Finding ways to save money isn't always easy. Something that can be done with minimal effort, however, is improving your home's energy efficiency- which in turn will help you cut down on your electricity bills.
Many people assume that they are already as energy-efficient as they can be. You might be surprised, though, at just how many steps can be taken, some of which are almost unheard of, to help make your brick home even more efficient than before.
Saving energy where you can, without it being obvious to anyone in the household, is a clear win-win. Not only can you save money on your monthly bills, you can also do your bit for the environment, decreasing your individual carbon footprint. In some cases, you may even be able to increase your household value by taking simple steps for a better future.
What is energy efficiency?
All household appliances, from your TV to your washing machine, require energy to run. Some of them require more energy than others. Usually, the bigger the appliance, the bigger the amount of energy required.
To be energy efficient is to only use the energy that your household needs. This means not wasting energy where it could have been saved; for example, leaving on light switches, or opening a window to let heat escape from your central heating.
While there are many things we can do ourselves to be energy efficient, there are also numerous external factors we can implement to improve the energy efficiency of our homes that should be considered. Some of the key ways we can make a difference- and reduce our bills in the process- are highlighted below.
Mindful appliance use
It sounds obvious, but simply turning off appliances at the switch when you're not using them can be a great way to improve your household's energy efficiency. You'd be surprised at how much energy an appliance can waste by being on when it's not needed, and simply switching it off can prevent unnecessary energy use.
Light bulbs are a common household appliance that is left on when we don't necessarily require them. They might only be small, but leaving them on in multiple rooms around the house can rack up an entirely unnecessary electricity bill.
Some household appliances can be left on standby when not in use. Be aware that while this mode sounds like a good option, appliances in standby mode still consume unnecessary electricity simply by being switched on. Skipping the standby mode altogether and going straight for the “off” button should help you save money in the long run.
Consider solar panels
There is arguably a no more efficient form of energy than solar power or power from the sun. Many people are now choosing to invest in solar panels for their household, and for good reason. The sun is constant presence day-to-day, and can therefore provide a constant source of energy to a household.
Solar panels work by absorbing the sun's photovoltaic rays and converting their energy into electricity. This electricity can then be used to power all of your household appliances. While the surface area of a solar panel system makes it difficult to provide all of a household's electricity for the day, it should certainly be a noticeable help.
The initial upfront cost of solar panels can be off-putting, but the money saved on a long-term basis more than makes up for this. Once solar panels are installed, they require relatively no maintenance. Because the sun is a completely free source of energy, you can expect quite a substantial reduction in your energy bills, as you'll only be paying for the surplus electricity used that hasn't been solar-provided.
Insulate your exterior walls & loft
Insulation is a must when it comes to the energy efficiency of a home. Households that are lacking insulation are hindered both in summer and winter- warm air is allowed to escape in the colder weather, and cooler air cannot be maintained when it's hot outside.
As with solar panels, insulation can be quite costly upfront but is more than worth it in the long run. With less heat escaping through your walls, your heating system will not need to produce as much heat to counteract this, helping to lower your monthly bill.
It's worth noting that your loft is just as important to insulate as your exterior walls- if not more. In the colder months, when your heating system is working extra hard to warm your home, so much energy can be wasted if this heat rises and is able to escape through your loft. Ensuring that your loft is insulated creates a barrier to trap the heat inside, decreasing overall heat requirements and improving energy efficiency.
Switch energy tariffs
How long have you been with the same energy provider now? Can't remember? Chances are, there's something cheaper out there, and you could be saving money without even being aware of it.
It's nice to be comfortable in what we know, but it's even nicer putting in that little bit of work to switch tariffs and reaping the benefits that come from it. If you don't know whether you've got the best energy deal, the easiest place to start is by visiting a comparison site online. There you can enter your specific requirements and generate a personalized deal based on this information.
Buy a smart energy meter
Sometimes it's hard to understand just how much energy you're wasting if you don't actually know how much you're using on a daily basis. This is where a smart meter can help- it will tell you which of your household appliances are using energy, and when.
The great thing about a smart energy meter is that you can monitor individual energy usage, which means seeing where most energy is going to waste. With this knowledge, you can take the appropriate steps to reduce energy consumption where you can.
Smart meters are generally quite common today, and most energy providers will offer one free of charge. If you haven't been offered one, though, or if you're after something a little fancier, there are plenty of options available for purchase on the internet.
Choose energy efficient lighting
There are multiple bulb options on the market today, but only some of them are energy efficient. While you might not see the point in switching up your bulbs for ones that use less energy, it's certainly worthwhile in the long run, if you're looking to lower your electricity bills.
The best energy-saving light bulbs currently available are LEDs, light-emitting diodes, and CFLs, or compact fluorescent lamps. LEDs produce a more direct beam of light, making them suitable for kitchen spotlights and another focused lighting. The light produced by CFLs is more all-encompassing, making them ideal for lampshades and ceiling lights.
Energy-saving light bulbs tend to cost more upfront than their traditional alternatives, but this cost is made up for overtime by the money saved in the long run. Make sure to shop around before purchasing an energy saving light bulb- you're looking for one that produces high-quality light and has a long life, so don't be tempted to buy cheap.
Consider an energy efficient boiler
If you've got an old boiler, chances are, it's preventing your home from being as energy-efficient as it could be. Boilers lose efficiency over time, and in boilers that are over six years old, chemical energy is converted into heat energy far less effectively.
Newer boilers are clever in that they can reuse heat from exhaust gases that would otherwise go to waste. When boilers are accountable for over half of the average household's bill, simply switching up to a new one can make a sizeable difference to your total monthly cost.
While having a modern boiler is important, regular checks that your boiler and heating system are working are also essential. This way you can ensure a fault with the system is not causing you to waste additional energy where it might have been avoided.
Double glaze your windows
Heat can easily escape through draughty windows, which is why to double, and even triple, glazing is essential to an energy efficient household. The additional layers of glass are designed to reduce heat loss, with the sealed air gap between the two panes acting as a layer of insulation.
Aside from their energy efficiency, an advantage to double glazed windows is their ability to reduce outdoor noise from getting in, which is an added bonus if you live near a busy road. If a warmer, quieter home sounds appealing to you, it's definitely worth looking into the double glazing options for your own household.
Be aware that if you have older windows in your home, they might not be as effective as they once were. Consider investing in a modern alternative if you think this may be an issue for you. Additionally, you should be sure to close your curtains at night to act as an extra barrier to keep the heat in.