I (stupidly) opened our December energy bill on my birthday 🥳😐😣. I’m not telling you how much, but, it was significant enough to make me wince. Big time. Happy freaking birthday.
We were completely baffled as to how we’d managed to use 3 times as much electricity in December (no price hikes and everything based on actual readings) compared to the previous month. Yes, it’s darker in December than November; yes, the tumble dryer has been used a little more; yes, we’ve had a couple of roast dinners and cooked the odd cake; yes, there have been lots more cups of tea and hot chocolate. But it didn’t make sense that the bill would be SO much higher. The gas bill was higher too but this at least made sense given the drop in temperature.
As someone who uses the #noplanetB🌍like some kind of woke millennial* with enough frequency to try and make a point, I was feeling quite the fool. And an out of pocket fool at that. On my birthday too 😭.
We ordered an electricity monitor to investigate. The Husband set it up as soon as it arrived (we’re fun like that). It became apparent the minute it was switched on that our house was using a huge amount of electricity. No wonder our latest bill had been sky high.
Things are significantly better a couple of weeks after having this little monitor on board.
I set about going through the house turning off lights and sockets, with the husband keeping an eye on the monitor. “WHAT DID YOU JUST TURN OFF?”. I’d just turned off the tumble dryer, which wasn’t running, just on stand-by needing the condenser to be emptied. Turning off the machine at the plug resulted in the monitor plummeting from red, red, red to green. Turns out the old dear had a fault and was an energy thirsty model. Yay, we’re going to need a new tumble dryer. Happy New Year 🎉.
Further into the investigation we discovered halogen bulbs (I thought we’d already replaced the old halogens with LEDs) in the bathrooms and along the outside of the house. We noted how much electricity was being used by the heated airer and that leaving it on was probably not such a great thing to do.
It’s Not Blackpool Illuminations In Here
With the monitor in place, we realised how lazy we were at leaving on lights. I remember sharp scolds about this as a child. “It’s not Blackpool Illuminations in here” was sternly dished out if you left lights on behind you. In the 80s and 90s, you turned lights off. Or else. Our relaxed attitude that LEDs use less power and being lazy, is just plain ridiculous.
We decided to replace our washing machine and tumble dryer. The machines that came with the house were old, inefficient, we’d discovered the fault on the tumble dryer and the washing machine had 2 holes in the rubber seal. We could have fixed them up but their inefficiency and age made our decision easy.
We didn’t have a stand-alone tumble dryer until we moved into this house. I hadn’t appreciated just how much electricity they use. They are hugely convenient, don’t get me wrong. Being able to easily turn around loads of washing when you’re busy has been a revelation. But we’ve decided to rely on ours much less and to keep up the good work with the heated airer. A new intention for 2019. And when the warmer weather is here? We’ll be back to line drying.
The Central Heating Thermostat
Our thermostat has been on manual since we moved in. We adjust it as we get hotter and colder. This is a terrible idea. As the heating is invariably left on over night (you forget to turn it down), everyone has heat induced nightmares and you land up with a huge bill.
Tortoises and Hares
The monitor came with a leaflet about taking steps to reduce your electricity use and cut your bills. It described appliances as tortoises and hares (basically, those with heating elements and those without). And how your house will always have a base usage for things like fridges (a trusty tortoise). In summary, if you can keep an eye on the tortoises and use your hares wisely, you will slash your energy usage.
Less Means More
Our electricity use for this month is a third of what it was last month; the gas use is still a lot but much lower than December. If that’s not improvement, I don’t know what is! Being more aware is so much better for the planet and for our bank balance too.
Here are my top tips from our energy reduction quest:
Practically Ethical’s Guide to being more energy woke at home
- If in doubt, ask your energy provider for an electricity monitor. If they don’t provide them, you can buy a decent one for about £40. Pricey, but like us, you could save £££s by keeping an eye on what you’re using. Our savings in a month have paid for the monitor several times over.
- Once you’ve got your monitor on, go around the house and turn everything off. This will show you what’s using what. If you find you’re still using a lot when you’ve turned everything off and you have a modern fuse box, turn off each circuit to find where the hidden suspect is. We had no idea that our tumble dryer had a fault until we did this exercise.
- Check that your light bulbs are LED and not halogen. Yes, more expensive to buy initially but they’re so much more efficient. They last longer too. And really, does anyone enjoy changing light bulbs 💡?
- If you decide to replace old or broken appliances, check the energy rating of the new one. We replaced B and C machines with A++ and the energy usage is noticeably lower.
- Turn off lights behind you. Remember, “it’s not Blackpool Illuminations in here!” (my parent’s are Londoners but you can add a Lancashire accent for effect if you like 😉).
- Turn off appliances left on stand-by.
- Use your bathroom extractor when in the bathroom in winter, but if you have a window, switch the extractor off and open a window when you’re done.
- Only boil the amount of water you need. This seems really obvious but statistics show that vast amounts of electricity are wasted boiling water that isn’t needed or used.
- Also, descale your kettle. If the element is all furred up, it will be much less efficient and you’ll end up with bits in your tea. Gross.
- Ditto, service wash your washing machine every couple of months. You don’t have to use fancy descaler. A big mug of vinegar and a hot 60 or 90 wash (pop in a couple of towels so it’s not a completely lost wash) should do the trick. Looking after your machine will ensure that it keeps working efficiently, should break less and will last for longer.
- Put your heating on a timer. Turn your thermostat down over night and when you’re out of the house or away. Wear a jumper and thicker socks inside in winter if you’re cold before cranking up the heating. Buy some slippers. Get a nice blanket for when you’re watching Netflix. Maybe even invest in a thicker duvet, bed socks and hot water bottle if you get cold at night.
I’ve switched from Ecotricity to Bulb. Their electricity is 100% green but their gas is only 10%. This isn’t as great as Ecotricity. All of their energy comes from renewable sources. However, Bulb is a new company and has much more competitive rates. I toyed with this but sometimes, it really does come down to cost. We’ll review this again next winter.
Our next bill should be a pleasant surprise. Having done all of this, I feel much better about being in control and understanding what we’re actually using and where we need to be more aware. Maybe we’ll listen to our own advice and manage to be more energy woke in 2019. 🤞🏻.
How are your bills this winter? Have you taken measures to be more energy efficient at home? Or to reduce your outgoings? Did you grow up in a house where it was all about wearing an extra layer and making sure lights went off behind you? Are there any other tips you’d like to share with me? Get in touch, I love hearing from you!
*This is absolutely not how I see myself, btw! 😂