For many people in the UK, January is their least favourite month - the festive season is over, you've returned to work and it's cold and dark outside, which means you've probably got your central heating and lights on more often than usual. And, with energy prices on the rise, that's the last thing you need, especially if you're still counting the cost of an expensive Christmas.
Luckily, January also heralds the arrival of Energy Saving Week, the national campaign designed to help and encourage people to save energy and cut down on their fuel costs.
Running from the 17th to the 23rd of January, it is an excellent opportunity to spread awareness of the importance of minimising energy usage and, in that spirit, we've compiled a list of some of the most effective ways to save energy at home.
Although some appliances - such as the fridge - need leaving on, we're all guilty of leaving others running silently in the background when it would be easy to unplug them and reduce energy usage.
Over the course of a year, the cost of leaving household items on standby soon adds up, with TVs, Sky/freeview boxes, routers, microwaves and phone chargers among the biggest offenders. Switching them off instead of leaving them on standby could cut your annual energy bill by around £100 and possibly even more, depending on how old your appliances are and how much energy they consume.
Smart thermostats have never been more popular and for good reason - by learning your household's heating routine, they work more efficiently than traditional thermostats, warming your home to your preferred temperature at exactly the right time without warming any rooms you tend not to use.
Most smart thermostats cost between £100 and £200 and the energy they'll help you save could reduce your annual bills by around £150, meaning they'll pay for themselves in no time at all. Have a look at this guide to the best smart thermostats currently on the market for more information.
Speaking of thermostats, it's a little known fact that nearly 50% of the money spent on energy bills goes on heating and hot water costs. As a result, turning yours down by just one degree could knock another £75 off your annual bill.
According to Money Advice Service, the average household spends approximately £396.60 each year on water, which leaves plenty of room to try and bring that figure down.
Some of the best ways to do so include:
There's nothing more annoying than heating your house to a comfortable temperature only to find it is rapidly losing heat thanks to draughts and having to turn the heating back on.
Fortunately, many draughts can be eliminated by using inexpensive draught excluders, while draught-proofing kits that enable you to seal cracks in floors and skirting boards, line your letterbox and block unused chimneys are easy to purchase online and can significantly reduce your heating bills.
If you can afford it, installing double glazing is among the most effective ways of draught-proofing your property; if you need a cheaper alternative, buy plastic lining for your windows to keep more heat in and save energy.
This may sound obvious but it's surprising how many people waste energy without even realising it.
The easiest way to keep track of how much energy you use is to have a free smart meter installed. Essentially next-generation gas and electricity meters, smart meters allow you to monitor how much energy you're using and how much it costs, making it easier for you to identify where you can reduce your consumption.
With loans from £250 to £20,000 available, we can help ensure your energy bills don't cost the earth. You can apply for one of our affordable loans here.
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