11 tips to save money on energy bills
As energy companies continue to increase their rates, it's becoming even more difficult to stretch out your student loan to foot bills. But we're here to help!
While no one wants to be freezing their butts off, there are a number of ways you can help reign in your energy costs without having a bust-up about who left the heating on or feeling like you live in an igloo.
This is especially relevant during the frostier months, but there's no excuse not be energy conscious all year round.
Not only will it do wonders for your monthly budget (giving you a bit extra spare cash to play with), but you'll also be doing your own bit to help protect the environment too – it's a win-win all round!
11 tips to cut your energy costs
Wrap up warm
So we thought we'd get this one out of the way first, since you're probably sick to death of being told to “just wear more clothes” when you're cold – no matter how rational that advice may be!
It can be tempting to just crank up the heating when it gets cold, but taking a second to work out if you'd be more comfortable with an extra layer or two can go a long way.
If you're walking around in a t-shirt and shorts mid-December, we can tell you now – you're doing it wrong.
For those who really tend to feel the cold, we'd recommend investing in some seriously cosy slippers, as this is where you feel heat loss most when you're relaxing – and grab yourself a hot water bottle! Problem solved.
Even reducing your heating by as little as 1ºC can cut your annual bills up up to 10%.
(Ab)Use the library
As handy as the library is for reading books and going on Facebook while you're ‘studying', it's also a great place to use the free electricity!
Before you head home for the night, make sure you charge everything you own: your phone, your iPod, your laptop, your… well, you get the picture.
Or, you can even go a step or ten cheekier by waiting till you get into morning lectures before cooking breakfast, like this guy. Fair play!
It's also pretty good for your academic performance to be hanging around the lib' (provided you actually work while you're there), and the best thing about it is you won't have to fight about the heating being on there either!
Say ‘no' to guesstimates
You'd never let the cashier at the supermarket guess how much your shopping is going to cost, so don't let the energy companies guess what your bills might be!
It will take less than five minutes of your time to check the readings of your gas and electricity meters, and send them a monthly reading so you can be sure that you're only paying for what you actually use.
In fact, quite a few energy providers will now give you a smart meter so that you get a running update of your costs. Contact your energy company to see if they'll provide you with one.
Consider paying a fixed fee
A lot of energy companies will give you the option of paying a fixed monthly fee by direct debit for your bills, which can be great as it enables you to budget accordingly.
This option is different from a guesstimate – you agree on a fixed monthly rate that will mean you don't have to worry month to month about bills fluctuating, and more often than not you'll get a better rate this way.
While you might end up paying slightly over what you use during the summer, you'll save this back in the winter when you're using slightly more energy than you're paying for. Swings and roundabouts!
Note: it's still worth supplying your energy company with meter readings to make sure your direct debit isn't too low as it could leave you with a hefty payment to make at the end of your contract.
Make sure you shop around & switch!
It can be tempting to just stick with the supplier you've got when you move in as, you know… hassle and stuff.
However, comparing prices these days takes so little effort and could save you so much dosh that it'd be a bit ridiculous not to even check what the going rates are elsewhere. AND we've even got a handy tool to help you find the best deal.
Use energy-efficient products
Chances are, you've probably seen things on sale with energy ratings, but have you ever actually let them influence your purchases? ‘Cause you should!
With products receiving a ranking right through from A++ all the way down to G, it's well worth bearing in mind the money you could save by sticking further up the alphabet.
While an A++ piece of kit is likely to cost more, it will save you a lot of money in energy bills later on down the line.
For example, did you know that an energy-saving light bulb could save you up to £60 over its lifetime, and last up to 10 times longer than its standard bulb cousin? You do now!
We all know how annoying it is when your favourite t-shirt is in need of a good scrub before a night out , but that doesn't mean you can blow the household energy budget washing a couple of items at a time.
You've probably heard your parents going on about washing whites and colours separately, and while we don't want you to end up with pink shirts, if you wash at 30ºC and use a colour catcher you're unlikely to have a problem mixing.
Either way, you should never put on a half load – either wait until you have enough laundry to make up a full load, or share with your flatmates if needs be.
Avoid using tumble driers at all costs. They cost an absolute bomb to run and are generally pretty superfluous – a simple clothes horse will dry your things just as well, they'll add absolutely nothing to your bills, and there's no risk of shrinking your clothes.
You'll obviously be limited in what you can do to insulate a rented property, but there are some little tricks you can do yourself to keep your place warm.
For example, if you have bedroom windows that are about as thick as clingfilm, taping some bubble wrap across the window will improve heat insulation massively. This might sound a batty, and look a bit weird, but you'll still get daylight shining through the bubble wrap, and it does make a big difference (you can also just save this method for the really cold winter nights).
A staggering 20% of house heat is lost through poor insulation, so even little things like using a draft excluder on your door can make a massive difference.
Keep an eye on flatmates
We're not suggesting that you should hide around the house and watch your flatmates like a hawk – you don't want to be that guy – but if they're always leaving the lights on, or cranking an electric heater in their room, make sure you speak up about it!
If everyone else is pulling their weight and keeping costs to a minimum, it's not fair that one person is pushing up the bills for the rest of you.
Make sure ‘extras' pay their share
It happens far too often: one flatmate gets a significant other and then all of a sudden it feels like the house has acquired a new flatmate.
Aside from never being able to sit on your own sofa, they're significantly pushing up your bills, too.
Don't feel like you're being rude by asking them to pay their way. If they're there more than three nights a week they should be putting in. You're not running a free hotel!
Think smart and use less
Aside from making sure all your windows and doors are shut tight, it's generally a case of just trying to use less – even a small reduction can save valuable pennies.
Turn the lights off when you're out of the room, only boil as much water as you need in the kettle and turn down your water thermostat. And turn those plugs off at the mains!
Make sure you keep furniture away from heaters as they'll prevent the room from warming up and, similarly, keep the oven door open after using it to warm up the room.
If all else fails, ditch the personal boundaries and snuggle up to your housemates.
For more hints and tips on how to reduce your energy bill, check out episode one of our podcast, No More Beans.