16 ways to use less electricity and save money
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 16 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.

When we think of energy guzzlers we immediately think of the tumble dryer or the electric shower. However heating water uses more energy than anything else in most homes 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 hot 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. If you have a fancy shower routine (think shampoo followed by conditioner, body scrub, face mask etc!) think about turning off the shower for a minute or three while you lather up and scrub.  

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.

A dishwasher uses around half the hot water you’d use if you were washing your dishes by hand. So it’s good for the environment as well as your pocket. 

A mid-range dishwasher can do a full 65 degree cycle for around 1.5 units of electricity or 65 cents at today’s elevated prices (even less if you run it at night and have a night saver meter or smart meter).  

Just make sure you only turn it on when you have a full load to do. And there is no need to pre-rinse (you’re wasting water and besides, dishwasher tablets actually clean better when there is some dirt to stick to).   

4. Go for cooler (full) washes 

Up to 80% 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!    

Also, only use your machine when you have a full load. While some newer machines are intelligent enough to know when you have a half load, most aren't. 

5. Turn the thermostat down

Most homes in Ireland set their heating way too high, at up to 22 or 23 degrees.  

20 degrees should be more than enough (if this leaves you a tiny bit cool, consider putting on an extra layer of clothing instead). 

For every one degree you push down the dial, you can shave up to 10% off your heating costs.

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. Modern appliances are way more efficient than older models, but the rating will help you choose the most efficient model.

The ratings, which have recently been updated, now range from A to G with A being the most efficient. See here for more info on energy labels.

However the most valuable piece of information is the actual amount of electricity that is used per cycle or per hour. Some ultra-modern washing machines and dishwashers can for example can do a full load for around one unit of electricity (or around 35 - 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!      

And when you're leaving the room, turn off the lights. There's a misconception among many Irish people that turning on and off appliances regularly uses excess electricity and that it may be better to keep appliances on for most of the time.

This is wrong - especially when it comes to newer and more modern devices. If you're leaving the room, even if only for a few minutes, you'll save money by turning off the lights, the TV or the portable heater etc.

10. Cook clever 

In most homes the oven will use up to one third as much energy for every minute of usage as the electric shower. In other words, an hour of using the oven for your Sunday roast is roughly the same cost as a 15-20 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. You wouldn't let the electric shower run for minutes on end with no one in it, would you?

Avoid opening the oven door too much. You can lose about 20% of the heat when you open it so don’t do it unless you have to as the oven will have to reheat itself and that will require more energy. Keep the oven door clean so you can look in instead.

When your food is nearly cooked, turn off the oven or rings and use the built up heat to finish cooking your food. Your oven will stay at the around the same temperature for up to five minutes. 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.

Also, when it comes to cooking, try use your microwave for smaller meals instead of your oven or stove as it's a super-efficient appliance. But when it comes to defrosting, try let your frozen food defrost in the fridge if you have the time – it'll usually taste a bit better and requires no extra energy at all.   

Speaking of fridges...

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 €10 a month or more.

For every 10–20 seconds the fridge door is left open, it takes about 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.

Finally, for best performance keep your fridge set to around 3 or 4 degrees. Any colder and you'll just end up ruining you fruit and veg. 

See here for more energy savings tips for the kitchen and cooking.

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.

But if you want to take things to the next level, boil a full kettle in the morning and pour the remainder into a thermos flask, keeping it warm for the rest of the day. This saves boiling a kettle several times through the day.

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, computers, TVs, games consoles 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.

Don’t overload your tumble dryer to try dry your clothes in one load. It’s a false economy. Two medium-sized loads will usually dry quicker than one heavy load.

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...

  • Buy a door draught excluder for your main rooms    
  • If you have an old fireplace that you're no longer using, look at getting a chimney balloon
  • Place a sponge in your letter box if it's prone to letting in the wind
  • If your windows are old, buy some cheap window seal tape on places like Amazon

16. Go to work - or use the gym! 

If you've a gym membership consider showering at the gym after your workouts instead of at home (if you don't already).

A five-minute electric shower costs around 35 cent meaning if you were to shower at the gym even three times a week, it could save you around a fiver a month (every little helps!)

And while more of us are now working from home (and largely enjoying it) be mindful that more time at home means way higher energy usage. All those cups of tea and coffee that you make at home, and all that time you spend on the computer, adds up. As will the costs for heating your home office when the days get colder. 

So if you don't live too far from work consider the odd extra trip into the office.  

Move your usage

If you have a smart meter or a night saver meter, see if you can move your consumption to less expensive times of the day and night.

Some smart tariffs offer completely free electricity on some days at the weekend while night saver meters offer up to half-price electricity between 11pm and 8am in winter time (12am and 9am in summer). Many new appliances have delay start timers and this can help you avoid peak-time usage.

There are of course potential fire risks to running appliances late at night, so consider this and weigh up the risk/cost benefits for yourself.

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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