Many of the best ways to save energy are completely free and only require some simple changes of habit. To many people, these methods may be common sense but you may be surprised.
Have a read and let people know in the comments of any other ways you may have found to save energy that I’ve missed.
Free Ways to Save Energy
Heating is probably where a lot of your energy bill goes. It’s also very useful to have in the winter but if you are like me you will have noticed it’s getting really expensive to keep your home warm in the colder months.
Here are some tips that don’t cost a penny but will make your home warmer.
1. Close Your Windows in the Winter
This is a no-brainer – a lot of people like to have a window open for some fresh air. I am with you on that. But, if it’s really cold, heating becomes the priority so shut those windows and doors or you are literally throwing pound coins out your window.
2. Keep Room Doors Closed
Keeping your doors closed throughout your house is a simple but effective way to save energy. Just doing this will help to keep all your rooms warm and cosy. You have to try it to really appreciate the difference it makes.
We loved having the doors open between rooms but once we tried closing them we have never looked back. If you like having your room doors open, this will make a big difference to you.
3. Close Curtains or Blinds at Night
Again a simple one, as soon as that sun goes down shut your curtains, blinds, or whatever covers you have for your windows. A tremendous amount of heat is lost through windows – even in modern homes.
4. Open curtains during the day
Make sure you open your curtains during the day. Even in the UK with its weak winter sun, there will be some heat to be gained through your windows.
5. Don’t Put Wet Clothes on Radiators
Radiators are designed to give out heat. Anything you put on a radiator will insulate it making it difficult to transfer the heat from the radiator to the air in your room. Give the radiator in your room some space to allow airflow.
Keeping your radiators clear will allow them to work efficiently. So, really I am not just meaning clothes here – radiators should have nothing on them.
See below for more information on drying clothes.
6. Clear Any Dust or Debri from the Radiator Fins
Radiators fins can get really filthy. The fins are at the rear of the radiator near the wall or in between the two hot parts of a double radiator. They allow the efficient transfer of heat to the air by increasing surface area. If there is dust, hair, or old socks in there, the efficiency goes down.
A small, long brush is ideal for cleaning these. The fins can be a pain to clean out but if they are full of debris it will make a difference.
7. Ensure Radiators are not Obstructed
What I mean by this is not obstructed by furniture. If you put a couch in front of a radiator it will act as an insulator reducing the amount of heat your radiator will be able to radiate into the room. Try to keep furniture away from the radiators. If your sofa has to be in front of the radiator then pull your sofa forward a bit to give it some space – 15cm (6 inches) should be enough but more is better.
Radiators need a bit of space to work correctly.
8. Make Sure Radiators are Working as They Should
Check your radiators. They should be nice and warm across the surface when they are on. There should be no cold spots. The bottom should be slightly cooler than the top but it should not be cold.
If your radiator is cold at the top there is a good chance it will need bleeding. If it’s cold at the bottom there may be a lot of sludge in there – not easy to fix this, you will need help from a professional.
Once your radiators have been bled they will work way more efficiently.
9. Only heat the rooms you are using.
Turn down the radiator thermostats in the rooms you are not using. Personally, I have the thermostats turned down to 1 so the temperature in those rooms is generally below 16 degrees C. This is plenty of heat for empty rooms, when you go lower you may have problems with condensation.
It’s good to experiment and find the temperature that works in your home where the temperature is low but free from damp and mould. Rooms you are not using should feel cooler than the rest of the house.
Cooking can use a fair bit of energy. As with all things that use energy there are some methods you can use to make good use of that energy or trim your usage down a bit.
When using pots, use the correct size for the hob. You don’t want flames licking the sides of the pot or be able to see the glowing electric rings. The base of the pot should equal the size of the ring or be larger, if possible. The more of the pot base touching the ring the better.
If it’s an induction hob this doesn’t matter as much, as the induction hob just heats the actual pot directly, but for gas and electric it makes a difference and will cut down the waste.
Always use pot lids. You will notice a huge difference in the time it takes to heat up.
Use a steamer if you have one. They allow you to cook up to three vegetables at once using just one ring on your hob. We have had ours for years and use it almost every day.
If you have a slow cooker, these use very little power and you can cook some great one-pot meals. They take a bit of planning and you want to get the correct size for your family. We have a 3.5 litre one and there are three of us. Any more in your family and I would get the next size up, especially if you have teenagers.
Another great energy saver is the pressure cooker. They have come a long way since the 80s and are much safer with a lot fewer steam noises and sounding like they might explode. These can cook a meal literally in minutes. They are especially good for soup. The large Crockpot pressure cooker shown below is also a slow cooker and steamer so may be worth thinking about if you don’t already have those.
Make sure the oven seals are good. These allow the oven to heat up and keep the heat in there.
After you have used your oven, leave the door open to let the heat out and into your home. This can give the room a boost in heat.
Enjoy a bath? A bath is quite expensive with regard to energy use. Unless your whole family is sharing a bath (which sounds disgusting now but was the norm not very long ago) you will be pouring money down the drain. I am not saying never to have a bath, just be aware that it uses way more hot water to fill a bath than to have a shower.
A shower is way more efficient, the shorter, the better.
If you enjoy a long shower you may want to cut it down a bit – 5 minutes is plenty of time for a shower, in my humble opinion – though it’s difficult to get my family to agree.
Quick maths for a shower –
I have a 10.5kW shower. If I have a 10 minute shower I will use 10/60 x 10.5= 1.75kWh
I am paying 19.4110p per kWh
So each shower cost me 0.194110 x 1.75 = 0.34, so 34 pence per shower.
That doesn’t sound like much but I have a shower just about every day, so over the year
0.34 x 365 = £124.10
That’s quite a lot of money and that is just for me there is also my wife and teenage son. So if we all have 10-minute showers every day of the year, that’s £372.30 in a year. Cut the time of the shower to 5 minutes and your bill for showers will half. Simple.
That’s it! Shower timer ordered!
Think about how you use appliances. There are efficient ways to use them.
Everyone tells you to turn down the temperature and that’s great for lightly soiled clothing. What if you have kids or a really grubby other half?
Make sure you put in full loads. Many small loads will use way more power than one big load as well as more soap and more water. Hold back the washing till there is a pile of it ready to go if you can.
If the clothes are lightly soiled you can get away with turning down the temperature.
Ask if this clothing actually needs to be washed – it is possible to use clothes for more than one day without washing them (underwear would be an exception in my book!)
If you are lucky enough to have a dishwasher then you are in luck. New dishwashers are very efficient but to reach maximum efficiency they have to be full when you switch them on. Just like the washing machine – if you use it for small loads it loses efficiency so make sure the dishwasher is full before you put it on.
If you have to rinse dishes before filling the dishwasher, use cold water.
If you don’t have a dishwasher, fill the sink with hot water, rinse with a little bit of cold water. Never leave the hot water tap running while doing the dishes, only use the hot tap for filling the sink. If you use hot water to rinse you are literally pouring money down the drain.
A kettle uses a fair amount of energy to boil water. If you only boil what you need you will reduce the energy it takes. If you want a mug of tea, just measure the water in the mug, chuck it in the kettle, and boil it up. You will save by not boiling water you don’t need.
Anything that is plugged in should be switched off at the socket, or even better, pull out the plug when it’s not being used. Most electronic equipment will use small amounts of power to keep them on standby. Alone the amount of power is small but together it can add up very quickly and can be like having a lightbulb on 24 hours a day.
Take a moment and unplug anything that doesn’t need to be plugged in.
A fridge is essential and it runs all day. If you keep your fridge in good order it will work well for you.
Make sure the fins at the rear of the fridge are dust-free. Unplug your fridge while working at the back to keep yourself safe.
Make sure you defrost your freezer regularly. More than 5mm of ice will greatly reduce the efficiency of the freezer, making it work harder and use more energy.
Keep the doors closed – only open the doors for a minimal time, the longer the doors are open the more cold drops out and the fridge then has to work harder.
Keep an eye on the door seals. If they are damaged they should be replaced. Poor seals will let warm air in and cold air out. This means your drudge will be working harder to keep itself cool.
Small investment to save energy
Spending even small sums of money can make a big difference to your energy bills. It’s more of an investment than just buying stuff. Most of these products will pay for themselves over time.
Generally for under £100, you can get your boiler serviced. They should take a good look at your boiler, clean it out, make sure the expansion vessel is good, make sure everything is in good condition and ready to go. Getting your boiler serviced can be a real hassle, but it means that your boiler will be running as efficiently as it can and may pick up faults early before they become much larger problems.
A small investment could save you thousands in the future.
Most homes will have a thermostat now but for those who don’t you should really think about getting one. A wireless one is easy for a professional to fit and it will make a huge difference especially if your home is prone to get overheated or you forget to turn off the boiler before you go out.
Thermostats range in price from about £40 to about £250. Some are really fancy but ultimately they all do the same job – keep the temperature steady in your home. If you have the budget, a smart thermostat is great as you can control your heating even if you are not at home. So, if you leave it on by mistake you can switch it off.
We have the Nest Thermostat. If it does not see you in the house (if you don’t walk past it for 2 hours) it will automatically think you are out and switch off the heating.
I used one of these devices for many years. It’s one of the few ideas that I think actually works. It works well for a couple of reasons – it forces air across the radiator and it helps to move air about the room.
In your home, most of the hot air is up near the ceiling. The air in your room generally doesn’t move much so all the good hot air is stuck near the ceiling. These small fan devices provide a little bit of extra movement to bring the hot air back down again.
Cut Down the Draughts
Any draughty areas need to be dealt with. A lot of draughts will come from your skirtings and floorboards. I would start there.
Check around your windows and doors. If you have PVC windows and doors they should be well sealed though sometimes the mastic/silicone may have come away from the walls and will let the wind blow straight into the house. So, if you feel draughts about the doors and windows check the outsides first.
The goal is to stop as much wind as possible from getting into your home. If the wind is getting in, it’s also getting out with a lot of your heat.
Check out the price of draught excluder here.
Invest in heavy, lined curtains. They might take up a bit of space but they will cut heat loss from the windows in your home. There is probably no better way to stop the cold from a window. Not cheap but get the heaviest curtains you can afford. They may cost a few hundred pounds (although you can pay way more) but they are well worth it.
Ikea has a good range of curtains at a reasonable cost.
If you have a fireplace you may notice a bit of a draught. A chimney is designed to suck up smoke from the fire and that works whether you have a fire on the go or not. You want to cut down the air going up the chimney but it’s not a good idea to completely cut it off.
That’s where a chimney balloon comes in. It will fit up the chimney and greatly reduce the amount of heat lost. They work well and are not too difficult to fit. If you have the time you could make something similar yourself.
Check out the prices of chimney balloons here.
Clothes drying can be a big problem. If you live in a flat and the outside space is limited it can be difficult to find a space to hang your clothes. Here are a few ideas.
A pulley (Clothes Airer)
A clothes pulley is the ultimate clothes drying device. It is one of the most eco-friendly ways to dry your clothes. If you set it up correctly your clothes should be dry overnight.
In the olden days, the pulley was put in the kitchen. The kitchen used to be the warmest room and so your clothes would dry faster there. Now with central heating that has changed.
Glasgow tenement houses have high ceilings which means your laundry is well out the way, In modern houses, there is only 2.4m to play with so the location of the pulley has to be chosen carefully so you are not walking through your laundry.
If you have the space a pulley is a great investment.
I have included a fancy new one below but the basic ones are great and very little to go wrong with them. We use a 6 lath pulley which is ample for a family of four.
If you don’t have the space for a pulley then the next best thing would be a clothes horse. They can be set up anywhere you have floor space. Clothes won’t dry as quickly as on a pulley as most of the room warmth is up at the ceiling. But the advantage is you can choose to place it anywhere you like in your home or even outside on warm days.
Whirligig (Rotary Washing Line)
Without a doubt, the best place to dry clothes is outside. When the weather is better and you have some outside space then a whirligig or rotary washing line is the way to go. These dryers use up very little space and will hold a lot of laundry. They can be used for a long time even in Scotland – we use ours for about 6 or 7 months depending on the weather.
Check out the prices of whirligigs here. Don’t forget a ground spike for fitting. Best to cement them in but a ground spike will do the job till you do.
A Length of Rope (Washing Line)
Really, all that is required to dry clothes is somewhere you can hang them. A simple piece of string or rope will do the job. You can usually find two points to tie a rope between. Once you have done that you have a drying area. This is by far the cheapest and the easiest option.
For us, the best setup is a pulley for use in the winter and dry outside in the spring, summer and autumn.
Don’t forget you will also need some poles to hold up the line. Wet clothes are quite heavy.
Clothes drying gives off a lot of moisture. We would notice high humidity levels when drying clothes, especially in the winter when you really don’t want to open the windows. We managed to sort this by buying a dehumidifier. We bought a few cheap ones but they never really worked. So, we bit the bullet and bought a proper dehumidifier.
This works amazingly well, put it in a moist room for a day and you will notice a difference. We tend to have it under our pulley to absorb any water from wet clothes. It works incredibly well, clothes can be dry in just a few hours. Well worth looking into if you are having humidity problems in your home.
This is the one we use and it works very well for us.
For the mere cost of £55 (at time of writing) you could get a more efficient kettle. Let me say that putting only the water you require into an ordinary kettle works very well. This option is for the lazy people, like me, who can’t be bothered to do that.
There are a few kettles on the market that only heat the water you require. We use a Breville HotCup kettle that only boils one cup at a time. We have been using this for years and it works very well for us. We have found it to be very reliable and it allows you to do other things while it pours out the hot water straight into your waiting mug. Perfect.
Lighting is an obvious way to save money. Most of us will have LED light bulbs. They use about 1/10th the energy of the old filament light bulbs and about half the power of CFL bulbs.
If you have CFL or filament bulbs and they are used a lot you should definitely change those. For bulbs that are rarely used – in cupboards or unused rooms, I wouldn’t worry too much and change those when you can.
The bulbs that sneak past us are the halogen spot lights. These are generally flush lights that are sunk into the ceiling. The old halogens are usually from 35 to 50W per bulb. The new LEDs with similar brightness are about 5W, this means you can run 10 LED bulbs for the same cost as one halogen.
Usually, halogen lights are in the kitchen or bathroom and sometimes in other rooms too. Well worth changing these over especially in a well-used room like the kitchen.
Usually, they cost about £3 each – if you are changing from halogen I would get the warm white bulbs – this is closer to the halogen light. The cool white bulbs can be a bit blue.
Have a look at LED Lightbulbs here.
If you have made it all the way to the bottom, I hope this has given you some ideas on how to save energy.
If I have missed anything or if there are some good ideas you would like to share to help out other people then leave a comment below.