It’s almost certain - your energy bills are going up.
From the start of October 2021, the official price cap on energy prices set by the regulator Ofgem is going up, meaning big rises on the cards for common tariffs. Combined with massive surges in the wholesale price of energy and other factors, it means that millions of households face bigger bills sooner rather than later.
What’s more, the cap is due to be assessed again next April - and is only predicted to go up. The cheapest fixed rate tariffs are set to be hundreds of pounds a year more than they were 12 months ago, with there's no sign of prices coming down.
When faced with such price hikes, there are several steps you can take to try and future-proof your home against bigger bills. Some are a long term investment, some are a quicker fix, but all could help to make your home more energy efficient...
If your boiler is reliable and working away without a fuss, it might not seem like it’s in any need of replacing - especially if you’ve been following our advice of having it checked and serviced every year (you have been doing that, right?).
However, when it comes to appliances like boilers, efficiency is the name of the game, and the older your boiler, the less likely to be efficient it is. If your boiler is around 15 years old - not out of the question, especially if you’ve been diligent about the servicing - then chances are it won’t rate higher than a G rating for efficiency, meaning it’s only around 70% efficient.
When you consider that brand new combi boilers are more than 90% efficient, it’s a big difference in the amount of fuel they use they get the same result - and that can have a significant impact on your bills.
Speak to a heating engineer to see what boiler makes sense for your home and make sure you check it’s efficiency rating - and use the same rationale for any other appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers.
Walls, floors, lofts - everything is up for grabs when it comes to insulation.
Modern homes are built with insulation in mind to conform to regulations, but it’s a great idea to update older homes to make them as insulated as possible - and it doesn’t have to break the bank.
Start at the top - our homes lose a quarter of their heat through the roof, so lagging the loft is an easy win. 270mm of insulating material is recommended, and you can use fibreglass, mineral wool, sheep’s wool and cellulose.
Walls are another culprit when it comes to heat loss, with around a third of our home’s heat escaping that way. If your home was constructed with cavity walls (two layers of brick with a gap between, filling the space with insulating foam is a relatively straightforward job.
If you have solid walls, adding insulation can be done internally or externally, adding a layer of insulating material then either plasterboard, if indoors, or rendering for external approaches. It’s more involved and expensive than cavity wall insulation - but an insulation specialist can advise you on your options.
Windows and doors
It’s pretty unlikely that you’re still living in a home with single glazed windows - it’s been nearly 20 years since regulations were changed to require all new windows to be double glazed, and more than 90% of homes have embraced the change.
However, as good as double glazing is when it comes to better insulating your home - and keeping out unwanted noises - it doesn’t last forever, and it’s quite common for older or badly installed windows to start to fail in time.
The key sign to look out for is mist or fogging inside the window, between the two panes - if moisture is getting in, it means the essential seal has been breached, and the window’s vital insulating properties have been ruined.
If you spot any issues, speak to a window fitter who can take a look and repair or replace any damaged units.
And if you really want to future-proof your home, you could consider upgrading to triple glazing, an increasingly common option that increases the insulating qualities of your windows.
Although water bills aren’t set to surge in the same way energy bills are, if you’re looking to improve your home’s carbon footprint and environmental impact, it’s worth thinking about your water usage as well.
A lot of changes you can make here are small, lifestyle tweaks - from classics, like turning off the tap when cleaning your teeth, to the slightly more involved, like fitting a device in your toilet cistern to mean it uses less water when you flush.
Another piece of old-school advice is to shower instead of taking baths, since they tend to use much less water - however, you can go even further with a modern water-saving shower, that cuts your water usage even further.
Aerating shower heads can mix air with the water to increase the volume without actually using more water, while non-aerating heads make use of smaller holes to increase the pressure. See what kind you might like, and find a plumber who can install it.
Knowledge is power according to the old saying, and that’s absolutely true when it comes to looking after your home’s energy usage.
The better you can keep tabs on how your home is using energy, the better equipped you are to know where wastage is happening and how you can cut it back.
A great way to boost your knowledge is to add a smart meter, which can track your energy usage and feed back information about your power consumption.
You can easily combine that with a modern digital thermostat, which you can use to accurately control your home’s temperature, meaning you don’t have to rely on outdated timers or manual switches. Most work with an app so you can control the heating remotely, meaning if you’re unexpectedly away there’s no need to have your heating running unnecessarily.
You can go further with a fully connected smart home, meaning you can control things like your lights remotely. The more control you have, the more you can cut back on what you don’t need, and make savings where it matters.
Check your tariffs
Like with smart meters, paying attention to your bills and making sure you’re aware of what you’re spending and why is crucial to getting on top of them.
There may not be such a thing as a cheap fixed rate anymore, but some tariffs are still likely to be better than others, so it pays to shop around and see what’s available.
When it comes to energy bills, changing your provider is all done remotely, without any loss of service or physical switchover necessary, so sort yours out before the next big hike hits.
Also make sure you make use of any grants or discounts you might be entitled to. If you claim a pension or are entitled to certain benefits, you may be able to get grants for insulation and boiler replacments to help you with the costs.