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 immersion 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 the amount of time your immersion needs to be on, and therefore 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.
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.
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 gallons 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!
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, but 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 one unit of electricity. 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 your next step.
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.
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 the 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, keep the oven door open while the oven cools down so it’ll help heat your home.
11. Mind the fridge
For every 10–20 seconds the fridge door is left open, it takes 45 minutes 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, many appliances keep drawing power. 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 15% 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 and doors is also important, so look into buying a cheap door draught for the main rooms.
Finally, get switching
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.
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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!