Energy saving in the home

The easiest way to cut down on household energy bills is quite simple – use less of it.

Adopting alternative methods in the home can be difficult following years of familiar routine. The benefits though can result in a saving of hundreds of pounds a year and make your home more energy efficient.

Below are a number of energy saving tips that could start saving you money.

Tips around the home

Turn your thermostat down 

Most households set their thermostat between 18-21 degrees* to keep their home warm – though the Committee of Climate Change recommends no higher than 19 degrees. If your home is at the higher end of the scale, try turning it down 1-2 degrees, it could save you around £100 per year. 

*21-23 degrees for older and very young people, or if there is someone if the home with health problems. 

Adjust the valve on your radiator 

An easy energy saving tip in the home is to lower the thermostatic radiator valve on radiators situated in rooms you don’t use very often. The lower the number on the valve means less heat is being pushed through, meaning your home is more energy efficient and you’re spending less money.  

Bleed your radiators 

If your radiator is taking a long time to heat up, chances are it needs bleeding because air is trapped inside. Bleed your radiators regularly to prevent this from happening and to make your heating system as energy efficient as possible.  

Use the washing machine at lower temperature  

Washing your clothes at 30 degrees will save around 40% of the energy your machines uses each year. Modern detergents work just as well at lower temperatures.

If you’re buying a new washing machine, try finding one that has an A-rated energy efficiency label. The Energy Saving Trust estimates you could save around £95 over its lifetime compared to a D-rated machine.

Avoid using the tumble dryer 

Drying clothes outside on a washing line will cost you nothing, so is the perfect way to do your laundry at no extra cost. You can dry clothes inside, but try to leave a window open to avoid damp in the home.

The Energy Saving Trust estimates this could save you around £55 per year. 

Turn off the lights you’re not using 

This is a really easy one which will save you a few quid each year. If you leave the room, turn the lights off. If you’re in a room with good access to daylight, do you need the light on as well? If your ceiling light and lamp are on in the same room, then turn one of them off. 

The Energy Saving Trust estimates this could save you around £20 per year. 

Research different light bulbs  

Did you know LED light bulbs use around half the energy of traditional energy saving bulbs, and around 10% of traditional incandescent bulbs? The initial outlay is more expensive, but the savings can be quite dramatic. For example, switching a 60 watt incandescent bulb for an LED alternative could save around £4 per year. Times that by the number of lights in your home and suddenly the savings rack up.  

You don’t have to change them all at once though – change the lightbulbs in the rooms you use the most first.  

Wear an extra jumper 

If you’re feeling the chill try putting on an extra layer or another jumper. Sometimes the heating doesn’t need to be on to feel some warmth.  

Make your home draught proof

A draught-free home requires less heating, and so consumes less energy. There are many DIY ways to do draught-proof a home, such as chimney balloons and seals around your doors, but an older single-glazed house will require further work and perhaps the work of professional. Find out more about draught-proofing your house here. 

Don’t leave your gadgets on standby 

There is debate about how much energy TVs, computers and other small devices use when plugged in and on standby, but turning off devices fully is a good habit to get into. If you can, turn off the plug as well to avoid ‘phantom power’. 

The Energy Saving Trust estimates this could save you around £55 per year. 

Only fill the kettle with the water you need 

We’re all partial to a cuppa, but did you know the more water you boil, the more energy your use? If you’re just making a tea for yourself, simply fill the kettle with the water you need. 

The Energy Saving Trust estimates this could save you around £11 per year. 

Insulate your hot water cylinder

If you have a hot water cylinder it’s good practice to insulate this if it isn’t already. An uninsulated hot water cylinder will lose heat causing the water to cool more quickly and ensure you continue to use more energy and money to heat it.

Use the eco-setting on your dishwasher… and fill it! 

The best advice here would be to not use your dishwasher at all, but we understand that isn’t always possible or realistic. Your dishwasher should come with a pre-installed eco-setting which means it will run at a lower temperature. Don’t be afraid to use it – it will still leave your dishes nice and clean.  

Only run your dishwasher when it is completely full and ask yourself – does that teacup need to go into the dishwasher, or can you give it a quick rinse with a cloth?  

The Energy Saving Trust estimates this could save you around £14 per year. 

Boiler pressure  

You should check the pressure on your boiler regularly. The pressure on your boiler should read somewhere between 1.0 and 2.0. If it’s below this mark, then more energy is being used to heat your home than necessary.  

If your boiler is fairly new the pressure gauge will be easy to find on the front of the appliance.  

Reduce the temperature on your boiler 

The default heat for your radiator and hot water is often too high on a combi boiler. Reducing this to about 50 degrees for your radiator and 55 degrees for you hot water will be absolutely fine.  

Be assured that changing the temperate on your boiler will not affect the heat coming out of you radiator – that is controlled by the valve on the radiator itself.  

Top up your pre-pay meter over the summer months 

If you’re a prepayment customer, then by adding credit to your pre-pay meter over the summer months you’ll help alleviate some of the extra costs that will be noticeable come winter.  

Wall insulation

Wall insulation is the most effective way to maintain warmth in your house, meaning your boiler will be less busy and save on your energy bills. Most houses built in the last 30 years will have wall insulation already installed, however there still remains a large number of homes throughout Scotland that pre-date this, with most either having cavity walls or solid walls.

A cavity wall is made up of two parallel walls with a gap in between - the cavity. Cavity wall insulation can be installed by injecting an insulating material into the cavity. This work can often be done quickly and completed from outside the home, meaning no mess for you clean up.

A solid wall will mainly be found on homes built over 100 years ago. Solid walls are exactly that – solid. There is no cavity that can be filled. For this insulation can be attached to the walls either internally or outside, depending on your preference and budget.

In a typical semi-detached house, the Energy Saving Trust estimate that following installation of cavity wall insulation you’ll save around £300 per year on your bills, and £255 per year via solid wall insulation.*

Loft insulation

It’s estimated a quarter of heat in your home is lost through the roof, so loft insulation is something worth considering if you’re serious about making your home as energy efficient as it can be.

If you have a loft and it’s easy to access, then if can often be the case that you’ll be able to carry out this work yourself and save on extra labour costs. For this it’s recommended to use mineral wool insulation between the roof joists, and polyurethane foam for hard-to-reach areas. If you have damp or condensation problems, it’s recommended you speak to an installation expert beforehand.

In a typical semi-detached house, the Energy Saving Trust estimates this could save you around £165 per year on your energy bills.*

Floor insulation 

Savings on installing floor insulation are small in comparison to wall and loft work, but still worth considering for full energy efficiency in your home. Installation cost will vary on the type of floor your home has – concrete, suspended timber – and even if you have a cellar.

In a typical semi-detached house, the Energy Saving Trust estimates this could save you around £50 per year on your energy bills.*

Draught proofing

There are various ways you can draught proof your home to improve energy efficiency, and on many different budgets. They might all seem like small measures, but when done together could amount to a worthwhile saving.

- Doors – place a keyhole cover over the keyhole on your front door; measure your letterbox and use a letterbox brush; use a draught excluder at the bottom of the door; and fit foam or wiper strips around the edge of doors. For internal doors similar measures can work wonders, and so can keeping doors shut in rooms you don’t use.

- Chimneys – many older homes have fireplaces for decorative purposes, and while they look great they also let a lot of cold air into the house and let the hot air escape. To avoid this you could fit a chimney balloon, or place a cap over the chimney pot.

- Floorboards - if your home has floorboards chances are there will be gaps and cracks. These can be filled with silicone-based filler that is resistant to movement.

Energy efficient appliances

Where possible try to buy a new appliance with an A-rated energy efficient label. Most, if not all, new appliances will come labelled with an energy performance rating, telling you how much energy it uses. These are usually rated A-G, with A being the most energy efficient.

Energy efficiency myths

Heat pumps are more expensive than a new boiler

The initial cost of a heat pump will generally cost more than a new boiler, but there is financial support available via a £10,000 Home Energy Scotland Loan (£2,500 loan plus £7,500 cashback) to install a ground or air sourced heat pump at your home. The biggest benefits of course will be more energy efficient home and significant reduction in your energy bills.

The Energy Saving Trust estimate that replacing a G-rated gas boiler with an air source heat pump could save you around £375 a year on your energy bills.

FAQs - Air soure heat pumps

Heat pumps cost more to run than a boiler

Heat pumps are around four times more energy efficient than a boiler – they generate far more electricity than they use to run. And while electricity is more expensive than gas right now, a heat pump’s higher efficiency levels mean that its running costs tend to be similar.

The Energy Saving Trust estimate that replacing a G-rated gas boiler with an air source heat pump could save you around £375 a year on your energy bills.

Heat pumps don’t work in cold weather

Air and ground source heat pumps can be used year-round, from spring right through to the colder winter months when you’ll need it most. It’s efficiency may drop slightly in really, really cold temperatures, but the pump can still extract heat from the air at temperatures as low as -15c degrees.

Heat pumps don’t work for hot water

Air and ground source hear pumps are both used for heating and hot water. Air-to-water heat pumps are often used across the UK, providing heat to radiators and hot water to taps and showers.

A beginners guide to air source heat pumps.

Should I use the main thermostat to heat my home, or the individual thermostatic radiator valve (TRV) on each radiator?

The thermostat controls your boiler, and the valves control the water flow to each radiator. The boiler will turn off once your home hits the temperature you’ve set on the thermostat, while the valves allow you to set the temperature in each room where your thermostat isn’t based.

An easy energy saving tip in the homeis to lower the thermostatic radiator valveon radiators situated in rooms you don’t use very often.

Will my energy bills be cheaper if I have a smart meter?

In short, no. Smart meters are a modern technology that replace existing gas and electricity meters to automatically send readings to your energy supplier. While a smart meter won’t save you money, it will help you understand your energy usage more clearly and identify ways you might be able to cut back and make your home more energy efficient.

I’m going away on holiday for a week during the winter – should I turn the heating off?

You can never predict the Scottish weather, so we advise you leave your heating on a low setting to allow heat to travel through the system so you don’t return home to frozen pipes.

*Savings based on November 2021 energy prices.

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