I can't be the only person who has noticed that energy bills are getting steeper and steeper for domestic customers. A month hardly seems to pass without the news that one energy supplier or another is raising their prices, yet the Government seems completely unwilling to do anything about the current situation. The news that Npower's profits had soared 34% in a year in which it had significantly hiked the price of its energy was particularly damning.
Given this economic context, I decided to do what I could to reduce my energy costs, and lead a thriftier lifestyle. I noticed that a couple of houses in my area had solar panels fitted to the roof, so I decided to look into the cost and benefits of such a scheme for my house. I found that so-called 'photovoltaic panels' would be the cheaper option, and after shopping around and a bit of haggling, I managed to agree to have some installed for £3,000.
While this is a pretty big outlay, it is possible to agree monthly payment plans with companies to spread the cost over a period of time. I've found that since I had these panels installed - I'm afraid I don't have the practicality to install them myself, but this is another way of saving if you're more handy that me - I have saved about £80 a month on my electricity bills; a saving in the region of £1,000 a year. I believe this saving will only increase as the price of electricity inevitably rises. Some people even manage to manufacture their own solar panels; there are numerous online videos giving some indication of how to do this.
You can make further savings in this area by changing energy supplier. This can not only benefit you in terms of energy prices, but can also in some cases make the installation of solar paneling even cheaper. For an average family home, it's estimated that you can save £200 per year just by changing suppliers and placing yourself on an appropriate tariff. I personally switched from E.On to EDF Energy, and feel I have saved in the region of this £200 figure.
In addition, with petrol prices showing no signs of falling, I've decided to try to cut down the costs associated with motoring as well. Firstly, I've tried to move towards working from home where possible. Secondly, I only use my car for essential journeys now, and walk as much as possible. Thirdly, I've fitted eco-tyres on my car, which is reckoned to improve fuel consumption by as much as 15%. I estimate that this has saved me a good £20 a month in petrol costs, about £250 a year.
There are, of course, lots of little things that can make a difference around the house as well, such as ensuring that taps don't drip, not leaving devices on stand-by, ensuring that all lights are turned off when not needed, fitting long-life eco-lightbulbs and so on. It's difficult to estimate the precise savings achieved by these steps, but certainly every little helps. Just having devices on standby ensures that you're engaging in a constant and needless frittering away of electricity.
From following these simple steps, I reckon that I've cut my overall energy expenses by £1,500 a year. I think this is achievable for lots of people, and it seems wise to take whatever steps one can in the face of potentially rising energy and oil prices, which you can be sure will always be passed on to the consumer.