Posted 23rd Sep 2022
With the energy price rises that we're seeing and expecting, it's important that we look as many ways as possible to save those pennies. Today I'll be discussing a few ideas to help keep those energy bills down as much as possible, while limiting the impact it might have on us as consumers.

A few of these suggestions may seem obvious, negligible or a bit over the top for some. If any of these can help our members keep costs down as much as possible, then that's great

I wanted this to be a little bit more detailed and useful, as opposed the good old "Turn your stuff off" kind of thing. Of course that's very useful, also super obvious to everyone. There are some mentions of switching off, although not all in the way many may naturally go for. Some of these will require some tweaking and a bit of thought before doing, such as turning to cloud gaming from time to time, instead of powering up your high end gaming system.

If you've got any suggestions that are worth looking into, then please do add them in the comments! I'm sure they'll be appreciated. If you find the comments helpful, maybe mark them as helpful using the like button, so they stand out a little more

Here's one to get us started, that's specifically a change that I made a few weeks ago.

I stopped using my Positive Grid Spark guitar amp as a bluetooth speaker while I'm working and switched to using my headset. Less power consumption, fewer people can hear it and the sound quality is decent. Do I miss it? Yeah, a bit. However it's not a huge sacrifice to make and I am sure my neighbours are enjoying the break from hearing Steps 5,6,7,8 all day.

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Lighting
If you're still running some older light bulbs, you might want to take a look at the more modern LED models and get them replaced. Energy-saving bulbs have been around for a while now and they've been getting more and more efficient. If you can check what they're using, there may be a better option our there for you than your current solution. Don't forget to check your lamps too!

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Cooking
Anything that produces heat will likely be using the most electricity in the home. When it comes to ovens, try to keep them on only when needed and not leave them longer than necessary. By this, I mean pre-heating time! I'm guilty of turning mine on and then forgetting about it, to then just head into the kitchen and pop the food in once my brain reminds me. A few mins here and there might not seem like much, but if you add 5 minutes up 7 days a week you're looking at 35 minutes, which over the course of a year 1,820 minutes / just over 30 hours Now just imagine if averagely I left it for 10 minutes or more. Crickey!

All we did, was take note of how long it takes roughly to heat up to 160c-180c (The two most common temperature that we tend to use) It turns out that it's around 8 mins. If like me, you're easily distracted, then set an egg timer or your phone to shout at you when it's about ready and have your food ready to go in.

Slow Cookers
Everyone should have one in my opinion, especially during the colder months. There are loads of super easy recipes for soup, stews, meat and more. They are also more efficient than you may think, as their consumption is considerably lower than an electric oven. You do have to have them on for hours, although even with this in mind, you'll use less power overall.



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Fridges & Freezers
If you've already got an efficient fridge, then that's great. You can do a few things to help save some energy though. The below ideas carry over to freezers too for the most part.

Temperature Management Fridge - You'll have a dial in your fridge that alters the refrigeration power, in general the higher the number, the cooler it will get. If you have a gauge to tell you the temperature, you'll want to aim for between 3-5C. If you go too low you could end up partially freezing items at the back and spoiling them.

Temperature Management Freezer - Your freezer should be at around -18°C ideally, so if you can check what yours it at currently, you could benefit by making some adjustments to the dial and ensuring you're not overfilling it.

Defrost your freezer - There are a lot of freezers on the market that don't have a frost-free feature, meaning that you'll have to do it manually if you start to notice build-up. By removing the excess ice, the freezer performance will be much better!

Storing Food - A well stocked fridge is always pleasing, but if you've over filled it, then it will be tougher to keep cool. Give your food a little breathing room! On the opposite end of the scale is a rather sparse fridge, where there will be more air to cool, which is where power saving modes could come in handy.

Power Saving Settings - This isn't applicable to all, although many modern models feature a power saving mode, which is handy while you're away or when there's not a lot in there. Check it out and figure out how to use it if you haven't already done so.

Check the door seals - If they are worn, the fridge will have to work harder to keep the temperatures down



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Televisions
There are a massive amount of TVs out there with different power requirements and specifications, that will all count towards how much energy it uses. The good news is that most will have a power saving mode, that you could go check out and see how it affects your viewing experience. Things like backlighting and processing power can be handled by this setting. For every day watching, just having the option turned on could save you some pennies or pounds over the course of the year. Then when you want to use the full potential of your TV, you can always switch it off to get the best experience.

If you're having trouble spotting any power saving options, check the manual or do an internet search for some assistance. It may be that you don't have a specific section for this. However lowering brightness down can certainly help.

Adding a timer is a good idea, especially if you fall asleep while watching. This way you can set a time frame for the set to go into standby mode automatically. You'll usually get a warning pop up that you can cancel if you are still watching. Reminds me of binge watching Breaking Bad



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Computers
Laptops and PCs can consume a lot of power, especially if you work from home and have them on all day.
The quickest and cheapest thing you can do is alter your power options to see if there's anything you can do to lower the energy usage, even if it's just a little.

Where do I edit the power settings?
  • Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options > Edit Plan Settings
  • Or search "power plan" using the Taskbar search feature

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Computers in general

Managing power consumption with a smart plug extension
Desktop computers will overall use more power than a laptop, due to extra peripherals adding to consumption, such as monitors, flashy keyboards, mice and printers. One way you might be able to cut energy usage here would be to use a smart power strip extension. If you pick a good one, you'll see all kinds of features that might help you out a little, especially at night or while you're out of the house.

Of course you can use a more basic strip with individual switches, although that would be dependent on remembering to turn each item off once you're done with it. It's a good idea to label the plugs to save you some time trying to figure out which plug does what.

On some of the more advanced smart strips, you'll find features such as:
  • Scheduling - To set time parameters for certain devices to be turned off.
  • Auto switch off - Detecting when something is in standby mode and cutting it off.
  • Wi-fi / remote control - Great for if you're out and forget to turn something off, or for those less able to bend to a switch.

Make sure you shop around and pick a good quality one that has the features you need. Some even have voice control, which might not be for all, although it's a very popular feature in today's world. Personally I like the app control to manage things.



USB Vampires!
With so many USB devices around, you can make a little difference by ensuring that once you're done using your device.... Just remove it. Most USB powered items don't really use that much power, although it's a good habit to get into anyway.

Is your external webcam always plugged in? How about your printer or headset? Once you're done, do you fully turn off your monitor or leave it to go into standby? Some monitors have USB connections on the side or rear that are easy to forget about.



What about Laptops?

Laptops will indeed benefit from adjusting those power settings as discussed above. But there is something else to consider that comes to mind for laptop users. Make sure you are only charging your laptop while it actually needs charging. Simple, right? Many do just this, but tend to forget about it for a long while, meaning that once it's full... It's still drawing power in standby mode.



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Gaming

Consoles
The latest games consoles pride themselves on higher end graphics, better games and faster loading times. All of those are awesome, but sometimes getting into a game quickly can cost you extra. Gamers here will be well aware of standby modes, which will cut down the waiting time to get playing. The Verge have an article stating that by using the latest Xbox's "instant on standby mode" for 24 hours a day, over the course of a month, could end up costing you around £4.93. This is based on the new price cap starting 1st October at £0.52 per kWh Sony's Playstation also include various energy saving modes, which you may want to go and check out and see which is best for you.

Maybe ask the kids if you've no idea about games consoles. I'm sure they'll not be overly ecstatic about waiting longer to boot up, but with these energy costs... It certainly seems a worthwhile change if you're feeling the pinch.

Cloud Gaming
Cloud gaming might not be something that springs to mind when thinking about energy saving, but if you have a decent internet connection, it's a super convenient way to play certain titles, without needed to even download and install it. Yeah, yeah... it's a bit out there and possibly could cause a stir, although I think I have a bit of a point in SOME cases. Certainly not all.

How might this save energy?
It may not for you and how often you play. Playing in quick bursts one or twice a week might not yield much of a result, but if you're often firing up the PC/Console for a good few hours at a time, then it's certainly something to think about.

The cost of subscribing to a service might outweigh it a bit, or you could sign up and find out that you're not happy with gaming this way. Thankfully there are cheap or free trials to give you a taste, before just going for it. (Discussed below)

By streaming games to your home via the internet, you're not stressing the console / PC's graphics card or CPU, anywhere near as much as you would playing it directly on your own system. Of course a lot of people really enjoy their gaming time and want the best quality when playing, but it is something to consider doing and pretty convenient.

It's a bit of a sacrifice, so may be a Marmite suggestion. It will come down to how much you play and which platform you usually play on. I'm mainly a PC player and my graphics card is fairly power hungry, to the point I've manually limited it's consumption. It boots out a lot of heat still though I bought the graphics card and I want to use it... For myself, there are a lot of games that are fine streamed and totally enjoyable, but with newer graphically beautiful games out there, then utilising my GPU something that I wouldn't want to miss out on. It's a balancing act for sure.

Personally I subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, to allow me to take advantage of a large catalogue of games for playing on my actual PC or Xbox Series S, or I can choose to stream it to try it out. If I am happy with how it plays via the cloud... I'll keep playing it that way.

Deals do come up for Xbox Gamepass which can sometimes net you 12 months for around £30-35.

If you're already a member of a game streaming service, then obviously you can just consider trying cloud gaming a bit more often, especially if you're using a high end graphics card or console.

However, for those that haven't tried it out yet, you can always try Game Pass for £1 for a month, then seek out a deal if you like it. - See plans HERE

Note - Not all games on Xbox Game Pass are available for cloud gaming, however there are a lot of titles that do. Worth a look 100%.

What about PlayStation gamers?
Sony have their own service, which you can check out HERE - There's also a 7 day free trial on all tiers. That said, keep in mind that Cloud Streaming is only included on the premium plan.

Check out THIS LINK to head to the Energy Star site for more info on the older generation Xbox and Playstation consoles (The steps are similar on the latest ones)



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Gadgets

Many people plug in devices, use them and then pop them in standby mode so they are ready to be used again. I mean... that's what standby is for, right? Maybe it's time to question just how much you use that device and consider turning it off at the wall if it's not that often.

For instance, I have a Google Hub and I use it a couple of times a week. I turn down the brightness so it consumes less, but still perfectly visible. When I've done it gets unplugged completely. It's no bother, but the only thing that doesn't agree is my back, after crawling under the desk to take it out.

Most homes will likely have at least one gadget that can be totally powered off a lot of the time. Go check and see what you can find!

It's worth heading into the settings of any of your devices to see what options you can change to bring energy consumption down. Maybe even challenge yourself to not use it for a set amount of time and see if you really need or want it still?

You might want to take a peep at the computer section above, if you're using standard multi-adapter strips, as a smart alternative could be more appropriate for you.



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