Nine surprising ways you can save energy around your home

Erin Browne

We’re all used to switching off lights and unplugging TVs when not in use to try to save energy, but did you know an old-fashioned Spring clean can also help to cut your bills?

As the cost of living crisis takes hold, the internet is awash with tips on how to reduce your gas and electricity bills – some more sensible than others.

But consumer champion Which? – generally well-regarded for good advice – has come up with a list of surprising ways you can save energy around the home – and most boil down to upping your cleaning game and being more organised. So roll up your sleeves and get stuck in for a cleaner home and lower bills.

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1. Descale your kettle. If you live in one of the North East’s harder water areas, get into the habit of descaling your kettle. A kettle full of limescale will take longer and use more energy to boil the same amount. Which? recommends using citric acid to do the job, as it is stronger than vinegar or lemon juice, and won’t leave any lingering taste or smells. You can check the hardness of your water here.

2. Clear out your oven. Many people store baking trays and dishes in the oven, but make sure you clear these out before turning it on. Unnecessary oven trays will block the airflow in your oven, not only leading to uneven cooking but also making your oven work harder than it needs to and using more energy.

3. Pull out your fridge. Dust lurking on condenser coils on the back of your fridge can prevent it from cooling properly. In the worst cases, especially dusty coils can increase energy use by up to 25%. It’s recommended you check and dust the coils on both your fridge and your freezer about twice a year by gently vacuuming then brushing away any remaining dust.

4 … and make sure air can get behind your fridge and freezer. Cleaning those coils regularly will be a whole lot easier if you can more easily get to them. But making sure there is some air that can get to them is also key to saving energy as less air circulation around the back of your fridge can make it work harder, as the coils can’t cool down naturally. There’s not a lot you can do with built-in models, so they can just be naturally less efficient.

5. Defrost your freezer. If your freezer isn’t frost-free, defrost it regularly to prevent a build up of ice. Not only will it take up precious space where your food should be, but the ice actually acts as an insulator. This means your freezer has to work harder in order to penetrate that block of ice to keep your food cold, and therefore it will cost you more in electricity to run.

Thinking ahead and getting more organised can mean savings too.

6. Remember to take the ingredients for tonight’s dinner out of the freezer in the morning. Defrosting frozen items in the fridge will reduce cooking time and will also reduce the energy consumption of your fridge as helps to cool it down. This means the compressor will have less work to do and the amount of energy required to keep your fridge chilled will be reduced. So it’s a win-win, although some things do need to be cooked from frozen so do check labels first.

7. Use an air fryer, microwave, pressure cooker or slow cooker. It will cost less to heat a small cavity than a large one, so make use of any small appliances you have. These can be cheaper to run than an oven, completing the same cooking task with less energy. A slow cooker is on for many hours at a time, so check if you could cook for less time or if cooking in an alternative way would be more economical. Whatever you use, don’t be tempted to keep peeking at your dinner. Keep the lid on or the door closed to avoid reducing the temperature and wasting energy.

8. Wash less often. If you think you’re saving money by opting for half-loads or quick wash settings on your dishwasher or washing machine, you’re wrong. Waiting until you can do a full load is almost always more economical. Fewer large washes will be more energy efficient than many smaller ones, and running your dishwasher and washing machine one less load per week would save you £16 per appliance over a whole year, according to Which?. Don’t think you’re saving money by washing up by hand though – a dishwasher is usually a more economical choice.

9. Get to know your appliances. The eco program on a dishwasher and washing machine will likely be the cheapest to run program. The energy and water use of different washes should be in the instruction manual if you want to check. But which extra features you switch on can have just as big of an impact as which programs you choose. If your dishwasher has an automatic door opening setting, make sure to use it. This will allow your dishwasher’s door to open slightly at the end of a wash to help drying and reduce energy use. Auto settings on your tumble dryer can also help you not over-dry clothes and waste energy.

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