Using Hot Water Efficiently
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Last updated: 14 July 2021
The amount that you spend on hot water often takes up a considerable portion of your overall bill. British Gas estimates that if you are a high energy household, your gas bill could cost an average of £617.10 a year! However, there are a number of steps you can take to lower your costs, which will not only help you save money, but also use less energy helping save the environment too.
What Types of Hot Water Systems Are There?
The vast majority of households in the UK have a central heating system. This is a single boiler connected by pipes to radiators and taps around the house, which allows you to heat your home and take hot showers. It’s usually linked to the mains gas grid.
If your boiler was installed after 2005, it’s almost definitely a condensing boiler, which are far more efficient than older iterations. They make more use of heat from burning gas as they have greater heat exchanges. You can tell if your boiler is a condensing one if it has a plastic pipe that comes out of the bottom of it and into the wall. Another telltale sign is if the flue, which is the part on the outside of your building which lets out the exhaust gases, is also plastic.
There are two main types of boiler: regular and combi. Regular boilers heat up water when told to (often with use of a timer), and store the hot water in a tank ready to be used when needed.
Combi boilers do not use a tank to store water, and provide hot water whenever needed.
How do I get Instant Hot Water?
Combi boilers give hot water on demand as they don’t store water in a tank. If you often run into the problem of being in the shower and it going cold, you almost certainly have a regular boiler. Combi boilers will continue to heat the water when you need it so you will never have to have a cold shower again!
What is the Cheapest Way to heat Water?
Combi boilers are usually more efficient than regular boilers, as you often lose a fair bit of heat while the water is sitting in the tank of a regular boiler. So if you are trying to get cheap energy, maybe look into replacing your existing boiler with a combi.
There are also a number of other ways of minimising your hot water costs. For example, make sure that your windows and doors are draught-proofed, and that your walls have insulation lining. This will mean that you will not have to use hot water as much, as your home will naturally retain more heat.
What if I am not on Mains Gas?
If your home is not connected to the mains gas grid, you most likely have an electric storage heater. These normally use off-peak electricity at night to heat up a water tank, and then release this during the day.
Unfortunately, electricity can cost 3-4 times more than gas to generate the same amount of energy, making this one of the most expensive ways of heating your home. You could potentially reduce your bills by switching your energy provider, so be sure to compare energy
Using Renewable Energy
You would also be able to lower your monthly hot water bills if you install some form of non-carbon emitting energy source. Although they come with a large initial set up fee, these can help keep your bills down in the long run by working alongside your main boiler system meaning that you will have pay less for energy.
For example, you could install a solar water heater. This heats up water by harnessing the power of the sun (even when it’s cloudy), and heating up a liquid which in turn heats up water that is stored in a cistern (tank). This is also better for the environment as it means that less carbon dioxide is let out into the atmosphere.
What Else can I do to Reduce my Hot Water Costs?
There are a number of other steps that you can take to reduce the amount of hot water that you use. These can be day-to-day adjustments that you make or replacing parts in your household:
- Install controls to allow you to better target what parts of your house are being heated.
- Install a smart meter. The government are introducing a scheme to fund free installations of smart meters across the UK. These show how much you are spending on energy, and allow you to make adjustments that aid in budgeting.
- Install an electric shower. Although electricity is often more expensive than gas, electric showers often use much less water than a power shower, and cost less overall.
- If you can’t install an electric shower, fit a water efficient shower head instead. You could potentially save up to £70 for a family of four according to the Energy Saving Trust.
- Insulate your hot water cistern.
- Insulate your ‘downpipes’, these are the pipes that connect the boiler and the taps.
- Use a lower temperature on your thermostat – according to the Energy Saving Trust, lowering your thermostat by just one degree could save you £80 a year.
- Change the way you consume energy - spend a little less time in the shower or use a bowl when you’re washing up (as opposed to leaving the hot water running), these small changes can add up!
- Compare energy deals – you may be able to get cheaper energy if you switch your provider, so be sure to shop around.