Energy saving tips

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There are plenty of tips and tricks around the home you can do to start saving energy and money on your bills. From turning off your appliances  to draught proofing your windows and doors, let’s look at how you can start saving.

Draught proofing

Draught proofing is a cheap and easy way to keep the heat inside your home. It also helps keep cold air out, making your home more comfortable overall.   

If you are handy at DIY, there are a range of draught proofing products that can help you draught proof for next to nothing. Professional draught proofing is available for the more difficult jobs.  

This article will help you pinpoint which areas of your home could benefit from draught proofing. We’ll also look at which draught proofing products you can use for each job. 

Ventilation vs draughts  

A draught is a gap in the construction of your home which exposes it to the air outside. It’s not meant to be there, and its impact is purely negative – warm air goes out, cold air comes in.   

Ventilation also allows air to move in and out of your home. The difference is that it’s meant to be there. The airflow keeps the inside of your home healthy.   

When draughtproofing, you’re looking to block the draughts but keep any ventilation clear.   

Unless you’re sure they’re no longer in use, make sure you don’t seal up:  

  • Vents  
  • Grilles  
  • Fans  
  • Flues  

When in doubt, it’s best to stick to the suggestions below, or contact draught proofing specialists.

Draught proof your windows  

You’ll likely benefit from draught proofing your windows they’re single glazed or your double glazing was put in before 2003. The best draught proofing products to use will depend on the type of windows you have.

If you have some windows in your home which don’t open, you can simply run silicone sealant round the edges to fill in any gaps. You can get silicone sealant from all good DIY stores.

If your windows open on a hinge, you can use draught proofing strips to seal any gaps between the window and the frame. There are two types of draught proofing strips available in most DIY stores: 

  • Self-adhesive foam strips 

Self-adhesive foam strips are cheap and easy to install. They look and work like thick tape. The foam strips come in rolls which you cut to the right size and stick round the edges of the window. The downside to self-adhesive foam strips is that they may start to peel off after a while. 

  • Brush strips 

Brush strips have a metal or plastic casing with brush insert. First, cut the casing to size with a hacksaw. Next, use pliers to cut the brush. Finally, screw the correctly sized brush strips into place. Alternatively, you can buy self-adhesive brush strips, which don’t require screws.

 

Sash windows have one or more panels (called sashes) that slide past each other. 

For sash window draught proofing you’ll need to use brush strips. If you use brush strips, the windows can still easily slide open and closed.

Draught proof your doors

Draught proofing your doors is another quick and inexpensive way of keeping your home warmer and more comfortable. There are several different areas to look at when you draught proof your front door, from the letterbox to the doorframe.  We’ll also go over how to best draught proof your internal doors.

Draught proof your front door

Any door that leads outside is an excellent target for draught proofing. Check to see if you can do any of the following when you draught proof your front door.

You can draught proof your letterbox by fitting flaps or a letterbox brush. The letterbox should have two flaps – one on the outside of your front door, the other on the inside.  

Whichever you choose, it only takes a simple bit of DIY to fix them into place. You’ll need to measure the letterbox to make sure you get the right size flaps or brush. Then, simply screw the brush or flaps into place.

You don’t want to block up your keyhole, but you can buy a keyhole cover. This is usually a coin-sized piece of metal that hangs over the keyhole. You can easily move to one side when locking and unlocking the door.

It’s also possible to install a keyhole brush, which is very similar to a letterbox brush. First, remove the door handle. Next, lay the keyhole brush over the keyhole and screw it into place. Finally, reattach the door handle.

Try fitting a brush to the bottom of the door. This means you’ll stop the draught but still be able to easily open and close the door.  

Like fitting a brush strip to your windows, you simply need to measure the door, then cut the brush to the correct length. If you buy a self-adhesive brush, this can be stuck in place by removing the backing. If the brush is non-adhesive it will need to be fitted to the door using screws. 

You could also put a draught-excluder across the bottom of the door. These are sometimes called draught snakes, because of their shape. Draught excluders can be bought or you can make your own.

You can seal gaps between the sides and top of your door with the same type of draught proofing strips you used for your windows. Simply cut them to the right size and stick them around the edges of the door.

Some manufacturers make draught proof cat flaps. You might consider one of these when buying a new cat flap or replacing an old one. 

There’s no agreed-upon way of draught proofing a cat flap. The best option is to make a simple cover for it. This can be put in place when the flap won’t be in use, such as when your cat is in for the night.  

It may be possible to seal any gaps between the frame of the flap and the door. However, you should check that anything you use to fill the gaps isn’t toxic to your cat.

Draught proof your internal doors  

We can save energy by turning the radiators down in any rooms we’re not using. To keep the warmth where we want it, we need to close the door between a heated and an unheated room. We can also draught proof these doors for extra savings.

Use a draught excluder to cover this gap. You can make your own by simply rolling up a towel.

Use draught proofing strips to cover any gaps between the door and the frame.

Draught proofing floors  

Suspended timber floors are particularly prone to draughts. There are various draught proofing products available to fill in any gaps you might find.

Gaps between your floorboards allow cold air to get in from below. There are several different ways to block these gaps without making a mess of your floor:  

  • Rubber tubing 

This is similar to the strips for draught-proofing windows. The tubing is pushed between the gaps in the floorboards. It is usually a dark colour, meaning it blends in with the shadows between the boards.  

  • Plastic strips 

These work in a similar way to the rubber tubing but fit more tightly. They are pressed down into the gap and then spring apart to fill it.

Your carpet will already be helping stop some of the draughts. For further savings and comfort, you can get rid of the gaps using:

  • Fillers – These can be squirted into the gaps. Use a filler that allows for some flexibility, such as a silicone-based type   
  • Decorator’s caulk  
  • Mastic

Gaps between the flooring and the skirting boards are another prime location for draughts. These can be filled using any of the methods described above. Another option would be to put in wooden beading. This is a piece of wood, cut to the correct length, which joins the flooring to the skirting board.

Draught-proofing chimneys

Many homes have fireplaces which are no longer in use. If this is the case in your home, you may find your chimney is sucking the warm air out of your rooms.

A balloon made from tough plastic is pushed up into the chimney. You can install these yourself. There is also a similar product called a Chimney Sheep that serves the same purpose.

This is simply a cap that covers the chimney pot. It should be installed by a professional.

Electricity and appliances

There are plenty of opportunities around the home to save money on our electricity bills and create a more energy efficient home.

Have you tried any of these energy saving ideas? 

Lighting  

About 15% of our electricity goes towards lighting our home. Don’t worry – we don’t have to leave ourselves in the dark to start saving energy. 

Turning off lights 

Start with an easy win: if nobody is using the room, turn the lights off. There’s no downside to this one, and it should save you at least £20 a year. 

Use the right lights 

If you’ve got several lights in a room, you might not need them all on at the same time. If the lamps are on, try turning off the overhead light. Is it possible to get a good level of brightness without having all the lights on at once? 

You can also match the lighting to whatever activity you’re doing. If you’re watching TV, you might only need a low background light. If you’re reading, it’s more likely you’ll want a bright, direct light.  

Replace bulbs with LEDs 

The first energy efficient lightbulbs were around 70-80% efficient. They were much better value for money than traditional lightbulbs, but they took a long time to get to full brightness.  

Luckily, energy efficient lighting has moved on. We now have LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) which reach full brightness as soon as you flick the switch. These use 90% less energy than old incandescent bulbs, and about 50% less than older energy saving bulbs.     

Next time one of your bulbs go, why not try out an LED? The Energy Saving Trust have made a handy table for choosing the right brightness: 

Traditional bulbLED / CFL bulb
15 watt140 lumen
25 watt250 lumen
40 watt470 lumen
60 watt800 lumen
75 watt1,050 lumen
100 watt1,520 lumen

Cooking  

Whatever equipment you have in your kitchen, there are some easy switches you can make to save money.  

The oven 

We often pre-heat the oven whilst we’re doing something else, like watching TV. If we’re distracted, the oven can reach the correct temperature and sit empty.  

Some ovens have an alarm which lets you know when the oven has pre-heated. Use this if you can.  

If your oven doesn’t have an alarm, make sure you regularly go through to check the temperature. You should start to get a sense of how long preheating takes. Then you can start setting your own timer. 

Your oven stays hot for quite a while after it has been turned off. You can use this leftover heat to finish off the last five minutes of your cooking. 

If you have a microwave, try use this instead of the oven. Microwaves use much less energy than ovens. This is because they heat the food directly, not the air around it.  

To compromise, you could partially cook something in the microwave, then transfer it to the oven. Five minutes in the microwave should knock twenty minutes oven-time off your baked potato. 

The hob 

Whether you have an electric or gas hob, you can save energy when cooking by:  

Putting lids on pans 

Putting a lid on a saucepan means the food inside cooks faster. The steam doesn’t escape as quickly, so more of the heat energy stays inside your pan. This means you can turn your hob off sooner, saving you energy. 

Make sure the lid fits properly so you’re keeping in the maximum amount of heat. 

Matching the pans to the rings 

If you’re using a small pan, make sure you’re also using a smaller hob ring. Heating a small pan on a large ring means a lot of the heat gets lost to the surroundings. Using a small pan on a small ring makes sure that most of the heat is transferred to the pan. 

Home appliances

Our home appliances use energy to run. There are some money-saving tips we can use for nearly all appliances:
Turn appliances off when you’re not using them

Very few things around the home need to be left on all the time. Lots of appliances are kept on for longer than they’re needed. If you’re not using something, turning it off will save you energy.
Don’t leave appliances on standby

It’s also worth remembering that something is only really “off” when it’s turned off at the wall. Leaving an appliance on standby means it’s still using energy, even if it’s not technically “in use.”
Getting into the habit of turning devices off at the plug can help you save around £65 a year on your electricity bills.

Energy efficient replacements

When your old appliances reach the end of their lives, replace them with more energy-efficient models.
New electrical appliances should come with an energy efficiency rating. The higher the rating, the less electricity is wasted. Ratings run from A (most energy efficient) to G (least energy efficient).

TV

Lots of us have the TV on for background noise. This might be just for ourselves, or it might even be for our pets. If no-one’s watching the TV, why not try switching to the radio? A radio is much cheaper to run but will still provide a comforting level of background noise.
Washing machine

If you have a washing machine in your home, you can:
Wash clothes at a lower temperature

A 30-degree wash will use about 40% less energy than the same wash at 40 degrees. Most modern detergents work just as well at lower temperatures. This means your clothes will come out just as clean after a low temperature wash.
Simply turn the temperature on your machine down to 30 degrees or use the eco setting.
Fill the washing machine

To save further, try and make sure you’ve always got a full load of laundry before putting a wash on. That way, you’ll be making the most of the hot water, electricity, and detergent.

Dishwasher

If use a dishwasher, try running it at a lower temperature.
Most eco cycles will run at 50 degrees. They typically use around three litres less water than other cycles. This means you’re heating water to a lower temperature, and you’re heating less of it. That’s a double energy saving, and you’ll still end up with sparkling clean dishes.
To save further, make sure the dishwasher is full before running it. A full load means you’re making the most of the hot water. Just be careful not to overload it or block the arms.

The tumble dryer

A tumble dryer uses about £1 of electricity an hour, making it one of the most expensive household appliances to run.

Try to air-dry clothes as much as possible. This might be trickier in winter, as you’ll need to keep a window open to avoid damp. You may be able to partially air-dry the clothes, then put them in the tumble dryer. That way, you won’t have to run the dryer for as long.

Another option would be to invest in an electric clothes airer. These are much cheaper to run, typically costing about 8.5p per hour.

Water usage

We use water for lots of different purposes around the home. Heating water requires energy, so our water usage is linked to energy bills. If we want to save money on our energy bills, one thing we can do is start saving water.

Below we explore hot water cylinders, controlling your water temperature and some top water saving tips where you could start making savings.

Hot water cylinder

In some homes, hot water is stored in a large cylinder. These are usually found in a large cupboard. You can think of a hot water cylinder as a very big kettle. The water inside is heated up and then sent out to your taps, shower, or anywhere else that hot water is needed. As the hot water from the cylinder is used, it’s replaced with cold water from your plumbing.

There are two different ways to heat the water in a hot water cylinder. It’s possible your home has both options:

  1. An immersion heater
    This is just like switching on your kettle. A heating element gets very hot and starts to warm the water around it.
    An immersion heater runs on mains electricity.
  2. The boiler
    The hot water cylinder has a hollow coil inside it. Your boiler heats up water to send through this coil. As the coil gets hotter, the water around it heats up as well.
    Since it’s your boiler doing the heating, the fuel used to heat the water will be whatever fuel your boiler uses.

 

Whichever heating method your hot water cylinder uses, the temperature of the water is controlled by a thermostat. A thermostat senses the temperature of the air or water around it. You can set a thermostat to the temperature you want your water to be.

If the thermostat has been set to 60 degrees, it will keep the water at that temperature. It does this by turning your boiler or immersion heater on when the temperature is too low, then turning it off again when the water temperature reaches the right level.

Choose the cheapest method of heating the hot water cylinder

If you have the option of using either the boiler or an immersion heater to heat the hot water cylinder, you can work out which method is cheaper.

If you have a smart meter, try heating the hot water for half an hour using the immersion heater, then checking the cost of the electricity. The next day, try heating the hot water using your boiler. Check the cost and compare it with the immersion heater’s cost.

If your boiler uses gas, oil, or LPG, it’s very likely that this is the most cost-effective way of heating your water. Using the immersion heater is the much more environmentally friendly option, but not everyone can afford to choose it.

Insulate your hot water cylinder

However you heat your hot water cylinder, you should insulate it as well as you can. Insulating the cylinder means that the water will heat up faster and stay warmer for longer. This helps to cut your energy costs.

You can buy hot water cylinder ‘jackets’ for around £20. These are quite easy to install yourself. They come in four separate panels which are placed around the hot water cylinder and then tied together.

Choose a hot water cylinder jacket which is at least 80mm thick.

Make sure the hot water cylinder thermostat isn’t set too high

The thermostat on your hot water cylinder should be set between 60 and 65 degrees. Setting it any higher than this means you’re using more energy than is needed. Not only that, but you risk scalding yourself when using the hot water tap or shower.

You shouldn’t set your hot water cylinder thermostat any lower than 60 degrees. It needs to be this high to kill off legionella bacteria. Legionella is potentially fatal to humans, so it’s important to keep it out of your hot water.

Only heat the hot water twice a day

Whether you use your boiler or the immersion heater, you don’t need to constantly heat the hot water cylinder. A well-insulated hot water cylinder should keep the water warm for at least a day.

Try heating the water for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Start the water heating about an hour before you need it. For example, if you shower at 08:30, start heating the water at 07:30. If you wash up in the evening at 19:30, start the water heating at 18:30.

If you heat the water using an immersion heater, simply turn this on and off at your chosen times.

However, if you heat the water using your boiler, use your programmer to set the water heating times.

  • Make sure the hot water (the left-hand side of the programmer) is set to ‘twice.’ This means the boiler will heat the water at the times you set.
  • Programme the hours you want the boiler to heat the hot water cylinder.

There are many different styles of programmer. If you’re not sure how to use your model, try searching for videos on YouTube. Manufacturers and householders often upload helpful tutorials.

Controlling your water temperature

If you don’t have a water cylinder, it’s likely that your hot water comes directly from your boiler. A boiler which provides both heating and hot water is known as ‘combi (combination) boiler’.
A combi boiler runs on gas, electricity, oil, or liquid petroleum gas (LPG).

The big advantage of a combi boiler is that you only heat as much water as you need. This means that most of the ways to make savings involve using less hot water. You can find these in our Water Saving Tips section below, but first let’s look at a simple adjustment you can make on your boiler.
Lower your boiler’s flow temperature

A combi boiler heats up water to send to your radiators. It also heats up water to send to your hot taps. How high the boiler heats the water it sends out is known as the ‘flow temperature’.

A lot of combi boilers have their flow temperatures set too high. The ideal hot water flow temperature for a combi boiler is around 55 degrees. For central heating, it’s between 50 and 60 degrees.
If either of your boiler’s flow temperatures are set higher than this, your boiler is using more fuel than it needs to. Turning it down could save you around £112 on your energy bill.

Take a look at our Boiler page for a step-by-step guide on turning down your boiler’s flow temperature.

As our friends at the Money Saving Boiler Challenge point out, if 10 million UK households followed this advice, we could save 1.7 million tons of CO2. That’s nearly six million flights from Scotland to the US.

Water saving tips

Whatever type of boiler you have, there are lots of others of ways to be efficient with hot water usage. Which of the tips below have you tried?

Upgrade your showerhead

It only takes eight minutes (the average UK shower-time) for 60 litres of hot water to disappear down the drain.

Switching to a more energy efficient showerhead could help you save some of that water without cutting back on your cleanliness.

(You can skip this section if you have an electric shower. With an electric shower, the flow rate is already likely to be quite low. For this reason, we wouldn’t recommend installing an energy efficient showerhead on an electric shower.)

There are two main types of energy efficient showerhead: aerating and non-aerating. Both reduce the amount of water flowing through the showerhead. The difference lies in how they manage to still deliver a satisfying shower.

  • Aerating showerheads – These mix air with the water coming out of the head. This means it still feels like you’re getting a decent water pressure whilst less water is being used.
  • Non-aerating showerheads – These have smaller holes. Less water goes through the head, but what comes through arrives at a higher pressure.

Upgrading your showerhead is relatively easy to do. Once you’ve bought a replacement, simply unscrew the old showerhead, then screw on the new one. If the showerhead is very old, you may need to loosen it with a spanner. If there are any leaks when you run the new showerhead, you can patch these with plumbing tape.

Spend less time in the shower

We’ve probably all heard this one by now, but cutting your shower time by a single minute saves you around £35 a year.

A shower-timer can help you keep track of how long you’ve been washing for. Alternatively, lots of people simply set an alarm on their phone. This has the added benefit of forcing you out of the shower to turn the alarm off.

Switch baths for showers

The average Scottish bath holds around 180 litres of water. If we fill it just over halfway, we’re bathing in about 100 litres. That’s a lot of water to heat.

If you have the option of a bath or a shower, the conventional wisdom is to switch at least one of your bath-days for a shower-day. However, this only saves hot water if you’re showering efficiently (see the advice above). Some modern showers – especially those which aren’t fitted with energy efficient heads – can easily get through 100 litres of hot water in ten minutes.

If you don’t have the choice of switching to a shower, a simple way to save is to make sure you only fill the bath with as much water as you need.

Use a washing up bowl

The average sink holds 15 – 18 litres of water. The average washing up bowl holds ten litres. Filling the bowl rather than the sink is an easy way to cut down on your hot water costs in the kitchen.

Running a tap for ten minutes will get through 100 litres of water, so try to keep rinsing dishes to a minimum.

Fill the dishwasher

If you have a dishwasher, make sure it’s full before running a wash cycle.

Most dishwashers should have an eco-cycle, which runs at a slightly lower temperature. The eco-cycle typically uses about three litres less water than other cycles. This means a double-saving: less water and a lower temperature.

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