Belfast Telegraph

Energy bills could be cut by £85m

By Claire McNeilly

Householders in Northern Ireland could collectively save £85m on their energy bills with just a few simple steps.

The Energy Saving Trust has said that we could save an average £280 on energy bills every year by taking a number of energy efficient measures, including turning the thermostat down by one degree, turning appliances off standby and washing laundry at 30C.

The findings — part of a study commissioned by the organisation — also show we are feeling the pinch more than ever before. They revealed that only 42% of people in the UK would talk to family or friends if they were struggling to pay their bills.

This is despite 34% having difficulties paying their fuel bills. And while one in seven (14%) would take a second job or do overtime to fuel their home, just 3% would investigate sources of assistance like an advice helpline.

Patrick Thompson, operations manager for the Energy Saving Trust in Northern Ireland, said: “Our survey shows that everyone is feeling the pinch — no matter whether their salary is £15,000 or £55,000,” said Mr Thompson.

“Our message is that taking short-term measures such as cutting out that lunchtime latte is not the answer — it’s treating the symptoms but not the cause.

“But our overriding concern is that those who are ‘struggling in the dark’ are not speaking to anyone about their fuel bill problems,” he added.

“We would encourage anyone in Northern Ireland who is having difficulty paying their utility bill this winter to call our independent energy advice line this week on 0300 123 1234 to see what help they can get. We can advise on energy efficiency, as well as signposting householders to get help on dealing with debt and managing fuel bills.”

The survey also found 19% of people in the UK fret about paying their fuel bills and 35% of people have cut back on purchases such as eating out in an effort to pay their energy bills.

7 Ways to slash your costs

1. Turn it off — Make sure you turn your lights, appliances and chargers off when you’re not using them. If you turn a light off for even a few seconds, you will save more energy than it takes the light to start up again, no matter what sort of lights you have. And virtually all electrical and electronic appliances can safely be turned off at the plug without upsetting their systems.

2. Turn it down — Many households have their central heating set higher than they need, without even realising it. Try turning your room thermostat down by one degree. Every degree that you turn it down could make additional savings to your heating bill.

3. Insulate — The Government, energy suppliers and local authorities all provide grants to help insulate your home. Call the energy saving advice line on 0300 123 1234 for details about these grants and offers. As much as 75% of homes are losing energy due to inadequate insulation. Insulating your home is a cost-efficient way of keeping heat in and energy bills down. Loft insulation alone can save you approximately £150 per year, equating to an average saving of around £6,000 over its lifetime. The recommended depth to insulate your loft to is 270mm.

4. Bulbs — Typically 30% of your annual electricity bill is spent on lighting your home which provides a great opportunity to find ways to be more energy efficient. A simple and cost-effective way to save energy in your home is to fit energy-efficient bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs burn as much as 75% of the energy they use as heat. Energy efficient light bulbs use up to 80% less electricity than standard bulbs and can last up to 10 times longer, giving you some significant energy savings. Energy efficient bulbs are inexpensive to buy and widely available in a variety of shapes and shades to suit your home.

5. Shower more — Taking a shower is more energy efficient than having a bath. A five minute shower uses an average of 30 litres of water compared to a half-filled bath which uses around 80 litres. That’s over a half less water for a shower which adds up to some serious energy savings if you and your family enjoy a regular soak in the tub. A hot shower each day is far more energising and time-saving.

6. Watch the small stuff — It’s the small things that can make big energy savings. A typical household kettle will use around 2,400 watts, which is the equivalent of switching on 160 energy saving lightbulbs for the duration of time you’re boiling the kettle. Overfilling the kettle is a big energy waster as more water means more energy and time to boil it. Wasted energy boiling an overfilled kettle in just one week can power a TV for a full day. You can save energy by boiling just the amount you need and save yourself around 90 seconds in boil time.

7. Watch your usage — One of the easiest ways you can be more energy efficient is to keep an eye on what you’re using and target the appliances using the most energy. Energy monitors are useful to track your energy usage and highlight wasteful, inefficient appliances. Purchasing one will cost between £50- £100, which will more than pay for itself in energy savings over the year. Energy monitors can be great to help educate your family on energy saving habits, keeping your bills down.

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