To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

The best ways to save energy in 2023

Someone changing a light bulb

With gas and electricity prices rising, taking small but significant steps to reduce your energy consumption can deliver real savings.

You can’t have failed to notice energy prices have been climbing and, as Britain weathers cold snap after cold snap this winter, we’ve all been burning more gas and electricity. This can cause problems for a grid already under pressure, and stretch family budgets at a time when costs are rising across the board.

But it’s not all bad news. Unless you’ve already done a thorough audit and implemented any necessary changes, there are almost certainly some overlooked opportunities for saving energy at home. We’re not talking about longer-term, expensive fixes, like replacing your single pane windows with double-, or even triple-glazing, or installing cavity wall insulation. While effective, the expense of either of these will take a long time to recoup through savings, and you’ll need to book engineers – and wait for them to be available – before you can even get started. Depending on your property, you may even need to seek advice or permission from your local council.

We’re talking about the kind of fixes you can implement today, or this week at the very least, that will make an immediate difference to your bills. Some of them might not deliver much on their own but, when combined, they can make an appreciable difference that will quickly build up over the months ahead.

The best ways to save energy in 2023

1. Wear more clothes

This one is a no-brainer. Until summer rolls around again, put away those shorts and pull on some jeans, thermal socks, and a decent jumper. You might not think slippers are fashionable, but neither are high heating bills, so check out our selection of the best slippers for men and women, and dial down the thermostat. If your slippers embarrass you, you could always hide them behind the sofa when guests arrive.

Once everyone in your home is wearing appropriate clothing, you may be able to reduce your heating by a degree or two, and that can make a significant difference to your bill. According to the Energy Savings Trust, “you can save £80 and 320kg of carbon emissions a year by turning a room thermostat down by one degree”, more than enough to pay for that extra layer of clothing.

Wear appropriate clothes for the season and you may be able to dial down the thermostat.

2. Deploy smart tech

The latest generation of intelligent home devices can help save energy too. Smart thermostats – like those from Hive and Nest – pair with companion apps which, thanks to the smartphone’s ability to detect your location, can alert you if you’ve left the house and not switched off the heating. Doing so remotely, and switching it on again as you head back home, means you can make considerable savings.

Nest, which is owned by Google, estimated that UK customers saved between 8.4% and 16.5% of their previous energy consumption when using one of its learning thermostats, which observes how you use your heating and adjusts its settings accordingly. Similarly, Hive calculates that its thermostat “could help you save up to £311 a year by never heating an empty home”. Both Hive Thermostat and Nest Learning Thermostat should be installed by professionals, but Nest’s £99 Thermostat E is designed for self-installation, as it doesn’t require access to your heating system.

Nest’s Thermostat E is designed for self-installation.

Once you’ve installed a smart thermostat, you can continue building your system. Hive also produces thermostatic valves for individual radiators, allowing you to control temperature on a room-by-room basis, and door and window sensors, which can be used to turn off heating in rooms where windows have been left propped open. 

Of course, you will also be able to control your heating using a voice assistant.

READ NEXT: Are solar panels worth it? We investigate

3. Set up groups and routines

If you have an Amazon Echo device or Google Nest Audio or Nest Mini speaker – or simply a voice assistant on your phone – you can use it to control your heating through speech. More importantly, you can also use it to set up routines or create groups which can perform multiple actions simultaneously. Do this and you’re far less likely to forget to switch off the odd device here and there as you head to bed.

To set up a routine, enrol your plugs and bulbs according to the manufacturer’s instructions and:

Amazon Echo

Open the Alexa app on your phone and tap More, followed by Routines. Tap the ‘+’ at the top of the screen, then work your way through the New Routine screen. First, tap the ‘+’ beside ‘Enter routine name’ and give the routine a meaningful title. This is only for your reference, so make it as descriptive as you need. For example, ‘turn off everything at bedtime’. Tap Next.

Now tap the ‘+’ beside ‘When this happens’, followed by Voice. Type in the phrase you want to use to trigger the routine. For example, if you want to say ‘Alexa, time for bed’, just type ‘time for bed’, then click Next. Finally, tap the ‘+’ beside ‘Add action’, followed by Smart Home.

Tap All Devices, then work your way through each of the smart devices enrolled in your home. As you open each one, use the switch to set its state to off, then tap Next. Every time you set the state of a single device or group, you’ll be returned to the New Routine screen, so tap the ‘+’ beside ‘Add action’ again and repeat this process as many times as required. When you’ve finished, tap Save. Now, when you say ‘Alexa, time for bed’, each of your plugs and bulbs will be switched off at once.

Google Assistant

Open the Google Home app on your phone and tap Routines. Tap the ‘+’ button, followed by the pencil icon beside New Routine. Give the routine a descriptive name so you can easily identify it should you need to amend it in the future. Tap the tick.

Tap ‘+ Add starter’ followed by ‘When I say to Google Assistant’, then type the phrase you want to speak to invoke the routine. If you want to say ‘Hey Google, time for bed’, just type ‘time for bed’, then tap ‘Add starter’. You can add multiple starters, if necessary, and they don’t all need to be spoken. You could create a spoken starter, as we have here, and back it up with a schedule, so that if you’re away from home, your lights will still turn off at 11pm anyhow.

Tap ‘+ Add action’ followed by ‘Adjust Home devices’. Tap the checkbox beside ‘Adjust lights, plugs, and more’ followed by ‘Edit action’. Now work your way through each of the devices installed in your account, and select ‘Turn off’ from the drop-down menu. Tap the tick when you’ve finished, followed by Done, then Save. Now you can say ‘Hey Google, time for bed’, and each of your plugs and bulbs will be switched off simultaneously.

4. Buy more energy efficient appliances

If you’re already in the market for a new appliance, be sure to buy one with an A energy rating. All new electrical appliances are tested for efficiency and given a rating between G (for the least efficient), and A (for the most). In the past, you may have seen ratings as high as A+++, but these no longer apply. As explained at Label 2020, “Due to increased demand for more environmentally friendly options, the energy that products use has reduced. This meant that the old labelling scheme – ranging from A+++ to G – had become less effective. This made it more difficult for consumers to identify the most efficient products. The label has therefore been revised and optimised. The new label, which started to appear in high street and online shops from March 2021, features a new, simpler range: A to G…”

The new labelling applies to common kitchen appliances like fridges and freezers, washing machines, dishwashers, and washer-dryers, as well as light sources, televisions, and electronic displays.

However, it’s important to make sure that you’re comparing like with like. As the Energy Savings Trust explains, “In general, appliances are categorised by their size. This means that two different sized appliances with the same energy rating might use different amounts of electricity. For instance, a G-rated 265-litre fridge freezer could cost around £100 a year to run (60kgCO2e), whereas a larger 424-litre fridge freezer with a better F rating could cost around £105 (65kgCO2e) a year to run.”This budget tumble dryer benefits from a B rating for energy efficiency

Likewise, if you’re still using incandescent light bulbs, replace them with energy efficient alternatives as they blow, or be proactive and replace them before they fail. These have improved greatly over the years, and it’s now possible to buy long-life bulbs that reach their full brightness almost instantaneously. LED bulbs, in particular, are highly energy efficient, converting more of their energy to light, and very little to heat.

As the UK government explains, LED bulbs “last 5 times longer than traditional halogen light bulbs and produce the same amount of light – but use up to 80% less power”.

READ NEXT: Best smart bulbs to buy

5. Dry clothes the natural way

Even an energy-efficient tumble dryer uses significantly more energy than line drying, which is free. Granted, in winter, hanging up your clothes in the garden might be less practical, but floor-standing or over-bath airers are cheap and effective. You can pick up a three tier Vileda airer for as little as £21, or an Amazon basics table airer, which has a flat middle section that can come in handy when drying delicates like cashmere jumpers, for £32.

If you’re lucky enough to have high ceilings, a traditional Sheila Maid clothes airer (£68) will keep your clothes out of the way while they dry and, at the opposite end of the scale, less than a fiver will get you a pair of over-the-door racks, with space for 10 hangers on each.

Be wary of positioning airers in front of radiators in such a way that they block any heat from reaching the rest of the room, or you may be tempted to knock up the thermostat a degree or two, which could undo all of your good work. Likewise, don’t put your clothes or towels directly on the radiator itself. If you do, warns OnlyRadiators, “you’re really just blocking the radiator from heating the room. The plug – your wet clothing – gets a huge amount of heat but your room stays cold. Your radiator, even without a thermostatic valve, is trying to reach a certain temperature. Yet you’re plugging the upstream heat of your whole system. Your boiler then has to struggle to heat the room using a radiator whose convection cycle is blocked. Your radiator is rendered completely inefficient and it’s costing you mega-bucks. The central heating hates it and your bank account isn’t any better off either.”

6. Don’t standby: switch off

Various international bodies, including the European Union, have introduced regulations for the amount of power devices are allowed to use when in standby mode. Since 2013, electronic equipment – including TVs, computers and microwaves – sold in the EU can’t consume more than 0.5W in standby. That’s good news, as it means the energy wasted by new appliances is minimised when they’re not actively being used.

However, if you’re still running older equipment, it may be consuming considerably more than this. If so, you’re literally paying for energy you’re not using. The solution is to turn off appliances at the wall, which is a burden that can be significantly lightened by devices like a Power Down plug. This £9 device has three sockets: one master, one slave and one permanently on. Whenever you switch off the device connected to the master socket, the plug detects the drop in consumption and shuts off the slave. So, if you have a TV plugged into the master socket and a set top box into the slave, both will be switched off when you turn off the TV.

As we said at the outset, while some of these measures may only deliver fairly modest savings, they all contribute to reducing your energy spend. In every instance, it’s important to assess whether the savings will recoup any cost of implementation and, if so, how long that will take.

Think laterally, too. Conventional wisdom states that you should only ever boil just enough water for your needs. But might you do better to boil a full kettle once, and pour what you don’t need into a well-insulated flask for later use? That way, you won’t have to re-heat the element and body of a cold kettle, along with its contents, the next time you fancy a cuppa.

Read more