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Most of us will be feeling the pinch following the festive period and with the 10th of January being Cut Your Energy Costs Day, it’s a good time to find ways of reducing our energy costs, although anytime of the year is the perfect time to start.

With climate change being a major topic around the world and with so much media coverage and pressure to do more, it can sometimes leave us feeling overwhelmed. I mean, how much of an impact would unplugging my laptop when its charged really have on such a global challenge anyway? The truth is, if everyone became more efficient in the 25 million UK homes, it would add up to a considerable contribution, with the average UK household spending around £1,250 a year on energy (heating and power) according to OFGEM, the industry regulator. With energy being one of the biggest bills most of us have to pay, we might ask ourselves what can we do to be more efficient. By cutting our energy costs we can also reduce our impact on the environment. Saving money and the planet sounds like a great combination and can be easy to do.

With an average of £104 a month being spent on energy, we can make both small and large changes to the way we think about, and use our energy, that will not only improve our bank balance but reduce our carbon footprint too - and loads of them are free.

Electricity

The Free ones

Switching off unused devices and appliances at the plug when they’re not in use can save up to £85 over a year. Leaving devices and appliances on unnecessarily can make up 25% of your energy bill if not managed. Things like the TV, games consoles, lights, internet routers and devices left plugged in when fully charged are known as vampire or phantom loads. In other words, things that are using energy without us even realising. Being mindful and managing your energy responsibly by removing phantom loads can keep money in your pocket.

Line drying your clothes (weather permitting) can save up to £30 a year and washing clothes at 30°C uses around 40% less energy than washing at 40°C. Another way to save money on your electricity bill for free.

The Not So Free ones

There are a wide range of energy efficient and smart tech and gadgets available to help us reduce our energy use and costs. It’s estimated that this market is worth a massive $103 billion! So, what is feasibly available to you and me?

Switching to LED lighting can save you up to 80% of the energy used by conventional light bulbs. Intelligent power or smart plugs can automatically turn off when devices are fully charged and can even be controlled via your phone, timer and even your smart speaker!

Other, more expensive investments, but equally worthwhile if you can afford them, are renewable technology options such as roof mounted solar panels. With current electricity costs, these take on average around 10 years to payback the initial investment, however with rising energy costs and falling installation and manufacturing costs this could be sooner in the future. Generating your own electricity everyday of the year is a great way of securing your energy supply and avoiding future price rises. The University is looking into various options of expanding its renewable generation systems throughout the estate to help achieve our carbon reduction targets and lower energy costs.

When the time comes to replace electrical appliances in the home, savings can be made by selecting the highest energy efficiency rated appliance to maximise savings. For instance, an A+++ rated fridge freezer could save over £300 a year, even when compared to an A+ equivalent.

Gas

The other most common form of energy we use is gas. From cooking to cleaning, it’s fairly likely that most of us will use gas either directly or indirectly every day.

The Free Ones

Using lids on pans when cooking can save about 3% in energy, per pan. Plus, the food cooks faster, and the faster it cooks the sooner you can turn the hob off. Cooking or re-heating small portions of food in the microwave can save up to 80% of the energy used by using an oven.

Controlling your own thermal comfort by wearing layers, jumpers, blankets and taking advantage of natural day light are great ways to control the temperature of your home, especially in those unpredictable spring and autumn days.

Adjusting your boiler’s heating and hot water temperatures can save you a small fortune over a year with very little impact to performance. Some boilers even have an ‘ECO’ button or setting to make this even easier. Turning your temperatures down by just 1 or 2°C can save up to 10% a month! If you don’t have your boiler’s user manual, don’t have access to your boiler or don’t feel comfortable making the adjustments, you can seek the advice of a professional heating engineer. If you are in University accommodation, we set our boilers to the most economical settings already, so if you would like to speak to someone about your heating we ask that you don’t adjust the boiler - contact Facilities Helpdesk and they’ll put you in touch with the right people.

Managing all of your heating systems from setting time schedules on your thermostat, adjusting your thermostatic radiator valves (TRV’s) in the rooms you use less frequently and turning your thermostat down by just 1°C can save you up to 20% on your energy. That’s up to £100 a year!

The Not So Free ones

Loft insulation can save up to £135 a year on your heating costs if you have none in place, and around £30 a year by improving loft insulation you already have.

Draught proofing around draughty doors, windows and letter boxes can actually save you around £30 a year. Draught proofing isn’t too expensive and you can use curtains, blinds, old clothing and towels to keep the heat in.

Installing smart thermostats that can learn your heating requirements and can be controlled via your smart devices is becoming the most popular technology in UK homes. On average costing between £100-£200 and saving 15-20%, they can easily pay back the investment in a short time period. Some smart thermostats can even turn your heating on and off automatically by knowing when you’re leaving or returning home by being linked to your phone.

Upgrading your boiler to an ‘A’ rated energy efficiency boiler can help you stay warm for less, with some manufacturers claiming to save the average household up to £200 a year on their gas bill.

Your Energy Supplier

If you do arrange your own energy suppliers, selecting the most competitive energy supplier and tariff is a great way to reduce your energy costs before you even use any. With over 60 energy suppliers to choose from, they all want your custom and offer a range of tariffs to suit everyone. Make sure you look at both unit cost and standing charges (the cost of getting the energy to you and maintaining and improving infrastructure) as these can vary between suppliers and tariffs. The University’s accommodation electricity is supplied by a 100% renewable tariff to ensure the source of the electricity we use is renewable and carbon free.

Most suppliers will install smart meters on your energy supplies free of charge, but make sure to check first if this is something you would like. Smart meters can assist you in managing your energy usage and you’ll receive accurate billing for only the energy you use. Understanding your usage via smart meters can help cut energy bills by up to £20 a month.

Comparison websites are a convenient resource to find the most suitable deals, remember, not all suppliers use comparison websites so it may be worth checking out the ones that don’t, too. If you do decide to switch your supplier, the process is very easy. It is arranged by your new supplier and usually takes around 3-4 weeks to complete.

Keep on top of when your energy tariff expires as some suppliers may move you to a less competitive standard tariff once yours ends. Make sure to add it in your diary and check your emails for your supplier informing you that your tariff is coming to an end.

If you’re privately renting, speak to your landlord about making improvements as it’s beneficial to both parties. You can make savings while the property becomes more valuable, and it improves their Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which landlords are obliged to share when they market the property, making it easier to rent. Landlords can take advantage of grants for LED lighting, insulation and new central heating systems. Tenants also have access to funding as long as the landlord has given permission for the work to be carried out. Since April 2016 tenants have been able to request consent from their landlords to carry out energy efficiency improvements to privately rented properties (it is the responsibility of the tenants to ensure that the works are funded and no upfront costs should fall on the landlord, unless they agree to contribute).

The University of Chester welcomes any suggestions for improving the efficiency of our accommodation. If you have any questions, suggestions or would like help or advice with your energy, the University’s Sustainability Unit are happy to help and can be contacted by emailing greenchester@chester.ac.uk, via the Green Chester website, and you can find us via Portal and social media.

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