9 surprising ways to reduce energy use around the home

Many of us are trying to cut down on our energy usage at the moment. We’ve crunched the numbers, and found that just a few small habit changes can shave precious pounds off your monthly bills.

A quick search online and you’ll see hundreds of tips, ranging from the rather obvious (such as turning off the lights when leaving a room) to the plain silly (like closing your curtains at night).

But what are the not-so-obvious things you can do around the home to have a real impact on reducing your energy bills? Read on to find out.

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1. Wash bigger loads, less often

Putting a detergent capsule in a half-filled washing machine

Opting for the half-load setting or quick wash on your dishwasher or washing machine may sound like ways of reducing your energy consumption, but you’re better off just waiting until you can do a full load.

‘Wash less’ is the mantra to remember. Fewer large washes will be more energy efficient than many smaller ones.

Reducing how often you put your dishwasher and washing machine on by once per week would save you £16 per appliance over a whole year, for a total yearly saving of £32.

If you struggle to fit everything in your dishwasher, or often find bits have gone uncleaned, it could be how you’re loading it.

Read our full guide on how to load your dishwasher to maximise how much you can put in without compromising on cleaning power.

2. Make use of auto settings

Dishwasher control panel

The eco program on a dishwasher and washing machine will likely be the cheapest to run program. The energy and water use of different washes should be in the instruction manual if you want to check.

But which extra features you switch on can have just as big of an impact as which programs you choose.

If your dishwasher has an automatic door opening setting, make sure to use it. This will allow your dishwasher’s door to open slightly at the end of a wash to help drying and reduce energy use. 

Auto settings on your tumble dryer can also help you not over-dry clothes and waste energy. Alternatively, avoid using your tumble dryer entirely to reduce your annual energy bills by as much as £170. 

3. Remove limescale from your kettle

Kettle with lots of limescale

A kettle full of limescale will take longer and use more energy to boil the same amount.

Limescale can also make a kettle boil louder – so it’s really a no-brainer to descale it regularly if you live in a hard water area.

We recommend using citric acid, as it is stronger than vinegar or lemon juice, and won’t leave any lingering taste or smells.

For a step-by-step video and more information, read our full guide on five simple ways to remove limescale from your kettle.

4. Clear out your oven

Oven with many baking trays inside

Many people are in the habit of leaving baking trays and dishes in the oven as extra storage, but make sure you clear these out before turning it on.

Unnecessary oven trays will block the airflow in your oven, not only leading to uneven cooking but also making your oven work harder than it needs to and using more energy.

It also goes without saying to also avoid opening the door often as it decreases the internal temperature, increasing cooking time and wasting energy.

5. Use an air fryer, microwave, pressure cooker or slow cooker

Air dryer with chicken nuggets inside

Alternatively, you can forgo your oven entirely and make use of whatever smaller cooking appliances you have – whether that’s a microwave, air fryer, slow cooker or similar.

These will often be cheaper to run than an oven, completing the same cooking task with less energy.

A microwave can be used to for everything from quickly steaming vegetables to baking potatoes. Combi microwaves with built in convection ovens are even more versatile.

An air fryer can make tasty fried food with less oil and less energy. In effect it is a small convection oven, but uses less energy as the space it is heating up is smaller.

You can also use an air fryer to bake, with many including recipes for brownies, cookies and more.

A slow cooker is on for many hours at a time, but as it uses such a small amount of energy, in the end it is more economical. Just like with an oven though, don’t be tempted to keep peeking at your dinner. Keep the lid on to avoid reducing the temperature and wasting energy.

If you don’t currently own one, but are looking to pick up a bargain, read our air fryer reviews, microwave reviews and pressure cooker reviews or slow cooker reviews.

6. Defrost ahead of time in the fridge

Defrosting frozen meat in the fridge

So much electricity is spent keeping cold things cold and then heating up the cold things when we need them – so why not take advantage of that to reduce energy use.

Defrosting frozen items in the fridge will reduce cooking time (as you’re cooking from chilled rather than frozen) and will also reduce the energy consumption of your fridge.

Not only is this the safest method of thawing your food, but it also helps to cool down the inside of your fridge.

This means the compressor will have less work to do and the amount of energy required to keep your fridge chilled will be reduced.

Some things do need to be cooked from frozen so do check labels first. Defrosting in the fridge is ideal for pre-frozen leftovers, or meat and fish that you plan on cooking later that day.

Read our full guide on 10 ways to keep food fresher for longer to make sure you’re using your fridge as effectively as possible. Find out what temperature to set it at, which foods should go on which shelves and more.  

7. Clean the coils at the back of your fridge

Cleaning condenser coils at the back of a fridge

Dust lurking on condenser coils can prevent your fridge or freezer from cooling properly.

In the worst cases, especially dusty coils can increase energy use by up to 25%.

Depending on your fridge-freezer this could cost as much as £45 more a year if you have the most energy-hungry model.

We advise checking and dusting them about twice a year by gently vacuuming then brushing away any remaining dust.

While you’re at it, it could be a good idea to give your fridge a deep clean. Read our full guide, with a step-by-step video on how to deep-clean your fridge

8. Make sure air can get to those coils

Women looking inside an integrated fridge freezer

Cleaning those coils regularly will be a whole lot easier if you can more easily get to them.

But making sure there is some air that can get to them is also key. Less air circulation around the back of your fridge can make your appliance work harder, as the coils can’t cool down naturally, increasing energy use.

With built-in models, there isn’t much you can do, so they can just be naturally less efficient. But with free-standing models you can make sure they’ve got some room to breathe.

Most fridge-freezers will come with information in the instruction manual on where to place the appliance and what distance it needs to be from the walls to ensure it works properly.

9. Defrost your freezer

Defrosting a freezer

If your freezer isn’t frost-free, then you need to make sure you defrost it regularly to prevent a build up of ice.

Not only will it take up precious space where your food should be, but the ice actually acts as an insulator.

This means your freezer has to work harder in order to penetrate that block of ice to keep your food cold, and therefore it will cost you more in electricity to run.

If you’re not sure how to get started, read our full how to defrost your fridge freezer guide.

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