People across Great Britain faced another hike in energy bills this winter when Ofgem’s energy price cap increased by 5% on 1 January.
The average household’s gas and electricity bill rose to £1,928 on 1 January 2024 – a 5% rise on the October to December cap. And with no repeat of the government’s universal £400 energy bills grant currently in the offing, energy costs are likely to be higher for many households.
While some of the UK’s poorest households will receive another batch of cost of living support from the government in February, campaigners have warned that this winter will prove to be more challenging than the last one – see our help with energy costs article if you’re struggling.
Knowing how to use less energy will be vital for everyone this winter. But – now we’re in the midst of a cold snap – what are the best ways of going about this? And how much of your hard-earned cash could you stand to save? Here’s a guide covering each key part of your home.
It’s also worth checking out our energy comparison article to find out how to get hold of the cheapest energy deals.
Table of Contents
How to save money on your heating and hot water costs
Heating your home and the water circulating around it is the single biggest contributor to your energy bills. These things are also non-negotiables – especially in colder weather – if you’re to remain happy and healthy. But you can cut your costs by using your boiler and heating system more efficiently.
1. Turn down your thermostat by a degree
Turning your thermostat down by one degree could make a big dent in your energy bills, without you noticing a difference.
Many of us crank the heating up higher than we need to. The World Health Organisation says 18°C is enough for healthy adults. Elderly people and those with health conditions will need it slightly warmer. But many people have it way above that.
So try to turn the heating down by a single degree and see if you’re still comfortable. At 1°C lower, you could save up to £100 a year, according to Energy Saving Trust figures.
Another thing to note is that you should not crank your heating up higher when it’s particularly cold outside. Your home will warm up more slowly on winter mornings or evenings compared to other times of the year, regardless of how high you’ve set the heating. All you’ll do is make your bills more expensive.
Is it cheaper to keep your heating set on low all day? Find out in our guide to the cheapest way to keep your home warm this winter.
2. Reduce your combi boiler’s flow temperature
Your flow temperature is the temperature your boiler heats water to before sending it around your home. If you have a combi boiler (so you don’t have a hot water cylinder), you will be able to adjust the temperature for both your heating and hot water. In this instance, you will need to adjust the setting for heating, which normally appears under a radiator symbol.
Not sure what kind of boiler you have? Check out our guide to central heating.
Unfortunately, when most combi boilers are installed, their flow temperature for heating will be set well above the boiler’s optimum level. Typically, you’ll find them set at around 80°C. In practice, it means your boiler is likely to be burning through more energy than it needs to – in other words, it’s costing you more money than you need to spend.
By reducing the flow temperature from 75°C to 60°C – a level that’s more efficient – you should be able to make significant savings. A study by the innovation charity Nesta found doing so could cut your gas usage by 8%.
Translated into cash terms, it means a typical home (a 2- to 3-bedroom house) may save £70 a year under the October Ofgem energy price cap. Be sure to check your boiler manual if you’re unsure about what you’re doing. Nesta has a helpful guide on how to save cash with your combi boiler through its Money Saving Boiler Challenge. Energy consultancy The Heating Hub also has a useful guide on how to change your boiler’s settings.
And to be be clear, this won’t lower the temperature of your home. Your radiators will just feel slightly cooler and rooms may take slightly longer to heat up, but your home will be heated a lot more efficiently.
3. Adjust your non-combi boiler (but be careful)
A non-combi boiler is one that’s accompanied by a hot water cylinder. If you have this sort of system, do not reduce your flow temperature without the help of a boiler professional. According to The Heating Hub, the reason for this is that these boilers can only be set at one temperature that governs both your heating and hot water.
Guidelines from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) recommend hot water is heated to more than 60°C to eliminate the risk of legionella – a bacteria that can cause serious harm to your health. Given it’s likely that your hot water will lose some of its heat, either in your cylinder or around your home, its flow temperature needs to be set at 70°C (there is very little risk from legionella in your heating system as you tend not to come into contact with the water used in your radiators).
A gas engineer will be able to separate your heating and hot water flow temperatures, which means you can lower the flow temperature to save on your heating bills, without making your hot water unsafe.
You can also make some quick adjustments yourself that will save you money, for example by limiting the number of times your boiler fires up per day as well as insulating your cylinder and any exposed pipes. Cylinder jackets and pipe insulation tend to cost between £15 to £20 in DIY stores but can save you up to £50 a year (or £45 in NI), according to the Energy Saving Trust.
4. Cut your hot water temperature
When you turn your hot taps on, does the water come out scolding hot? If your answer is yes and you have a combi boiler, your hot water temperature is set too high.
Whereas your flow temperature governs the heat at which water is kept in your boiler, the hot water temperature regulates how hot water is when it comes out of a hot tap.
According to analysis by Cambridge Architectural Research (CAR) that was commissioned by the charity Nesta, a typical household can make an annual saving of £17 by reducing the hot water temperature to 42°C (Oct 2023 price cap figures).
All you have to do is look for a small tap symbol on your boiler. If you’re unsure, dig out the appliance’s manual.
5. Is your boiler pre-heating water? You’ll be paying for the privilege
Combi boilers tend to come with a pre-heat function. This setting keeps a small amount of water heated in your boiler so that it is ready to go whenever you turn a tap on.
While this process is convenient, you will be paying handsomely for the privilege – particularly given that your boiler will continue to keep firing up throughout the day and night if it is turned on.
By switching the pre-heat function off, it will take slightly longer for your hot water taps to gain temperature. But a typical home could cut its gas usage by between 5% and 10% by doing so, according to The Heating Hub. It means you could save as much as £84 a year under the October Ofgem energy price cap.
6. Get your boiler serviced – it could save you £100s
Getting your boiler serviced once a year could save you money in the long run. Not only will it be safer, but it will also operate more efficiently. A service may also allow you to nip any issues in the bud rather than let them fester to the extent that you’ll need a new boiler (something that will cost thousands of pounds).
An appointment with a Gas Safe registered engineer should cost between £60 and £90. Not only will they check whether or not your boiler needs any repairs, but they’ll also clean it, which will allow it to run more efficiently.
If you do need a new boiler, see if you can take advantage of a £7,500 grant through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. If successful, you’ll also have a heat pump installed, as the scheme aims to help reduce reliance on gas.
7. ‘Shut down’ unused rooms
If you have a spare room in your home, the chances are you won’t be using it all the time. Reducing the heating in any unoccupied spaces will lower your bills.
You can do this by turning down the radiator temperature valves in the rooms you’re not using. According to Nesta, the average family could lop £78 off their annual bill by turning down any valves outside the living room by just one setting (Oct 2023 price cap figures).
For rooms you do decide to reduce the heating in, be sure to monitor the space for damp. Condensation can form in unheated areas during the colder months of the year, which can encourage the growth of mould. To combat this, you may need to heat the room on a semi-regular basis.
8. Bleed your radiators to boost the efficiency of your heating
While it is one of the least glamorous jobs around the house, bleeding your radiators can make a difference to your energy bills. If they contain bubbles of air, not only will they be cold in some places, but it’s also likely that your boiler will be having to work harder to heat the room. These bubbles cam corrode the radiator from the inside, too – another blight on efficiency.
To bleed a radiator, you will need to switch off your central heating. You then need to insert a radiator valve key (costs between £1 and £3 if you can’t find one at home) into the ‘bleed valve’ (a small slot you often find at one end of the radiator above the temperature valve). When turned, you should hear a hissing noise as any trapped air bubbles escape.
Once a small amount of water begins to come out, all you need to do is tighten the valve again. You should then pop your central heating back on to make sure your radiator is heating up properly. Energy supplier E.ON has a handy video on how to do this on its website and recommends bleeding your radiators once a year.
9. Move large furniture items away from radiators
There are a few ways in which you can boost your radiators’ performance and cut your energy use in the process. The great thing is, you don’t have to break the bank to do them.
For starters, look at where your radiators are in relation to big items of furniture. If you have a bed or a sofa blocking one, the chances are that the heat it’s generating is being absorbed into your furniture rather than the air.
British Gas says that even if you can only move these big items away from the radiator by an inch, you will improve the heater’s efficiency. As a consequence, you may find yourself reaching for the thermostat less often.
10. Install thermostatic valves on your radiator
You can add thermostatic valves to your radiators for as little as £8 a pop (plus an installation fee). This type of valve allows a radiator to heat itself in relation to the temperature you have set on your main thermostat, and will automatically switch off the water flow to that radiator when the set temperature has been reached. If you have turned the valve down in a room you’re not using, be sure to close the door to it to make sure the temperature remains constant in that room.
11. Put reflective strips behind some of your radiators
For a similar price (minus the installation fee), you can install reflective strips behind any radiators mounted on external walls. If you haven’t got any insulation, these will keep heat in your home rather than letting it spill outside. Available for as little as £8 a pop from most DIY stores, these can save you around £30 annually, according to Energy Saving Trust figures adjusted for the October Ofgem price cap.
12. Use your curtains to your advantage
A free way to heat your home in the colder months of the year is to leave your curtains open during the day and let the sunshine in. As soon as it goes dark, you should then close them to retain any heat in the room.
You can also boost the effectiveness of your curtains as insulators by adding a thermal lining to them. What you’ll pay depends on how big your curtains are, but they will add warmth to your room without the need for extra heating.
13. Leaving your heating on low all day is an energy saving myth
There’s a school of thought that believes keeping your heating on at a low temperature is more energy efficient than reheating your home at certain times of the day. But, while it’s a useful trick if you get a lot of condensation in your home, you’ll actually end up burning through more power, the Energy Saving Trust says.
The organisation says it’s more cost effective to reheat your home at certain times of the day. This is especially the case given that even the most insulated homes will see at least some heat loss.
To make your heating work as efficiently as possible, you should time your heating to come on only when you need it. Or, if you have some cash to splash, upgrading to a smart heating system or having thermostats in rooms you use at different times of the day will help you to maximise your efficiency.
14. Look into better insulation
You can save some serious money on your heating bills by investing in better insulation. The big downside is that the upfront costs are very expensive.
Some households will be able to get these types of insulation for free (or a greatly reduced price) via the recently launched Great British Insulation Scheme. To be eligible, your home has to be rated D or lower on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and has to be in an A to D council tax band.
If your house was built in the 1920s, you may be able to save hundreds of pounds a year by installing cavity wall insulation. The process involves the injection of insulation material into the in-built gap between your internal and exterior walls.
In most cases, it will pay for itself within 10 years of installation. But the upfront cost usually sits in the thousands.
Properties built before 1920 will have solid walls, which means you won’t be able to get cavity wall insulation. However, you will be able to install internal or external wall insulation (depending on planning consent) that will enhance the heat retention of your home and save you hundreds per year. Again, you’re looking at costs running well in the thousands to get this done.
Loft insulation is more affordable, and usually costs under £500 to install. Most homes will have some form of insulation in their roof space, but topping it up can save around £25 a year in a mid-terrace or semi, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
How to use less energy in the kitchen and utility room
We will now take you through your home room-by-room to show you how you can save money on your energy bills, starting with the kitchen and utility room.
15. Rethink your washing habits
Wet appliances – namely, washing machines and dishwashers – are among the biggest consumers of energy in the home. According to the Energy Saving Trust, they account for 14% of our energy bills thanks to the amount of power they need to heat up water in a short space of time.
So, it goes without saying that these appliances need to be running as efficiently as possible if you’re going to keep your energy bills down. Your washing machine is a good place to look at first given how integral it is to day-to-day life.
For starters, if you normally wash laundry at 40°C you can save £29 a year by switching to a 30°C washing cycle. And if your clothes aren’t too dirty, you might even find you can lower the temperature to 20°C – an option that’s available on post-2013 models.
Another top tip is to only wash clothes when you have enough for a full load. Say you have a pile of urgent washing that only equates to a half load, your washing machine should have a shorter cycle option that will use less energy.
It also goes without saying that keeping your washer in good nick will ensure it’s not overusing energy. Cleaning the filters once a month and running the occasional service wash (a hot wash containing no clothes), will give the appliance the best chance of running at maximum efficiency for longer.
And if you want to learn how to keep your water costs down, visit the Look After My Bills guide to saving on your water bills.
16. Avoid the tumble dryer
Tumble dryers are also highly energy intensive appliances, so if you can avoid using one, you’ll be able to save a decent wodge of cash. Energy Saving Trust figures (October 2023 price cap) suggest the average home could save around £54 a year by keeping it switched off.
Air drying clothes outside or using a clothes horse inside are the most straightforward alternatives. Be sure not to dry clothes using your radiators, as this will make them work less efficiently and burn through unnecessary energy.
If you’re unhappy with the results of air drying and feel like using your tumble dryer is still the best option, put your laundry through an extra spin cycle in the washing machine to wick off as much excess moisture as possible before running the dryer.
Another possibility is to invest in either a heated airer or a dehumidifier. Both gadgets have their pros and cons, but should work out as cheaper than a tumble dryer.
17. Use your dishwasher rather than the sink
As with your washing machine, running your dishwasher only once it’s full will save you money on your energy bills. By cutting out one dishwasher cycle a week, the average home could save £14 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Using your dishwasher is likely to work out cheaper than washing by hand too. Of course, not everyone has a dishwasher. If you’re often washing dishes in the sink, be sure not to keep your tap running. Doing so will make your boiler work harder for longer. It’s always better to use a basin.
18. Check your fridge and freezer temperatures are not too cold
Given they’re likely to be switched on 24/7 and account for 13% of the average household’s energy bill, according to the Energy Saving Trust, ensuring your cold appliances are working as efficiently as possible is a must.
The most important thing to do is to make sure your fridge and freezer temperatures are correct. The Food Standards Agency says you ought to keep your fridge at 5°C and your freezer at -18°C – settings you can normally reach by adjusting the built-in temperature dial. If the temperature is colder, you’ll be burning through energy unnecessarily and adding pounds to your energy bill.
Also, to help these units use less energy, make sure the space around them is free of any clutter. That way, they will not overheat and you will save energy.
19. Don’t confuse your fridge or freezer’s thermostat
If you introduce extra heat into your cold appliances, it means they will work harder to keep your food cool or frozen. So, you should shut their doors as soon as possible after use to conserve energy.
Putting recently cooked food straight in these units is also a big no-no. Let the dish cool down completely in the kitchen first.
20. Become a batch cooker
Not only are you likely to eat more healthily if you batch cook (having dinner ready to go will stop any impulse purchases on your supermarket shop), you are also likely to save money on your energy bills.
Cooking is one of the biggest contributors to energy bills, with your hob, oven, kettle and microwave contributing to 4% of the average home’s energy bill, according to the Energy Saving Trust. By batch cooking, you will reduce the number of times you have to cook.
21. Fancy a cuppa? Don’t overfill the kettle
One of the most used appliances in the home is the kettle. With the UK Tea & Infusions Association (UKTIA) finding almost 200 million cups of tea and coffee are drunk each day in Great Britain, we’re all boiling water at a phenomenal rate.
But how much care do you take to not overfill your kettle? If you’re someone who’s boiling more than they need to, you’re going to be contributing to the estimated 2,649,792 kWh of energy wasted on boiling kettles each day in Britain – equivalent to more than £715,000 every 24 hours under the October price cap. The Energy Saving Trust calculates that the average home could save more than £10 a year on its electricity bill by not overfilling the kettle.
As part of its annual Smart Boil campaign, UKTIA recommends pouring water into the mug you’re about to use and then filling your kettle with it. Another option is to boil enough water for a pot of tea and then insulate it with a tea cosy so you don’t have to turn the kettle on each time you want a cuppa.
22. On a time of use tariff? Use your appliances at cheaper times
If you’re on an Economy 7 or 10 tariff, or other time of use energy tariff, you will get a cheaper rate for electricity during off-peak periods – usually during the night. It means you will be able to save money on your running costs, particularly if you use energy intensive appliances during these hours. It could be a particularly good time to heat up water if you have an electrical immersion heater.
While it isn’t a good idea to run most electrical appliances when you’re fast asleep due to their fire risk – so do check your manual first – you may be able to time them so they’re kicking in when you’re waking up.
23. Got a smart meter? Get paid to cut your electricity usage
The Demand Flexibility Service (DFS) is running again this winter, which means you can earn credit on your energy bills by using less energy than you normally would at peak times. Most of the major suppliers are taking part, including British Gas, Octopus Energy and EDF.
All in all, there are 12 test events and several live ones (especially if the UK has a sustained cold snap). Across these, you could save around £100. Some schemes will allow you to earn back even more credit on your bills. You can maximise these savings by following all of the appliance energy saving tips above.
How to save money in your living room
24. Get draught-proofing
This tip isn’t solely confined to the living room. Whether it’s your letterbox, internal doors or a chimney stack, preventing draughts will keep your home warmer and will cut your energy use.
Basic draught proofers are available for as little as £3 from DIY shops. But to maximise your savings, professional installation (costs roughly £250 for your entire house to be done) is the way to go. The Energy Saving Trust says you can save more than £100 a year off your energy bill by eliminating those pesky jets of cold air.
25. Shut internal doors
If you want your living room to remain warm while you’re using it, make sure you’ve shut any doors leading into it. That way, heat will not escape at the same rate.
26. Switch off your devices
While keeping your TV or laptop permanently on standby may be convenient, you’ll be burning through electricity unnecessarily. Citizens Advice says the average household pays an extra £65 a year for the privilege.
Most electronics will not have their programming affected if you switch them off completely. If you don’t want to spend time switching plugs off at the socket, buying a smart plug (starting from £9) will allow you to turn off all of your devices with the flick of a finger on your phone.
27. Don’t be overcharged for charging your devices
Are you someone who charges your phone overnight? If you are, stop what you’re doing. It’s likely your device will need no more than 3 hours to fully charge. Any charging that takes place beyond this time will be wasted energy (and may also weaken your phone’s battery).
You can also save electricity by reducing your need for your charger. Adjusting your device’s brightness setting, popping it into airplane mode and/or switching it into battery saver mode will greatly boost its battery life.
28. Turn off the lights in unoccupied rooms
Light bulbs only use a very small amount of energy, but leaving them on in rooms you’re not using will add around £25 to the average home’s energy bill, according to the Energy Saving Trust. So, be sure to switch them off when you’re leaving a room.
29. Install energy-saving lightbulbs
Switching over to LED lightbulbs will mean your home’s lighting won’t make your pockets feel quite so light. They require just half the energy of older forms of eco bulb, and are considerably more efficient than conventional halogen lighting.
Citizens Advice says leaving an LED bulb on for three hours a day will cost £2 over the course of a year, compared to £13 for a standard halogen bulb. The upfront cost will be greater (around £180 for a whole home, according to the Energy Saving Trust), but the improvement is likely to pay for itself relatively quickly, saving you around £60 a year.
You will also save money in the long run. LEDs have a much longer lifespan than other types of bulb – providing 10 years of light on average compared to just 2 years’ for a typical halogen bulb.
How to use less energy in the bathroom
30. Reduce your time in the shower
You can knock £70 off your annual energy bill by reducing your shower time, according to the Energy Saving Trust. A typical household can make this saving if its occupants cut their showers to 4 minutes – the length of a typical pop song.
Want to save water and get your hands on water freebies? Visit our handy guide on how to get help with your water bills.
31. Swap baths for showers
If you’re a particular fan of taking baths, you could shave a fair few pounds off your annual bill by scaling them back. The Energy Saving Trust says you could save £23 a year (£11 on energy, £12 on water) by taking one less bath per week and replacing it with a 4-minute shower.