One of the greatest challenge consumers face today amid the cost-of-living crisis is cutting their energy bills in a way that will not tense the already overstretched family budget.
Energy expert Myles Robinson from Boiler Central shares the cheapest and easiest ways to save on the upcoming soaring energy bills:
“Luckily, summer is upon us and this is the perfect time to make the switch to more energy-efficient appliances, before they start guzzling even more gas or electricity. There are also some other green, cheap and – importantly – suitable alternatives, such as hydrogen-ready combi boilers. If your budget can stretch a little further, opt for a hybrid heating system with solar panels, as heat pumps are far too expensive, even with the new grant scheme from the government.”
1. Cheapest & fastest: switch to A-rated appliances
“The most energy-consuming item in a household is the boiler. A G-rated boiler, for example, is only 60-70% efficient, meaning up to 40% of the energy is wasted. That is a huge amount reflecting on your bill, especially with the new energy tariffs. Switching from a G-rated boiler to an A-rated one can save households at least £580 a year.
“Boilers are followed by fridge/freezers, accounting for more than half the consumption of boilers. Dishwashers, ovens and washing machines are next in line in terms of energy use. These are the five appliances worth considering for an upgrade to an A EPC rating. With many finance options in place, making the switch now becomes realistic and affordable, not to mention much better for the environment.”
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2. Future-proof: opt for hydrogen-ready combi boilers
“If you are planning on upgrading your boiler, we strongly advice opting for a hydrogen-ready combi one, which is, hands-down, the cheapest green alternative to a conventional boiler. Most newer models are manufactured to be hydrogen-ready up to 20% so that, once there is a switch in fuel source in the UK, they can be modified to run on 100% hydrogen.
“Interestingly, over the past two years, several gas supply trials have been carried out in closed communities, which concluded that adding up to 20% hydrogen into the public gas supply would essentially have no effect on how people use their current gas appliances, such as cookers and boilers.”
3. Pro upgrade: forget heat pumps – add solar panels instead
As of last month, residents of England and Wales can apply for grants worth up to £6,000 to help with switching to greener heating alternatives under the new Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS). However, there is widespread criticism from energy experts on the programme’s viability, which they argue is neither technically, nor financially suitable for most UK homes.
Myles Robinson from Boiler Central shares pros and cons of heat pumps: “The value of heat pumps does not come in financial form, but, rather, in terms of predictability and eco-friendliness. As you may be able to tell from their name, these pumps source their energy to heat a home from either the ground or the air. Compared to air source ones, ground source heat pumps provide more renewable heating, capable of drawing more heat for less effort and require little-to-no electricity to run. They are also far less dependent on the weather, compared to air source heat pumps which struggle to draw warmth from cooler air temperatures, just when you need the heating the most.
“Unfortunately, not every home is suitable for heat pump installation. If you live in a flat above ground level, for example, you obviously have nowhere to dig a hole for the ground source heat pump, nor is it worth bothering to get planning permission for an air source heat pump that will last you less than a boiler. Furthermore, the costs of installing a ground source heat pump can rise to an eye-watering £35,000. Air source heat pumps are much cheaper to install, averaging to around £7,000, but they are entirely dependent on the outside weather, meaning you still need to use your boiler on the colder days.
“If your home and pockets are fit for installing a heat pump, especially a ground source one, it really is absolutely fantastic for the environment. Heat pumps also offer some certainty amid the massively fluctuating gas prices and the related energy prices over the years, decreasing one’s dependence on such a volatile market, particularly now. However, considering the extortionate installation costs, the government’s BUS programme seems to only be feasible for high-income households. The current crisis certainly affects everybody, but more so those who could never afford such high upfront costs, even with the government grants taken into account.
“The good news is that upgrading one’s boiler does not have to be limited to switching to heat pumps. If your budget can stretch a little further now and you already have A-rated appliances and a hydrogen-ready combi boiler, you could also add solar panels into the mix to save later. With the weather we have here in the UK, you cannot rely on them entirely, but a good 40% to 70% of your hot water could be sourced from your solar panels.
“A hybrid system with solar thermal panels may be an even better option. Costing between £3,000 to 6,000 to install, solar thermal panels are a space-saving version of regular solar panels and can be up to 70% more efficient than regular solar panels.
“With the summer coming up and hopefully lots of sunrays to harness, now might be the best time to invest in solar energy and prepare for the unprecedented bills coming this autumn.”