Tag: money

Saving money: Energy bills Part 2

Make our home more energy efficient.

Energy efficiency

Part 2 Energy Efficiency

At first glance around our house we knew there were plenty of improvements that could be made to maximise our energy efficiency, despite not having a great deal of knowledge on the what and how.

The key consideration was how do you achieve these home improvements on a limited budget without borrowing any money on these government green schemes? Well first step was to work out where we stood.

Where did we start?

To get started, we decided not to worry about the ‘what and the how’, but to look at what we currently had ‘installed’ and the state of disrepair. To keep things simple we took an A5 sheet of paper, drew a couple of straight lines down the middle and scribbled down headings for Gas and Electric with the following key: [P] = Priority | [R] = Repair.

We then went on to list what home improvements we had written in each column and alongside each item we made a note of its status using a simple number key:

  1. Good condition – Has years of life left
  2. Ok – Will last a few more years
  3. Poor – Needs urgent repair
Quick sketch of our plan of action of what we could improve

Quick sketch of our plan of action of what we could improve

With an EPC this process was much quicker

Our EPC certificate

Our EPC certificate

As we had not been in our new house for very long, we had both a property survey and an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) report outlining where we could make future improvements to our home. Unfortunately for us, there was plenty we could do, with our house being 100 years old; it is not very energy efficient compared to modern builds.

Taking both our initial visual inspection and the items highlighted on our EPC report, we set about ordering them in priority for which would yield the greatest return on investment, both financially and for time spent.

Here are the top ten improvements we identified

To date we have not implemented all of these, though we hope to gradually make most of these improvements as our budget allows over the coming months.

First six are for Gas heating

    1. Loft insulation

      Ours was incredibly thin, well under 6 inches when the recommendation is 12 inches minimum. We were going to do it ourselves, but in the end we got ours for free. (will explain in more detail in a later post)

  • Double Glazing

    This was the one thing we did not have to do, as the previous owners had replaced all the windows only a few years ago. Though we know there are better, more efficient options available that we may re-visit in the future.

 

  • Draught exclusion

    In addition to door draught excluders, we went round the door frames with the draught tape and silicon sealant on the windows frames/gaps to remove all those cold draughts. We filled in wall cracks, holes around external pipework and the gaps around the loft hatch. All this meant we were able to turn our thermostat down (for extra savings)

    • Investment required: Prices can vary, but typically:
      • Tape per roll: £5 (we used two rolls)
      • Silicon sealant: £5
      • Door brush: £5-£10 (or you can make your own below)
      • DIY door excluder: free
    • Savings: This can save on average £55 per year, plus potentially another £65 per year for a lower thermostat.
    • Further reading:

 

  • Boiler

    Our boiler is certainly not the most efficient model and it is getting quite old, so this is something we will upgrade one day when we have budget available (or it packs in).

 

  • Floor insulation

    A potential future home improvement, though this looks quite expensive unless you do it yourself.

  • Wall cavity insulation

    Being that our property is so old, our walls were not built with cavities, so this is not an option for us. We have heard of some expensive techniques where the internal/external walls are thickened with insulation layers.

    • Investment required: Free with British Gas (though typically £400-£500)
    • Savings: This can save up to £140 per year.
  • Further reading:

 

The last four are for electric

    1. Energy saving light bulbs

      Yep certainly a no brainer, though the prices have come down considerably and over the duration of their life expectancy, they are well worth the investment.Depending on the size of your home, the savings will vary but it can save on average £55 per year in electric.

  • Appliances – Economy Mode

    Again this one is quite obvious, if your white goods have an eco-mode, use it! It might take longer than some of the other settings but it certainly cuts back on power and water consumption. Plus do full loads in your washing machines/dishwashers, turn down the wash/drying temperatures.
    You can also turn the temperature of your fridge/freezers up by a few degrees, keeping them within the safe limits to keep your food preserved. The temperatures do vary slightly depending on how full/empty they are, but ideally the warmer they are the less energy they use. There is a great deal of advice online and they all vary slightly (depending on the country), but on average this is what we have found and what we have done.

    • Fridge: Ours is at 4 degrees (recommended 1-5 degrees)
    • Freezer: Ours is at -15 degrees (recommended -15 to -21 degrees)

    The energy savings will depend on each appliance, which makes it hard to quantify and I have not found any useful links to add here that give us an average saving in terms of money saved.

 

  • Standby devices – Turn them off

    We all know on standby they are using power, but what we don’t realise is that all these devices left on standby together are cumulatively drip draining power and over a year it all adds up.

    Nearly everything gets turned off, though for our Sky TV box we use a simple low energy plug timer, so that in the evening it turns on power to the socket so it can record any TV shows, then turns off at midnight.

 

  • Computer equipment – Power saving mode

    Unless you need the extra horse power for doing any processor intensive tasks, switch your computer(s) into power saving mode. This will power down devices (Hard drives, Network adaptors, USB hubs etc) into sleep that are not in use after a period of time and the entire computer if you should be away from your desk for any duration. Computers power consumption will vary depending on what you are doing; gaming for example turns a med/high spec computer into a power hungry rabid beast!

    • Investment required: Effort mainly
    • Savings: The cost saving will vary depending on your computer and what you use it for. We have found that typically our two computers which we have running every day during working hours were using around £50 per month, which we cut back to just under £25 per month.
    • Further reading: A great guide on how to calculate your usage:

 

All this work, did it make a difference?

Yes we believe it has, even though we cannot quantify exactly how much we have saved for each item, also as were reducing our energy usage it also made it difficult to calculate with any level of precision. All things considered we have cut our bills back considerably;

  • GAS consumption reduced by: 40% (we saved £288 per year)
  • Electric consumption reduced by: 50% (we saved £360 per year)

Based on many of the average savings listed in our top 10, from the information we have sourced from these parties, there is a potential to save anywhere between £900-£1290 per year. We have personally found that we are saving on average £648 per year, but we have not (or cannot in some cases) implement all of the above improvements. This figure also includes us cutting back on our general usage.

Plenty more to learn and implement

I am sure there are other things we could do to also make our home more efficient, if you have any ideas or contributions to add please leave a comment below. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Saving money: Energy bills Part 1

Part one: Switching energy suppliers for Gas/Electric

Energy saving

Part 1 – Switching energy suppliers

These days we just don’t have the time to continually check the rates/tariffs of each of our suppliers, just imagine how much time it would take to check each and every one. Our suppliers are certainly not going to make it easy for us to keep tabs on their costs comparatively to their competitors that would just too helpful and considerate of them. No, no, we had to spend the time researching the in’s and out’s…that was until the dawn of price comparison websites!! Here are just a few of them:*

  1. confused.com
  2. ukpower.co.uk
  3. moneysupermarket.com
  4. simplyswitch.com
  5. uSwitch.com
  6. energysupplierswitch.co.uk
  7. theenergyshop.com

*For the record, we are not advocating any particular company above; it’s up to you investigate your options.

Switching energy suppliers, easy as 123

We have all seen the commercials, so our first point of call was to check that we were paying the cheapest tariff by checking out a few of the price comparison websites, we entered in our details to find out which supplier saved us money.

Hint: Get all your information into a word document before you begin, so you can copy and paste your details quickly.

There were a series of questions for each of the key steps, but it was all fairly straight forward, especially as we had a previous utility bill to hand. Once we completed the first few steps, they provided the results and presented us with our options moving forward. As we quickly found out, we were paying over and above the average per KWh unit.

So which price comparison company do we go with?

We can’t answer that for your situation, we had to spend some time doing a little research before we made a decision on which was the best for our situation. As with any business, they are in business to make their ‘cut’ and each slightly differs on how much they charge. When all things were considered, switching energy supplier ended up saving us several hundred pounds per year, we did not feel quite as tight when they are asking for a one off fee for around £12 to switch each utility. Especially as over the year our savings covered that a good 12 times over.

It’s clear we were paying too much, what now?

Well that was it; we did not leave it any longer and got switching! It’s strange that in the past we all had some form of loyalty to our energy suppliers as we thought they had our best interests, but it is clear today that it’s all a load of PR spin and it is all about maximising profits whilst maintaining the facade that they care. There was no love-loss here, we got switching straight away, it is surprisingly easy these days, we completed the forms, clicked submit and let “them” do the rest. It did not take very long to process the order and put the wheels in motion, so we sat back, relaxed and had a cuppa.

So there it is, that’s pretty much how we saved ‘some’ money (£300 pa) off our annual energy bills by shopping around. We have heard of people saving in excess of £600 pa which is a substantial sum! If you are reading this, then hopefully you will at least make sure you are on one of the cheapest tariffs as your first point of call.

But I am already on the cheapest tariffs

YAY! Well at least after a little effort you know for sure that you are on the best deal, it’s gives us all that little peace of mind that we are not being ripped off. Now you can focus on the next steps of making your home more energy efficient.

 

Saving money: Energy bills – intro

pound shaped lightbulb

Saving the pounds on our energy bills

Aside from the government “re-assuring” us that they plan to change regulations to force the energy companies to put us all on the lowest tariff, it still does not help the underlying problem, the price per unit of energy for both gas and electric! It’s all very well putting us all on the lowest tariff, but if that is continually rising through inflation and market wholesale prices, where does it leave us? NO WHERE I hear you scream! Especially as prices are continually rising and will continue to do so, forcing ever more people into fuel poverty.

When we first started trying to seriously cut back on our monthly out goings, one of the first things we knew we could cut back on was our energy bills. Everyone knows that if we use less, it will cost less…but you don’t always want to penny pinch your utility usage, especially during the winter months! But surely there were other things we could do.

The question was, where do we start

First off, we found there were at least four things we could do:

  1. Switch energy suppliers for both Gas & Electic
  2. Make our home more energy efficient
  3. Reduce unnecessary usage
  4. Generate our own energy

So to keep things ordered, we will try to go through each of the points above in future posts to see how we tackled each of these. You have more than likely considered many of these, but sometimes it’s interesting to see what others have done and how easy it can be.

 

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