Almost 40% of Irish households have switched electricity suppliers to Bord Gais or Airtricity over the last two years. This will certainly help many homes reduce electricity bills in these cold and lean months, and with a re-branded ESB expected to enter the market soon, we can expect prices to fall even further.
For the 60% of households that have not switched, they are leaving over €100 million in potential savings on the table, so switching is still the quickest and easiest way to reduce electricity bills for the majority of households.
Even with better electricity prices available, there are still interesting ways to reduce electricity bills even further.
Saving by using electricity at night
Using electricity at certain times of day or night is often thought to have a different cost. However, for most households, running appliances at peak times (like breakfast time or 5pm to 7pm) will make no difference to electricity bills whatsoever. These are known as peak times by the energy companies because it’s when our consumption is at it’s highest. Households generally pay the same for electricity used at these times as they would for using electricity at any other time of day.
In the coming years, a new way of using and paying for electricity called “Smart Metering” will change that, but in Ireland we’re still in the testing stages and only a few thousand households have smart meters at the moment.
Using timers to run appliances like washing machines, dishwashers and dryers overnight will only save money if you have a Nightsaver meter and a Nightsaver tariff.
Nightsaver meters can be installed quickly and are usually free. These special meters have two dials, one that measures consumption during the day and one that measures consumption at night. Diligent households can make considerable savings with a Nightsaver tariff, but if the only things running overnight are the fridge and a few lights, a Nightsaver tariff will actually lead to higher bills.
The general rule for making a Nightsaver tariff worthwhile is that a household needs to shift at least 20% of its overall consumption on to the night rate. Anything less than that and it will cost more than a standard tariff. Luckily it’s not too hard to do. Timers on appliances that use the most energy like washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and immersions heaters can shift more than 35% of consumption onto the cheaper rates, which can lead to considerable savings.
With a Nightsaver tariff, electricity on the night rate can be nearly half as expensive as standard daytime rates and a few cent more expensive than a standard rate during the rest of the day. There is also a higher standing charge which is why bills can end up costing more unless as much usage as possible is shifted to the overnight rates. The hours for Nightsaver rates are usually 11pm to 8am.
The reason Nightsaver tariffs and rates exist is because energy companies want to encourage the use of more electricity at night to even out their supply patterns. It’s not easy to turn generators off when consumption drops so there is usually an excess of electricity available at night when demand is down. In order to encourage us to use the excess electricity, suppliers charge less for it.
Another great way to reduce electricity bills is to use a portable electricity monitor. These clever little gadgets have a screen that tells you in real time how much electricity your home is using and how much it is actually costing you. They are now available in most electronics shops for about €40 and the manufacturers claim that by just having one, household electricity bills can be reduced by more than at least 10%.
They work by measuring increases and decreases in the amount of electricity flowing from the meter and then sending this information to the monitor. They can be very precise and make it easy to discover just how much electricity household appliances actually use. They can tell you how much it costs to run a wash, how much electricity the kettle or electric shower uses and how much leaving gadgets on standby overnight actually costs.
Electricity monitors are wireless and portable so they can be carried around the house to check consumption as gadgets and appliances are turned on and off. With increased awareness that electricity monitors provide, most households should find their electricity usage falling.