The energy price cap was raised by 53% in April 2022 and was set to go higher until the Government stepped in. But as we face very expensive winter, how can you strike a balance between heating your home and saving money?
At this time of year when energy consumption in every household is at its highest, the measures by the Government do little to protect those on low incomes who are already struggling with the highest levels of inflation we’ve seen in decades.
Tenants in the private rental sector are among some of the groups that are considered to be more vulnerable to these rising costs.
It is an issue of concern for landlords too, because if tenants are suffering severe financial pressures when something has to give, it could well be their rental repayments. If the winter months push rent arrears up, then the income of landlords falls.
With interest rates rising at the same time, those in the buy-to-let sector could find themselves in mortgage arrears.
The domino effect is deeply alarming.
Unlike homeowners, you don’t have total control over the types of heating in your homes or the levels of insulation provided.
You therefore need to take more direct measures to save money while still keeping the rental property habitable and warm. You’ve probably already Googled energy-saving measures; here’s a few more to consider.
Leaving the Heating on Low
According to the Energy Saving Trust, keeping the heating on low throughout the day to be more energy efficient is a myth.
The problem is that even with good insulation, a certain amount of heat will always escape and if no one is at home to benefit, this is pure waste. If you keep it on all day, you’re losing heat all day.
It’s more efficient to turn it on when you need it.
The home warms up quickly and the overall amount of energy you use will be less. Some specialists don’t agree with this view but its worth trying to see if you can see the benefits in your bills so monitoring them for any changes will give you a more accurate picture.
Thermostats and Valves
However you set your controls, heating unused rooms can be costly.
If your radiators have individual thermostats, you should consider turning them down in rooms you’re not using. This won’t affect the rest of the property, which will continue to receive the heat you need, but can limit your energy consumption.
A word of caution, you do need to monitor these rooms so that issues of damp and mould do not arise out of non-use. Regular airing of unused areas is definitely recommended.
Another consideration is noted by The Radiator Centre, who recommend checking if your radiator has a frost setting on the valve. Look for the snowflake symbol, setting the thermostat on this level will allow the radiator to come on when the temperature drops too low and will help prevent pipes from freezing.
This is especially important if you are intending to be away from the property during the winter months.
Virtually all electrical devices go into standby mode when you switch them off.
Phone and tablet chargers are routinely left plugged into the mains. All of these represent energy wastage.
That little red light on the TV may look innocent and that dangling charger might not seem to be doing anything, but they are all drawing a modest charge.
Although it won’t make a huge difference, estimates of annual cost savings can range from £28 to £77 for the average household.
It’s also worth turning off lights where you don’t need them and if you use several table lamps to light a living room, for example, try to manage with fewer. Even with energy-saving light bulbs, the amount of power they use can be significant.
Should you use a tumble dryer or hang your clothes on an airer while the heating is on?
Tumble dryers use huge amounts of energy and while they are very convenient, it is much more energy-efficient to use an airer.
However, there is a word of caution here.
As pointed out by Good Housekeeping in their blog 6 ways to dry the laundry quicker; drying damp clothes in the property will create extra moisture that may lead to damp and then mould in the rental property.
Airing the rooms regularly will help with this but on cold days, a quality dehumidifier will extract around 15 – 20 litres of water however this will still come at a cost from powering the unit.
Energy Monitors and Smart Meters
A smart meter doesn’t automatically save money.
It simply enables you to monitor your usage: it won’t switch anything off when you reach the budget you set yourself. It’s useful, but it’s only a tool. If you don’t have a smart meter there are plenty of energy monitors you can buy to achieve the same result.
They have sensors which record how much current is flowing through electrical cables. Experiment with turning off various appliances and you’ll soon see which ones are the most energy-hungry.
When we’re talking about conserving energy and heat, it might seem counterintuitive to mention ventilation.
The temptation is to close all windows, doors and air-vents to keep your home as warm as possible. However, this can create other difficulties, largely resulting from the effects of condensation but also related to health.
When the humidity level in an inadequately ventilated property reaches saturation point, the air that’s in contact with cold surfaces turns into water.
This can lead to structural dampness and mould growth. It can also cause respiratory difficulties and headaches as well as exacerbating conditions such as asthma.
According to the English Housing Survey Headline Report 2020-2021, private rental properties are twice as likely to suffer from the effects of poor ventilation than owner-occupied homes.
Air your rental property as often as you can, have windows on the latch to allow moisture to escape and use trickle vents (if fitted) to ensure a good level of air flow.
Not Heating the Home – Who is Most at Risk?
As we’ve already suggested, tenants are more vulnerable to the imminent effects of increased fuel bills than homeowners.
People in HMOs and family accommodation probably have more flexibility with the measures we’ve discussed so single people and students may come off worse.
Nevertheless, whatever your circumstances, careful management of your power consumption will help to take some of the sting out of the winter crisis.
5 Top Tips to Reduce Your Heating Bills
- Turn down your thermostat down by at least one degree; this can save up to £145 a year
- Heat the home or rooms as and when need to and when you are in the property
- Use the frost setting to keep pipes from bursting when away and bleed radiators to improve heat flow in the room
- Ensure the boiler is regularly serviced to increase their efficiency. Make sure you know when the servicing is due and remind the landlord if this isn’t carried out
- Consider installing a Smart meter to help monitor and reduce your energy usage
At Inventory Base, we specialise in providing sophisticated property management software which can be of enormous assistance in checking issues, including insulation, energy efficiency and the early signs of damp.
With regular interim property visits; professional inventory clerks can help landlords identify developing problems, which will ultimately benefit them and you as the tenant.