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What can tenants do?

Do you live in a council or housing association house or flat? If so, you might not be allowed to make many improvements to your home.

Don’t worry, there are lots of free or low-cost things you can do that will help keep you warm and save you money on your gas and electricity.

Do it yourself (for free)

(Jump to Heating | Fridges and freezers | Cooking | Washing | Hot water | Appliances)

Heating - this probably costs you the most, so make sure you're not wasting heat:

  • Put on another layer before you turn the heating on. Remember, lots of thinner layers keep you warmer than one big one.
  • Make sure your furniture isn't right up against your radiators. It will block the heat.
  • Close the curtains when it's getting dark and tuck them in behind the radiator. This keeps heat in the room.
  • If there's a room you don't use much, turn down the radiators in there and close the door so you don't waste energy heating it. (But don't turn those radiators off completely or the room may get damp over time.)
  • Turn the thermostat down by one degree to save 10% on your bills. If you have health concerns, are elderly or have small children in the house, don't go below 18C.

  • Turn the heating completely off overnight and when no-one is in the house. Use your central heating timer to do this for you automatically.
  • Stay warm at night with a hot water bottle – much cheaper than an electric blanket.
  • If you have night storage heaters, find out how to use them properly so you don’t waste money.

Fridges and freezers - they’re using electricity all the time, so it's worth helping them use less:

  • Keep your fridge temperature between three and five degrees C.
  • Dust or vacuum the coils coming out of the back of your fridge and freezer – this will help them run better.
  • Pull your fridge and freezer away from the wall a bit – there needs to be air flow so that heat can escape from the back of them.
  • Defrost your freezer regularly to remove the build-up of ice. It'll help it work better. There's a useful guide to defrosting freezers on the Which? website.
  • When you’re defrosting food, leave it in the fridge. This helps cool your fridge for free.
  • Don't put hot leftovers in the fridge or freezer, wait for them to cool down first.
  • Try to keep your freezer as full as you can – lots of frozen items keep each other cold so your freezer doesn’t have to work so hard.


  • Only boil as much water as you need in your kettle. Don’t fill it right up for one or two cups of tea.
  • If you have an electric hob, boil water for cooking in the kettle first, rather than boiling it on the hob.

  • When you’re cooking, keep lids on your saucepans. You’ll be able to turn the hob down and use less electricity or gas.
  • Match the size of the saucepan you’re using to the size of the hob it’s on. Then you won’t waste heat.
  • Keep the oven door shut as much as possible when you’re cooking - every time you open it, you lose a quarter of the heat.
  • Cook more than one meal at a time and freeze it for another day.
  • Use a microwave for small items of food and reheating things, rather than the oven – it’s cheaper.


  • Clean the fluff out of your tumble dryer filter every time you use it.
  • Tumble dryers use a lot of electricity, so only use them if you really need to – dry your clothes outside if you can.
  • If you need to dry clothes inside, don’t dry them on radiators. Hang them on a clothes airer in a room near an open window, and close the door. (This stops your house getting damp and mouldy too).
  • Only put the washing machine (or dishwasher) on when it’s full. Two half loads use more water, detergent and electricity than one full load.

  • Wash clothes at 30 degrees to save electricity. Most modern fabric detergents work just as well at 30 as they do at higher temperatures.
  • Press the “eco” button on your washing machine if you have one. It usually takes longer, but this is because it heats the water more slowly, using less electricity.

Hot water

  • If you have an electric immersion heater, turn it down one degree – you won’t notice the difference. But don't go below 60C - you need it that hot to kill all harmful bacteria in the tank.
  • Don’t leave your hot water heating on all the time. It’s much cheaper to set the timer to heat it up for a couple of hours each morning (or in the night).
  • Keep your showers to four minutes (especially if you have an electric shower – they use a lot of electricity).

More things you can do for free

  • Use a free comparison site to see if you can get a better deal on your gas and electricity.
  • Borrow an energy monitor from your local library – this shows you how much energy you’re using, which can help you work out how to cut down.
  • Don’t leave your mobile phone on charge all night, they only need two or three hours. Why not charge it while you’re eating dinner?

  • Don’t use the remote control to turn things off – this leaves them on standby. Get up and press the button or turn them off at the plug. A typical household could save between £50 and £90 a year just by remembering to turn off appliances left on standby.
  • If you are on Economy 7, your electricity is cheaper at night but costs a premium rate during the day. Check exactly which hours are cheaper with your electricity supplier. Set things like the washing machine or slow cooker to come on at night during the cheaper time.
  • Allow as much natural light into the house as possible to reduce your use of electric lights. 

Do it yourself (cheaply)

If you can afford to spend a small amount, it will pay off in the long run as you save on your gas and electricity bills.

  • Get a slow cooker – they are much cheaper to run than an electric oven, and you can leave them cooking overnight.
  • Install reflective panels or foil behind your radiators to reflect heat back into the room.

  • Replace old light bulbs with energy efficient ones or LED bulbs, which use much less electricity.
  • No carpets? Get some rugs for the winter to keep heat in.
  • Get some simple draught-excluders to stop heat escaping through cracks.
  • If you have an old chimney you don’t use, get a chimney draught excluder to block out the draughts in winter. Look in a DIY store for these, or use plastic bags stuffed with more plastic bags.
  • Fit heavy curtains, especially over the front door in the winter months.
  • Buy a warmer duvet for the winter, so that you don’t need any heating on overnight.
  • Get remote-controlled ‘standby plugs’ which switch appliances off properly when you press the handset.

Ask your housing provider

There are more things you can do to save energy and money, but you'll need to ask permission from your housing provider first. Click here for some ideas.

Images: TV remote, Edwart Visser | Freezer, Adrian Pratt

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