In 2022, we saw big increases in the cost of living, which included things like our food shop and utility costs.
Whether you are an individual, household, family or business, the increase in utility bills was felt by most. But how do you really reduce your energy and, as a result, cut those bills?
In today’s blog, we are going to look at why it’s important to save energy, how to go about it and how it can reduce our utility costs.
Why save energy?
When we reduce how much energy is used at home, it directly impacts and reduces how much is spent on gas/oil and electricity bills. But trying to be more energy efficient also benefits the environment. We are going to look at 4 simple ways to reduce your use and utility costs and improve your home’s efficiency:
1. Plug out
Home appliances left on standby use electricity, even when not in use. Turning your appliances off at the wall when you are not using them lowers your electricity costs, especially if you live with a busy family.
Consider pulling the plug instead of leaving these appliances on standby:
- Laptops and desktop PCs
- Games consoles
- Digital radios or smart speakers
- Mobile chargers
If you can afford to invest in smart plugs that you can control from your smartphone and set up a schedule so that everything switches off at a certain time, even if you leave a charger plugged in by accident, it won’t be left on all night. Some smart plugs monitor the usage of what you have plugged in, so you can literally see the money adding up.
2. Be bright when it comes to your lights
Avoid turning on lights until necessary, and don’t forget to turn them off when leaving a room.
If possible, utilise any natural daylight you have at home and only turn the lights on when it becomes darker in the evening.
Replace your current lightbulbs with LED light bulbs when your current ones run out. Look at the Kelvin scale to identify how white you need your lighting for tasks or for lamps for more ambient lighting.
Top Tip- if you are interested in switching energy providers to see if you could make some savings, check out our Switcher Blog.
3. Cook up some savings on those bills
When preparing meals using your oven, ensure the oven door is closed and not left open longer than needed to check on the meal. Consider batch-cooking your dinners or hot lunches, as this will save you time and energy. Our MABS 101 Square Meals Cookbook includes plenty of low-cost recipes perfect for batch cooking.
Don’t boil the full kettle for one cup only. So, if you are making a cuppa for yourself, boil enough water for one cup or the minimum amount of water your kettle will allow. If you have a thermos bottle or flask, you can also boil the kettle for two or three cups, and the thermos will keep the water hot for your next cup.
When cooking, the microwave or an air fryer is a good way of saving energy, too. Where possible, use your microwave for cooking or an air fryer if you have one.
4. Don’t be in hot water with your bills. How to reduce those utility costs.
Running water from a shower or tap can be turned on quickly. Therefore, costs add up quickly!
When it comes to showers. A shower typically uses 20% of the energy compared to a full bath, so keep the bath as a treat. Set your hot water thermostat to between 60-65°C, to make sure that you do not overheat your water.
Don’t leave the hot tap running – you are pouring energy and money down the drain.
I’ve just got my utility bill. I can’t afford to pay for it. What do I do?
I know I can’t afford the bill when it comes.
If you’re having trouble paying your gas or electricity bill, the best thing to do is talk to your energy provider. Check a recent bill. The number to call will be on this bill with your account number. Your provider may facilitate a long-term payment plan. The energy provider should be able to give you your average usage, and it’s essential to include this in your repayment.
If you agree to a payment plan going forward, make sure you agree on a payment date that suits you to ensure you have the money available. If your bill is on direct debit and you have entered into a payment plan, make sure that the energy provider cancels or adjusts the request from their side, and you should also contact your bank to cancel the direct debit if necessary.
You can check with your provider that you are on the best tariff for your needs. It is possible to switch providers to get a better tariff. Before you switch and if you move to a new provider, make sure you check your contract as there are often penalties if you break your contract, i.e., switching providers before your contract is due to end. You can read more on early exit fees from Bonkers.ie. Switching providers may still make sense even if you incur these fees.
Check out the following websites to compare tariffs on gas and electricity:
Aside from the price increases, are there other reasons your bills are so high? Bills based on estimated readings may be inaccurate and higher than your actual usage. If you can, take your own gas and electricity meter readings and send the current readings to your supplier. The contact details will be on your bill, or you might be able to upload them to your online account. Doing this will make your bill more accurate and in turn potentially reduce your utility costs.
Disclaimer: If your readings are higher than your supplier’s estimated readings, you may end up with a bigger bill.
If you are already in arrears with a utility provider.
If you are in arrears with your current supplier, you may still be able to switch. However, it does depend on how much you owe. If you do switch, you’ll need to pay the balance when your old supplier sends you your closing bill. The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) outline what you need to know on their website.
MABS can help you to deal with your bills and arrears. We will work with you to address your current situation and, if necessary, help you to put a payment plan in place.
I’ve been told that I’m going to have my gas/electricity disconnected. Can I stop this from happening?
If you are concerned about being disconnected, talk to your energy supplier. If you don’t feel you can talk to your supplier, talk to MABS. MABS may be able to put a stay (pause) on the disconnection while we work with you to put a payment plan in place.
MABS advises you to pay what you can, no matter how small. In this case, you should consider a short-term budget to account for the unusual things that have affected your situation.
You can find out if you’re deemed a vulnerable customer on the CRU page about Vulnerable Customers. If you are eligible and not already on the vulnerable customers register, register now. Each provider has a registration process, and MABS can help you find out how to register with your provider.
I have a pre-pay meter, but I’m always in the red. What can I do?
If you are using a pre-pay meter, you pay in advance for the fuel you will use. You can also set up prepayment meters to collect the debt from the money that you put in. You may be paying off arrears and standing charges on your meter. If this is the case, it means only a portion of your top-up is going towards usage. It is essential to check this with your provider.
It is important to work out your usage to see if you need to adjust your budget to cover your usage costs. If you find that you don’t have enough money to keep the meter topped up, talk to MABS. We may be able to help you work with your provider to put a better plan in place.
We hope you found this blog helpful when it comes to tackling your utility costs and bills. Have you got your own question about utilities, or perhaps you are in utility arrears and want to discuss your situation with an adviser? You can call the MABS National Helpline on 0818 07 2000, Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 8 pm, WhatsApp 086 035 3141 or find the contact details for your local office.
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