Times are tough financially for many of us, so it makes sense to save money wherever we can. One of the biggest household expenses is electricity – the very stuff that powers the laptops, TVs and other gadgets we adore.
Shopping around for a good deal on your electricity bills makes sense, but utility companies often raise their prices with little warning. Keeping costs down by using less energy in the first place is easy to do and less wasteful too. You just need to make some sensible changes to how you use it.
Thankfully there are lots of easy ways to keep electricity consumption to a minimum, as we’ll explain here.
Laptops, PCs and tablets all have brightly lit screens. A quick glance at the settings menu will reveal that powering the screen uses a significant amount of energy.
Reducing the brightness levels even by a couple of notches can prolong battery life and reduce electrical consumption.
If you don’t need to recharge your laptop so often, you won’t be drawing on the mains so often.
Turn it off!
Turning devices off saves the most electricity. The standby mode on a TV, PlayStation or Blu-ray player may be convenient, but it uses up a lot of power doing nothing.
A single-button unit such as the Ansmann AES-1 Zero Watt Energy Saving Timer Plug (£8.95) switches off the power after a specified time period 15 mins - 8 hours. Perfect for gadgets you might charge overnight.
Alternatively, you could try a smart plug such as the Hive Active Plug (£38.98) - you'll need the Hive Hub (£49.99) as well though - which allows you to set times from the Hive app and even switch them on remotely.
Household lighting uses lots of power – around eight per cent of an electricity bill, yet many of us think nothing of having lights on in every room in our homes – even if we’re not in them.
Swap traditional bulbs for energy-saving light bulbs. These LED bulbs are slightly more expensive, but save around £140 over the life of the bulb.
If you want to have lights come on for security’s sake or to reassure your child as they fall asleep, get a timer that switches off at a preset time. The rest of the time, try to be disciplined about switching off lights whenever you leave a room.
Computer power saving mode
Home computing devices use around 13 per cent of household electricity. With a Windows laptop you can quickly toggle between eco and performance modes. Check the Settings options to determine when the screen dims and powers off, and when the laptop goes into sleep mode.
The longer you can use the laptop between charges, the less often you’ll need to charge it. Unplugging from the mains when you’re not charging your gadgets is good practice too.
If you’re investing in a home PC consider a laptop rather than desktop – they use 85 per cent less electricity.
Eco settings on your washing machine can help you save on electricity bills too.
Only boiling as much water as you need for your tea also helps.
You can measure your energy consumption using an energy monitor, such as the geo Minim Electricity Energy Monitor (£29.95).
Smart heating is now widely available from the likes of Hive from British Gas, Nest, Tado and HeatSmart from EDF Energy.
They work slightly differently, but each learns your habits and adjust accordingly. A monthly report allows you to understand more about how and when you use your heating.
Prices vary, but you’ll typically have to pay an upfront cost to get a system installed, but manufacturers claim you’ll make the money back in electricity savings.
Find out more in our article: What is smart heating and how much could I save.