Three quarters (73%) of Brits changed the way they use energy in an attempt to reduce their bills and offset the price cap rise before it came into effect on 1st April.
But making effective changes can be difficult, with a quarter (25%) of people claiming they’re still confused by the conflicting energy saving advice available publicly. Nearly one in three (30%) say they don’t know enough about advice around energy usage with only a third (32%) feeling well informed.
This has led to two thirds (66%) trying methods that have little to no impact on their energy use, and one in four (28%) saying they don’t feel in control of their household budgets amid the price rise.
The most common energy saving myth is handwashing all dishes instead of using a dishwasher (32%), when in fact handwashing can use up to nine times as much water and requires more energy to heat it.
One in five (22%) have also tried keeping the heating on permanently at a low setting instead of turning it on and off when needed, which is actually likely to lead to energy loss throughout the day. A further fifth (21%) admit to putting electronic devices in sleep mode overnight, rather than turning them off completely which would save more energy, according to experts at Smart Energy GB.
Common energy saving habits that are effective however include only filling the kettle with the amount needed (50%), improving a home’s insulation (37%) and turning the TV off at the plug when not in use (34%).
The research of 5,000 British adults also found almost half (48%) now have a smart meter to receive accurate, rather than estimated bills and monitor what energy is being used, in near-real time.
47% of smart meter users say that having one installed has helped them to feel more in control of energy use, and 54% to better understand it. Simply by having a smart meter and using it to adjust their energy use, people believe they’re able to reduce their bills by an average of £366.24 over the course of a year. This saving would cover more than the cost of the average household’s food shop for a month* and account for 18.5% of the average household spend on energy, which according to Ofgem, is currently £1,971** per year.
The desire for more control to offset increasing prices is evident, with 3.9 million*** Brits seeking debt advice for the first time to help manage their bills.
Of these, one in 10 (9%) have turned to energy suppliers, helplines such as Citizen’s Advice Bureau (8%) which saw a record high number of calls in 2022, and even bank loans (7%) for financial support.
Alongside financial advice, Brits have started to make cutbacks to account for the rising cost of living, including not buying new clothes (30%), limiting the number of takeaway drink purchases (26%), or shopping at a cheaper supermarket (24%). A quarter (24%) are also limiting social occasions.
With 46% wanting more support in managing energy prices and household bills, Smart Energy GB has teamed up with Helen Skelton, Dominic Littlewood, and Money Magpie, to co-author the Super Smart Energy Savers Report, which provides actionable advice to help Brits manage energy use and household budgets.
Smart Energy GB is the not-for-profit campaign helping everyone in Britain understand the important part smart meters play in managing energy use and taking control of household budgets.
Six pieces of advice from the Super Smart Energy Savers Report include:
Check your insulation and draught proofing – Properties, particularly older ones, will likely lose heat throughout the day. Therefore, one of the best ways to reduce energy use is by reducing the demand for it in the first place by ensuring insulation is well maintained and draughts that carry heat away are minimised.
Get a smart meter - Smart meters ensure your bills are accurate and come with an in-home display that shows exactly how much energy is being used in near-real time and in pounds and pence, giving customers more control over their energy use. If you’re trying to limit your energy use to keep bills down, knowing how much you are using – and what you’re spending – can be a huge help. As can knowing what the bill will be before it arrives. And they’re available at no extra cost from your energy supplier.
Turn down and time your heating thermostat – Many think that it’s best to leave the heating on at a lower temperature, but as homes will lose heat throughout the day, it’s in fact more efficient to only have your heating come on when you really need it. The best way to ensure only on when you need it, is to set a timer.
Don’t heat empty rooms – Whether it’s a spare room you don’t use frequently, or a storage room that is rarely entered, stop heating it to save money. This could be by turning the radiators off in that room or turning off the individual thermostat.
Check eligibility for grants or schemes to help afford energy bills – If you are struggling to pay your bills, you might be able to get help from certain schemes or grants offered by the government or energy suppliers. Examples include a council tax rebate to keep safe and put towards energy bills, Warm Home Discount Scheme, Energy Debt Grants, local energy grants and fuel vouchers.
Close your curtains – Don’t underestimate the power of curtains or blinds. Drawing your curtains helps to retain heat within your home, reducing the loss of warm air so doing so at night or if a room is unoccupied could make a noticeable difference. In summer, they can help keep rooms slightly cooler too by limiting the amount of direct sunlight in the room.
Helen Skelton, a trusted voice on consumer issues and co-author of the Super Smart Energy Savers Report comments: “It’s worrying to feel that the cost of your energy bill is completely out of your control, but unfortunately the price cap increase means that this is now the case for so many people across the UK.
“People need tangible, long-term solutions. Whilst there are elements of the cost-of-living crisis we can’t control, taking steps like getting a smart meter to monitor energy use and being mindful of how long your devices are on for can go some way to helping Brits feel more equipped and in control of their household budgets.”
Victoria Bacon, Director at Smart Energy GB, comments: “With the cost-of-living crisis set to continue and energy bills rising across Great Britain, it’s vital that households understand what energy habits are having the biggest impact on their bills.
“I’m pleased to launch the new Super Smart Energy Savers Report alongside a panel of experts and consumer champions, to help people to see what support is available so they can regain control of their energy bills. Our research shows that many people are still in the dark on what impact some actions will have, but making small changes to how we use energy at home with the help of a smart meter can make a big difference.”
Vicky Parry from Money Magpie adds: “Costs in various aspects of life are rising – in energy, but also fuel and food. Alongside rising interest rates, this means that the new energy price cap will impact households across the UK. With this in mind, it’s fair to say that many people are feeling anxious regarding their finances, which has led to so many seeking debt advice.
“But we don’t want people to panic and are keen to share our expertise in how households can manage their money. We hope these tips will provide some much-needed clarity and support in helping households manage their finances through a turbulent year.”
Sarah from Chelmsford, Essex who has been using a smart meter to monitor her family’s energy use and better manage bills said: “My family really started noticing our bills begin to rise around Christmas time. The cost of living is increasing so we’re making more of an effort to stop leaving things on standby and turning devices and lights off when not needed.
“Having a smart meter has really helped us keep an eye on things and we check our in-home display regularly so we know how much more things are costing so we can make savings whenever possible. Even though our bills are going up, having a smart meter makes us feel much more in control.”
While smart meters are helpful for everyone, they can be especially useful for those on a prepay tariff, enabling customers to top up remotely via their mobile or online. Additionally, when a smart meter is in prepay mode, consumers can clearly see when they are close to using their emergency credit.
For more information on the Super Smart Energy Savers Report and to find out more about getting a smart meter installed, search ‘get a smart meter’.