Power moves - how to save electricity

Power Moves

On April 1st (fools day) the government raised the cap on energy prices, this comes while the effect of all that printed money and borrowing used to pay for lockdowns, is hitting us with a rise in inflation. Wages are stagnating and there’s an energy crisis. The result is being hailed as the worst fall in living standards on record, and with the price of electricity set to almost double as price caps are progressively lifted, this is how to save electricity.
Broadly speaking there are 2 ways of cutting your electricity bill, simply use less electricity by using our top tips below, and/or move to a cheaper tariff.

The lockdown bill has finally hit the table, and we’re picking up the tab!
The tariff tangle

As far as your tariff is concerned, it’s not good news. Firstly the lockdowns meant a fall in demand, which caused a fall in supply. As restrictions eased, demand went up, with a lag in supply which led to a surge in prices. Government caps on prices meant that many companies went bust, things have got even worse now that Russia, a major exporter of gas has gone on the rampage.The EU hedged its bets on Russian gas, failing to invest in self-sufficiency. The UK only used 4% of Russian gas but with increased demand from Europe comes a hike in the global price and as 42% of our electricity comes from gas… it’s not looking good.

However, you can still get cheaper electricity by using it at off-peak times by opting for an economy 7, dual or multi-rate tariff. Essentially at specified times throughout the day, when usage is low, usually late at night, the rate is cheaper.  NOTE: Many households I visit are not even aware they have a dual tariff, and are squandering these benefits.

This especially suits homes that use electricity for heating and hot water, but you could also program energy-heavy appliances to run at night, such as tumble dryers and washing machines. Although be warned, a spin-cycle in the early morning is a sure way to seriously fall out with your neighbours.

EU dependance on Russian gas has pushed up the global price

How to save electricity, the 5 ways

1. LED Lighting

Light Emitting Diodes, LEDs, were used exclusively as control-panel indicators. Producing very little heat they were energy-efficient but not bright enough to illuminate a room..Over the past 15 years these inexpensive components have evolved beyond recognition.

You can get them in any lumen rating, in any colour and they use up to ten times less electricity than conventional bulbs. Some are ‘smart’ so you can control them from your phone and spook your friends by turning them on and off when you’re not around.

If you want a good quality bulb you can’t go wrong with Phillips, I always recommend them to my customers. They not only make great standard bulbs, but also pioneered smart lighting with their Hue system. While I’m not suggesting forking out for a smart lighting system, don’t buy cheap bulbs from the supermarket, as they won’t last long.

LEDs – used to be very small, dim and mostly green or red
2. Go smart!

If you don’t have a smart meter installed yet, ask your electricity provider to give you one. Studies have shown that giving people something to monitor their electricity usage can cut usage up to 15%. If for some reason you can’t get one, you can buy your own monitor for around £50.

You can monitor your individual appliances and devices using smart plugs with built-in energy monitors, you can also use these to switch appliances on and off for off-peak use (as described above). Or use on lights for security.

Pay attention to appliances that use a heating process, these are the most energy-hungry. For example, if you have an immersion water tank, it may be better to set the heater on a timer. Set it to come on at the start of the day (or ideally in off-peak hours) for morning showers and breakfast, and a little in the evening (for doing the dishes). However, be aware that if you have a large household with hot-water used throughout the day, it might be cheaper to keep it on all the time. Sometimes heating an entire tank up from scratch will use up more electricity than just leaving it on. An energy monitor will help you calculate this.

How do you get capitalise from off-peak electric heating? You would need to buy storage heaters. These charge-up bricks during the night, which then release their heat throughout the day. Unfortunately these are not cheap and expensive to install so it's worth checking out UK Energy Support's electric storage heater replacement grant, applications are now open for July 2023.

Energy monitoring will keep you on budget
3. Be smart with your appliances

Do washing on a colder wash. Modern washing detergents are engineered to operate efficiently at low or even cold temperatures, so it’s generally not necessary to wash clothes above 20 celsius and not doing so will save you money in the long run. Don’t do lots of little washes – try and get it all done all in one cycle. Conversely, don’t overfill your kettle, boiling enough water for each hot drink you wish to make will save you money. Tea tastes better slighting off the boil at 95, and the optimum brewing temperature for coffee is 85. You can buy kettles that allow you to set the desired target temperature for your drinks, which will give you a modest saving on electricity while enhancing your beverage’s flavour.

With a revival in 90's fashion, Ironing has become an even more pointless chore, better to stop doing it. If your boss chastises you for looking scruffy, say that you’re feeling the hit of the energy crisis and segue into asking for a raise.

Don't iron, ask for a raise instead
4. Leakage from power supplies, or things left on

It’s astonishing how much electricity gets wasted by leaving little power-supplies plugged into the wall. ‘Wall-warts’ as they are known in America, are little transformers that convert the mains electricity into a usable size and type for a specific appliance. Many continue to use up energy even when the device they are powering is not on, although increasingly many are smart enough to turn off when not in use.

Check your chargers and power-supplies by touch, if they are warm when not in use – then they are haemorrhaging energy and you need to turn them off or unplug them.

Or better still, plug them into smart plugs and turn them off from your phone, or by instructing Alexa to ‘power down!’ every night. Also check other equipment that you sometimes forget to turn off. I have a big old hi-fi amp that my baby son likes to turn on, it really kicks out heat, even when it’s just sitting idle. I have that connected to a smart socket so I know it’s not going to get accidentally left on. Again the great thing with these smart-sockets is that they will tell you how much energy they are using even when not in use.

Turning off your equipment makes a big difference
5. Invest in energy efficient technology

As time goes on our appliances become more and more efficient. We live in an incredible time in terms of technology – stay away from cheaper less efficient devices. I’ve often been called out because an office, or household have plugged in cheap little fan heaters and the circuits get overloaded and trip. It’s easy money as I just go in, unplug them, and leave! These little devils drink juice like a bottomless well, and will make your meter spin. Don’t buy them! Instead choose convection or oil heaters.

Look for appliances using heat pump technology. It uses almost 50% less energy than standard appliances. We have recently installed and tested this Beko heat pump dryer, it is a fantastic machine.

Gas boilers will be banned in UK new builds from 2025. Heat pumps are the future, or at least part of it. Retrofitting them in older buildings isn’t so straightforward as to be effective, you’d have to invest a lot in installing insulation. The good news is that as time goes on technology gets cheaper, and as leaps are made in home solar and even nuclear it looks like we won’t be dependent on fossil fuels for much longer.

Technology that uses heat pumps is cleaner and more efficient
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