How to reduce electric and gas bills in 8 simple steps
24 February 2021 | Celia Topping
According to Ofgem1, the average household spends around £1,2542 every year on electricity and gas bills. Wouldn’t it be nice to cut those bills, and spend the money on something you actually enjoy instead?
OVO are all about saving money, as well saving the planet – and we can do that by cutting our energy use and reducing our carbon emissions. Luckily, these go hand in hand when it comes to home energy. Let’s look at 8 simple ways you could reduce your electricity and gas bills, with just a few tweaks to your daily lifestyle. And without spending too much money.
1. Switch suppliers
If you’ve been with the same supplier for a while, chances are your original contract has ended. When this happens, your supplier will roll you onto their standard, and usually most expensive, tariff. The quickest way to start saving money on your bills today is – compare suppliers, find out the best deals around, then switch to a new supplier.
At OVO we supply 100% renewable electricity as standard3. We also offer our members plenty of guidance on how to save yourself money, with OVO Greenlight.
2. Take control of your heating
Unsurprisingly, two-thirds of the energy used in UK homes goes on heating – which accounts for half of our bills4. And if you include water and heating together, it rises to two-thirds of our average costs.
We tend to think of our heating bills in terms of fuel costs – but what we’re really paying for is heat loss. The lower the heat loss, the lower the energy use. Insulation is your friend, in this respect – so check out our helpful guides on the subject, to help you stop heat loss in your home.
Graph made with data from degreedays.net
The graph above shows the number of “heating degree days” for different base temperatures, in a few of the world’s cities. A “heating degree day” is a measure of the difference between inside and outside temperatures. It’s useful because it shows how direct the relation is between heat gain and heat loss. You can see London is cold, and needs a lot of heating – but Rio doesn’t need any. Those lucky Brazilians!
Lowering your thermostat setting by just 1°C makes a big difference – but that’s just the start. Here are 3 other ways you can take control of your heating:
- It’s all about timing. You don’t need a warm house when you’re sleeping, or if you’re at work. That’ll just increase heat loss and bills. Time your heating system so that you wake up, and arrive home, to warmth. It can be off for the rest of the day.
- Zone your home. Some rooms need to be warm, like living rooms and bathrooms. But having a warm bedroom while you’re cooking in the kitchen is rather pointless – so use radiator valves to zone your rooms and save energy.
- Use a smart meter. This handy device, teamed with an In-home Display and smart tado° thermostat can help you keep track of your energy use, cut heat waste and save money. At OVO, we’ll install one for free with our Better Smart energy plan.
Please bear in mind that the minimum room temperature recommended by the World Health Organisation is 16°C. We’re not suggesting you suffer by living in a cold house – but there are ways you can keep warm without turning up the heating. And sticking on a jumper, instead of having your heating at 25°C, makes both financial and environmental sense!
Read more about the cheapest and most efficient way to run your central heating.
3. Consider your heating or fuel options
Standard electric heating is the most expensive way to heat your home. It’s about 3 and a half times more expensive than gas. And using oil to heat your home sits somewhere in between.
You can read more about the difference between fuel costs in our handy guide. And for anyone considering standalone heating for their home as a cheaper alternative, check out our guide to energy-efficient heaters.
4. Draught-proof your gaps
The cheapest way to reduce heat loss is by draught-proofing. It’s quick, cheap and effective, so it also makes sense for renters – unlike many insulation methods.
Foam and sealant are very inexpensive these days, and easy to pick up in local pound shops and supermarkets. You could get what you need to draught-proof your entire home for under a tenner!
For a step-by-step guide on how to draught-proof every area of your home, read our comprehensive guide.
Leaky windows, doors, loft hatches, electrical fittings on walls, floorboards, pipework or joints can be really easy fixes. It really is as simple as blocking those air gaps. Perhaps the simplest and most effective method is with the adhesive foam strips you get for doors. This also stops them banging when they close.
In terms of cutting costs, draught-proofing isn’t going to save you hundreds of pounds, but it can really improve comfort. A task as simple as sealing floor boards and adding a rug can really improve the warmth of a room.
And if you’re in a crafty mood, try our guide to making an old-fashioned sausage dog draught-excluder. He’ll be a welcome addition to any household, And he doesn’t even have a carbon pawprint!
Let’s have a closer look at the heat gains and losses for a typical home:
As you can see, “heat gains” come from heating systems, the sun’s warmth and things like appliances – and even body heat.
On the other hand, “heat losses” occur through walls, floors, windows, doors, ventilation and the roof. It stands to reason that more losses means you need more heating needed. And that means more money.
The amount of heat a home needs each year is largely dependent on how well insulated it is. On the left of the above diagram, you can see that a Passive House is perfectly balanced, with very few gains or losses. It needs only 15kWh of heating energy per square metre of floor surface.
For an average UK home, that’s the same as a gas bill of £50 a year. Yes please! But a draughty old Victorian home is a bit of a disaster when it comes to keeping in that heat. It would use 300kWh per metre of floor surface – which works out at around £1,0005. Quite a difference!
Sadly, we can’t all build ourselves a Passive House – like this stunner in Gloucestershire – but we can use some of the tips in this guide to help us not lose quite so much heat.
Since this article is only about free or cheap ways to save on energy, we won’t dig too much into insulation methods. Instead, suffice to say, insulation is a worthwhile investment – and in some cases, it can pay back pretty quickly. Check these guides if you’d like to know more:
- Guide to roof and loft insulation
- Guide to cavity wall insulation
- Guide to solid wall insulation
- Guide to draught-proofing your windows and doors
5. Don’t leave your appliances on standby
The Energy Saving Trust estimates the average home spends around £35 a year6, just by leaving appliances on standby. What a total waste of money! The following chart gives a rough idea of how much energy each of the listed appliances uses on standby.
Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Look closely, and you’ll notice that every product with more than 10W of standby power is used is for entertainment. All you have to do is switch them off at the wall. Easy win!
For more ideas on how to save electricity at home and reduce your bills, take a look at our new blog post.
6. Try conserving energy
Conserving energy is a little different to energy-efficiency, and costs nothing. Energy efficiency is concerned with technology. For example, swapping an old light bulb for a new LED – which creates the same light using less energy. But turning the lights off when you leave the room is energy conservation – you’ are simply using less light.
Here are a few more ideas for conserving energy:
- Line dry clothes when possible
- Wash clothes on cooler temperatures
- Fill up your washing machine
- Fill up your dishwasher
- Turn off lights when you leave rooms
- Take more showers, fewer baths
- Have shorter showers
- Turn down your hot water tank (not below 60°C)
- Boil only the hot water you need in your kettle
- Put lids on pots when you’re cooking
- Defrost your freezer when possible
- Open curtains in the day and shut them at night
- Put on a jumper when you can
7. Pay with the right method
This is possibly the simplest trick of all. Many suppliers offer discounts for customers paying by Direct Debit. Those who pay quarterly rather than monthly could save even more. Find out from your supplier’sr what their policy is. It’s also worth checking out the “online only” suppliers – theyse can often offer the cheapest rates around.
8. Be aware of the help out there
There are all kinds of grants, incentives and offers of help available. Have a look below and see if any might be applicable, or of interest, to you.
Help to pay for insulation and boilers for those on low income
The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is a UK government energy efficiency scheme which aims to tackle fuel poverty and help reduce carbon emissions. Find out if you might be eligible for free loft or cavity wall insulation, or perhaps a boiler upgrade.
Loans for energy saving products
The original Green Deal Scheme was a government-backed scheme, and gave loans for energy-efficient improvements – but it closed in 2015. It reopened in 2017, and it’s still possible to get a loan for energy-saving home improvements from the Green Deal Finance Company (GDFC) – backed by private investors. The scheme helps spread payments for the upfront cost of energy efficiency measures, such as solid wall insulation, boilers and double glazing.
Grants for homeowners to install renewable technologies
The UK government wants to encourage homeowners in England, Scotland and Wales to install renewable heating technology. The Renewable Heat Incentive, or RHI, is a scheme created to help UK residents reduce their carbon emissions by installing low-carbon alternative energy.
Grants towards insulation and double-glazing
As part of the UK’s mission to be zero carbon by 2050, the government is offering homeowners £5,000 towards energy-saving improvements – such as insulation and double-glazing. The scheme has been so popular that it’s been extended until March 2022. Find out more about the Green Homes Grant in our blog.
Cold weather payments
If you get certain benefits, you could be eligible for this payment towards extra heating costs when the temperature falls below zero for 7 days in a row. Check out the government website for more details.
Warm Home Discount
OVO is one of the participating suppliers in this scheme, which offers a one-off payment of £140 to those most in need over the winter months. The money comes directly off your bill, rather than being paid into your bank account. Find out more about the Warm Home Discount and how to apply for it, on our blog post.
Winter Fuel Payment
If you’re a pensioner, you’re eligible for the winter fuel allowance (also known as the Winter Fuel Payment). The allowance is a tax-free payment of £100 to £300, paid straight into your bank account. If you’d like to know more, check out our blog post on the Winter Fuel Payment.
For more advice and information on grants and benefits, check out our guide on heating and energy grants for your home.
Wrapping it up
We’ve given you a lot of information here, which could be a tad overwhelming. So if you’re serious about reducing your bills, it might be best to tackle it one tactic at a time. Choose the tip which you feel will make the biggest saving, with the least effort, and give it a go! For most people, that will be:
- Comparing suppliers and making that switch
- Paying bills with Direct Debit
- Taking control of your heating
And remember, if you’re struggling to pay your bills, don’t suffer in silence – speak to your supplier as soon as you can, and they’ll be able to help you work it out, without the threat of being cut off.
Switch to OVO and start benefiting immediately, with:
- 100% renewable electricity as standard7
- A tree planted in your name every single year you’re with us8
- Award-winning smart meter experience (Uswitch 2020)
- A £50 gift card every time an OVO member introduces a friend to us
- A 5 star rating on Trustpilot by over 25,000 of our members
Sources and references:
1 The UK’s energy regulator
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.
7 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.
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.