New analysis by Sky News shows that simple changes to our behaviour won’t just save us money but could significantly cut the country’s carbon emissions.
Four simple changes, such as turning down the thermostat, air-drying laundry, placing a lid on saucepans during cooking and using the dishwasher in eco mode, could save £400 a year.
Sky News analysis of data from consultancy Cambridge Energy shows that those changes would also lead to a drop in carbon emissions by a fifth for heating per household.
The table below shows the most valuable changes an average household which uses gas for central heating could make:
Homes that use electricity for heating spaces could save four times as much as the above figures as the cost of electricity is significantly higher than gas.
Impact on carbon emissions
Many of the changes in behaviour achieve savings in bills through reduced energy use. Fewer kilowatt-hours mean lower carbon emissions.
British households consume about 330 terawatt-hours of natural gas each year. Sky News analysis shows that if all eligible households were to adopt five of the most energy-intensive behaviours, then national carbon emissions from natural gas use would fall by more than a sixth.
While adapting behaviour reduces bills and carbon footprint to an extent, Dr Jason Palmer, director at Cambridge Energy, says big investments are still needed to make further cuts to our reliance on fossil fuels.
"Long term, we will still need to switch over to heat pumps, insulate roof and floors properly, and switch to modern double glazing.
"These higher energy prices actually give households a bigger incentive for investing a little bit of money, time, and effort in switching over to more sophisticated controls."
So what are the changes that could reduce our energy bills?
Over half of household energy is spent on heating living spaces. This means small changes to our heating preferences could lead to significant savings.
More than two-thirds of our annual gas consumption happens between November and February, significantly raising carbon intensity during the winter period.
Closing the bedroom window at night, turning down the thermostat by two degrees and delaying restarting your heating by a month could save nearly £300 a year.
The End Fuel Poverty Coalition estimates a £300 saving in energy bills could take over half a million households in England out of fuel poverty.
The most significant savings from heating will be made during the winter, but adapting water use can lead to savings throughout the year.
Upgrading to an efficient showerhead that’s used twice a day could reduce energy consumption by 5% – saving more than £50 per year. This is in addition to any money saved through water bills.
"It’s fairly easy to reduce either bath depth or length of time in a shower without a massive impact on your lifestyle or your quality of life and still achieve quite decent energy savings," Dr Palmer added.
And with a further rise in the energy price cap expected in the autumn, these savings could become even more valuable.
Before the hike in the energy price cap earlier this month, about one in four who reached out to debt charity StepChange said they were behind on their electricity and gas bills. The charity says it expects the situation to worsen.
Peter Tutton from StepChange said: "More and more, what we are seeing is that people experiencing problem debt have problems meeting not just their credit repayments, but also their priority bills.
"We’re convinced that as the year goes on the chancellor is likely to need to find a way to provide more, and more targeted, support for those who are simply unable to absorb the cost of living increases into their household budgets."
Minor changes to behaviours that are neither intrusive nor affect our day to day lives can save small amounts of energy, which together could add up to sizable savings, according to the analysis.
Changes such as simmering rather than quickly boiling food when cooking, using a lid with a saucepan and only filling the kettle to the level required could add up to £65 in savings annually.
Switching to a line or an indoor drying rack could be the single biggest saving as tumble-dryers are often the biggest energy-guzzlers at home. Air drying laundry could save more than £100 a year.
Ofgem’s latest price cap for 1 April to 30 Sept was used to calculate cost savings. Changes in behaviours lowered electric or gas consumption by £0.28 per kWh or £0.07 per kWh, respectively.
According to Cambridge Energy, due to changes in the energy efficiency of appliances and other factors since data collection, energy savings estimates are likely to remain within 10% of published values.
UK government’s greenhouse gas reporting conversion factors 2021 was used to convert kWh values to kg CO2.
The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.
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