Saving money on your electricity bill at home – an engineer’s guide

Cold House

If you have listened to the news recently you will be aware that energy is horribly expensive in the UK. Today electricity is £0.283 a kWh and gas is £0.074 at kWh. In October, it’s going up to £0.518 a kWh and gas to £0.148 a kWh. It’s horrible news and I know everyone is panicking but let’s try some positivity. Firstly, everyone is talking about energy and everyone has finally worked out they might want to use a little bit less of the stuff that’s good for you, me and the planet. More on this later.

But with my heat pump hat on the news has a silver lining. Today electricity is 3.8 times as expensive as gas. Assuming your gas boiler is 90% efficient (if you do this you are an idiot and will believe anything you are told) I need a heat pump to operate at a COP of 3.44 to match the run cost of your boiler and that’s hard work to do.

But in October electricity will be only 3.5 times as expensive as gas, so I only need to get to a COP of 3.15 and any old crap heat pump can do this. So the news should be positive, because in October heat pumps, even crap ones, are cheaper to run than ANY gas boiler.

But moving on from this, how can we save energy and money? I’ve got a few tips and some are more useful than others.

First thing you need to do is go and buy some side cutters like those shown above.

1. Tumble driers. If you have a tumble drier unplug it, take your new cutters, cut the plug off and throw it in the bin. There is, and never has been, a good reason to use an electric heater and fan to dry clothes. A tumble drier draws 3 kW so in one hour it burns 3 kWhs of electricity, that’s £1 at today’s prices and £2 in October. Never ever use a tumble drier. If you are young and don’t know better, google clothes line, it’s how you dry clothes.

2. Hot water secondary return pumps. I’ve blogged about these horrors before. If you have a pump which pumps water around the house so you don’t have to wait for the water to get warm in the bathroom, kill the power and chop the plug off. In these high energy price days your recirculation pump should not be running ever. They are horrible consumers of energy, a bad one can easily eat through 5-10 kWh of energy per day. That’s £1-2 a day for heat pumps and just over twice that for an immersion hot water system.

3. Towel rails, come on, get over yourself, do you really need the towels warming up? It’s time to turn the valves off on your towel rails. Please don’t moan you are tight for cash but you want a lovely hot towel in August.

4. Let BT pick up the tab. If you have a wired in phone, BT pay the electricity bill to power the phone, if you have a cordless phone you pay. Stick it to the man and make the most of your line rental.

5. Take a shorter shower – every 30 litres of water you use is 1kWh, your shower uses 10 litres a minute, that’s £0.11 a minute for electric immersion tanks and £0.05 a minute for a heat pump.

6. Turn the bloody lights off. Its boojee to show off the whole of your house with lights everywhere including the drive and half the garden. Don’t moan about the bills if your house looks like Blackpool illuminations. It’s free, just turn them off. Have you considered lighting only the rooms you are in?

7. Always look at anything that heats using direct electricity as a waste of money. Kettles, washing machines, coffee machines, dishwashers, etc. consume huge amounts of energy to warm water up. You should aim to not heat anything you don’t require. So run the washing machine and dishwasher as cold as possible, boil as little water as you can and don’t leave the coffee machine powered on, warming your espresso cups all day and night. And don’t get me started on those ridiculous instant hot water taps in the kitchen.

8. When you are cooking, as soon as the water boils in a pan turn it down. Once it boils the temperature does not rise, boiling 1 egg in 2 litres of water for 15 mins is a total waste of money and it’s not quicker. First use a smaller amount of water and once it boils turn down the hob. The steam you see coming off the pans, that’s your money disappearing into the air. Note that most electric hobs are 3-5 kW per ring. They cost £1-£1.50 an hour to run. EACH.

BUT…… in winter if you have a gas hob run it as high as you like, you are heating the room with gas at 100% efficiency, every joule of energy that heats the pan and leaks past it ends up in the room. It’s 100% efficient, that’s a lot better than your boiler. There is no flue so no heat escapes the room, it’s your most efficient gas heating system.

9. Hot tubs, just don’t. The damn thing will eat 3 kWhs of electricity every hour when the lids off costing you £1 an hour now and £2 an hour in October. It’s like owning a 5 litre Range Rover and moaning about petrol costs.

10. If you are really desperate you could explore bypassing your electricity meter with jump leads, but I’m not able to advise you how to do this. It’s horribly dangerous and illegal.

Most importantly measure the electricity you are using. You should easily be able to get down to 5 kWhs of electrical use per day with a bit of management. And learn to read the labels. On every electrical device there is a label showing how many Watts it uses. If you plug a 1Watt item in 24/7 for a year it uses 9 kWhrs of electricity a year. That is £3 a year today or £6 a year in October. A 100 Watt electric device uses 100 times as much. For reference, most electric heaters (kettles, immersions, etc.) are 3000 Watts.

Good luck

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2615 kWhs
1 year ago

A table lamp with a single bulb can sometimes be nice as an alternative to a ceiling light with multiple bulbs. Can also save on electricity.

Slow cookers, air fryers etc can be a good alternative to ovens for many dishes. Can also save on electricity

If in winter you struggle to dry clothes outside on a line, hanging clothes inside and using a dehumidifier is remarkably effect and cheaper to run that a tumble dryer.

Quite a lot of households end up running multiple fridges/freezers, some of which may be old and power hungry. See if you can cut down to one efficient one.

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