As we approach the most expensive quarter of the year for increased energy consumption and renewal of all those pesky annual policies, I’d advise anyone with more sense than money to get online and check what you’re paying, to see if you can get it for less somewhere else.
A word of warning, though: the cheaper deals do not always provide the best service, so check track records too. I learned the hard way...
TOP FIVE ENERGY-SAVING GADGETS
Top five energy-saving gadgets
Top five energy-saving gadgets
Plug draughts: Simply filling gaps between floor and skirting boards will save you around £20 — and 100kg of CO2 — a year. Use acrylic frame sealant or papier-mâché, or, if you're looking for a professional finish, use wooden laths (from £30 a pack). If you’re not using your fireplace, prevent drafts by blocking the chimney with Chimella (£49.99).
Control radiators: The LightwaveRF Smart Heating Radiator Valve (£44.99) lets you control individual radiators via app on a smartphone or tablet. Turning your central heating down by just one degree could save 10 per cent on your heating bill. You can choose which rooms to heat, schedule heating and even control the system remotely - perfect for holiday time.
No to standby: Internet-connected gadgets consume a lot of electricity in standby mode. Obviously, don’t unplug your set-top box if it’s due to record a programme but do use a wireless remote control, such as Bye Bye Standby (from £12.95) to turn off other devices at the mains when not in use.
Easily LED: Save an incredible 90 per cent on lighting bills by replacing inefficient recessed halogen spotlights with LEDs. This 4.5W LumiLife GU10 COB bulb (£6.39) produces enough light to replace a 45W spot. It will last up to 20 times longer than a standard bulb.
Cook clever: If you’re replacing your hob, induction is the most energy-efficient option. If you’re not, consider adding a single “ring” portable like the Stellar SEA15 (£69.95). It uses less electricity, is safer and easier to clean than alternatives. Meanwhile, make toast in a toaster rather than a grill; use a microwave not oven for smaller meals; and descale the kettle regularly so it boils faster, using less energy.
Like-for-like buildings insurance is the first port of call for straightforward savings. When my existing home insurers, Home Protect, rang to tell me they couldn’t automatically renew my annual policy because my debit card details had changed, I was spurred on to investigate better deals. Ten minutes on www.moneysupermarket.com and I was looking at a premium of £148 from Tesco Home Insurance instead of £337. This includes a discount of about £15 for being a club card-holder. So it’s worth checking your retail cards or memberships to see what incentives they offer.
With Ofgem’s January 2014 ruling for clearer tariff information, understanding your gas and electricity bills no longer requires an off-the-chart IQ; switching suppliers is easier too. With a bill in my hand and a quick call to current suppliers NPower, I worked out that the £79 a month for gas and £36 a month for electricity could be cut by £23 a month if I opted for Extra Energy’s 12-month fixed tariff with online billing. What’s not to love? Incidentally, all the advice about switching off lights, filling kettles half full, shutting doors and not leaving plugs on standby is all very well, but try convincing your children, or in my case young adults still living at home.
Thames Water offers the choice of metered or fixed-tariff water supplies. As I have a garden and three young adults, who all need regular hosing down, I’m still probably better off for now paying just the fixed tariff, but with two of them off to university, it may be time to rethink and go for a meter (which you can opt out of later).
TELEPHONE AND BROADBAND
This can be a grey area when it comes to making savings. If you depend on wifi working at full capacity 100 per cent of the time, I’d be wary of cheaper deals. Earlier this year Sky seduced me away from BT with its low-cost broadband and landline deal. Cheaper it may have been but it was download go-slow from day one. After several weeks of frustrated phone calls to Sky averaging up to 40 minutes each, I went back to BT, opting for its Unlimited Fibre Optic broadband with free landline calls at weekends option at £28.99. It’s not the cheapest but it feels like luxury — since it works.