Save energy, save cash, save the planet, advises local debt centre

As the seasons change, we need to consider the increased cost of darker nights even before the cold weather comes along with higher fuel bills.

Paul Baillie, Christians Against Poverty Lisburn Debt Centre Manager

And with climate change at a critical point according to a recent report from the United Nations, it’s more important than ever to consider ways to cut down our energy use.

Read on for some savvy tips to help you protect the environment and save money.

Are you on the best energy tariff for your needs?

There are loads of comparison sites available online for you to check the different energy prices so it doesn’t need to take long to do some research.

Invest five minutes using a site like moneysupermarket.com/gas-and-electricity or the Cheap Energy Club via moneysavingexpert.com and you could easily see some quick savings.

It pays to stay on top of your energy bills, so why not set a regular date in your calendar to review the tariffs you’re paying for your utilities?

You might also consider getting a smart meter installed to help you keep an eye on your energy usage, cut costs and cut emissions.

Does switching off and turning down really save money?

The Energy Saving Trust has done a lot of research and found that, yes, you can make significant savings by switching off appliances rather than leaving them on standby – as much as £35 per year.

Think about things like mobile phone chargers, microwaves, TVs and laptops – all of these can be switched off at the plug and cause less damage to the environment.

The same goes for turning down the temperature on your washing machine. If your load is only lightly soiled, try setting the wash to 30 or even 20 degrees. You’ll save cash in the long run and cut down emissions caused by running your machine at higher temperatures.

If you’re thinking of replacing big household items like washing machines, dishwashers or fridge freezers, it’s worth waiting and saving up for the highest energy rating appliances that you can afford as this is better for the environment and more cost effective in the long run. Check out sust-it.net for more information on energy efficient products.

Could you try a bit of low cost DIY to keep the draughts out?

Now is a great time to get your home prepared for the winter weather by draught-proofing windows, doors and skirting boards.

The less you need to rely on radiators to keep the room at the right temperature, the less energy you’ll use.

You can make your own draught excluder by stuffing the leg of an old pair of trousers with rice or bubble wrap!

Heat reflective panels behind radiators are an effective way to prevent precious heat from escaping – you can pick up a roll of radiator reflective foil for less than ten pounds from your local DIY shop.

And if you can’t afford double-glazing, there’s a special film you can buy for your windows, attach with double-sided tape and fix with a hairdryer!

For more tips on DIY draught-proofing see energysavingtrust.org.uk/advice/draught-proofing.

Are you eligible for financial help with energy saving?

There are many different schemes available which you may be able to apply for depending on your circumstances.

Check if you’re eligible for support on the energysavingtrust.org.uk website.

Remember, winter bills are always more expensive than summer bills so try to budget throughout the year.

Consider setting up a Direct Debit and paying the same amount each month to balance out your bills, or set up a savings account to build up a buffer and cover the higher costs in the winter.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a UK charity with over 580 services across the country delivering debt counselling, money management education, job clubs, life skills groups and more. If anyone is struggling with debt and would like to find out more about the support CAP offers to become debt-free, please phone CAP Debt Freephone on 0800 328 0006 or visit capuk.org.