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Over 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Electricity and Gas Bills

Eugene is a qualified control/instrumentation engineer Bsc (Eng) and has worked as a developer of electronics & software for SCADA systems.

Employing just a few of these energy-saving tips can make a big difference in monthly expenses.

Employing just a few of these energy-saving tips can make a big difference in monthly expenses.

Cutting Costs at Home

With the cost of energy rising every day, reducing wastage in the home is essential if you want to save money. Not only is it possible to cut electricity consumption, but savings can also be made on the use of heating fuels such as coal, gas, and oil. This hub gives basic common sense tips you can try in order to cut your energy use, reduce CO2 emissions and do your bit to save the planet!

How to Reduce Energy Costs in Your Home

  1. Install more efficient lighting.
  2. Upgrade heating system controls.
  3. Reduce electricity consumption of appliances.
  4. Track electricity usage with an energy monitoring adaptor.
  5. Install or upgrade insulation.

1. Install More Efficient Lighting

  • Fit dimmer switches to reduce light intensity when full brightness isn't required.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with LED lighting. These offer an 80% saving in energy. A 20-watt LED lamp, for instance, produces the same amount of light as a 100-watt incandescent. LED lamps are more expensive than incandescent, but the cost is dropping all the time. LED lamps also last up to 40 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
  • Consider using sodium or LED lighting outdoors to light up the yard rather than halogen floodlights. This is the most efficient form of lighting in terms of light output per watt

2. Upgrade Your Heating System Controls

Older heating systems may just be fitted with an electromechanical timer and boiler thermostat. It's worth upgrading your system with room stats, a hot water tank thermostat, and an electronic controller to streamline your energy use.

  • The room thermostat of a central heating system can be turned down a couple of degrees to save energy. In cold weather, a far better way of keeping warm than sitting down in a room is to do light work or some other chore that entails movement.
  • Fit thermostatic valves to your radiators. These shut off the flow of water through the radiator when the room reaches a set temperature. This reduces the duration the boiler is running, cutting down on oil or gas consumption.
  • Reduce the temperature on the thermostat of the immersion heating element if electricity is used to heat water. Ensure the water tank is lagged.
  • Turn down your room thermostat
Turn down your room thermostat.

Turn down your room thermostat.

3. Reduce Electricity Consumption of Appliances

  • Turn off all lights in rooms you aren't using to reduce electricity use.
  • When boiling a kettle, just put enough water into it for your needs. Over time, the cost of boiling all that excess water can mount up. 200 ml or 7 fluid ounces is enough for a mug. Over time you can get to judge this accurately.
  • Unplug appliances or switch them off at the socket instead of putting them on standby with the remote control. So-called "vampire appliances" on standby can use up to 25% of the energy they use when fully switched on. See later in this article for more details.
  • A kettle is the most efficient way of heating water because the element is in the water. If you're boiling vegetables on a hob, boil water in the kettle first then pour it into the saucepan.
  • Use a microwave for cooking vegetables, heating soup, and any other form of heating rather than saucepans on a cooker/kitchen range.
  • When you open your oven, shut the door as quickly as possible to stop heat loss.
  • When using the washer, select a quick wash if clothes aren't very dirty
  • Dry your clothes in windy weather instead of using the drier. Even in winter, clothes can be dried when humidity is low, and there is a breeze.
  • Place the freezer in the garage or coldest room of the house
  • Only open the fridge or freezer for as short a time as possible to stop the heat from getting into it.
  • When buying new appliances such as fridges, freezers, and washers, consider appliances which are power saving and look for an energy rating sticker on the appliance. An "A" rating indicates that the appliance is very energy efficient.
  • If your electricity supply company can provide you with a night rate meter, this allows you to use cut-price electricity at off-peak times (typically 11 pm to 8 pm). If you are a "night owl," you can do washing, dry clothes, and use other high-powered appliances during this period. A secondary meter normally incurs an additional periodic surcharge/overhead on your bill, so you need to make it worthwhile by shifting electricity usage to night hours.

Turn Off Appliances on Standby

Did you know that some appliances, e.g., TVs, use up to 30% of the energy while on standby that they use while fully turned on? Anything with a little "red eye" LED can be sucking power while asleep. This is sometimes called vampire or phantom power and if you have a lot of gadgets and appliances, the energy usage can mount up.

Doesn't the main power switch on appliances cut the power?

In the old days, everything had a power switch. This included desktop PCs, TVs, etc. The switch was connected to the incoming power line, so when you switched it off, the power consumption was zilch because everything was totally switched off.

Nowadays, many devices don't have a main switch. Instead, a momentary push-button is used, and this controls whether the appliance is fully powered up or on standby. When a user presses the button, embedded software within the device detects the press and forces it to power up or go into standby.

Alternatively, in devices without microprocessors or micro-controllers, pressing the button forces the electronics into a low power state. The electronics which monitor this button use some power. However, the majority of the energy usage is due to the fact that a device is on standby and its power supply is active.

Vampire Power: Pull the plug and cut down on your electricity consumption.

Vampire Power: Pull the plug and cut down on your electricity consumption.

What Devices are "Vampires"?

TVs, HIFI systems, video recorders, DVD recorders/players, Blu-ray players, surround sound systems, satellite, and terrestrial decoders, computer printers, etc. are all considered "vampires": Basically, anything which uses an LED indicator (usually red) to show that it is asleep and in standby mode.

If an appliance can be switched off using a remote control, electronic circuitry must be active in order to detect the infrared signal from the remote when someone switches the appliance back on again. This circuitry uses energy, but other circuitry may also be enabled so that the device powers up quickly when switched on.

Even if a device cannot be put on standby, it may still consume electricity. So, for instance, microwave ovens or anything else with a clock or other type of display falls into this category. The consumption of electricity by the display electronics may be quite small, however, and the only way you can check is by using an energy monitoring adapter.

Even if the standby power of an individual device is relatively low, if you have lots of appliances and gadgets plugged in, energy wastage over time can mount up.

Keeping Away the Vampires

What can you do to prevent this waste of energy? Simply pull the plug on appliances at night or when there is no need to have them switched on. Also, check with an energy monitoring adapter whether the electricity consumption is significant.

Is there a disadvantage of pulling the plug on appliances?

Well, basically, some older devices, such as video recorders, may lose their time and date setting on the display. Newer devices often have a backup battery which preserves time. Satellite and terrestrial decoder boxes may take anything between 10 and 30 seconds to boot and scan channels when re-powered, so they're unresponsive to the remote control.

4. Track Electricity Usage With an Energy Monitor Adaptor

You can buy an energy monitor adapter for keeping track of the running cost of electricity for running an appliance. These monitors, which are available from Amazon and any good electrical and DIY stores, plug into a socket outlet. The appliance is then plugged into the monitor.

These devices will monitor voltage, current, the power drawn by the appliance, the duration the appliance has run for (useful for devices like freezers that cut in and out) and the energy usage in kWh. By inputting the price of electricity per unit, the cost of running the appliance can also be displayed. For more details, see this guide:
Checking Power Consumption of Appliances With an Energy Monitoring Adapter

Energy monitoring adapter

Energy monitoring adapter

5. Install or Upgrade Insulation: The Key to Trapping Heat in Your Home

Insulation works by trapping air in a material. This reduces the thermal conductivity of the material or the ease by which heat can flow through it. If you've ever held a piece of expanded polystyrene packing (Styrofoam) in your hand, you may have noticed that it feels warm. This isn't because it actually gives out heat, but rather because it traps the heat being lost from your hand so that it starts to get hot.

Insulation is used in our homes to trap heat and stop it from flowing out of the building. Heating a home with little or no insulation is like filling a bucket with a hole with water. Installing or upgrading your insulation will lower the cost of heating your home by reducing the time your furnace/boiler has to stay on.

The handles of saucepans are made from wood, Bakelite or other polymer so they don't conduct too much heat to the user's hand.

The handles of saucepans are made from wood, Bakelite or other polymer so they don't conduct too much heat to the user's hand.

So How Exactly Does Insulation Work?

Insulation is a material with low thermal conductivity or high thermal resistance. Basically, this means that the material is used as a blocking device to prevent heat from passing from one region to another. In the case of a house, it prevents heat from leaking from inside the house to the outside.

Insulation relies on the principle of trapping air in a foam or mesh of fibers. Since air is a good insulator, this reduces the heat transfer through the material. It is important that the air is trapped in pockets or cells. If the air is simply held in a bag or between two sheets of material, as in the case of double glazing, the effect of the insulation is not as great as air currents carry some heat through the trapped air from one surface to another.

Insulating ceramic foam tiles on the underside of the space shuttle protected the space craft from the heat of reentry

Insulating ceramic foam tiles on the underside of the space shuttle protected the space craft from the heat of reentry

What Is Insulation Used For?

Insulation has many uses:

  • It's used in the walls and lofts of homes to prevent heat loss to the outside air
  • Pipes are insulated to prevent them from freezing
  • Double or triple glazing relies on trapping a layer of insulating air between sheets of glass. The air in the intervening space reduces conduction of heat from the inner pane to the outer pane of glass and loss of that heat to the outside air
  • Insulation is used to lag boilers and the hot water pipes of central heating systems in order to maximize the heat flowing to radiators. Insulation is also important around steam pipes in power stations as vast amounts of heat would be lost from the steam, which could have a much higher temperature than 100 C or 212 F when under pressure. Asbestos was once used for lagging pipes and boilers in ships, trains, heating systems, etc. It had the advantage of being a good insulator when formed into boards, ropes, or lagging and also was heat resistant since it was of mineral origin. Its use has been more or less discontinued due to the hazardous effect of asbestos fibers which cause a chronic lung disease called asbestosis.
  • The walls of fridges and freezers are hollow when manufactured and are then insulated with an expanding foam. This reduces the flow of heat from the ambient air into the fridge cavity. Cooler boxes are also insulated in a similar way.
  • Handles of saucepans, frying pans and other cooking utensils are made from wood, Bakelite or other plastic which acts as a thermal insulator to prevent you burning your hand.
  • The wings and fuselage of the space shuttle and other spacecraft needed to be insulated to prevent the delicate skin from being melted due to friction with the air during re-entry through Earth's atmosphere. In the case of the space shuttle, light weight insulating and heat resistant foam tiles were used and these were bonded to the body of the shuttle.
Expanded polystyrene packaging. Polystyrene is also known by the brand name "Styrofoam". It is a very effective insulator

Expanded polystyrene packaging. Polystyrene is also known by the brand name "Styrofoam". It is a very effective insulator

How to Save Energy in Your Home With Insulation

  • Insulate your loft. Insulation in the home takes several forms. In the loft, the space between the floor joists is commonly insulated with between 100 to 20 mm (4 to 8) inches of fiberglass, rock wool, sheep's wool, or shredded paper impregnated with a fire retardant chemical. More up-to-date building regulations recommend a greater thickness of the material. The space between the roof rafters can also be insulated either with the materials mentioned above, or foam can be sprayed onto the inner surface of the roof.
  • Insulate your walls. Typically, polyurethane foam, rock wool, or other foam sheeting materials with a bonded drywall layer are used to insulate the inside of exterior walls. Building codes must be followed to ensure that the material is not exposed to flame in the event of a fire. In the case of exterior masonry walls, an alternative choice is to have the outer faces of walls insulated with a matrix of insulating panels. Once the panels are installed, the walls are plastered and then painted.
  • Fit double or triple glazing. This reduces heat loss through windows. It has the additional benefit of greatly reducing noise from outdoors.
  • Use heavy curtains on the windows. In addition to double glazing, these stop heat loss through windows.
  • Use blinds in summer. Blinds keep the sun out during the day, reducing room temperature and reducing your air conditioning costs.

If your home isn't insulated, start by insulating the loft/attic space. This will reduce the amount of heat rising through the ceiling and out through the roof space, resulting in an immediately noticeable improvement. Next, you can insulate the walls of your home. You will lose up to 100mm (four inches) on the inside of walls that are insulated depending on the insulation thickness, reducing room space, so this needs to be taken into account.

Insulation MaterialFunction

Rock wool

Attic and wall insulation

Fibre glass

Attic and wall insulation

Expanded polystyrene

Wall insulation, cooler boxes, flasks for keeping hot or cool, coffee cups

Expanded polyurethane

Used as insulation in fridges and freezers


Formerly used for insulating boilers and lagging pipes


Expanded Polystyrene (EPS): Ultimate Guide on Foam Insulation Material

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Are LED lights a good idea for reducing energy consumption?

Answer: Yes, they certainly are. An LED lamp uses 1/5 to 1/6th the amount of electricity as that used by a standard incandescent light bulb of the same light output.

Question: What is a kWh or kilowatt hour?

Answer: It's a measurement of the amount of electricity used, i.e., energy.

Multiply the power of an appliance in kilowatts by the length of time in hours its turned on for to calculate the number of kilowatts used.

If the power is given in watts, divide by 1000 to convert to kilowatts.

E.g. a 100 watt bulb for 200 hours uses 100/1000 x 200 = 20 kWh

© 2017 Eugene Brennan


Komal on June 27, 2018:

Wow great

Eugene Brennan (author) from Ireland on December 06, 2017:

Thanks Venkatachari!

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on December 06, 2017:

Very useful information on energy saving. Thanks for sharing it.

Eugene Brennan (author) from Ireland on May 31, 2017:

Thanks Larry!

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on May 31, 2017:

Great tips!