The two top ways to reduce the cost of energy are reducing consumption and reducing the tariff.


Reducing consumption:

Most appliances use electricity, consumption is measured in units (1,000 Watts used continuously for an hour). Some appliances use varying amounts of energy depending on what they do. For example, a washing machine uses little to wash clothes once the water is hot enough, during the time it is heating an element will draw much more energy, the spin cycle depends on how fast it spins.


For ease of calculation, you can look up the consumption for the machine you use or accept estimated average consumptions. Suppose that a typical washer uses 2.5 units per wash – multiply 2.5 times by the price per unit – say 20p for example – the cost for that wash is 50p.


Consider how many times per week you use the machine – if you can reduce the number of occasions or reduce the temperature then the cost of laundry will be lower. If you dry the clothes in a tumble dryer or a washer dryer – the same principles apply, except the control is usually how long the dryer is used or how dry you want them to be. Some clothes will dry perfectly well indoors or on a dry day outside for free.


A dishwasher CAN wash and dry a full load cheaper than hand washing; it can use more if there are only a few things and the amount of water used for handwashing is kept to a minimum.


An electric kettle transfers virtually 100% of heat into the water. A gas kettle might only be 40% efficient (mainly why they take longer to boil). The cost of gas is usually lower than electricity (per kWh), however, the convenience of an automatic cut off and more comfortable handle temperatures can be worthwhile. However, most households use less energy boiling kettles or for lighting than heating air, washing or refrigeration. Know which appliances use the most energy, a smart meter can help here, and costs nothing to install.


Reducing temperatures for space and water heating will save energy, increasing insulation of a property or a hot water tank can also benefit.


The tariff:

At one time we were encouraged to shop around for lower energy costs. This has been overtaken by the exit of over 30 energy companies, according to the energy regulator Ofgem. There is still room for savings, however. Off-peak electricity is still available, the day rate might be more than a single tariff, and the ‘night rate’ a bit less. Some appliances and electric vehicles can be used when the rate is cheapest. Some appliances use energy to maintain temperature (e.g. refrigeration), throughout the night.


Most tariffs comprise a charge for each unit PLUS a standing charge for having the energy available, backup service and administration regardless of the amount you use. Some charge different standing charges according to which tariff you select.


Understand your annual and seasonal variations of energy consumption – whatever the fuel. Then use that pattern of consumption with the available options. In my opinion, there is little to choose between providers when comparing like for like although the amount of your bill charged for consumption, rather than standing charge, will change most if you are a high or low energy consumer; and there can be more saved by reducing consumption. I am a supporter of off-peak prices because we use appliances with delay timers and our car can accept a charge when we are asleep – using no less energy but paying less for it.