New Year’s resolutions for saving energy at home

Author: Richard Vale 29/12/2016

It’s that time of the year when, after weeks of excess spending and consumption, some of us turn our attention to self-improvement and self-restraint. The beginning of a new year is the time to put your best foot forward, so improving your household’s energy use should be at the top of your list of resolutions.

To help you, here are five energy-related tips that should improve your energy knowhow and cut down on your spending.

Look into switching your energy provider

The New Year is a great time to examine your monthly outgoings and one possible way to reduce them is to switch energy provider. Government figures show that the difference between the cheapest prepayment and direct debit tariffs was between £260 and £330 in 2016, and it’s likely to be the same in 2017. What's more, for those of you who have never switched supplier, you could save up to £200 a year by switching and making sure you pay by direct debit. Switching isn’t difficult and can be done in 20 minutes, if you have a recent bill or your annual statement to hand. If you want more information, Citizen’s Advice offers a free step-by-step guide and comparison tool.

Make sure you’re insulated

Heat loss through your roof and walls can account for up to 60% of the total heat lost in your property. That’s why it’s important to make sure your cavity walls are filled and your loft insulation is up to modern standards - currently 270 mm. If you’re interested in insulation but concerned about the cost - luckily, help is at hand. Homeowners and private renters can access a source of funding known as the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). ECO is a government-backed energy efficiency scheme aimed at helping householders reduce their energy bills and carbon emissions by placing legal obligations on large energy companies.

The amount of funding you can receive isn’t income-related, it’s based on the amount of carbon saved by installing the measure. While we can’t guarantee you'll be able to get your insulation fully-financed, the general rules of thumb for free installs are: pre 1982 build with no insulation in the wall cavity; and 50mm or less of loft insulation.

If you live in an older (generally pre-1930s property) with solid walls, you can still access ECO funding for either external or internal insulation. However, these are substantial measures and can be expensive.

If you're interested in loft or cavity wall insulation, it’s worth contacting your energy supplier direct, to see if it has the funding available. Alternatively, a quick Google search using “loft insulation”, “eco funding” and the name of your area should provide some useful results.

Replace inefficient appliances and lighting

Lighting and appliances can account for around 25% of your household’s energy use, and there can be a substantial difference between high-rated and standard-rated appliances. For example, a C-rated refrigerator can cost up to £44 a year to run while an A+ is likely to cost around £23 and an A+++ can cost as little as £14 a year!

If you’re not ready to do away with your old appliances, you could make a smaller change by replacing your standard lightbulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs. While individual LED lightbulbs will cost you more, they can last up to 25 years and they use 80% less energy than standard bulbs. This means you’ll save twice - by buying fewer bulbs and using less energy.

Make little changes to your energy behaviour

Rome wasn’t built in a day and small, individual behavioural changes aren’t going to instantly reduce your carbon footprint or energy bill. However, minor improvements to the way you and those in your household use energy will add up. Small, simple changes can improve your home's energy efficiency - for example:

  • Using a washing-up bowl instead of a running tap.
  • Unplugging appliances that aren’t in use.
  • Closing your curtains at dusk to retain the heat in each room.

For more hints and tips see our post on 10 quick wins to save energy and our web page on ways to save heat and fuel at home.

Brag about it

Finally, peer pressure and hearing about positive changes can be inspiring. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, housemates, Facebook friends and Twitter followers about your New Year's resolution and (equally importantly) the savings you’re making. Encourage them to make simple changes themselves.

For example, get a group together to switch energy provider at the same time over a bottle of wine, or research installers for ECO-funded loft insulation together. Improving the energy efficiency of your house is financially and environmentally sustainable - so making it a social affair makes good sense.

We at the National Energy Foundation think about energy efficiency 24/7 but you can do these five top tips in your spare time here and there. There’s really nothing to lose by taking control of your energy use and actively lowering your energy bill.

So, here’s to 2017 being the most energy-efficient, cost-saving year yet!

Affordable Warmth helpline

If you’re an Oxfordshire or Buckinghamshire resident and are interested in finding out more about any of the suggestions above, please contact the Affordable Warmth Helpline on 0800 107 0044 or via awn@nef.org.uk for FREE and IMPARTIAL advice.

Switching energy supplier

If you’re interested in switching energy provider but are unsure about the process, or don’t have the confidence to switch by yourself, our trained advisors are running a series of free switching events across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Moreover, if you think it’s something your club or community group would benefit from, please contact us to discuss a visit to one of your group's meetings or sessions.