Wondering why your electricity bill is sky high? If your usage has crept up, here's our guide to the biggest energy-guzzlers in the home - and how to stop them being quite so hungry.
For many of us the electric tumble dryer is the single most energy-hungry appliance in the home, with the less-efficient models gobbling up more than £100 worth of juice a year according to Which? But if you have a B or C rated device, a newer A-rated model will get your bill down to £40 or under – so could pay for itself quicker than you might think. And drying on the washing line is a free alternative (apart from the small initial outlay) in the warmer months, with a clotheshorse and airing cupboard doing the same job indoors all year round.
There are a few things you can do to help your tumble dryer eat less electricity too:
- Use a fast spin on your washing machine when possible, to give the clothes a head start before they even get to the dryer.
- Empty the lint filter every time you use it.
- Fill it up (but without over stuffing) each time you use it
- Fasten duvet covers before you put them in, to avoid other items sneaking in and forming a huge wet ball that takes longer to dry.
- Over-drying clothes uses more energy than necessary. If you plan to buy a new model, look for one with a "moisture sensing" device that shuts off automatically when your clothes are dry - and be careful when setting the timer.
- Dry heavy and light fabrics separately. Mixing different weight fabrics in the same load causes the dryer to run longer than necessary.
Washing machines may not be as energy hungry as tumble dryers but if you have a large family or volunteer to clean the team's sports kit, the costs can quickly add up. Again, there are ways to use less energy and save money:
- Turn down the temperature. Heating water accounts for the vast majority of energy used by washing machines. Save high temperatures for heavily soiled clothes and turn down the dial on the rest.
- Put the washing machine on only when you have a full load of laundry to save energy and water.
- If you're on a water meter, check the Energy Efficiency Label when buying a new appliance, which should show how many litres of water it uses.
- You can save water by making sure the machine isn't set to use an extra rinse.
- Set it to cotton wash instead of synthetic wash – which uses around 50 per cent less water.
After heating, the biggest energy cost for most households is refrigeration – because fridges and freezers need to be left on around the clock. Research by Which? discovered that running costs for fridge-freezers vary from £15 to £76 per year – with newer models generally being more efficient. In fact, all new fridges and freezers must have an energy efficiency rating of A++ or higher by law. But if you already have an efficient appliance, can't afford a new one or just want to economise further, there are a few simple tips you can follow:
- Let food cool down completely before you put it in the fridge or freezer, that way it doesn't have to work as hard to do its job.
- Make sure they are set to the correct temperature: go lower than 5 deg C on your fridge or -18 deg C on your freezer and you'll be wasting energy.
- Shut the door in between taking items out and putting them back in.
- If defrosting food from the freezer, pop it in the fridge. This will cool things down in the fridge so it doesn't have to work so hard.
- Check that your refrigerator door shuts tightly - a door leak allows cool air to escape, forcing your refrigerator to use more energy to keep food cold. You may need to clean or replace the door seal.
- Automatic defrost refrigerators may be convenient but their defrosting features use much more electricity than a manual defrost model.
- Keep fridges and freezers away from heating appliances (ovens and dishwashers) or radiators. Exposure to heat means cooling appliances have to work harder, increasing energy consumption.
Electric hobs might be easier to clean than their gas equivalents, but they also tend to cost twice as much to run* – because making heat from electricity is always a costly process. However there are a few easy measures you can take every time you cook:
- Keep the lid on when cooking - you'll need less energy to heat your food.
- Cook food in large batches and keep in smaller portions, to be reheated when required. This will save time and energy.
- Only put enough water in the pan to just cover your vegetables.
- Use the microwave if you are just heating up some baked beans or re-heating a pre-cooked dinner.
- Select the correct size ring for your pan.
- If buying new saucepans, copper-bottom ones conduct heat better than others and cast iron pans retain it more effectively than stainless steel equivalents.
The TV is the most energy-hungry entertainment appliance in the home according to the Energy Saving Trust. And while larger sets are popular, they also use more energy – for example an A-rated 22" LCD TV might cost £6 a year to run, compared to £31 for an A-rated 56" TV **. You can save energy by turning off the set when not using it, rather than leaving it on standby. In fact, simply turning off lights once you leave the room and not leaving appliances on standby could save the typical household between £50 and £90.** Even if you only save a few pence a day following our tips, it can add up to big savings over the year.
* Figures from Carbon Footprint sustainability consultancy
** Figures from Energy Savings Trust
Want to be sure? Invest in an electricity monitor and find out how much power your home is using at any one time. These small wireless devices (costing around £27 upwards) hook up to your electricity supply to help you spot energy-guzzling devices.
Have you cut back on your electricity usage? Leave a comment below...