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  • Writer's pictureThe Climate Coach

Reducing your energy consumption - and your bills!

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

Here we are taking a look at energy consumption by us as individuals (or our businesses) - but more specifically electricity consumption. Gas will be covered in a separate post.

People generally talk about their electric consumption in monetry terms - which is actually pretty unhelpful because everyone generally pays a different price for their energy. E.g. one person could be on a fixed energy deal from a couple of years ago and so are paying 10% of the price paid by another who is on a variable rate and has had all the latest increases passed on. So - it's more helpful to talk about consumption in kWh (kilowatt hours) which is basically a unit of energy. That energy could be electricity or it could be gas - both can be measured in kWh but obviously we are sticking to electricity for now. When using kWh - it's much easier to compare the usage of one person to another - and important help understand where consumption can be reduced. In most cases it is entirely possible to significantly reduce electric and gas consumption for very little cost and very little impact on day to day life just by making some simple changes...

Before we start...

Helpfully, all the devices that consume electricity at home or at work have a max wattage. The simplest example for this is a fan heater. Let's say this is a 1 kW (kilowatt) fan heater which means if you turned it on full power for 1 hour - it would use exactly 1 kWh of electricity. Some devices run at their max wattage (like in the fan heater example) but others may only do this periodically - for example a fridge, which will only run at the max wattage when actively cooling. Depending on how full the fridge is, or how warm the temperature in the room the fridge is in can massively vary how much energy it uses over the course of an hour or day.

Hang on - we are talking climate aren't we?

Yes absolutely - but energy (e.g. generating electricity and generating heat) is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. So although the primary motivation to reduce consumption is usually cost it's also really important for climate - so even if you can afford the cost, you should do it for climate. The simplest way to look at it is that we can't produce enough energy through renewables currently - and clearly we need to massively expand out wind and solar capacity over the coming years but in the meantime one of the best things to do is actually reduce our consumption as much as possible. Not only does this reduce your personal impact on climate (and saves you money), it's also a vital step if you are going to look into taking it a step further in terms of moving to a 100% renewable provider or even installing wind or solar at some point at home. After all, the lower your consumption, the easier (and cheaper) it is to reduce the emissions from that energy.

Enough already, tell me how - quick!

Ok calm down - so there is a bit of work involved but I promise it doesn't take long and it's a one-off task that you probably won't ever need to do again (or maybe once in a while to check again at some point in the future). And if you really can't wait - scroll to the bottom for a quick checklist.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Find out how much energy you are using (in kWh)

  2. Find out what is using that energy (don't worry - it's not too hard)

  3. Look at where and how you can reduce consumption (lots of quick wins, some require minor cost/effort, others are larger investments but that could payback in the medium/long term)


How much energy do you use?

Easy enough - check your bills or your electric meter. Better still, if you have a smart meter use the readings from here. The key figures you need to look at though are your annual usage in kWh (the average UK home is around 2,700 kWh of electricity), and also your daily/weekly figures. If you have just moved in - just take a daily or weekly figure and multiply up to get an annual figure for now. Usage does vary across the year - but for the purposes of this, it'll do. You'll use these figures as a reference to check how much you've saved once you've made some changes - and also work out how much money each change can save you.

As a rough estimate for the annual bill - just multiply your estimated annual usage by the price per kWh charged by your energy provider. So 2,700kWh x 28p per kWh (at the time of writing this is the average cost) = £756

What is using the energy?

Ok so - there are lots of ways of doing this but I'd recommend two.

  1. Buy or borrow a device to measure electricity usage. Preferably borrow off someone who has one already - or buy second hand. They are very cheap (only around £20 new) and will probably very very quickly save you a lot more than it cost you to buy it.

  2. Check ratings of various appliances and take meter readings to confirm how much energy they use. This is a bit more of a faff so I'd definitely recommend the first option however in some circumstances (e.g. where you can't turn off and or can't easily use the plug, this method may work just as well). If you have a smart meter, this option can be a lot easier too.

For option 1, simply plug the device into the socket and then plug in the thing you want to measure into the plug. You can use an extension lead to measure multiple things at one (e.g. for things that are always used together like a TV and set top box) or just one thing at a time. You will ideally want to leave it at least 24 hours to account for fluctuations in usage. Check the device after 24 hours and it will display how many kWh of electricity has been used. Make a list of all the devices you've checked. Similar approach for option 2 - but there will be a lot more turning things off and on to get accurate usage for specific devices or relying on shorter term readings from smart meter displays.

Look at where you can save

Now the fun part - time to start saving some energy and your personal emissions! You'll hopefully have identified some things that use a lot in your house - and you can start working through how to reduce consumption. That might be turning something off completely - e.g. when I realised how much heating my garage was costing, I found an alternative storage solution for what I was trying to protect out there to negate the need for me to heat it. It also might be turning things off when not using them. The previous owner of the house we moved into installed some SONOS speakers in the ceilings, however they are on 24/7 and I was shocked at how much energy they used even when not used at all. I bought a smart plug for around £5 that schedules them only to come on during the evenings and at weekends (when we listen to music) - thus saving me that £5 back within a week - and saving my thousands over the coming years. I can also turn on manually if needed via my phone. I also did the same on a hot water recirculation pump - so it goes off overnight and during the weekday daytimes (when hardly ever in use).

For your fridges and freezers, whilst you may not be able to turn them off (unless you have multiple and can condense down how much space you need) - you can reduce the usage by ensuring there is good airflow at all times and in your freezers, ensuring ice doesn't build up by defrosting when needed. Basically the ice build up around the elements means they have to work harder to cool the rest of the freezer down - meaning the bit that uses the energy stays on longer and longer the more the ice builds up. By maintaining these well, you can significantly reduce your usage. Also consider turning the temperature up ever so slightly (especially in Summer when it will be working harder anyway due to higher ambient temperatures).

So, for me when I first completed this activity, I was able to reduce my total energy consumption by over 35%. That's absolutely massive - both consumption wise and cost wise, and most importantly climate wise! The changes I've made haven't changed day to day life at all - although we are all now much more cognisant about where we use energy and try our best collectively not to waste energy.

What sort of things use the most?

It really does vary massively between households but some common things that use a lot of electricity are:


Est. annual usage

Electric heaters (fan heaters, oil radiators)

2000 kWh (e.g. for keeping a garage dry over winter)

​Hot tubs (even the little inflatable ones)

2000 kWh (e.g. 3 months of regular use)

Servers (e.g. network routers, PoE)

500-2000 kWh (e.g. on 24/7)

CCTV systems

500-1500 kWh (on 24/7 and depends how many cameras and how long you store the footage)

Smart speakers (e.g. SONOS)

200-800 kWh (depends on how many speakers you have and if you leave them on standby)

Fridges and freezers

​200-500 kWh (depends on efficiency of the model you have and how well maintained it is)

Hot water recirculation pumps (e.g. for underfloor heating or coupled to a hot water tank)

500-1500 kWh (depends if always on or set to come on when in use)

Wine fridge/Mini fridge (e.g. integrated or standalone)

200 kWh (on 24/7)

Chilled/boiling water taps

100-400 kWh (depends on model)

I've purposely left out things like light bulbs, ovens, toasters, kettles and TV's because whilst they do use electricity (and can have high usage when used a lot), there isn't really much you can do to reduce your consumption with these beyond not using them as much. That said - check your light bulbs are LED's. They literally use up to 90% less electricity to generate the same light levels so they are usually a no brainer.

If you have any thoughts, feedback or ideas you wish to contribute on this or any other topic covered by The Climate Coach - please get in touch, we'd love to hear from you.

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