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Cost of living crisis: How to reduce your home energy costs from heating to computers

People are using less energy to make savings  (Steve Parsons/PA Wire)
People are using less energy to make savings (Steve Parsons/PA Wire)

The UK government is finally set to begin its long-mooted public- information campaign in the run-up to Christmas, with the aim of helping the public to trim their energy bills.

Even though the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) will remain in place until the end of March, ministers believe they have identified several areas where people would benefit from this type of practical advice.

It’s certainly true that small savings in electricity and gas consumption add up to a big difference when those bills arrive. With this in mind, here are sensible ways to save money without talking drastic action.

Reduce kitchen energy costs

White goods are one of the biggest electricity hogs in the home, so any savings you can make here will make a tangible impact. Here’s how to cut electricity consumption:

  • Don’t assume the shortest dishwasher cycles use the least electricity – the opposite is often true. Find out why long dishwasher cycles could save you hundreds of pounds per year.

  • The same goes for cooking – the slower, the cheaper. Popping stews and other dinners in the slow cooker rather than the standard oven could save you serious money over a whole year. Read our guide to reducing the costs of cooking here.

  • Defrost your freezer every three to four months. Not only does this prevent the build-up of ice, which makes the freezer less efficient, it encourages you to regularly consume what’s stored in there, preventing food waste. Double win.

Save energy on computers and consoles

Some computing equipment and game consoles can crank up your electricity bills, especially if they’re left on around the clock. Here’s how to make sure these gizmos aren’t costing you a small fortune:

  • Adjust the sleep settings on PCs and Macs to make sure screens are turned off and the computers are put to sleep after, say, three minutes of inactivity. The latest version of Windows 11 does this by default, but older versions and Windows 10 can take up to 30 minutes to put the PC to sleep when plugged in. To change this, type ‘sleep’ in the Windows search menu and look for the setting to adjust sleep times.

  • Xbox Series X and Series S console owners should switch off Instant-On mode. This keeps the console ticking away in the background, consuming up to 13W of power around the clock, just so you can resume gaming instantly. Switching off this one setting could save around £60 per year. Find out how to switch off the Xbox Instant-On mode here.

  • Beware of leaving devices, such as NAS storage drives, on around the clock. Older models can consume up to 30W-40W, even on standby, which amounts to more than £200 per year in electricity at the current price-cap rate. Use smart plugs (see below) to power them down at night or try settings such as Wake-on-LAN, which means they’re only fully powered up while in action.

How to save money charging an electric car

Electric-car owners know that these will consume more energy than anything else in the house. Here are just some of the ways you can save money on electric car charging:

  • Some energy firms offer special tariffs for owners of electric cars, rewarding them with cheaper electricity if they can charge overnight when there’s less demand on the grid. These are harder to find since the energy crisis started but try innovative firms such as Octopus Energy for tariffs.

  • Look for free charging at venues such as supermarkets, cinemas, and restaurants. The brilliant Zap-Map has a nationwide map of car-charging points, which can filter out free-to-use locations.

  • Plan long journeys. Ultra-rapid charge points at locations such as motorway service stations are punishingly expensive. Again, use tools such as Zap-Map to find the cheaper charging locations on your route, even if it means going slightly out of your way.

See our in-depth guides on how much it costs to charge your car at home and from public charging points.

How to save money on heating bills

Keeping warm is one of the biggest energy drains. These tips can help you save money on your bills:

  • Use smart plugs to control electric radiators or heaters. Many people use these heaters in back bedrooms or home offices, but they’re expensive and easy to leave on. By plugging the heater into a cheap smart plug, you can turn them on/off to a schedule, or turn them off from your smartphone even when you’re away from home if you’ve accidentally left one running. Read our guide to saving money with smart plugs here.

  • Smart heating systems such as Hive and Nest can help you save money, especially if you fit multiple thermostats on radiators in the home. This means you don’t waste money heating rooms you’re not using. So, you can keep bedrooms warm at night and living rooms snug during the day.

  • Be wary of gadgets that over-promise the ability to reduce energy bills. For instance, Hive Heating Plus costs £40 a year yet mostly just unlocks your heating history to show how you are performing against your set heating budget, with basic fault-reporting in the mix too.