Ross Clark

    The surprising tricks that can cut your energy bills

    Rearrange your furniture, quit the gym, switch your lightbulbs – and buy new underwear

    The surprising tricks that can cut your energy bills
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    We are all facing months of rising bills, with warnings that there may even be blackouts ahead. But all is not lost. Here are ten ways you can cut your energy consumption – and some of them will surprise you…

    • Change your lightbulbs – even the 'energy saving' ones. If you still have old-style incandescent lightbulbs in your home – or even the original, fluorescent energy-saving bulbs – you are wasting a fortune. A five-watt LED lightbulb produces as much light as an old-style 60-watt lightbulb does. Lighting constitutes the single biggest proportion of most energy bills on account of how often we have the lights on – so this single change can make a significant difference. 

    • Trade in your petrol hybrid for a diesel car – if you do a lot of long journeys. It might sound counter-intuitive (and heretical in an age in which we are all being persuaded to cut our carbon emissions), but the fact is that on long journeys a diesel engine will burn significantly less fuel – and produce fewer emissions – than many equivalent petrol hybrids. Don’t be fooled by the fantasy official mpg figures. When What Car? magazine tested the real-life economy of popular hybrid cars, some were returning less than 30 mpg.

    • Get a pair of walking shoes for shorter journeys. According to the government’s National Travel Survey, 59 per cent of our car journeys are for trips under five miles – and around 15 per cent of all journeys of less than a mile are made by car. Petrol and diesel engines work less efficiently when cold, so these are expensive trips when it comes to fuel consumption – making a pair of walking shoes a cost-effective investment. Needless to say, even an electric car is no match for walking when it comes to financial efficiency.

    • Set a shower time limit. Shorter showers – no more than four minutes – are top of the list of suggestions compiled by the Energy Saving Trust, the government’s quango charged with cutting energy bills. According to its calculations, limiting showers to four minutes could save the average person a remarkable £70 a year in electricity and water bills.

    • Buy clothes and underwear made from merino wool. Hikers swear by it for a reason. Not only will it keep you warm in winter, meaning you won't need to crank up the central heating, but it has the remarkable property of avoiding smelling, even when worn for several days – allowing you to cut the number of times you use your washing machine.

    • Rearrange your furniture. No one enjoys staring at radiators – with the result that we all tend to shove our sofas, tables and other furniture up against them so they are out of sight and out of mind. But that is an expensive mistake, according to the experts. By interfering with the flow of convective currents around the room, we are reducing the efficiency of our heating and wasting money. Far better to move your furniture away and learn to love your radiators.

    • Dump the gym. As well as saving a fortune in membership fees (and the petrol you might use to get there), exercising in your home can help heat it. At rest, a human body produces around 80 watts of heating power. But a professional cyclist at full pelt can increase this to 400 watts or more – just under half the heating provided by a one-bar electric fire. In other words, think of your exercise bike as an extra radiator.

    • Keep your heating on 24 hours a day. It might seem odd that you can cut your bills by keeping your heating on for longer – but in the winter, turning it off at night can cause the temperature in your home to fall below dew point, which is when condensation forms on the walls. And if you do end up with condensation, your heating will have to work harder to warm up your home again when you do switch it on in the morning. Central heating works most efficiently when run at a constant temperature – although of course you can save money by turning down the thermostat.

    • Make sure the logs in your wood-burner are dry. Burning damp, unseasoned logs not only creates large amounts of highly polluting smoke, it also wastes energy. One way to make sure that you can buy the driest logs is to stock up early for the winter. The best, most-seasoned logs tend to get sold first. Later in the season, if demand is high, damper logs are likely to find their way on to the market.

    • Shop around for an energy provider. For years, consumers have had the right to switch suppliers to find the best energy deals. Yet surveys show that between a quarter and a half of householders have never done it. On a price comparison website such as GoCompare or Compare the Market it only takes minutes to save yourself money.