Getting started on energy saving

With its impact on the environment and our bank balances, the amount of energy we use, or potentially waste - is becoming increasingly important. By making just a few simple changes to our home and lifestyle, we can be more economical and efficient with our energy usage - saving money and helping us do our bit for the environment. But what does energy efficiency really mean? And why is it so important?

If you already know what you’re looking for, you can jump straight to that section using the links below:

What is energy efficiency?

Energy efficiency means cutting down the amount of energy required to perform an action like switching on a light, opening a fridge or heating water. For example, every time you flick on a light switch, you’re using energy to light the room.

But if you change from using an old style lightbulb, known as an incandescent lightbulb, to a more efficient fluorescent bulb - you’ll be producing the same amount of light, but will be using less energy in the process. That’s energy efficiency in a nutshell.

There’s now a huge variety of products, services and designs that can help improve energy efficiency. Running older appliances, like washing machines, tumble dryers or fridge-freezers can account for a huge percentage of your energy bill, so it makes sense to ensure these are as economical as possible.

However, it’s the little adjustments that are often the easiest for reducing your energy usage. These small changes may not seem like much, but every little does really help when it comes to saving energy.

If you’re looking to make changes around your home, why not check out our guide to saving money on your energy bills for more ideas on what you can do.

Why is energy efficiency important?

There are three main reasons to be more energy efficient:

  1. The environment

    If you’re making better use of the energy you’re using, then less energy will need to be created. As a result, the power plants that make this energy will burn fewer natural fossil fuels, these limited natural resources will last longer and we’re less likely to impact the earth by sourcing them through mining, logging or extractions.

    Also, by reducing energy usage, the power plants will create fewer emissions of greenhouse gasses such as sulphur dioxide or carbon dioxide - which absorb the sun’s heat and trap it in our atmosphere. So, less energy and less fuel means less damage to the natural world.
  2. Your bank balance

    This is a no-brainer, the less energy you use to light and heat your home, the lower the cost of your energy bills. Any steps you make will have an impact, although choosing energy efficient products and appliances is a great way to cut down your usage without having to make drastic changes that affect your daily routines.
  3. The global economy

    Dwindling natural resources can have an impact on the global economy. As oil, coal and natural gasses are depleting, they’re becoming more expensive, meaning more strain on the societies that rely on them. Becoming more efficient means we waste fewer of these precious resources. Plus, as we become more efficient in our energy use at home, we’re also more likely to be efficient across other kinds of industries, for example, businesses, agencies and schools. This means these areas can spend less on energy and more on goods, services, education and products.

How can I be more energy efficient?

With a few simple upgrades you could potentially save yourself hundreds of pounds in energy costs a year. Some of these will mean an initial investment, but will result in greater savings in the long run.

We have plenty of advice on our guide to saving money on your energy bills, but to give you an idea of how easy it can be, here’s three of our favourite ways to increase the energy efficiency of your home:

Insulation 

Around a quarter of the heat generated in your home could be lost through the roof or walls if you fail to insulate effectively. Making sure these areas are properly padded with decent insulation is a simple and cost-effective way to protect your home from the cold - saving energy and money on heating bills. You could even be eligible for free insulation through the Energy Companies Obligation – we can help you find out more.
Workman installing loft insulation

Upgrade lightbulbs 

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs) can cost a bit more than the old style lightbulbs, but they burn up to 75% less energy and can last up to 12 times longer. In fact, the average lifetime of an old style bulb is less than a year, while a CFL is likely to last more like 8 to 10 years - now how’s that for a saving?
Swapping a light bulb for an energy efficent version

Look for energy efficient appliances 

If you’re looking to buy new home appliances, check the energy ratings – these should be clearly labelled. There's some great advice from the Energy Saving Trust on the different ratings used for each type of appliance, and the best types to look out for to make sure it’s as energy efficient as possible, whether you’re after a microwave, television or fridge-freezer.
A couple unpacking a new kitchen appliance

Get a Smart meter 

A Smart meter records the energy you use and automatically sends it to us, and to a handheld Smart energy display in your home. With a Smart meter you'll know what you’re spending on energy each day in pounds and pence, and you'll be able to see where you could use less.
Energy display

Get your Smart meter

Join millions of other households with a Smart meter and make it easier to see where you could save money. Find out more about Smart meters.

What's watt?

Like all energy companies, we measure how much energy you've used in kilowatt hours (kWh). When you use 1000 watts of energy for 1 hour, that a kilowatt-hour. To make life easier, we've worked out the kWh measurements for some everyday examples so you can see how much energy you're using:

  • 9 uses of a kettle
  • 4 hours watching TV
  • 24 hours gaming
  • 286 hours phone charging
  • 27 minutes ironing
  • 31 hours on a laptop
  • 1-2 cycles in a washing machine
  • 80 minutes using a microwave

… so, choose your appliances carefully.

Illustrations of household appliances

Some appliances use more energy in an hour than others. The more energy they use, the more they cost to run.

Tests by Which? – the consumer group – in October 2013 showed that the fridge freezer using the fewest kWh costs just £14 per year to run. But other freezers could cost up to £102 per year to run. Even models with the same energy-efficiency rating can have very different annual running costs. Their tests found two A++ rated washing machines with difference over 30% - that’s £130 – over a five year period. For further information on how energy efficient appliances can help you save money in the long-run. (Source: Which?, October 2013).

Energy efficiency vs energy conservation

Whilst energy efficiency and energy conservation both have a very similar goal, they are two different ways of approaching the saving of electricity and gas. Read on to find out more about the differences between them and their benefits.

Energy efficiency: 

  • Tends to apply to physical upgrades, rather than major lifestyle changes
  • Uses technology which requires less energy to perform a certain function
  • Can be more costly initially, but requires less effort in the long term
  • Examples include: replacing old style lightbulbs with CFLs, adding insulation, upgrading appliances

Energy conservation: 

  • Involves a change in behaviour to use less energy
  • Has the potential to save more energy, although requires a greater commitment
  • Means saving energy without having to pay for new appliances or services
  • Examples include: turning off electronics overnight, turning down the thermostat, leaving lights off longer

How can we help?

Thermostat showing the word save on the display

Energy saving advice 

We’ve pulled together a list of energy saving tips – perfect for improving your energy efficiency and conserving energy usage in your home.

Find out how to save on your energy bills

Woman holding baby

Warm Home Discount 

This scheme helps people who may be struggling to keep up with their energy payments.

Find out more

Radiator with a piggybank sitting on top

Help managing your bills 

We know that some customers may have trouble paying their energy bills from time to time.

Get help and advice on paying your bills