With energy bills rising, families across Britain are already taking action to cut their energy use – and consumer expert Dom Littlewood surprised one Cardiff family with some new ideas.
School worker Charlene and her firefighter husband, also called Dom, live in a terraced house with their two children, and were keen to try out new ideas to save money on their energy bills.
Consumer expert Dom Littlewood teamed up with Smart Energy GB and experts from MoneyMagpie to offer helpful tips to families in Britain who are looking to curb their energy use.
Littlewood says: ‘Visiting homes across Great Britain was an eye opener. It’s clear that people have become more energy conscious this year.
Charlene and Dom, from Cardiff, are using their smart meter’s in-home display to keep on top of their energy use
‘Whilst households are taking lots of positive steps to manage their energy use, by working directly with families we found we were able to identify some further small steps they could take, such as getting a smart meter to monitor energy use.’
Cardiff couple Dom and Charlene had already made plans to deal with rising energy prices and the cost of living crisis, with Dom taking on additional weekend work as an instructor training other firefighters, and Charlene working in a local pub.
‘We’ve definitely changed things’
The couple had a visit from Dom Littlewood for his What’s Watt video series, which sees him offering energy-saving advice to familes across Britain.
‘Since we met Dom Littlewood, we’ve definitely changed things,’ says Charlene. ‘We are a lot more proactive, so for example, we do bigger loads in the washing machine, but also use the Eco setting which we weren’t even aware of.
‘The tumble dryer we barely use at the moment, because we are trying to hang things up instead, but again, we had an eco setting which we didn’t even realize we had.’
‘Dom also pointed out the fact we didn’t have a thermostatic valve on some radiators, so we couldn’t control the amount of heat that was coming off.’
Families in Britain have been facing increased bills since the energy price cap increased in April.
And many are already taking the obvious steps to cut waste. Smart Energy GB’s research found that families are already turning off the lights in unused rooms (49%), unplugging devices at the socket (39%) and disconnecting chargers at the wall (37%).
People with smart meters are 23% more likely to have adjusted their habits already.
Smart meters come with an in-home display, which shows you how much gas and electricity you’re using in pounds and pence, making it easier to stay on top of your budget and spot opportunities to cut waste.
Is your fridge leaking energy?
Dom and Charlene said that Dom Littlewood came up with lots of unexpected ways to save energy, such as making sure the seals on the fridge are intact (see the box below for more details).
Dom Littlewood also persuaded the couple to bring their smart meter’s in-home display out the cupboard, where Dom had kept it, and put it out in the utility room where they can both see it.
Checking the seal on your fridge is one way to cut down on waste
Dom admits: ‘I was less keen on it: I was worried it could become quite obsessive if you’ve got it there constantly.’
Charlene says: ‘Now we’ve got it out in the open, it’s definitely helping us to save money because we’re more aware of it. We’re able to track our electricity use better – and we’re more prepared when energy bills come in! We still have to live our life, but we are just making small changes just to reduce waste where we can.’
When the winter months come round, the couple plans to use the smart meter to monitor (and hopefully cut down) on heating expenditure.
Dom says: ‘When we start using the central heating again, when the weather starts to turn, we can use the smart meter to monitor how we’re doing over the space of four weeks and see if we can find and make adjustments (for example if it’s better to have eating on for just half an hour rather than an hour). Small changes that all add up in the long term.’
Charlene says that even the couple’s eight-year-old daughter has become interested, and now unplugs her bedside light when she is not using it.
You can check your smart meter’s in-home display whenever you want
Charlene says she’s even tackled some of the habits she’s found hardest to change in the past.
She says: ‘Dom has been telling me for many moons to switch my hair straighteners off at the actual plug. But I’ve actually got into a daily habit of unplugging them from the wall.I’m quite proud of that!’
Dom Littlewood’s super smart energy-saving tips
Consumer expert Dom worked with Helen Skelton and MoneyMagpie to create energy saving tips built for the cost-of-living crisis.
You know the obvious things, so Dom and the team have identified some simple things you might not have considered yet.
Use smart sockets
Smart sockets include timers which can turn off appliances such as fans or portable air-con units in the middle of the night, when it’s naturally cooler.
Floor fans can be set to turn off once they’ve gently cooled you to sleep, reducing energy use.
Get a smart meter
Smart meters come with an in-home display which shows how much energy is being used in near-real time, in pounds and pence.
They’re available at no extra cost from your energy supplier, and if you pay the energy bills in your home, you can choose to have a smart meter installed – although it’s best to ask your landlord if you rent.
Energy regulator Ofgem says your landlord should not unreasonably prevent you from getting one.
Keep an eye on refrigerator seals
The seals around a refrigerator are the barrier between warm air outside and cool air inside – and if they are leaky, the fridge will have to work harder to stay cool, using more energy.
Replace the seals if they are cracked or leaky.
Batch cook and microwave
Batch cooking meals at weekends and reheating in the microwave is a great way to save energy – microwaves usually use less energy than ovens or hobs.
Buy a better shower head
Efficient shower heads can reduce the amount of water you use, and the energy used to heat it.
Around 12% of the average household’s heating bills are spent on heating water, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Turn down your thermostat
Flicking your thermostat dial down just one degree could save households across the UK approximately £800 million, according to some estimates.
Install radiator reflectors
Reflective sheets behind your radiators will ‘bounce’ heat back into your room instead of leaking out of your home through external walls.