switch off internal lighting.
At night or the weekend, or whenever your company’s downtime is, unplug computers, printers and kitchen equipment.
Encourage colleagues to use the stairs rather than the lifts – it’s good exercise, too, particularly going upwards.
Always print double-sided rather than single-sided when you can. If paper has 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.
What major changes can I make in my home to save energy?
The ideas in this section are great ways to conserve energy, but they’re expensive, so you’ll need to weigh up whether you can afford the initial outlay, and whether they’ll save you money as well as energy in the long run.
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 - £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 good insulation – and soundproofing! Place bookcases against the walls or build shelves and pack them with reading matter. Wardrobes also work well.
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.
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.
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 EU energy labels and choose an appliance that’s rated A+ or better if you can.
Shop during the sales; you may be able to get a more energy-efficient appliance for your budget.
Do your research. Carry out an internet search before you visit any showrooms or websites, to make sure you know all about energy ratings and which models have the best scores.
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 the contents 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 as it 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 A+ rated model than an A+++ version that’s really too big for you.
If you use a humidifier in your home or workplace, place it away from walls and large items of furniture. Humidifiers work better if air can circulate around them. Make sure you clean the humidifier regularly to keep it free from mould and bacteria that could compromise its performance.
If you’re installing a new heating or hot water system, carefully compare the costs of all your options. If your home can get mains gas, that’s usually cheaper than electricity or oil.
Combination boilers provide instant heat when it’s needed, so they tend to be more cost-effective than a tank that needs to be heated up and 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 room thermostat, programmer and thermostatic radiator valves. According to the Energy Saving Trust, these could save you between £80 and £165 a year. However old 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 heating at any given time.
Set the temperature for each individual area of your home.
When installing a new boiler or water heating, make sure it’s as close to the kitchen and bathroom as possible, so that the water doesn’t have to travel through miles of pipework, losing heat on the way.
Outside your home
If you’re installing an external security lighting system, use halogen light bulbs, as they consume around 25% less electricity than their incandescent cousins.
Use timers, heat sensors or motion detectors to make sure these 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.
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