Image 15 ways to use less electricity and save money
Image Daragh Cassidy
Head Writer

Being energy efficient is both good for the environment as well as your pocket. With that in mind, here's a list of 15 easy ways to reduce your electricity consumption, lower your bills, and do your bit for the planet.

1. Make sure your water cylinder is properly insulated

We all know this, but it's a biggie.

Heating water uses more energy than anything else in your home and can account for half of your annual electricity costs in some cases.

You can reduce your water heating costs by up to 30% just by properly insulating your tank.

A good three-inch thick lagging jacket will pay for itself in no time and save you a bundle.

Also, there's a misconception among many Irish people that turning on and off the immersion uses more energy and that it's cheaper to continually keep your water hot. This is false. Only turn on your immersion for when you need hot water. Don't leave it on 24/7 - as it'll just increase your bill.  

2. Conserve water

As well as being good for the environment, conserving water, in this case hot water, will also be good for your pocket.  

As mentioned above, heating water uses a lot of energy so make sure you don't waste it. 

When washing your hands, brushing your teeth, or rinsing the dishes, don't leave the hot tap running too long as you're literally pouring money down the drain. And it goes without saying that a shower will usually use far less hot water than a bath, particularly if you invest in an Echo shower head. So save getting into the tub for when you genuinely need a long and relaxing soak! Or better still, go all out on a walk-in shower and get rid of the bath tub altogether.   

But when taking a shower, try not spend more than five minutes in it. And you could even "treat" yourself to a cold shower once in a while - the benefits are manifold we're told!  

See here for 12 tips on how to use less water and save money.

3. Use your dishwasher

Believe it or not, your dishwasher is more efficient than you. In fact, a full dishwasher uses less than half the energy you do when washing dishes by hand and uses several litres less water too.

Just make sure you only turn it on when you have a full load to do. 

4. Go for cooler washes 

Up to 90% of the energy that your washing machine or dishwasher uses is for heating the water, not for running the machine. (This is why Eco washes often take much longer than standard washes - they're heating the water up more slowly to save you money.)

So go for the 30 degree wash for your clothes where possible as well as the 50 degree wash for your dishes. Your pocket will thank you and the end result will be practically the same!    

5. Get an electricity monitor and find out which gadgets are the biggest energy hogs

Electricity monitors are becoming more and more popular and their manufacturers reckon you can knock at least 10% off your bill if you know which gadgets and appliances are using the most energy. They are pretty simple - a little clip goes around the mains cable at your meter and tells a small portable monitor in your home how much electricity you're using in real time. If you turn on the kettle or the dryer, you can see the numbers on the monitor jump up. What surprises most people is the other stuff that uses lots of energy.

When I got a monitor, the biggest surprises were the electric shower (by far the biggest electricity hog in the house), the microwave, and all the stuff connected to my TV. Now if I'm not using the xbox, it stays off, and if I'm not watching TV, I turn everything connected to it off at the mains.

You can get wireless electricity monitors cheaply in electrical shops or online, and I've had lots of fun walking around the house with it while switching stuff on and off. Owl is a popular brand and they sell for about €35. I think mine has paid for itself already!

And check out this article on which appliances use the most energy.

6. Buy more energy efficient appliances

If it's time to replace the fridge, the washing machine, the tumble dryer or the hoover, it's a good idea to look into energy ratings. Most modern appliances are more efficient than older models, but the rating will help you choose the most efficient model.

The ratings, which are compulsory, range from A to G with A being the most efficient.

However the most valuable piece of information is the actual amount of electricity that is used per cycle or per hour. Some modern washing machines and dishwashers can do a full load for less than two units of electricity (or around 40 cent). If you wash a load a day, it could save you €60 per year compared to older models - which should pay for your new washer in just a few years!

7. Use a timer plug for your lights 

A timer plug is a cost effective and simple way to control the time your lights come on and off around the home. They're pretty cheap to buy - with basic ones costing around €10 at most - and can help to reduce your electricity. 

Timer plugs are also a good way to ensure your house is well-lit when you're not there, which is great from a security perspective.

However if you're happy to spend a bit more and be able to control your lights and heat from outside the home, you should look into investing in a smart device, which brings us on to our next point...

8. Think 'Smart'  

Smart devices allow you to remotely control your home's heating and lighting via your smartphone or an internet-connected device. This means you’ve more control over your heating and lighting, which allows for greater convenience and savings on your energy bills. For example, if you’re stuck in traffic after work and will be an hour late getting home, you can easily set your heating to come on later for you, so you're not wasting money heating an empty home.    

Check out our review of some of the top smart thermostats available right now.

9. Buy low-energy light bulbs (LED)

Like the immersion, we know that they'll save us money but most of us don't know exactly how much of an impact they'll have.

An LED lightbulb uses around 80-90% less electricity than a standard bulb and will last up to 10 times longer. Replacing just one bulb will save you around €6 a year in electricity. So replacing all the lightbulbs in your home could easily save you up to €60 a year depending on how many lights you have. Not bad!      

10. Cook clever 

In most homes the oven will use about one third as much energy for every minute of usage as the electric shower. In other words, an hour of cooking is roughly the same cost as a 20-minute shower, unless you're using an uber-efficient A+ rated oven. So cooking smarter can really help you save on your bills.  

Firstly, make sure you use a timer when turning on the oven so that you know exactly when it's reached the right temperature. And when you hear the alarm sound, make sure you put your food in immediately so you're not wasting money heating an oven with nothing in it.

When your food is nearly cooked, turn off the rings/oven and use the built up heat to finish cooking your food. Your oven will stay at the exact same temperature for up to five minutes or more. Depending on usage you could save up to €20 a year just by making this one small change. And when you’ve finished cooking, keeping the oven door open while the oven cools down can help heat your home if it's cold outside.

11. Mind the fridge 

As your fridge needs to run all day, every day, it uses more energy than you might think. In fact, the cost of running a fridge could be close to €20 a month. 

For every 10–20 seconds the fridge door is left open, it takes 45 minutes (and more energy) for it to cool down to its original temperature. So don’t leave the door open for too long while getting food.

And don’t put hot food straight into the fridge or freezer. The fridge or freezer will have to work extra hard and draw more energy to cool it down.

12. Don't overfill the kettle

A surprising amount of energy (and money!) is needed to heat up water quickly. So when you're boiling the kettle for your next cuppa, make sure you only use as much water as you need.

13. Pull the plug

Even turned off, some appliances can keep drawing power (although the problem isn't nearly as bad as it used to be).

Called "standby" electricity loss because it's so often associated with electronics in standby mode, it's also known as "phantom" or "vampire" electricity (for obvious reasons).

Standby energy can account for 10% or more of the total electricity used by appliances or €50 or more to the average household's annual electricity bill. So pull the plug on the laptops, TVs and other appliances before going to bed. Not only is it safer, it’s also more economical.

14. Go easy with the tumble dryer 

Tumble dryers are big energy guzzlers so dry your clothes on a clothes horse or washing line on mild and dry days (not a regular occurrence in Ireland we'll admit!). However, when you are using your dryer, separate your clothes into lighter and heavier loads and consider buying some dryer balls to place into the machine with every load, as they can save you up to 25% on drying time. 

And only put your clothes in for the minimum amount of time possible: if they come out a tiny bit damp, you can always place them in the hotpress to finish drying off overnight. 

15. Tackle draughts 

We're going to sound like your mother here but keeping doors closed, especially between heated and unheated rooms, is essential for keeping in the warmth and lowering your heating bill.

Tackling draughts from windows, keyholes and doors is also important, so look into buying a cheap door draught for the main rooms.    

And if you have an old fireplace that you're no longer using, look at getting a chimney balloon.

Finally, get switching  

According to figures from Eurostat, Irish electricity prices are the fourth most expensive in the EU. It doesn’t help that we’ve also seen a spate of energy price increases from suppliers over the last few months.

You can read about why energy prices are on the rise here, or listen back to a recent radio interview we did on the topic

The good news is that you can offset energy price increases by switching supplier!

Switching is still the quickest and easiest way to reduce your electricity costs. Right now you could save hundreds of euro a year on your annual bills just by switching supplier. It's so simple to switch and can all be done online in minutes using our energy price comparison service.

Get in touch

We’d love to hear your comments on saving energy and money at home. I know I've left out lots of great ideas, so if you have one that isn't on the list, please let us know!

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