Money-saving tips

Written January 2008

You might cut back on holidays, restaurants and other obvious expenses, but what about saving money at home? A few smart investments and simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference to your bills.

So where do you start saving money? You could start at the top.

Insulation

Most houses lose about a third of their heat through the roof and walls - but the good news is: you can stop that happening. It won't take long, and it'll soon pay for itself.

For example, you could get cavity wall insulation in around 3 hours. It normally costs around 500, but it'll reduce that heat loss by two thirds, saving you around 100 every year.

You may be eligible for a grant towards cost of insulation at www.freeinsulation.co.uk.

Even easier (and cheaper), you could cut your energy bill by 20% by laying down 6-8" (150-200 mm) of loft insulation. You could probably have it done in a few hours.

Double glazing

About 20% of our heat goes straight out of the window, but you can cut that in half by installing double glazing. As an added bonus, UPVC frames won't rot like wooden frames, so that's another long-term saving.

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The right utility company

Find out which utility (gas and electricity) supplier is offering the best deal. There's a lot of competition these days, so it's well worth shopping around - check out the energywatch website www.energywatch.org.uk.

Central heating

You might really notice the savings if you stop heating empty rooms. All you need is a seven-day timer, and you can programme your weekly schedule into your central heating system. And if you fit thermostatic valves to every radiator in the house, you can heat just the rooms you're using, instead of wasting money on rooms you barely go in.

Did you know that you could save 10% on your annual bill if you turn the central heating down by just 1C? Would you even notice 1 degree?

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Hot water

If your boiler is more than 15 years old, a new model might pay for itself faster than you'd think. With a high-efficiency condensing boiler, you might reduce fuel consumption by 20% or more.

And don't forget the importance of insulating your hot water tank. A tank that's fitted with a thick British Standard insulating jacket (3" thick or more) will lose around 75% less heat than an uninsulated tank!

Finally, set your hot water cylinder thermostat to 60C.

Electrical appliances

Only 15% of the electricity consumed by a DVD player is actually used. The rest is wasted because people keep it on standby! So if you're not using appliances, just turn them off - there's no point in leaving them on standby. Add up all the PCs, TVs, videos, DVDs, games consoles and stereos in the house, and you can imagine how much electricity you're wasting in a year.

And although some products cost more, they'll save you money in the long run. Energy-saving lightbulbs use around 25% of the energy of normal bulbs but can last ten times as long!

Some appliances don't need to be replaced - just used in a different way. Did you know that you'll use 40% less electricity if you wash your clothes on 30C?

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Save money on saving money!

Act on any of these ideas and you'll soon notice the savings.

But perhaps the best news is this: the government wants you to save money and energy. As a country, we've set ourselves a national target of reducing our carbon emissions by at least 60% by 2050.

So whatever energy-saving plans you have, from loft insulation and draught-proofing to cavity wall insulation and hot water tank insulation, you might be able to get a grant from your local authority!

Find out what grants are available to people in your area. Click here.

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