By Ann Francis

Cambrian Savings and Loans

With the cost of living on a never-ending upwards curve, and winter on its way, Ann Francis looks at ways to save money on energy bills.

And while there’s some positive news in that energy bills are expected to fall (at last), consultancy firm Cornwall Insight has warned they are unlikely to reach pre-Covid levels until the end of the decade.

The average annual bill for a typical dual-fuel household paying by direct debit is expected to reduce to around £1,923 from 1 October, according to Ofgem. That is equivalent to a drop of around £151 a year, or £12.58 a month, based on the current price cap unit rates. It’s good, but not exactly a game changer for most of us.

Last year, I came across people who were too afraid to put their heating on, or severely limiting its use, to help keep a handle on their outgoings and that can’t be the only solution.

With this in mind, here are a few – relatively pain-free – ideas to help you save energy and get a grip of those bills as we head into the most expensive time of the year:

1. When you are ready to put the heating on, turn the thermostat down – slightly. The Energy Saving Trust states that by turning your thermostat down just one degree, for example from 20C to 19C, could save the average three-bed household up to £145 every year.

2. According to British Gas, those of us with a combi boiler can save 6 per cent on our gas bills by simply changing the default boiler flow temperature from the normal 70 degrees to 55-60 degrees. It’s a simple change and we are apparently unlikely to notice the difference!

3. Many of us have radiators under the windows. It helps keep the room warm by closing curtains, but make sure they don’t fall in front of the radiators as that will block the heat into the room. Similarly large pieces of furniture, like sofas or sideboards, should not be in front of radiators to allow better flow of heat into the room.

4. While speaking about radiators it’s a good idea to bleed them, to let out any trapped air, after a summer of not being used. This takes a couple of minutes and will help ensure the whole radiator gets warm, making your heating more efficient.

5. Many of us have our washing machines at a default 40C, but most washing powders and liquids now work well at a lower temperature. Turning your washing machine down to 30C and making sure you always wash a full load, to bring down your electricity usage.

6. It’s a job none of us like (especially the week of ‘freezer meals’ beforehand) but defrosting the fridge and freezer helps boost its efficiency. The fridge and freezer are - necessarily - on 24/7, so anything you can do to boost efficiency will pay off when it comes to your electricity bill. Keeping your freezer full will also help stop it icing up and improve efficiency, batch cooking or cheap bread, end of the day deals from supermarkets can make good freezer fillers!

Ann Francis is CEO of Cambrian Savings & Loans, a credit union serving people across North Wales and Powys.