How to Save Money on your Winter Bills

Wondering how to save on your energy bills this winter? Our guide includes some top advice and expertise on how to bring your utility costs down.

Our gas, electric and water bills can be a significant expense for many UK homes and businesses, particularly during the colder, darker winter months where our usage increases. However, there are steps you can take that can help bring your costs on these key utilities down – some of which can even benefit you significantly in the long run after winter releases us from its icy grip.

So from little lifestyle changes, through to equipping your property with innovative solar panels, the experts here at Geo Green Power have put together this guide to tell you what you need to know. 

We’ve gone through each utility, first explaining what can be a drain on our energy during winter, before then explaining what you can do to save on your monthly bills.

Heating bills

When the temperature drops, the unmistakable click of the thermostat can be heard across commercial and residential buildings alike, as gas-powered boilers kick into life to provide us with heating. However, as we’ve seen in recent years, gas prices have been at record highs and the gas bills of millions have shot up during winter.

Some typical winter heating costs

Under the current energy price cap (October 2023) set by the UK regulator, Ofgem, the cost of one kWh of gas is 7p. Although this isn’t as high as it was last year, it’s still at one of the highest levels in the last decade. 

Naturally, how much gas you use for your heating also depends on the size of your property, how well insulated it is and the output, age and efficiency of your boiler. But, a general rule of thumb for boiler-to-property-size can be as follows:

  • A small-sized property might use a 15kWh boiler
  • A medium-sized property might use a 24kWh boiler
  • A larger property might use a 30kWh boiler
  • A very large domestic property might use a 35kWh boiler

So in terms of a rough, estimated cost for mains gas on the current price cap, here’s how using each of these boilers for four hours a day could look in a typical household or business over three winter months (90 days):

  • A 15kWh boiler would cost £4.20 to run for four hours, so that’s £378 when used every day for this amount of time across 90 days
  • A 24kWh boiler works out at £6.20 for four hours and that’s £558 over 90 days
  • A 30KWh boiler would be £8.40 for four hours, which is £756 over 90 days
  • A 35kWh boiler is £9.80 for four hours, working out at £882 over 90 days

We should also point out that these estimated prices don’t include the daily standing charge of 30p, which over three months (90 days) works out at an additional £27.

How to cut your winter heating bills

As we’ve already mentioned above, how much gas you end up using – and ultimately how much it ends up costing you – can vary and depend on many different factors like your property’s insulation and your boiler’s performance. So unfortunately there isn’t a one-size-fits all means of bringing your heating costs down. 

However, what you can do is take lots of different approaches and make some lifestyle changes that can help cut your winter heating bills in lots of smaller ways. What follows are our top tips:

Keep the heat in

It might sound obvious but the most efficient way to heat your home is to ensure that once you have heated somewhere, keep the heat in! To help make sure this is the case you can:

  • Invest in better/new insulation, whether it’s loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and double glazing, all homes can benefit from these simple changes
  • Keep your doors closed and close your curtains when it gets dark – you can also line your curtains for improved insulation
  • Limit draughts and cold air circulating by having draught excluders at doors
  • Layer up your clothes to keep out the chill

Be smart with your heating

You don’t need to heat all the rooms in your property, especially if there are some you aren’t using. So with this:

  • Heat only the rooms you will use – so turn radiators off or individual thermostats down in these spaces and close the doors
  • Only put the heating on when you need it – don’t leave it on low all day as this isn’t effective and is in fact a heating myth!
  • Use smart/programmable thermostats that can allow you to control when your heating comes on and off
  • Place your thermostat in the room you’ll use the most

Prepare for the winter

To get the best from your heating system, you need to get it running as efficiently as possible, so you may want to do some of the following:

  • Get your boiler serviced, to check it’s working as well as it should
  • Reduce the flow rate of your combi boiler as it can make it more efficient – get a professional/expert to help with this if you’re unsure
  • Bleed your radiators to remove any air pockets and make them more effective and efficient
  • Reduce the water temperature in your boiler – again, get a professional to advise on this if you’re not sure what to do

Consider getting heat pumps installed

Depending on the nature of your property and age and efficiency of the heating system that you are currently running, a heat pump could offer a more efficient way to heat your property during winter and beyond. You can also make significant savings on your bills, as switching to a heat pump could eliminate your need for gas, LPG or heating oil – although the electricity usage at your property would increase.

How do heat pumps work?

Heat pumps use a pump to boost the heat collected from the air or ground which in turn heats water for hot water and heating. They’re more efficient than standard electric heating and hot water systems and work best in well insulated homes with underfloor heating and oversized radiators.

What’s more, combining your heat pump with other renewable technologies such as solar panels and battery storage will help you to reduce bills further and significantly reduce your emissions.

Other heat pump information

Just like a traditional boiler, heat pumps benefit from an annual service to ensure that they are working at their optimum. This is something Geo Green Power can assist you with and during our visit we can help ensure that your system is set up in the most efficient manner. Although, with fewer moving parts heat pumps require less maintenance than standard gas boilers and have a much longer lifespan making them cheap to maintain.

It’s also important to know that heat pumps run at a lower temperature than standard gas boiler systems, so you should never let the temperature of a property drop completely as you may struggle to get your property up to temperature again. It’s best to use a heat pump to maintain an ambient temperature and then boost that temperature for your comfort when needed.

UK homeowners can also use the government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme for heat pumps. This can see you get a grant specifically for helping you with the cost of getting a heat pump installed.

Additional heating bill support

There are also a few government-led schemes in place to help with winter heating bills. These are subject to a series of different criteria (e.g. your age and if you’re living in a low income household), these include:

  • The ‘Winter Fuel Payment’ – those born before 25 September 1957 could get between £250 and £600, specifically to help you pay your bills.
  • The ‘Warm Home Discount Scheme’ – if you meet the requirements, you should automatically get  £150 off your electricity bill for winter 2023 to 2024.

The ‘Cold Weather Payment’ – again, subject to certain criteria you could get £25 toward your heating bill for each 7 day period of very cold weather between 1 November 2023 and 31 March 2024.

Potential long-term cost savings on your heating bills

You’ll find various reports and claims of how much you can save but according to some experts, these are the estimated savings you could be making in the long run for some of these approaches:

  • Turning your thermostat down a degree can save up to £100 a year on your heating bill – that’s theoretically £25 over winter
  • A combi boiler flow change can cut bills by about 3% 
  • Properly insulating your hot water cylinder can save up to £45 a year
  • Turning down radiators can save up to £70 a year
  • Modern cavity wall insulation can save some households up to £300 a year

Electric bills

If we look once again at the current energy price cap (October 2023), the price of one kWh of electricity is 27p. Much like the cost of wholesale gas, this has come down a bit compared to recent years, but it remains quite high if we look at the prices over the last decade.

So as winter hits, it’s also the same situation as our heating, as our consumption of this utility goes up because of the shorter days and colder weather – and via our subsequent use of more devices and tech in our homes and businesses.

A few common electric costs

To give you an idea of how our use of electricity can start to add up across the winter months, here are some average costs we can incur from using common devices, appliances and features:

Lights

  • Using a standard 60W light bulb for an hour costs about 2p
  • Lighting a room with a single 60W light bulb for four hours a day for a month will cost you around £2.48

Appliances

  • Running a typical 1.5kWh dishwasher with a full load can cost around 81p a cycle.
  • A standard 1.4kWh washing machine with a full load can cost around 57p for a 90-minute cycle
  • If you drink a lot of tea or coffee a day, boiling a kettle a few times a day for a month will cost about 30p
  • Running a standard electric heater that uses up to 4.5kWh an hour for a few hours a day for a month can cost upwards of £113

Tech

  • Charging a typical smartphone (20W) once a day for a month will cost you about 31p
  • According to Sony, ‘Active gaming’ on a PS5 in HD uses 209.8W, which costs 6p an hour.
  • A standard HD TV (100W)  costs about 3p to run for an hour – older, less efficient TVs can cost much more
  • If you left a 100W TV on standby all year – subsequently using about 3W of electricity an hour – it would add about £7 to your annual electric bill

Entertainment

  • Watching the entire series of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ this year on a typical 100W HD TV would cost about £1.02 in electricity
  • Binge watching all the 32 Marvel movies and series (all 117 hours of them) you can get on Disney+ on the same type of TV will use about £3.16 of electricity
  • Playing the full campaign to 100% on the latest Spider-Man game, in HD on an ‘active gaming’ PS5 could end up using around £1.59 in electricity – plus the possible 76p to run your TV
  • If you watched 40+ winter Premier League matches on Sky (including extra time, some analysis and the halftime adverts), that’s about £2.61 in electricity
  • If you watched all 128 Premier League matches on Sky this season (also including extra time, some analysis and the halftime adverts), on a standard HD TV, it’ll be roughly £8.35 in electricity

How to cut your winter electric bills

What you shouldn’t do is simply stop using all your electrical devices and systems! As in the grand scheme of things it’s important to live our lives and enjoy the benefits we can get from them – besides, who doesn’t love a good TV binge now and then? 

Instead, you can make little lifestyle changes to reduce your consumption one step at a time. Here are some examples:

  • Switch appliances off at the wall when not in use, as if they have a standby mode they’ll still be using electricity – simply turning off a standard TV and set-top box can save around 68p over three months
  • Run or switch your devices and appliances to ‘eco’ or ‘energy-saving’ modes if they have them – for example some Bosch washing machines’ ‘Eco’ settings can be £35 cheaper to run each quarter
  • Wait for the sales and invest in newer, more efficient appliances
  • Turn all lights off when you leave a room
  • Replace standard light bulbs with low energy bulbs – LED bulbs can save you upwards of £5 a year
  • Contact your energy provider to get a free Smart Meter, as you can use this to monitor and see how much energy you are using in real time

Be on the right tariff at the right time

Right now (November 2023) the cheapest energy rates you can get from most providers are the ones on the price cap. However, some suppliers offer ‘dual rate tariffs’ where gas and/or electricity is priced differently at certain hours during the day or on weekends. So here’s what you can do:

  • Assess the energy markets and comparison sites to find one of these deals and move to that supplier
  • Or, contact your existing provider to see if they offer such tariffs and enquire about moving onto one – on the basis that this will be cheaper for you
  • Set up timer switches on high usage appliances (e.g washing machines and dryers) to run during these off-peak periods

If your chosen supplier doesn’t have a dual rate tariff, you should at least see if they have any dual fuel options, as moving both gas and electric to one supplier can work out cheaper.

Consider getting solar panels

Even during the shorter days of winter, installing solar panels enables you to generate your own energy from the sun during daylight hours. As such, properties with high daytime usage and space where solar panels can be fitted in full sun can all save money on their bills.

How much do solar panels cost?

This can vary, but typically we would expect a solar PV system to pay for itself (the annual bill savings cover the cost of installation) in about five to seven years. 

How much can you potentially save on your bills if you have solar panels?

How much you can save can depend on a number of factors. These include the orientation of your roof, how much energy you use vs how much you save, the tariff you’re on and of course the size and number of panels you have on your property.

  • To give a rough average though, 10 panels can generate roughly 3,500kWh a year – which could save you upwards of £1,000 a year on bills and saves one tonne of CO2 a year
  • A larger commercial system of 50kWs – which could generate about 45,000kWhs of electricity every year – could save a business around £10,000 a year on bills and 10 tonnes of CO2 in a year.

Are there maintenance costs with solar panels?

The great news is that solar PV systems have a long life and require little maintenance – and after your initial payback period you can enjoy free, green, clean energy for around 25 years!

Can you also sell energy back to The Grid and make money?

You can, but this depends on your electricity provider and can change. One of the best currently is Octopus, they can offer from 4p to 15p per kWh if exporters are also Octopus customers. That said, we feel that it’s always better to use the energy you produce than export it, especially during your increased winter consumption.

Are there any schemes in place to support buying solar panels?

There aren’t any nationwide schemes for solar panels for homeowners, but currently you don’t have to pay VAT on their installation. For businesses there are a number of local councils that are using the funds available to them through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund; this offers businesses grants to install sustainable technology.

Consider solar battery storage too

To boost your electric savings even more during winter and over the long-term, solar battery storage alongside your panels can be a good idea. 

What is solar battery storage?

Solar battery storage works by capturing any excess electricity generated by solar panels during daylight hours and holding it in reserve for use at a later time.

When is the best time to use it?

As you’ll use more energy in the evening during winter, the best option for your property could be solar PV combined with battery storage. This is because the energy that you generate in the day and don’t use can be stored and then used for the evening or overnight.

Are solar batteries expensive?

Battery storage is expensive, but we will be able to look at your energy usage and advise whether you can get a cost saving using this technology. However, prices for it have come down and it is now making sense for more homeowners and businesses.

Water bills

With your water bills the typical costs can be twofold; using gas or electricity to heat your water and using the water itself. With the latter, you can either be billed on a rate or charged on how much you use according to your water meter. 

In either case, the average annual water bill in the UK is said to be over £440, but again, during winter we tend to use more water – be it longer warm baths and showers, or more washing up due to us spending more time at home. 

The typical costs of using water: at a glance

As aforementioned, it’s not just the water, it’s the energy required to heat the water too – which can of course be exacerbated in the colder winter. So with a little research, we’ve uncovered some typical costs for water use in homes and some businesses:

  • Doing the washing up by hand in a sink can cost upwards of 14p just to heat
  • A typical shower head can use as much as 12 litres of water every minute, this can go up to 15 litres with a power shower
  • A 9kW electric shower can use up to £2.83 in energy every week – which works out at nearly £34 over three months
  • Filling a 100 litre bath and heating it up to 40°C obviously uses a lot of water but can also use upwards of 3.4kWh of energy (24p)
  • Flushing the toilet can be more than a quarter of a property’s total water usage
  • A standard bathroom tap can use around six litres of water every minute

How to cut your winter water bills

By also employing a few lifestyle changes, you can reduce your water consumption and your overall energy consumption this winter. Here are some suggestions on what to do:

  • Set up timers when having a shower to cut them short. Some experts say that shaving only a minute off your shower time can reduce your winter energy bills by over £8, with a further £7 off if you’re on a water meter.
  • While this might only apply to some, a simple way to potentially half your water and energy consumption is to share your baths/showers with a partner! Theoretically that would be saving around £136 in energy a year in a 9kW electric shower.
  • ‘Low flow’ shower heads are said to save around six litres of water a minute.
  • Getting a ‘dual flush’ toilet mechanism can use around half as much water with every flush.
  • Use the ‘eco’ mode on all your laundry appliances where possible and be sure to use full loads each time. Fewer full loads at cooler temperatures – like 30°C – can lead to winter savings of around £6.50.
  • Upgrade your old, inefficient appliances to new ones. Look for those with higher ratings (A-G) and those with the most efficient kWh output.
  • Avoid leaving the tap running if washing up by hand, instead fill up and use a bowl. 
  • Similarly, switch off the tap when brushing your teeth – you may even want to turn off the shower when lathering up, before turning it back on to rinse.
  • If you have solar panels, a special immersion such as a MyEnergy Eddi can be used in conjunction with your solar PV system to divert any excess solar energy that is produced to heat your hot water.

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