Save energy and keep warm in your home

The average energy bill has doubled over the last six years, and many people are feeling the strain on their finances to keep warm. Find out how to reduce your bills and stay well.

The average UK household wastes an estimated £250 a year by not being energy efficient, but saving energy in your home can be quite simple. There are lots of ways to reduce the energy you use. For example, make sure that you switch off appliances, block gaps around doors and windows (but not your ventilation grills!) and buy energy saving lightbulbs.

Low- and no-cost tips to save energy

No-cost tips

  • Turning down your thermostat by only 1°C could reduce your heating bills by up to 10% - saving you some £50 a year. The recommended temperature in your living room is 21°C (70°F).
  • Set your hot water tank to 60°C to prevent water from being overheated.
  • Conserve energy by not leaving electrical items on standby. Prevent further wastage by not keeping laptops and mobile phones charging unnecessarily.
  • Draw your curtains at dusk to retain heat in your home, and make sure the curtains, or any furniture, are not blocking your radiators.
  • Take a three-minute shower rather than a bath – showers use a lot less hot water.
  • Wash your clothes at 30°C, with a full load each time.
  • Defrost frozen food in the fridge overnight, as this will reduce the cooking time. And use the right size of pan for the amount of food you are cooking. Put just enough water in the pan to cover the vegetables rather than fill the whole pan, and always put the lid on to keep the heat in.
  • Keep internal doors closed to reduce draughts.

Low-cost tips

  • Look for energy efficient alternatives for your lighting.
  • Insulate your hot water pipes to stop heat escaping.
  • Fit your hot water tank with an insulating jacket. Using one that's at least 75mm (three inches) thick could save you around £30 a year.
  • Put radiator panels or aluminium foil behind radiators against outside walls to reduce the amount of heat escaping.
  • Use programmable heating controls to turn your heating on only when it’s needed.
  • Fit thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) to keep frequently visited rooms warm whilst turning off radiators in rooms that aren’t being used – and close the doors of those rooms.

For the more tips and explanations, go to the Energy Saving Trust website. This non-profit organisation gives free and impartial advice about energy. They also have information about home improvements:

Your energy supplier

After reducing the amount of energy that you use, you may want to look at your energy provider: Are you on the right tariff for what you use? Could you pay less? Have you considered switching supplier? Finding the right tariff used to be very confusing, but recent changes have made it a lot easier.

And Lambeth has made it even easier for you to see if there is a better tariff out there: find out of you could get a better deal on your gas and electricity bills by registering for the Big London Energy Switch. This is an energy switching scheme run by 20 London boroughs that aims to help you lower your energy bills. It does not commit you to anything, so there is no harm in registering to find out if you could pay less.

Or, you can call your own energy supplier and ask if they have a better tariff for you.

Be aware that energy companies offer discounts if you pay via direct debit and if you take gas and electricity from the same supplier (so-called dual fuel). If you are on a pre-payment meter, know that this is the most expensive way to pay for your energy. If you can, ask your energy company to switch you to a ‘normal’ meter. There may be a charge for this, usually around £50.

Also make sure you get billed for what you use, not what the energy company thinks you have used (estimated bills). Take regular meter readings and submit them to your energy company either online or over the phone.

If you would like some help with understanding your energy bills, independent price comparison website uSwitch has published a sample of the most popular suppliers' gas and electricity bills. See uSwitch energy bills explained.

Monitor your energy use

It can be useful to know how much electricity certain things in you home actually use. Did you know that leaving your phone charger and other items plugged in all the time can cost up to £30 a year? Once you know how much electricity something is using, you might be more encouraged to unplug it or switch is off when you don’t need it, and save money.

Library users can now borrow special devices called OWLs to monitor how much electricity is being used in the home and how much it is costing. The monitors are easy to fit without any technical knowledge and come with a portable display showing how much electricity is being used in pounds an hour, or alternatively CO2 emissions. They can be borrowed for a maximum of three weeks at a time. A £5 deposit will be required, which is fully refundable when the device is returned complete.

Normal late charges apply. Please be aware that the monitors are not appropriate for all homes and require the electricity supply meter to be within the property.

The monitors are available from all our libraries.

Find you nearest library