Energy prices are through the roof. Before the government capped energy prices, average bills were expected to rise to £3,549 a year on October 1, an increase of 80% from the previous figure of £1,971 a year.
Liz Truss’s government recently introduced measures to cap average energy bills at £2,500 for two years. However, the measures, costing the taxpayer more than £100 billion in additional government borrowing, will still see many households struggling to cough up an additional £530 per year on average.
And as higher temperatures give way to the cold season, people are starting to worry about keeping their houses warm.
Against this backdrop, many pensioners on a set income will struggle to make ends meet. The full state pension is currently set at £9,627.80 per year. The upcoming rise in energy bills could see many pensioners using the bulk of their income to heat their homes.
Even people in work will likely struggle. UK households are the worst hit in Western Europe by the energy crisis. The average household will see an 8.27% cut in spending power in 2022 due to the price hikes.
As such, it's crucial to consider energy-saving methods and budget appropriately. In addition, governmental schemes are available, as well as other changes you can make to insulation or how you use your appliances.
While the rise in energy costs may be outside of your control, there are steps you can take to mitigate the impact on your household.
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Energy saving tips: 9 small changes that’ll slash your energy bills today
The good news is that you can make small changes today that could save you money on your energy bill. Here are nine tips to help you reduce your energy use and save money on your energy bills.
- Unplug or switch off devices that are not in use, and you can save up to £55 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Unplugging your charger when it’s not in use or only charging your mobile phone until it's fully charged are excellent examples.
- Turn off the lights where possible and save yourself up to £20 a year
- Take at least one 4-minute shower a week instead of a bath and save yourself £70 a year
- Use your tumble dryer sparingly and use a clothesline or indoor airer to save up to £60 a year
- Wash your clothes at 30 degrees and do one load less a week for a saving of up to £28 a year
- Turn down your thermostat by one degree. The lower temperature could save up to £80 a year.
- Keep the heat in by closing your blinds and curtains in the evening, and you could reduce heat loss by as much as 17%
- Boil water in the kettle first and then put it on the hob as it’s quicker and more energy efficient
- Bleed your radiators to release trapped air, and have a more energy-efficient home.
These simple changes can be implemented relatively quickly and painlessly and lead to lower costs in the long term. Implementing all these changes could knock more than £300 off your annual energy bill.
What's more, none of these changes requires a financial investment, just the willingness to change your routines and habits.
Make sure you’re aware of government support schemes
Several government support schemes are available to older people struggling to pay their bills due to rising energy costs. Make sure you are making full use of these if you qualify.
Here are three government schemes you might be eligible for, depending on the type of benefits you claim.
The Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment provides eligible pensioners between £250 and £600 to help cover the cost of heating their homes during winter.
How much you'll get depends on how old you are, whether you live alone, live in a care home, and any benefits you get. A breakdown of the payment you'll likely get based on your circumstances is available here.
This year, the payment includes a Pensioner Cost of Living Payment, which is between £150 and £300. Note the additional amount is only being paid in winter 2022 to 2023.
You will receive the winter payment automatically if you are eligible. To qualify for the Winter Fuel Payment, you must receive the State Pension or another social security benefit with some exclusions.
You must also have been born on or before September 25, 1956, and lived in the UK during the "qualifying week" - September 19 to 25, 2022.
If you think you qualify but won’t get the automatic payment based on the criteria above, you can apply here.
The Warm Home Discount Scheme
The Warm Home Discount Scheme is a government initiative that provides a one-off discount on your electricity bill between October and March.
It ran last year, providing eligible recipients with an additional payment of £140 toward their energy bills. This year, the amount is expected to rise to £150 for eligible households.
The discount isn't paid directly but given to your energy supplier on your behalf.
The government has not yet released the eligibility criteria for 2022, and the scheme is due to open in November. But, you will likely need to claim either pension credit or a different qualifying benefit to qualify. In addition, your energy company will also need to be eligible.
The government will then assess your energy costs based on your property. The government should tell you if you're eligible for the discount in November.
Cold Weather Payment
The Cold Weather Payment kicks in when the average temperature in your area is recorded, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below for seven consecutive days.
If you're eligible, you will receive £25 for every seven days this happens between November 1 and March 31.
You’ll usually be eligible if you receive a pension premium or get universal credit and have a health condition or disability.
Saving energy: How to make the most of your appliances
Buying brand new, energy-efficient appliances might not be on the cards. Many people are already on tight budgets, and there is simply no room for splashing out. But that doesn't mean you can't make the most of your current appliances and use them as efficiently as possible.
The way we use our appliances often results in wasting energy. Now is the time to change your habits.
These small changes could shave money off your energy bill and reduce your overall carbon footprint.
Make your fridge more cost-effective
Refrigerators are often one of the most used appliances in a home. To make the most of your fridge and save energy, it is crucial to optimise its use. Here are a few ways to do this.
- Don't overpack your fridge – this can lead to poor airflow and increased energy usage. Instead, try to keep only the items you use most often in easily accessible areas.
- Let hot food cool down before you put it in your fridge - this is because hot food spikes the temperature in your fridge, and it has to work extra hard to cool down.
- Arrange the contents of your fridge for optimal efficiency - this can save you a lot of energy in the long run. Make sure to place the items you use most often on the top shelves, where they will be within easy reach.
- Regularly clean behind and underneath your refrigerator to ensure good airflow. This will help keep your fridge running efficiently and prevent it from using more energy than necessary.
Save money with your washing machine and dryer
When doing laundry, it's essential to consider how much energy your washer and dryer use. Together, they use about 5% of your home's total energy consumption. But ensuring you use them effectively can save you money on your energy and water bills.
There are a few things you can do to optimise their performance and save energy:
- Wash full loads whenever possible. This will ensure that the machines are working at their most efficient and will use less energy. You will also reduce the amount of water you use.
- Wash clothes with cold water whenever possible. 75% - 90% of your washing machine's energy usage goes towards heating the water.
- Use drying racks or clothing lines when drying clothes. This will help conserve energy by not using the dryer unnecessarily.
- Clear lint from the dryer after each load. Don’t let it build up. Clogged machines use more energy to dry clothes, take longer, and don’t last as long.
Do your cooking the smart way and save money
The oven is not the only way to cook your food. Prepping your food doesn't have to involve wasting lots of energy, either. Here are some ways you can cook smarter and save money in the process:
- Pre-boil your water in a kettle before putting the pan on the hob - kettles are much faster at boiling water and save energy in the process.
- Use a slow cooker to make more stews if you have one; a slow cooker uses far less energy than an oven, even though it's on for longer.
- Reheat food in the microwave and opt for microwave meals. The average microwave uses 0.6 to 1.5kwh, while the average electric oven uses 2 to 2.2kwh.
- But avoid using your microwave to defrost food! Instead, pull out anything you need to defrost from the freezer the night before and put it in the fridge. You'll waste no energy defrosting it that way.
Low-cost home improvements that’ll reduce your energy bills
If you have a little extra cash to spend on making your home as energy efficient as possible, you could consider the following home improvements to reduce your heating bills and use less electricity.
Switch to LED light bulbs
Switching to LED bulbs as soon as possible could save you as much as £91 per year. LED light bulbs are just as effective as incandescent light bulbs at lighting up your space, but they last up to 20 times longer. They also use 90% less energy.
You'll lower your energy consumption and reduce your carbon footprint, and you will have to replace your lightbulbs less often, saving time and money.
Insulate your hot water tank
You can insulate your hot water tank and reduce your energy usage for as little as £17, the cost of a decent hot water cylinder jacket. Installation is straightforward, so this is a job you could do yourself.
Using an 80mm thick hot water cylinder jacket could save you up to £35 a year, which means you’ll make up your initial investment within a year.
Do some DIY draught-proofing around the house
Draught-proofing can involve costly contractors and materials but can be done on the cheap if necessary. There are plenty of draught-proofing solutions you can implement with basic DIY skills and a relatively small budget. For example:
- Draught excluders that can be placed in front of doors and act as decorations too
- Keyhole covers to prevent cold air from entering through your keyholes
- Curtains or blinds with thermal underlay, if you’re replacing your curtains
- Squirting filler or decorator's caulk into gaps around skirting boards, windows, or even smaller cracks
Are solar panels a wise investment?
Looking into alternative heating systems is becoming more attractive as prices rise. Installing solar panels are one such option. By generating your own electricity with solar panels, you can insulate yourself against energy price hikes.
Solar panels can also help you save money in other ways. For example, if you generate more electricity than you need, you can sell this back to the grid at a profit through the feed-in tariff scheme. The average household with solar panels makes around £150 a year through the scheme and has lower energy bills too. As a result, these households save roughly £270 per year on electricity bills.
Of course, solar panels are not cheap - it can cost between £6,000 to £8,000 to install the system. This means it can take up to 16 years to break even on your investment.
So, are solar panels a wise investment for older people? There's no easy answer, as there are advantages and disadvantages to consider. However, if you're looking for a way to insulate yourself against rising energy prices and supplement your income in retirement, solar panels could be worth considering.
Energy saving tips for cutting costs
Energy prices are on the rise, and this is something we should all be aware of. The good news is that we can take steps to save energy and money today. Some of us can use government grants to cover a portion of our energy bills, for example.
There are also affordable ways to make our homes more energy efficient, such as LED bulbs and solar panels.
We spoke to The Eco Experts Lead Writer, Josh Jackman, who commented: "This is a bad time for all UK households, but it doesn't have to be disastrous.
"Follow expert tips, be sensible with your usage, and keep an eye on your meter - which is much easier if you get a free smart meter.
"Now is also the time to look into eco-friendly technology like solar panels, heat pumps, and infrared panels. These items can all help you to cut your energy bills and be less reliant on gas prices."
While rising energy bills are beyond our control, we can take plenty of steps to save money. Making small changes to our daily habits, like having quicker showers or not using a tumble dryer to dry clothes as often, can help ease the burden on our wallets and the environment, too.