If you’re wondering what you can do to tackle the rising costs of energy bills, you’re not alone! In fact, in the last 12 months, there have been around 15,610 related searches on this subject. The energy crisis has been plaguing the news, and our minds, since last year. With the average UK household set to pay a whopping 51% extra for their energy in April, adding around £600 a year to household bills – this could possibly throw millions into fuel poverty. However, just because the prices are increasing, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do to blunt the impact when it hits. There’s no way to reverse the bill hikes, but we might be able to give you a little help! We’re going to be taking a look at some ways you can better weather the storm, but first, it’s a good idea to understand why there is an energy crisis in the first place, and why it’s affecting you.
How did the energy crisis start?
When the world went into lockdown in 2020, energy usage increased dramatically and depleted gas stocks at a higher rate than usual. After the especially cold winter going into 2021, stocks were already dwindling. The UK doesn’t have the landmass required to harbour vast amounts of fuel reserves. Our gas storage only accounts for about 1% of the stores across the entirety of Europe, so that means when there is a spike in demand, it’s a rush to get more gas in to keep the supply running smoothly.
You’re probably wondering why after the world came out of lockdown, didn’t we return to normal levels of consumption? It’s because the entire world was sprinting to get back on its feet. Economies needed to recover, and countries competed heavily for the energy required to bounce back. Some countries like China have seen massive growth due to this effort. With the world demanding more energy than usual, and at the same time, costs have soared.
Another element is that we haven’t completed the transition into eco-friendly energy supplies, and the ones we have aren’t always flawless. Half of our energy still comes from carbon-based fuels, which were heavily in demand last year. Furthermore, wind technology, which accounts for 20% of the UK’s power, hasn’t been perfected yet and has its limitations. We’ve experienced both calm and extreme weather recently- on opposite ends of the spectrum, so the wind turbines don’t perform well. Again, this puts a higher demand on carbon-based fuels, and this translates in turn to higher costs.
The energy price cap
You might have heard that energy suppliers are going out of business, but why, and how does it affect you? All the elements mentioned so far compound into the higher prices suppliers have to pay for the energy that, in turn, they sell to us.
In 2017, an energy price cap was introduced that meant suppliers couldn’t charge more than a stated level. This was designed to protect consumers from ever-increasing energy costs. The years since then have been somewhat turbulent, to say the least, however, and the world is now paying more for energy. UK suppliers aren’t able to charge more than the price cap; therefore, they’ve been selling energy for less than they’ve been purchasing it. Anyone can see that isn’t a sustainable model, but it was one they were forced into due to unfortunate circumstances.
The 2022 energy cap increase
Ofgem, the UK’s energy authority, regulates the price cap every six months. Back in October 2021, standard tariffs were increased by £139 per household. This increased the price the average consumer pays to £1,309 per year.
To try and avert a larger crisis of more suppliers going bust and leaving households without an energy supplier, Ofgem is going to increase prices again in April 2022.
Analysts Cornwall Insight’s latest forecast is that the cap will rise 51%, that’s £1,925/year for someone on typical use. Other predictions range from a 46% to a 56% rise.
According to the MoneySavingExpert, “It’ll likely hit pockets immediately.”
This massive increase demonstrates how much trouble the UK’s energy suppliers are in, but that does little to calm the nerves of many who might already be struggling to make ends meet.
Many have been asking Martin Lewis, the MoneySavingExpert, if they should ditch the price cap to fix, and the answer is no you shouldn’t unless “you’re offered a fix that’s no more than 40% costlier than your current price-capped tariff, it’s worth considering – especially if you value budgeting certainty”.
Here’s what the predicted price cap might look like;
In the following section, we list everything you can do to reduce your electricity and gas bills. We’ll also give you some tips to maximise your boiler’s performance without breaking the bank!
How to reduce your electricity bills?
1. Rethink your daily habits
Conserving energy can be as easy as turning off appliances or lights when you are not using them. You can also reduce the usage of energy-intensive appliances by doing your household chores manually, such as washing dishes by hand and hang-drying your clothes instead of using the dryer.
Some tools can help you determine which appliances are consuming the most electricity and where most of the electricity is being used in your home daily. You can also request an energy audit from your electric utility company. This will help you determine your energy usage, how to save energy, and how to reduce your electricity demand charge.
Things to consider changing in your daily habits are;
- Switch off standby when you can – this will save you around £55 a year, just by remembering to switch appliances off from the wall.
- Turn off lights when you’re not in the room – you will save up to £20 a year with a flick of a switch (a cheeky takeaway!)
- Use your washing machine carefully – to save around £28 a year. Just use your washing machine on a 30-degree cycle instead of higher temperatures and try to reduce the washing machine usage by one run a week.
- Don’t tumble dry – let the washing air dry! This will save you a whooping £60 a year.
- Quick showers (around 4 minutes) will save you £70 a year.
- Swapping baths for showers will save you £12 a year.
- Don’t overfill your kettle to save up to £11 a year.
- Fill up the dishwasher – make sure it’s completely full before running the dishwasher to save £14 a year.
2. Invest in energy-efficient appliances
If it’s time for you to replace the hoover, washing machine, or tumble dryer, it is best to consider energy ratings. Most modern electric appliances are more energy-efficient than their older counterparts. However, the energy rating will help you select the most efficient model.
Energy ratings are compulsory and they range from A to G, and A is the most efficient.
The most important piece of information is the specific amount of electricity that the appliance uses per hour or per cycle. Some modern dishwashers and washing machines can clean a full load for less than one electricity unit. Washing a load a day will save you up to £68 annually compared to older models, which can pay for a new washer within a few years.
3. Switch to LED bulbs
Switching the older traditional bulbs for LED bulbs will significantly reduce your power demand. Installing LED bulbs for residential use can help you save up to 75% of the energy that traditional bulbs use. However, the best advantage of LED bulbs is that they last up to 25 times longer, which means spending less money to replace them in the long run.
4. Ensure your water cylinder is properly insulated
Heating water consumes more electricity than anything else in your home and accounts for up to 50% of your electricity costs annually. By ensuring you insulate your tank properly, you can reduce the water heating costs by up to 30%.
A high-quality lagging jacket that is 3-inch thick will pay for itself within a short time and save you lots of money.
How to reduce your heating bills?
1. Install an energy-efficient boiler
Granted, you may think ‘How is this saving me money, boilers are expensive’ – and you’re right, kind of. If you currently have an older boiler then upgrading to a new A-rated energy efficient boiler can save you up to £305 per year on your utility bills according to the Energy Saving Trust. It’s also better for the environment and will save on the repair costs of keeping an older boiler going.
2. Have Thermostatic Radiator Valves installed
Thermostatic Radiator Valves or “TRVs” as they’re known in the business are valves that are installed on radiators that allow you to set the temperature for each individual room. You can save money by setting the temperature to a lower setting in rooms that you don’t use as often. By giving you more control of your heating you can lessen the work your boiler has to do to heat your home – again, saving you money on your gas bill. Imagine how much gas you could save if you could regulate the temperature on every radiator in the house to exactly what is required!
There is, however, a cost to buying and having TRVs installed, but that initial outlay will certainly be recouped. On average, to have a TRV installed will cost you between £50 – £80, but that price will drop significantly if you are replacing multiple TRVs at the same time as the plumber will only need to drain the system down once. You can pick up TRVs for around £15, so if you fancy having a go at fitting them yourself, it doesn’t have to cost too much.
Draining a system down isn’t too difficult but if you’re unsure, always call in an expert.
3. Install a Smart or Programmable Thermostat
You can set up a programmable thermostat to reduce or turn off heating and cooling when you are away or asleep. Installing a programmable thermostat helps you eliminate energy wastage from cooling and heating without upgrading your HVAC system.
A programmable thermostat will help you save up to £130 annually on average. There are different models of programmable thermostats that you can set to fit your weekly schedule. Extra features of programmable thermostats include indicators that can show you HVAC system problems or when to replace your air filters, and this also enhances the efficiency of your HVAC system.
No matter your kind of home, there are lots of ways to lower your monthly electricity bill. By simply changing your day-to-day behaviours, purchasing energy-efficient appliances, using LED bulbs, and using a programmable thermostat, you’ll save hundreds of pounds annually and drastically lower your carbon footprint as well.
4. Turn your thermostat down
Have you ever found that your thermostat has mysteriously turned itself up by a degree or two? This is a common occurrence in a household full of teenagers, but it could be costing you money that you don’t need to spend. Given that half of our spend on energy goods towards hot water and heating, this is an area where it is certainly worth saving.
If you turn your thermostat down by just a single degree, from where you usually have it, you could see savings of around £80 a year.
5. Minimise draught
Draughty areas in your home can be responsible for a significant amount of heat loss, which means you must spend more on heating to keep your house warm. Windows and doors are the main areas where you lose heat. Fitting draught excluders are a cost-effective way of reducing draughts and lowering your energy bills. Thermal leak detectors are useful for identifying the areas where your house is losing heat and with so many on the market, they don’t have to break the bank either.
Eliminating draughts will allow you to drop your thermostat down a degree or two. Decreasing the temperature of your thermostat by one degree is believed to be able to save you £80 a year!
6. Double glaze your windows
With your heating on in an attempt to keep cosy in the winter, the last thing that you want is it all escaping out of your windows. Older single glazed windows can lose twice as much heat as modern double glazed ones. A-rated double glazing will help to lock in the heat as well as keeping out the noise.
The potential savings that you could see will depend on your property type, but you can expect to save hundreds every year.
How to maximise your boiler’s performance?
1. Service your boiler regularly
Ensuring your boiler is serviced every year is one of the best ways to keep things efficient. Getting your boiler serviced will mean any potential problems can be identified and fixed sooner rather than later, which will save you money and a lot of hassle in the long run. Not to mention, it’s vital in keeping you and your family safe – especially given that around 4000 people every year visit A&E as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. Regular checks will also keep your boiler in tip-top condition for longer, meaning you won’t be forking out for a new one unless you absolutely need it.
2. Switch on your heating
Believe it or not, making the point of switching your heating on during the warmer months is actually a good way to keep your boiler running smoothly. Think of it like a car – if you don’t use it for months on end and suddenly go to switch it on on a chilly morning, it’s far more likely to seize up. You don’t have to go mad during the warmer months, just pop the heating on once a week to make sure that things are ticking over nicely. Also, consider installing an energy-saving additive to optimise the thermal properties of the water in your heating system.
3. Squeaky clean!
It’s easy to overlook your boiler when you’re cleaning your home, but keeping it dust-free is one measure you can take to keep things running efficiently. If dust builds up, this can clog up tubes and pipes which not only can affect its performance but can also result in higher energy bills too. Simply make a point of giving the outer of your boiler a clean whenever you do your regular chores just to remove any dust that’s building up. As for the interior, this is not something you should attempt to do yourself – this will usually be taken care of by an engineer when your boiler is serviced.
4. Don’t forget to bleed your radiators
If the radiators in your home are colder at the top than at the bottom, this usually means that your heating isn’t running as efficiently as it could be. By bleeding your radiators, you’re releasing any air that’s become trapped in the system, preventing it from becoming fully heated. It’s a simple task that takes just a few minutes and can be done by yourself, but in the long run, it could save you a fair few quid.
5. Check your water pressure
Loss of pressure in your boiler can be responsible for a number of issues, so it’s important to regularly check and top it up if needs be. Simply check the pressure gauge on your boiler, and as a rule of thumb, anything around the 1.5 mark is healthy, although every boiler is different, so it’s worth checking your manufacturer’s guide just to be safe. In most cases, you can repressurise your boiler yourself, but it’s always best to consult your manual first in case it needs to be done by a Gas Safe Engineer.
6. Insulate your pipes
Insulating your central heating pipes with easy-fit foam lagging (which you can buy from most DIY stores), will reduce the amount of heat loss, meaning water stays hotter for longer. In turn, your boiler won’t have to work quite as hard, meaning you’ll save a little more on those energy bills.
Is it time for a new boiler?
At some point, your boiler might stop heating your home as it used to, despite its regular annual service.
If you’ve noticed that your heating experience has changed, i.e. your radiators are taking longer to heat up, or your boiler is losing pressure regularly (more than usual), it might be time to invest in a new boiler.
But before you commit to the big purchase, ask a heating engineer to check that there isn’t a build-up in your heating system preventing your boiler from working as it should.
However, if your boiler keeps breaking down, it may be cheaper in the long run, to cut your losses and get a new one, so just come to us and we’ll sort you out!