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The everyday energy habits that cost you hundreds

As boilers all over Britain work overtime to keep the chill from creeping in and the grid battles to keep our evenings ablaze, millions of households are unaware of the tiny changes to energy use that could save hundreds of pounds and dramatically cut our carbon emissions. 

This week marks Big Energy Saving Week, the Citizens Advice campaign run with the Energy Saving Trust in a bid to improve the nation’s energy habits, save money and help save the planet.

British homes are responsible for around 25 per cent of UK carbon dioxide emissions, making them one of the biggest contributors to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

A single small change like turning appliances off rather than leaving them on standby could save households £690m, and stop 1.3 million tons of carbon emissions being released into the atmosphere. 

But up to 10 million British households – a third of the population – have yet to take steps to change their home energy usage. 

The vast majority of households think small changes will make little or no difference to their finances. A third of those surveyed by the Energy Saving Trust don’t consider managing their energy use as a priority.

But they’re wrong. 

Turning your thermostat down by one degree would save households £800m and cut 3.3 million tons of carbon emissions every year. It could cut each household’s bill by £75 a year, according to separate analysis by MoneySuperMarket.

Changing all your lightbulbs to LEDs would save households £230m, and 430,000 tons of carbon emissions every year.

But that’s the conservative end of the estimates. Home energy-saving assistant Loop believes UK homeowners and renters are losing an average of £140 every year on these “phantom loads”.

Meanwhile, only using the right amount of water in your kettle would save households £1.1bn and stop 2 million tons of carbon emissions being released annually.

Elsewhere, better home insulation, for which there are numerous grants available, could save households extra cash. Cavity wall treatment can lead to a saving of £245 every year, while loft insulation could lead to a saving of £215, despite the initial outlay, says MoneySuperMarket.

Backed by Andrea Leadsom, the business and energy secretary, Big Energy Saving Week is designed to close the knowledge gap, save families money and help meet the 2050 net-zero target.

The campaign offers “20 ways to save” and points confused consumers to the Simple Energy Advice service as a source of information and support.

This year’s campaign comes at a time of already high levels of confusion over increasing energy bills by those struggling to pay them. 

Ofgem’s price cap was introduced in a bid to reduce bills but it only restricts the price your supplier can charge per kilowatt hour of energy. It doesn’t limit your total bill, which depends on how much energy you use. 

Introduced a year ago, the current limit is £1,179 a year for standard variable or default tariffs, and £1,217 for those on prepayment meters. 

But a third of bill payers don’t know the cap exists and only 5 per cent have seen their bills decrease, according to MoneySupermarket. 

“The price cap was intended to protect consumers by ensuring a ‘fair price’ for energy that would result in savings for millions of people,” says Stephen Murray, energy specialist at MoneySuperMarket. 

“Although awareness and 2019 switching levels are up, confidence in the price cap is low and our data shows that there are almost 150 tariffs that are cheaper than the cap. 

“The cap appears to have added confusion for consumers, rather than savings. Our message is clear – don’t rely on regulation to reduce your bills.”

The five cheapest deals currently available, which include several from renewable sources, are Green Network Energy’s Snow Surprise, with an average annual cost of £880, £299 lower than the cap, Energy Plus Protection Feb 2021v3 from British Gas, at an average annual cost of £885, £294 lower than the cap. 

So Energy’s So Acorn – Green – Seasonal Payments deal comes in at an average annual cost of £890, £289 lower than the cap, or Tonik Energy’s Go Green Exclusive v2 has an average annual cost of £892, £287 lower than the cap.

And Octopus Energy’s Exclusive Octopus 12M Fixed January 2020 v1 comes in at a typical annual cost of £892, £287 lower than the cap.

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