8 small energy-saving measures that can make a big difference

Author: 12/12/2016

While there are lots of free ways to save energy and lower your bills, sometimes it takes a small investment to keep your house cosy and reduce your overall energy spend. The following eight ideas all usually retail at below £20 and can make a substantial difference to your comfort and bills.

TV Powerdown plug

Let’s be honest, one of the many constants in this world is your television’s red light gleaming at you from the corner of your living room. Just being on standby means your TV is using electricity, not to mention the DVD player, speaker and other peripheral items plugged in. Most powerdown plugs also include a socket for recording devices to keep them on so you don’t miss out on recording your favourite shows. As an additional incentive, research suggests that leaving electrical equipment on standby can reduce its lifespan by an average of 15% as well increase chances of an electrical fire.

Common retail price: £4 - £12. Typical payback period: 6 months.

Radiator reflector foil

Radiator foil is placed behind your radiator and can reflect up to 95% of the energy radiated from the back of the radiator back into the room. It can cut heat loss through the wall and into the outside world by 45%. This means that less energy is used to heat the room to the desired temperature, resulting in lower energy bills. There is no need to remove your radiators or use professional installers – radiator foil can be cut to size with normal kitchen scissors and disappears from view once installed. DIY bonus: If you’re not willing to pay for the proper foil, an even cheaper DIY option is to stick kitchen foil to a strong piece of card and attach it behind your radiator.

Common retail price: £10 - £15 for rolls which cover up to six radiators. Or £15 - £20 for premade packs which cover 3-6 radiators. Typical payback period: 1 year.

LED lightbulbs

Unless you’ve been living under an unlit rock for the past 10 years, you'll at least be aware of the LED revolution. LED, which stands for Light Emitting Diode for those who are interested, is the most energy-efficient form of lightbulb. Switching from regular filament to LED is guaranteed to save you money on your electricity bills as they use an average of at least 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, and can last up to 25 times longer. Therefore, replacing all standard lightbulbs in your home could save up to £35 a year. If you’re already using the more efficient Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs), change those that are used the most (kitchen and living room, for example) to LED and leave the others in place as replacing low-usage bulbs with LEDs will only result in a small saving.

Common retail price: £4 - £8 each. Typical payback period: 2.5 years.

Draught-proofing materials

A draughty house means too much cold air is being let in and too much warm air is seeping out. Draught-proofing is one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to save energy and money in your home, with annual savings reaching up to £50 a year. If you can handle simply DIY jobs, a Sunday spent draught-proofing can greatly increase your comfort and can be a solid long-term investment; you might even learn a new skill or two along the way. Materials include self-adhesive foam strips for windows and doors, letterbox flaps or brushes and silicon-based flexible fillers for floors and skirting boards.

Common retail price: DIY draught-proofing of a total house can cost £120 - £240. However, the individual items listed above generally cost £10 - £20 and you could target one room each week, for example. Typical payback period: 3 years.

Chimney balloon

If you live in an older property with a chimney and don't use it on a regular basis, it can be losing you a lot of heat and using more energy to keep you warm. Chimneys act as funnels which suck the warm air out of the room and pull down cold air, which can cause that rushing feeling through any gaps in your floors and doors. Just put the chimney balloon into your chimney opening, inflate and it’ll fill the gap but allow a little ventilation.

Common retail price: £10 - £20. Typical payback period: 3 months.

Hot water tank jacket

If you have a conventional boiler with a hot water cylinder, adding some insulation (a jacket) is one of the easiest ways to save on your energy bills. If your cylinder already has insulation, check its thickness, which should be at least 75mm. If it isn’t this thick, then we strongly recommend investing in wrapping a British Standard jacket round your tank as this will cut heat loss by more than 75%. This means your water stays hotter for longer, and could save you around £25 - £35 a year, which is more than the cost of the jacket!

Common retail price: £10 - £20. Typical payback period: Less than a year.

Secondary glazing film

While adding secondary glazing will not be as sealed as a new double glazing unit, it's much cheaper to fit and can be installed easily by a confident DIYer. Therefore, secondary glazing film can be a cheap, non-intrusive way of insulating your windows, and is best combined with self-adhesive tape to stop the draughts around the frames. It can also be removed easily in the summer.

Common retail price: £5 - £10. Typical payback period: 1 year.

Draught excluder roll

Although you might consider a draught excluder roll (commonly shaped like a sausage dog) something your Gran would promote, blocking the gaps underneath doors and windows with a draught excluder roll is a cheap yet efficient way to make your home draught-free, cosy and less expensive to heat.

Common retail price: £10 - £20. Typical payback period: Less than a year.

Bonus I) Energy monitor

Energy monitors don’t directly lower your energy bill. However, measuring what you manage is an important step in understanding your household energy use and thereby reducing your energy bills. For instance, an energy monitor alllows you to see in real time just how much electricity appliances such as your kettle is using while you boil it for the second time, having left it to go cold. While energy monitors are a bit more expensive than the measures listed above, monitoring your energy use and understanding which appliances use the most energy, can encourage you to change the way you use your appliances, which can lead to lower bills.

Common retail price: £20 - £40. Typical payback period: Depends on you and how involved you become in improving your energy use.

Bonus II) Smart meter

Smart meters are similar to energy monitors in so far as they display your real-time energy use. However, they also go one step further by reporting your use back to your energy supplier. This allows for more accurate billing, thereby ensuring that you only paying for what you use. Smart meters are being rolled out by energy companies and every household in Britain will have one installed by 2020.

Common retail price: Free! Contact your energy supplier directly to see when they're installing them in your area. Typical payback period: No direct payback period. However, smart meters mean you’ll never again be overcharged for energy.