It sometimes seems that we live in a world of ever-rising costs. Keeping to a budget is a challenge, as the cost of living eats into our wages and even our savings at times. One of these costs relates to our energy bills. More specifically, in this case, our natural gas bill.
Even if we aren't struggling financially, we may still resent spending money that could be better used elsewhere. Our hot water and heating bills can sometimes seem surprisingly high, diverting cash away from other things, such as that new car, or a well-deserved holiday.
Government figures show that we spent an average of £557 on gas bills in 2020. And although the cost of gas did fall by 9.3%, prices usually go the other way and are projected to rise by at least 5% in the near future. It's not only your usage or the price of wholesale gas that affect the cost to you. Some energy providers simply raise the price of their service, often without a reasonable explanation and certainly without justification.
So, is there anything you can do about it?
You'll be happy to know that there is! Easy Boiler Company compiled a list of ways in which you can reduce your gas bill, allowing you to save money.
Without further ado, let's get started and see just how much you could save.
Shop Around And Switch Suppliers
It's an obvious one, but something that a lot of people don't try. An astonishing 47% of people in the UK have never changed suppliers, ever. Admittedly in the past, there have been problems with the efficiency of the switching process provided by some energy providers. This has mostly been resolved, although you'll still find that some companies are better than others - that's the nature of big business!
It's well worth giving it a try, though. Shop around, check online reviews, speak to friends and family to get recommendations, and use price comparison websites to find yourself the best deal. You could make significant savings just by taking this simple step. Figures by Ofgem suggest a possible saving of up to £150 a year.
If you are, like most people these days, connected to the online world, make sure you sign up for paperless billing. Most providers offer this option and reward you for cutting out paper bills. It might not be much, but it all adds up.
Pay By Direct Debit
You can make savings on your energy bills of up to 7% when you pay monthly by direct debit. Companies like this method as it involves less administration, improves cash flow, and strengthens customer loyalty.
Look into getting both your gas and electricity from the same energy supplier. Most companies will offer a discount for getting both services from them. In some cases, customers have saved as much as £300 a year, just for signing up to get their gas and electricity from the same place.
Now we'll look at some more practical ways to save money on your gas bills.
Put On An Extra Layer
We're no strangers to cold, wet weather in the UK. It's easy to reach for the thermostat and turn it up a notch or two when winter brings ice and snow.
Instead of doing this straight away, try putting on a sweater or a fleece. You'd be surprised at the difference it makes. Although it's tempting to raise the temperature and continue to walk about your home in a t-shirt and shorts, it isn't exactly the most cost-effective or efficient way of doing things!
A slight change in habit will make a lot of difference, shaving down the amount of time that your heating system has to work and reducing your energy usage.
Keep The Thermostat Low
When you do use the thermostat, don't crank it up high and then reverse this when you get too warm. Keeping your thermostat at a constant lower temperature over a long time is more energy-efficient than making your boiler work hard every once in a while.
Turning it down by only one degree could save you as much as £80 per year!
Use A Timer!
An adequately insulated house will stay warm for about an hour after you turn it off. If you set a timer so that the heating system switches off an hour before bedtime and an hour before everyone leaves the house, you will reduce your gas consumption by two hours per day, which could save you a significant amount on your energy bill over the winter period.
Install A Smart Meter
This helps you to monitor your energy use and lower your natural gas bill. Speak to your energy supplier about this, as most will install them for free, and the government is keen for these to be eventually rolled out to all households as part of their measures to tackle climate change.
In the meantime, provide your energy supplier with regular meter readings and try to avoid letting them use estimated figures. They will often overcompensate and you'll probably end up with a larger heating bill. It's good to build up a credit over the summer, as this can help to offset higher gas bills throughout the winter. However, if you have a significant amount of credit, ask them to refund you - that money is better off in your account!
Adjust The Dial On Your Boiler
Most boilers have a dial that controls an internal thermostat to regulate the water temperature. If you notice that the water coming from your taps is scalding, then it is advisable to turn down the dial. Both the Department of Energy and the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommend that your natural gas water heater should not be any higher than 49ºC. This is both to save money, as well as to reduce the chance of scalding.
Insulate Your Home
Start with the roof and loft space (if you have one) in your home as this is where most of the heat is lost. It's thought that up to a quarter of the heat produced by your natural gas heating system exits through your roof.
A good, thick layer of loft insulation will immediately bring results. It may not be cheap but will pay for itself in terms of energy-saving within a few years.
Cavity wall insulation is another good way to save energy and cut your heating costs, but there are some simple DIY tricks you can use. You should also consider spray rendering which acts as external wall insulation and is a great way to modernise your homes exterior.
Use Heavy Curtains
A pair of thick curtains can act as an effective barrier, reducing heat loss and keeping your home warm. In fact, these could be more effective than double glazing.
Speaking of double glazing, you can upgrade your single glazing for around £2,000 to £3,000, saving between £100 and £200 a year. However, it will take approximately 10 to 12 years for this to pay for itself. That's not to say that you should avoid it, as it is a great energy-saving measure. Even so, many people aren't in a position to do this.
Instead, using a bit of creativity, you can easily reduce the heat loss from your home and improve your energy efficiency.
Draught Proof Your Home
Check for draughts around external doors and windows, letterboxes, as well as floorboards and skirting boards - you'd be amazed at the amount of cold air coming through sometimes. Seal these using draught-proofing kits or draught excluders.
You can even use spray foam around the holes in your home where pipes protrude through floorboards to stop cold air from coming through.
Block Up That Old Fireplace!
Older homes with open fires & inglenook fireplaces are major culprits when it comes to losing heat. If you're still using yours, whether you burn wood or coal, you should know that between 80 – 90% of the heat is lost through the chimney! Not only that, but an open fire dries out the air and lowers the humidity. It also draws cold air into the rooms through any gaps in the walls.
Unless you plan to install a modern, energy-efficient wood-burning stove, then you should seriously consider having the chimney sealed up.
A simple measure, such as sealing up any draughts, can save you around £35 per year.
Change Your Habits!
There are many different ways to reduce your energy costs, just by making a few adjustments to the way you do things around the home:
Shower Instead Of Bathing
Taking a shower instead of a bath, and keeping that shower short, will mean that your natural gas boiler won't need to work as hard. It's another simple energy-saving trick that helps you to save money.
Keep it short!
You can even fit a shower timer to help you out. Cutting your shower by even a single minute will make a difference. You might also want to consider investing in a better showerhead. This, especially if you use a water meter, could shave another £18 off your energy bill.
Turn Off The Tap
Invest in a washing up bowl rather than leave the hot water running while washing the dishes and you could save around £25 a year.
Turn Off Radiators
Are there spare rooms you rarely use? Make sure they're insulated, but consider turning off the radiators - you're heating an entire room for no reason!
Cover Those Pans
Put the lid on saucepans when boiling rice or vegetables, and turn the gas down. Don't overfill the saucepan - you only need to just cover the vegetables.
All of these are easy and straightforward ways to reduce your energy consumption, but if you're prepared to make an investment you can make some excellent long-term savings on your energy bills.
Install A Smart Thermostat
A smart thermostat, used in conjunction with thermostatic radiator valves and programmers, can deliver savings of around £75 per year. These can be used to only heat the rooms you are using, and what's more, you can control this via an app on your smartphone.
These are seriously high-tech tools that learn how long it takes to heat your home. They can then adjust the system to reach the optimum temperature every time. We have a handy guide called "the most economical way to use central heating" that also mentions this idea and many more.
Upgrade Your Old Boiler
Modern boilers are extremely energy efficient, with most models operating between 90 to 99% efficiency (like condensing boilers). Of course, if yours is working well and isn't very old, it doesn't make sense to rip it out and replace it. However, if your old one breaks down or is not performing well, it really is in your best interests to replace it as soon as possible. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that up to 55% of your annual energy bills are spent on heating your home.
Need A New Boiler?
An old and inefficient boiler could be adding to this significantly. The Energy Saving Trust suggests that homeowners could save up to £240 a year by replacing their old boiler with a more efficient modern one. Most boilers have a lifespan of around ten years, so if yours is this age or older, you might want to consider replacing it. This is especially important if you plan to use high-tech gadgets, such as a smart thermostat. There isn't much point in having modern technology if your boiler is inefficient.
Choose The Right One!
Be careful which boiler you choose, though. If you are in a small property, such as a one or two-bedroom flat with a single bathroom, then a combi-boiler may be the best choice. These don't need a cold water tank or a hot water storage tank, and they heat the water on demand. There is no energy wastage because of the need to store hot water ready for use later on.
However, a larger house with more than one bathroom won't benefit from a combi-boiler as it won't cope with the demand. The water pressure will drop and you will have to wait for hot water. In this case, you'll be better off with a system boiler or regular boiler, as these have a hot water cylinder. We have a handy guide here about "boiler types" that may help you decide which one to go for.
Find A Good Deal
Be sure to shop around and get a few quotes from trusted heating engineers - you want to spend as little as possible and get the best deal without compromising on quality or efficiency.
Replacing your existing boiler with a modern, A-rated condensing boiler could save you as much as £300 every year!
As well as using these ways to save money on your gas bill, for the more senior members of society, and for anyone who feels they need some assistance with their energy bill costs, there are a couple of schemes available.
Winter Fuel Payment
People over the age of 61 are eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment. This is a tax-free benefit available to anyone of the qualifying age, regardless of earnings. This varies between £100 and £300, depending on the age bracket you fall into (the older you are, the higher the payment). These funds are paid directly into your bank account.
Warm Home Discount
The second scheme is known as the Warm Home Discount and is available for those on Job Seekers Allowance, Child/Working Tax Credits, Income Support, and a range of other qualifying criteria.
This is a one-off payment (currently £140) that comes off your bill, rather than being paid into your bank account. To receive this payment you need to contact your energy supplier to see if they are part of the scheme (not all suppliers are).
These are a few tips on how you can reduce your natural gas usage in your home and bring down your energy bills. Many of these you can do straight away, simply by making a few changes in your habits. These will cost very little or even nothing at all, and the savings will soon become apparent.
Changing your supplier to get the best deal is also relatively painless and could help you to save energy, which will reduce your gas bill.
Upgrade your home to save more money
Other methods, such as installing loft insulation or upgrading your boilers and gas appliances, require an initial investment, but if you can afford to do these then it is well worthwhile. Keeping an old boiler will not only use more gas, but you'll probably have the inconvenience and expense of repairs.
Around 86% of households in the UK use natural gas as their main heating source. This means that millions of people could reduce their gas usage and save themselves a lot of money.
Home Energy Check
The best thing to do is to perform a home energy check each year, preferably before the weather forecast tells you that winter is on its way! Find any areas in your house that need insulation or draught-proofing. Contact your supplier or take a look at their website to see if they can give you heating advice or any further tips on keeping your home warm without using too much gas.
If you take on board several of these tips, you can lower your gas bill and save energy, giving you more money to spend on things you want!