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in the Bristol and Somerset area:
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Lowering your energy use during the pandemic

With many of us now spending a lot more of our time at home due to the pandemic, our energy use (and bills) is likely to go up. Research by switching company USwitch suggests our electricity usage could increase by around 25% a day and our gas by 17% - equivalent to almost £200 a year per household.

So here's what you can do to keep your energy bills from going up too much while you're working from home, shielding or self-isolating ...

Gas

The main reason our gas usage might rise is because we'll have our heating on more often and for longer - because we're at home and not out and about. Although the weather is getting warmer in some parts of the country, in others the average temperature remains in single figures and a cold snap is still possible across the UK. And if we are fairly sedentary at home – working on a laptop, watching TV or because we have limited mobility – we'll feel the cold more.

There are ways that we can keep our heating bills in check, which is good practice anyway lockdown or no lockdown!

Set your heating controls accordingly

Use your timer/programmer to set when the heating comes on and goes off, and use your room thermostat to control the temperature during that time. We recommend setting it between 18-21 degrees.

To avoid overheating unused spaces like spare rooms, use the thermostatic radiator valves (TRV’s) or smart central heating controls to turn down the temperature in these spaces.

Remember if you feel warm and the heating is on you can always press the ‘override’ button which allows you to turn you heating off for this time period without turning the timer off permanently.

Ensure you heating system is working efficiently. A lockdown is probably not the best time to get your boiler serviced but you can check to see if any radiators need bleeding – this is where air becomes trapped inside the radiator and prevents the hot water from circulating within it; if this happens, the radiator will feel hot at the bottom but cold at the top. To bleed the radiator you need to release this air using a radiator key or screwdriver. Sometimes after doing this the pressure in a central heating system can drop and you will need to increase it again, please refer to your boiler’s instruction manual which will tell you how to do this..

Check the settings on the boilers itself, there are further controls on the boiler to control water and central heating temperatures, you could turn these down if they are on the highest setting. For condensing boilers, the water circulating the central heating system should be set to around 70°C and the hot water to around 60°C to get the full efficiency of the boiler.

See our pages on central heating controls for more info.

Stop the draughts

Draughts can make us feel cold in our home and more likely to put the heating on, but there are really cost-effective ways of stopping draughts which can be an easy DIY job.

You can draught-proof windows and doors by using foam draught excluder or gasket seal to replace worn or missing seals. For wooden sash windows, window and door brushes could be a good option. For single glazed windows, secondary glazing might be worth exploring, although this can be a big job, see our webpage for more information:

You can buy tubes of caulk or 'builder’s mate' to fill draughts coming above or below skirting boards or any gaps in the wall; for bigger gaps you could use some gap filler. For your front door, use letter box and keyhole draught-excluders and a draught-excluding snake to guard against cold draughts coming underneath. In some cases - particularly in old homes - door curtains can be very effective, and you can can also consider thicker curtains, thermal curtain liners or secondary curtains for windows.

Foil panels that fit behind radiators and help to reflect the heat away from the wall and back out into the room make a big difference particularly for radiators on external walls.

All of these things should be available to buy online.

See our webpage for more info on DIY draught-proofing:


Electricity

Our electricity usage is expected to increase more than gas, which makes sense as many lockdown households will have someone working from home (like around 65 of us at CSE!) and using IT equipment, or we'll be using appliances like TV’s and games consoles more frequently. Electricity is likely to be where we see the biggest increase in our energy bills.

Luckily the energy efficiency of appliances has significantly improved in the past 10 years with desktop computers using 80-200kWhs, laptops 20-65kWhs, monitors and LCD TVs 125-200kWh, games consoles 45-190kWhs and tablets 10kWhs. For more information on power ratings click here. You can ensure you are not wasting energy by setting your PC or laptop to run in low battery mode when there is no activity and get into the habit of turning things off when they are not in use.

If you're confined to the house when you're normally at work, you may find yourself boiling the kettle quite often. Bear in mind that kettles have a high power rating and that it really is worth boiling only as much water as you need rather than filling it right up each time.

And with everyone at home a household may find itself using the dishwasher more frequently, so make sure you run yours on the eco-setting to use less electricity and water overall (for some models this may mean that they are on for longer).

Make savings elsewhere

You can mitigate this increase in electricity by reducing your consumption elsewhere. The appliances that use the most energy tend to be those that produce heat – such as electric showers, kettles, tumble driers, ovens and hairdryers. So shorter showers, drying clothes outside instead of using a tumble drier, and washing clothes at 30 degrees all make a difference. You could use your oven less by make some dishes in bulk, dividing them into portions and then reheating them in the microwave.

Finally to reduce both your gas and electricity bills you could try switching to a cheaper tariff. Householders, on average, can save around £200 a year For more information on switching, click here.


Covid-19: How we can help you during the crisis

We have adapted our advice to better support our clients during the pandemic. If you would like advice on any of the topics – Topping up prepayment meters, Water payments, Energy bills, Switching supplier, Benefits advice, Housing, Food banks, Food delivery, Prescriptions, Befriending services, Priority Services Register, Debt advice – and you live in the South West of England, please complete the referral form on this page and we'll be in touch as soon possible.

Prepayment meter vouchers

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Priority Services Register

If you live in the green or blue areas, we can sign you up to your local priority services register if you're over 60 or you rely on electricity for medical or mobility reasons or you have a hearing or visual impairment or a long-term health condition.

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