What You Can Learn from Your Energy Bill

Do you know how much energy you use at home? No, I don’t mean how much money you shell out to your energy company by direct debit every month. I mean how many units of energy you use every day.

If you take the time to look at your energy bill there’s some useful information on there. One interesting thing you can find is whether your bill has been estimated, or whether it has been calculated after a meter reading. If it’s been estimated, that means someone in an office has pulled an amount out of a hat and billed you for it. Well, possibly not; I’m sure there are complex algorithms and the like. This estimating can work in your favour, of course. If you’ve used 20 units and your energy supplier has estimated that you’ve used 5, then you’ll have a small bill – but down the line you’ll be due for a big bill once they finally cotton on. On the other hand, if you’ve used 5 units and you’re being billed for 20, then that’s your money sitting in their bank account, earning interest for them at your expense.

The simplest thing you can do to the correct this is read the meter. You can call your company once you get a bill and give them an accurate meter reading over the phone, and they should send a revised bill out. Some companies let you submit your meter readings online. This saves you from overspending, and also from energy bill shocks when a year down the track you receive a hefty bill to compensate for underpaying for several months.

There are two other useful things you can learn once your bill is accurate: the first is how many units of energy you use a day; a unit of energy is a kilowatt hour (kWh). The second is how much you are charged per kWh of energy you use, which is measured in pence (p).

So if you use 5 units per day, at 21p per kWh, this means your energy costs you £1.05 per day (5 x 21p). Remember to add on VAT!

The average household in the UK uses 9 units per day.

The fewer units you use, the less fossil fuels you’ll burn and the less money your electricity bill will cost you.

There are plenty of tips for reducing energy use in the home. Turn off the lights when not in the room; wear an extra jumper; block drafts; don’t leave things on standby. Sometimes these things can seem like an extra hassle – but what if you knew how much they were costing your pocket?

A great way to find out exactly how much energy and gadgets are using (and what that costs you) is to invest in a home energy monitor. If you really don’t want to buy one, libraries sometimes offer them for loan.

Energy monitors measure the energy used by a single appliance at a time. You plug the monitor into the wall, and plug your appliance into the monitor. The screen will display how much energy the appliance uses. Some models allow you to input the actual kWh charge that your energy company charges, so you can find out exactly how much your appliance is costing you, but if not, it’s just a simple calculation. For appliances that run continuously such as the fridge, measuring for 24 hours is ideal. For gadgets that use short bursts of energy, such as a kettle, you can measure when it’s active.

Seeing the actual cost in money terms is a great incentive to make changes to your habits!

  • How much energy do your appliances used when on standby and not turned off at the wall?
  • How much energy is your washing machine using per load? Half loads use the same amount of energy – is this costing you? How much does reducing the temperature affect the cost of a wash?
  • Do you use the dryer when the sun is shining? Is it worth the price?
  • Do you overfill the kettle? How much extra do you pay for heating water that you don’t use?
  • The thing to remember is that whilst some of these costs may appear small, they are adding up over time. If boiling a kettle with exactly 1 cup of water cost 1.5p, to overfill and heat 2 cups would cost 3p. If you make yourself 3 cups of tea every day, and overfill the kettle each time, that’s almost £16.50 a year. That’s money down the drain…literally!

    Don’t be a passive energy user – there’s no need. It’s really easy to take control of your bill – and your money! Whether you struggle to pay the bills or not, money is always going to be better in your pocket than lining the coffers of energy companies – and you’re being a responsible citizen at the same time. You can’t lose!

    Lindsay Miles is a sustainable living advocate: a writer, workshop facilitator, speaker, blogger, events co-ordinator and all-round people-and-planet lover! She believes that sustainability isn’t just about big picture stuff like “saving the rainforests”; it’s as much about the little things we do and choices we make every day. Find out more at www.treadingmyownpath.com.

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