Energy efficiency is the first step to lower fuel bills.

In the second part of this weeks look at saving money on your energy bills, we explore what part energy efficiency plays in that process, particularly if you’re thinking of installing solar panels on your home…

Getting a cheaper energy supplier is only half the story in the homeowners battle with rising energy prices. If you’re not careful, any savings you make can soon be wiped out needlessly due to poor insulation or heating management.

If you’re getting a solar panel installation, then an energy survey (which some solar panel companies offer free as part of their discounts) will help pinpoint the areas in your daily life where energy usage savings are possible.

Why is this important? If you’re thinking of generating meaningful amounts of energy to supply all your needs, then the less you have to generate, the cheaper the overall installation will be as you won’t be paying for generating capacity you don’t need. This can mean a saving of several thousands on a solar panel system.

In addition to the everyday energy saving methods – plugging draughts, switching off lights, fitting energy saving lightbulbs, insulating lofts and water tanks, by carefully re-evaluating your lifestyle and energy usage, it may be possible to make a real difference to your typical energy bills.

For example, we know turning down the heating thermostat by 1 degree can make a difference but why stop there? Turning it down by 2 degrees and wearing a light sweater around the home will make twice the difference. Consider using a shower more and your bath less. And if you’re on an Economy 7 type tariff (where you pay less for night time electricity but more for daytime) then think about timing washing machines, tumble driers, dishwashers and immersion tank heaters to only come on during cheap rate hours.

Green Deal

Many homeowners are now keen to hear exactly how the Government’s new Green Deal system will work – the idea is that private businesses will pay into a ‘green fund’ which will pay for energy saving home improvements like wall and loft insulation etc. The premise that’s been outlined so far is that the ‘improvement’ must pay for itself in expected energy savings. Whilst the homeowner will have a more comfortable and energy efficient home, their energy bills won’t reduce. The savings they would have made go back to the private investors but the installation work is effectively free for the qualifying homeowner.

There is hope the measures will include certain double glazing aspects, but it will probably ultimately depend on whether the installation costs can be repaid with energy savings within the scheme’s a specified time frame.

*This article first appeared in our weekly homeowner newsletter dated 7th March 2011. Click here to read the full newsletter.

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