Ten ways to cut your home energy bills

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WHEN it comes to saving energy at home, every little helps and it only takes a little effort.

Home energy is a huge contributor to Scotland’s carbon emissions, with it being provided mostly by the burning of coal, oil and gas, even if indirectly – while you might not use these fuels at home, at least some of the power you do use will have been produced this way. Cutting these emissions by making your home as energy-efficient as you can will help slow down man-made climate change, and bring your bills down too. It doesn’t take much effort to be kinder to the environment, and your bank balance – there are so many small (and cheap) changes you can make.

Picture: PA

Picture: PA

Take it down a notch

Turning your thermostat down by just one degree celsius can reduce your yearly heating bill by as much as 10 per cent. And thinking about how you use your heating doesn’t take much effort – turn down or switch off the radiators in rooms you won’t be using. Using the timer on your central heating system rather than leaving it on when you’re not home means you can still come back to a warm house without wasting energy, and bleeding your radiators regularly will make them more effective.

Have a lightbulb moment

A traditional 100W light bulb is responsible for enough CO2 emissions to fill a balloon every 30 minutes. Switch to energy-saving lightbulbs, which convert electricity to light more effectively, and each one you use will save you around £7 a year – which soon adds up when you think how many bulbs you use in your house. Energy efficient bulbs don’t have to be replaced as often – compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) last around ten times longer than traditional bulbs, and if you choose light-emitting diode (LED) models they can last up to 30 years, off-setting the higher initial cost.

Picture: Getty

Picture: Getty

On the boil

Gas central heating is the most energy-efficient way to heat your home, reducing your energy use and carbon emissions and saving you money in comparison with an electric heating system, and upgrading to a modern boiler makes it even more so. A modern A-rated condensing boiler with heating controls can knock 30 per cent off your gas bill. You might even be eligible for financial help with getting a new central heating system installed – call Home Energy Scotland free on 0808 808 2282 to find out.

Flip the switch

Switching appliances off at the wall, rather than leaving them on standby, when you’re not using them, could cut your electricity bill by as much as 8 per cent, and save you around £35 annually. Your TV, Freeview or DVR box, games consoles, iPod speaker, digital radio, stereo and desktop computer all waste energy when they’re sitting in standby mode and not being used, and switching them back on when you need them only takes an extra minute or two. Some newer devices will switch off automatically when not in use, so look out for this feature when you’re replacing them. Energy-saving adaptor plugs, which you can get for as little as £10, allow appliances to use less energy when plugged into them, and will automatically cut off the energy supply when they are left on standby – some also have timers fitted, allowing you to programme lights to come on before you get home, or at regular intervals when you are away for security.

Water, water everywhere

The need to save water doesn’t often spring to mind in Scotland, with our abundant (to say the least) rainfall and plentiful natural reserves. But water purification processes to make it fit for drinking and home use requires a huge amount of energy to run pumping stations and reservoirs and treat waste water, and more than a third of the cost of heating a home goes on heating water. Fixing leaks and turning off taps stops the money and energy used from going down the drain, as do taking showers instead of baths, only boiling the water you need in the kettle (which by itself will save you £20 a year), and turning off the tap while you brush your teeth.

Laundry day the green way

Upgrading to an A-rated washing machine when it comes time to replace yours will save you up to 50 per cent of the energy it took to run the old one, but until then there are plenty of ways to make wash day more environmentally friendly, and economical. All but the very dirtiest of clothes (think gardening gear or rugby kit) will get clean at 30 degrees so there’s no need to use higher temperatures – which use up to 40 per cent more electricity. Only putting a wash on when you have a full load will save energy, as will switching the machine off as soon as the cycle finishes even if you’re not going to be hanging up the clothes right away, rather than leaving it on standby. Rather than using a tumble dryer (which eats electricity and is one of the most expensive appliances to run), hang washing on a clothes horse or a pulley for free, or outside on a washing line when you can. If you’re using radiators to dry a load, use a rack that hooks on to it rather than covering the radiator itself in clothes, as this will allow the heat to circulate round the room too.

Dish it up

Buying an energy-efficient dishwasher when it comes time to replace yours will knock 10 per cent of the annual cost of running it. Until then, there are ways to use your existing dishwasher more effectively – don’t run it until you have a full load to avoid wasting energy by using it more than you need to, and always choose a low-temperature or “eco” setting. If you do your dishes by hand, always fill a basin rather than just letting the tap run and holding the dishes under it, which will save gallons of water at a time.

Environmentally friendly entertainment

Around 20 per cent of electricity used in Scottish homes goes on powering home entertainment equipment – laptops, stereos, televisions, DVD players and recording devices – so when you’re in the market for new gadgets, think about the most energy-efficient options. Laptops use a whopping 85 per cent less energy than desktop computers over the course of a year, as well as being portable and taking up less space at home. The bigger your TV, the bigger the running costs and energy usage – no matter what its energy rating – and HD televisions, with more pixels per inch, use more energy too.

Keep your cool

An A-rated fridge-freezer could cut your running costs in half, but until you need to invest in a new one make sure you position yours as far away as possible from radiators, ovens and windows that get direct sunlight – sitting a fridge next to a heat source means it needs to waste a lot of energy just to stay cool. Avoid using the coolest setting, as the lower the temperature the more energy needed to maintain it, and always close the fridge or freezer door immediately, as letting in warm air means the appliance needs to use extra energy to keep the temperature down. When it’s time to upgrade, think about how big a fridge or freezer you actually need – the smaller the fridge the less energy it uses, and the less likely you are to fill it with surplus food that quickly becomes waste.

Cook the books

Save money, and carbon emissions, by getting savvy at the stove. Modern cookers are more energy-efficient than ever, but even older ones can be used more effectively. Always keep the door shut when the oven is switched on, as heat that escapes means wasted energy replacing it – check on your culinary creations using the oven window instead. When you’re using the hob use a pan that’s the right size for each ring – if the pan’s too small to cover the ring all the heat that escapes is wasted energy – and think about using your microwave more; it’s a very energy-efficient method of cooking, with all the energy used directed right at the food.

• This article was produced in partnership with the Scottish Government