With simple energy efficiency changes including radiator reflectors and draught excluders, we can all make a difference to our energy bills.
Each of the energy saving measures we cover below typically cost below £30, and all can be installed without professional help.
Energy efficiency pays for itself in the long term, so check whether our top picks can be applied to your home.
Seven ways to cut energy bills
|Energy saving product||Upfront cost||Potential savings in Y1|
|Hot water tank insulation||£25||£110|
|Eco shower head||£20||£100|
|LED light bulbs||£20||£30|
1. Radiator reflectors
Radiator insulation can prevent heat from seeping out of external walls, keeping it in the house and reducing the amount of energy our boiler needs to produce.
The savings are small - around £20 per year on average - but this means it usually pays for itself after a single year and continues offering savings until it's removed or replaced.
Radiator reflectors (also known as radiator insulation) are made of the following:
- Sheet of insulation (thickness depends on individual product)
- Reflecting foil
The insulation element stops heat passing backwards out of the home while the reflecting foil works to reflect the heat back as well, limiting the amount of heat escaping.
So, radiator insulation is a simple solution to a simple problem: how to prevent heat escaping through the external walls of a home.
Radiator reflectors save most money when:
- The radiator is against an external wall so that the energy lost goes outside rather than elsewhere in the home
- They're made properly
- They're fitted properly
- There are no other forms of insulation on that wall (i.e. cavity wall insulation)
If your home already has cavity wall insulation, radiator reflectors could still save you money, although the investment will take longer to pay for itself.
Read more about installing home insulation to save money.
How much are radiator reflectors?
You can expect to find good quality radiator reflectors for under £20, although pricing varies depending on the size of the reflectors and how many radiators they claim to cover.
One of the most popular names on the market is Radflek, and their smallest pack of three sheets costs £19.99.
Another option is SuperFoil which also sells a three pack for under £21 at the time of writing.
Beware of cheap imitations or products that seem to be little more than a piece of kitchen foil. While the foil is an integral element of the design, the insulating material is equally important since it blocks heat from escaping.
Bear in mind there's another similar product on the market which may look better if you don't the idea of foil behind your radiators - "saw tooth" radiator panels like these from Heatkeeper for around £30.
These are often more expensive and, as with foil reflectors, it's important to read reviews and check the products live up to expectations.
For £20, though, we can expect to reduce the amount of heat three radiators lose through external walls.
2. Hot water tank insulation
Insulating our hot water tank and the surrounding pipes could save us over £100 per year, much more than the £25 upfront investment.
If we have hot water tanks with little or no insulation, heat is lost both around the outside of the tank and from the pipes leading away from it.
An insulating jacket costs around £25 depending on the size of your hot water cylinder and going from no jacket at all to an 80mm insulated jacket could save up to £110.
Many hot water tanks do have jackets, but they're too thin to make a proper difference to bills. Upgrading these could still save us money.
|Annual estimated saving
(according to the Energy Saving Trust)
|No jacket to insulated||£90 - £110 (payback over three months)|
|25mm insulation upgraded to 80mm||£20 - £25 (payback over nine months)|
A quality hot water tank jacket can pay for itself in less than a year even if a thinner jacket was previously insulating the tank - a worthwhile investment.
Mangers jackets are one of the most popular cylinder insulation jackets on the market. If you have a smaller tank, there are option to fit those too.
Plus, for an extra few pounds, we can insulate the pipes around the boiler, potentially saving another £25 a year on our energy bills.
Just make sure the insulation is of a decent thickness (around 15mm) and it's suitable for the diameter of your pipes.
3. Smart plugs
UK homes waste around £55 per year by leaving devices and appliances on standby, the most recent estimate from the Energy Saving Trust suggests.
While this is a small amount of money, over the course of a few years it represents a significant outlay which isn't necessary. Plus, it's not the greenest way to run our homes, yet the convenience tends to triumph.
Smart plugs are one way of eliminating that standby energy wastage. Along with this, they can help us run our homes in a smarter way and potentially make more energy savings.
These plugs allow us to turn anything off at the socket without physically needing to flick the switch. Essentially, they're an updated version of timer plugs designed to make lights come on at specific times to show a home is occupied. Modern smart plugs have more functionality and can be used in various ways including:
- Turning off televisions, computers and games consoles overnight or while we're out of the house
- Timing lamps and electric heaters to come on at specific times
- Checking whether devices are switched off when they're not being used
In homes with children, for example, using smart plugs in the bedrooms not only limits the energy wastage but can also be a way of controlling television and computer usage overnight.
Smart plugs can be used as part of a wider smart home strategy - read our guide on turning your home into a smart one.
How much do smart plugs cost?
Smart plugs can start from just a few pounds each, but it's important to understand the differences and the possible security pitfalls
As these plugs are designed to be attached to home smart networks, they need to be safe and secure. Unfortunately, some smart plugs fail these basic tests and could prove to a danger to the home rather than saving us money.
When looking at smart plugs, consider the following:
- Does the smart plug have secure encryption?
- Does the brand promise security updates?
- Does it have a default password? It is proposed these should be banned, but even if the legislation comes in, it's worth checking the plugs you choose comply with the rules.
- Does the brand have a good reputation?
- Does it interact well with the other smart tech in my home? Some voice-activated plugs may work with Google Home and some might not, for example.
As you might expect, these considerations can bump up the price of a smart plug. These are some of our favourite options with varying capabilities:
|4lite Connected WiFi Smart Plug||Amazon Alexa
|Amazon Smart Plug||Amazon Alexa
(must have compatible hub for control)
|TP-Link Tapo Smart Plug Wi-Fi Outlet|| Amazon Alexa
|£26.99 (for pack of four)|
There are also some more basic smart plugs on the market which are used for so-called 'slave sockets' - those which support many plugs - like TVs, DVD players, set top boxes and modems.
When the main device is turned off - usually the TV or computer - the plug powers down all the other items that are connected to it.
Some of them come with one 'permanent on' socket, which is ideal for a router or set-top box that needs to be kept on at all times.
This type of plug is cheap, costing as little as £2 but usually not much more than £6.
4. Eco shower heads
Eco shower heads mean we use less water, and, in terms of our energy bills, we spend less money on heating water we don't need to use. For customers on water meters, the savings could be increased.
Depending on how ineffective your existing shower head is, you could save up to £100 a year on bills when using the most efficient eco shower head.
If you choose the Triton High Flow 5, for example, that could result in net savings of up to £80 in a year.
Many of us may already have shower heads that have some eco-friendly features, but there could be extra savings to be made.
For instance, if you can fill a two-litre container in less than 12 seconds using your existing shower head, it's a safe bet a new one could save you money.
These shower heads use smart design to reduce water waste. Some aerate the water flow - which means that they suck air into the shower head to maintain the pressure but reduce the amount of water required. Others cut usage by pulsating the flow or by simply restricting the water flow.
The cheapest water saving shower heads start at about £10 but some of the better-known brands - Mira, Pulse Eco and Ecocamel - start from about £25.
Of course, it's also worth noting that, in addition to buying an eco-friendly shower head, we can all save water and money by taking shorter showers - generally less than 10 minutes - and by not leaving the shower running before we get in.
It's estimated that sticking to four-minute showers and switching one bath per week to a shower instead could save a typical household around £66 per year on their energy bills.
A tap aerator works on the same principle as an eco shower head - it uses less water without impeding the flow.
These aerators can cost as little as £2.50, so adding them to a few taps within the home costs around £5.
Again, the savings with tap aerators are small with the Energy Saving Trust estimating that customers will cut their bills by around £22, but it reduces both energy and water waste.
5. Exclude draughts
It's possible to save around £40 a year by sealing up the gaps around our homes which let in draughts, according to an estimate from the Energy Saving Trust.
Most homes have draughts - little unsealed areas and gaps that let cold air in and warm air out. Draughts tend to be found around windows, skirting boards and pipework, among other areas.
There are a number of different draught exclusion options that are suitable for different situations and budgets.
For instance, let's take a quick look at the three examples listed above:
- Windows: One of the easiest and cheapest methods for small gaps (anywhere up to 7mm but generally between 2-5mm) is to pick up some self-adhesive draft excluding strips. Metal and plastic strips are also available. These last longer but cost a bit more.
- Skirting boards: Small gaps can be filled easily and cheaply with a silicone-based filler. Flooring and skirting needs to be able to expand and contract so it's important to buy a sealant that can take movement.
- Pipework: Like skirting boards, a simple silicone filler can be used to fill exposed areas around pipework. For larger gaps, an expanding foam should be used for complete cover.
The Energy Saving Trust say draught-proofing is one of the most effective (and cheapest) ways to cut energy consumption in the home.
At around £15 per pack, self-adhesive strips are cheap and easy to install.
Just remember, however, that there are some deliberate areas of ventilation within the home, so don't block airbricks, wall vents, window vents or extractor fans. If you do, you risk replacing your energy wastage problem with a damp problem.
6. Energy saving bulbs
Updating the bulbs we use in our homes could save up to £3.50 per bulb per year.
While most of us have already moved away from incandescent bulbs to halogen bulbs, moving from those to LEDs can save a few more pounds.
Sales of new halogen bulbs ended in September 2021, although firms were still allowed to sell their old stock and many of us will still have halogen bulbs in our homes right now.
The Energy Saving Trust estimates switching from a 50 watt halogen bulb to an LED could save £3.50 per year while switching a 35 watt halogen bulb to an LED could save £2.50 per bulb.
If a house updates five of each of these bulbs, they might save £30 per year.
Bear in mind these savings depend on the initial outlay of the bulbs (around £18 for six LED bulbs at current prices), so they aren't huge. However, it can be cheaper to buy LED light bulbs in bulk and that might make changing them all worthwhile.
Other lighting savings
As well as installing more energy efficient light bulbs, there are other changes we can make to our lighting habits to save money:
- Control lamps with smart plugs (discussed above)
- Turn lights off when we leave rooms - this could save up to £14 per year
- Check whether all the lights are needed and turn off wall lights if lamps are in use etc
These are good habits to get into and work in tandem with the tips we've already covered about switching appliances off when they are not in use.
7. Laundry habits
Changing our washing and drying habits can be done for free and it could save up to £83 per year according to the Energy Saving Trust.
They make several recommendations:
- Using the washing machine on a 30-degree cycle rather than higher temperatures
- Reduce the amount of washing by one load each year
- Dry clothes outside or on racks and avoid the tumble dryer
These can be difficult for some households, especially if there's nowhere to hang clothes or a family produces a lot of washing.
Start by looking at the small changes you can make such as reusing towels or condensing more washes into one (without overloading the washer) and remember that it all adds up over the course of a year.
Think bigger: Home insulation
Although this guide is about cheap ways to improve home energy efficiency, it's worth highlighting that households can make the biggest savings by spending more money upfront.
Here are five things to consider:
- Adding extra insulation to your home
- Upgrading to a more efficient boiler
- Installing heating controls such as smart thermostats
- Installing double glazing (or update current leaky windows)
- Choosing more energy efficient appliances when you upgrade
The big ticket items are the ones that will save the most money over time, but most households can't afford to make them all at once, so make the small changes we've discussed in this guide can save money in the meantime.
Summary: something for every home
If we look closely enough, we can usually find small things around the home we can replace or improve to cut our energy bills.
For poorly insulated homes, adopting all the measures we've listed here could save up to around £300 in the first year, with extra savings in future years because there's no extra outlay required.
We've also got a guide to the most effective energy efficiency measures to help lower bills.