With swathes of the population now working and schooling from home, or having to self-isolate or shield, many of us have never spent so much time in the great indoors. While in the summer months, it may have seemed relatively easy, now that we’re in winter it means the added burden of higher fuel and water bills.
According to pre-pandemic Government statistics, around 2.4 million households were fuel poor and 3 million households were struggling to pay water bills. With heating and hot water accounting for over 50% of fuel bills, it’s easy to see how the costs can build up.It is little consolation that, under UK law, Water Companies are not allowed to switch off the water supply to domestic residences. However, unpaid bills can be passed to debt recovery agents and obtain County Court Judgements that mean further costs and debts rising more quickly. With high rates of unemployment, more people working from home and home schooling due to coronavirus, those rates of fuel and water poverty are likely to rise.
Even if you aren’t feeling the pinch from energy and water bills, from an environmental standpoint, we can all do our bit to lower our energy and water use. The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) has the following tips to aid house holders cut costs and help the environment:
1) Don’t run appliances such as washing machines or dishwashers on a half load. While some washing machines will reduce water consumption accordingly, most washing machines and dishwashers will use the same amount of water and energy regardless of load.
2) Take a shower instead of a bath to reduce both water and water heating costs.
3) Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth and try to avoid running it for longer than you need to.
4) Identify and address water waste e.g. fix any dripping taps.
5) Saving energy doesn't have to mean a colder home – it just means controlling energy use better and improving the way your existing heating system works. For instance controls such a boiler thermostat, room thermostat and timer will allow you to heat your home only when it is occupied, or when you are awake, allowing you to drop your energy use when sleeping or away from home.
6) Heat only the spaces you are using. Fit thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) to your radiators so you can turn off the heating in unoccupied spaces, such as spare bedrooms.
7) Use smart controls to make your boiler work harder for you. Not only can you pre-programme your heating, but you can talk to it while on the move via a mobile app. Many will also gain information from outside temperatures and weather forecasts, so they can adjust your heating requirements accordingly.
8) If your network allows it, install a smart meter to see where your energy use is high. Energy companies are continuing to roll out smart meters, in a covid-secure manner, even during lockdown.
9) Maintain your appliances. Not only does servicing ensure your boiler and wider heating system is working at its peak efficiency, but it also means it’s working safely. Annual servicing also helps to expand the life of your boiler so can save you costs in the long run.
10) Insulate and draught proof your home. If your roof is un-insulated, you will be losing around a quarter of the heat from your home through the roof space. Draught-proofing improvements (i.e. blocking up unwanted gaps surrounding windows, doors and chimneys) in your home will also help you save on energy bills and keep your house warm.
11) Ditch appliances like electric fan heaters. It will cost you several times the money to heat a room via a fan heater than it will via a central heating system.
12) If your boiler is reaching the end of its working life, take the plunge and replace it. Modern day boilers are highly efficient, so although initially costly, an efficient model can save £££’s on your heating bills.
Your local plumbing or heating engineer can help talk you through steps to make your plumbing and heating systems more efficient. Find one online via the CIPHE’s online search tool at www.ciphe.org.uk, by phoning 01708 472791 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.