How to save money on heating as energy bills soar - Sarah Coles

I discovered the other day that some people have their heating on all day. All day. I mean, honestly, do these people not own cardigans?

Until now, I assumed we all had a quick blast of warmth to persuade us out of bed in the morning, and then hoarded every last degree of heat by stomping round the house closing windows and tutting at teenagers until 6pm, when the sun goes over the heating yard arm, and we’re allowed to put it on again.

The kids insist that I’m an old fashioned energy miser, but I’m pretty sure I’m just ahead of my time, and that over the coming months, we’ll all be cutting back.

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Whenever people talked about saving money on our bills in the past, they’ve tended to focus on the huge savings available from simply shopping around. And while that’s certainly the case for all sorts of things, from broadband to cornflakes, that ship has sailed for energy.

When the energy price cap is renewed in April, costs are going to climb dramatically again. Energy analysts are putting the potential hike at 50 per cent, although some are saying it could go up to £2,000 or more. Picture: Lutsenko Oleksandr/Adobe Stock

Energy prices have gone through the roof – in December, gas was three times more expensive than a year earlier. It means that right now it’s impossible to get a better deal than the default tariffs under the price cap.

At the moment that’s £1,277 – although that’s not a fixed cap, it’s the maximum charge for an average user, so if you live in a larger property or keep your heating on for an unfathomable amount of time, you’ll pay more.

If you were with one of the 25 energy providers that have gone to the wall since August, you’ll already be feeling the pain, because you’re likely to have been moved from a cut-price deal to the price cap, so you’re paying significantly more.

But the pain has just started, because when the energy price cap is renewed in April, your costs are going to climb dramatically again. Energy analysts are putting the potential hike at 50 per cent, although some are saying it could go up to £2,000 or more.

You could fix your tariff, but the current deals on offer are eye-wateringly expensive, so you’re likely to be better off staying on the default one.

It means that the mantra of shopping around will do nothing to control your energy bills right now.

We need to move to a new money-saving mode, of using less.

This makes an awful lot of sense, not just during the current crisis, but in the energy crises to come. Because while we will see peaks and troughs in energy prices, over time, we’re likely to see more of the peaks.

There are two key things in play: the first is that the world population is growing, and more people are middle class than ever – so we’re using more energy. In fact, global energy needs are expected to rise 50 per cent between 2016 and 2030.

The second is that we’ve set demanding carbon targets, which means leaving more fossil fuels in the ground. Over time, renewable energy may well pick up the slack (assuming we solve the challenges of storage and transport), but in the interim the price of fossil fuels is going to be incredibly volatile.

Some of the switch to using less energy is going to take a significant investment, which is the last thing we need at the moment.

Personally, I’m not enjoying my ongoing quest to save for double glazing at the same time as paying to heat a spectacularly draughty house. Everything from a more efficient boiler and heating system to higher energy rated appliances will make a big difference, and are worth considering saving towards.

However, there’s plenty you can do in the interim at either low cost, or at no cost at all. Insulation is essential if you’re going to hold onto every morsel of heat like a proper energy miser.

Loft insulation and draught proofing around doors and windows are a cost-effective step in the right direction.

You should also consider small changes that can bring down your energy usage. You’ll have heard the old chestnuts of not boiling more water than you need in the kettle, turning the thermostat down a degree or two, switching to energy-saving lightbulbs, and not leaving appliances on standby, but they’re all great straightforward steps.

There are also technology solutions that can save energy with less sacrifice. If turning things off at the wall is a pain in the neck, you can invest in smart plugs that can turn several off with the flick of a remote control.

And if you want to stay warm during the day without needlessly heating the bedrooms, you can investigate smart thermostats. Different models do different things, but they give you more control of what you heat and when.

You can also get yourself a smart meter, which will help you see how much energy you’re using, so you can make more informed decisions. Unfortunately, at the moment, my family is campaigning to stop me getting one of these in case it expands the range of things I constantly tell them to switch off.

If I could power my heating off the kinetic energy of my teenagers rolling their eyes, I could save myself a fortune, and probably afford to heat the whole house day and night without ever worrying about running out of what would be the most abundant renewable energy source in the world.

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