UK households wasting energy, Citizens Advice finds

lightbulb max brightness

Gas and electricity suppliers are benefitting by hundreds of millions of pounds because over one third of UK households have failed to change their energy usage habits according to new research. Selectra takes a look at who’s missing out below.

What energy myths stop people saving money?

An investigation carried out by Citizens Advice and Energy Saving Trust shows that, despite the ease of changing energy suppliers and the many ways of reducing consumption, about 9.7 million (36%) of UK households are almost literally burning hundreds of pounds because of how they use their energy.

Their failure to save money is also costing the Earth as homes are one of the biggest sources of UK carbon emissions, contributing approximately 25% of the nation’s CO2 output.

This shocking number came as an unpleasant surprise to 73% of the people who were surveyed.

Speaking during Big Energy Saving Week 2020, Energy Saving Trust’s head of consumer advice Laura McGadie recognized that while “great strides” have been made by some people, “more can be done, and by more people.”

“If every household in Britain made just a handful of energy saving changes, the combined impact could make a big difference to our finances and the environment,” she said.

“We are committed to inspiring everyone to make small changes to their energy saving habits this Big Energy Saving Week 2020 - particularly those who will benefit most from the money they could save.”
Energy Saving Trust’s Head of Consumer Advice Laura McGadie

A lack of awareness seems to be the driving factor among most of those who have failed to change their bad habits.

caring about environment

Although saving energy and money is simpler than ever (see below), for some reason, almost a fifth of people (19%) believe controlling their energy usage would actually cost them more.

Depressingly, even in the face of the worsening climate emergency, managing energy responsibly is not considered important by nearly one third (31%) of people.

Then there are the staggering 87% of respondents who do not believe that small changes can make much or any difference to their finances.

What are some easy ways to save money on energy bills?

The Energy Saving Trust, an independent and impartial non-profit set-up to help save people money and reduce carbon emissions, proposes small changes people can easily integrate into their daily lives.

Just by themselves these better habits could save the average household about £100 every year and help the transition to net-zero carbon by 2050.

One such small change is to turn appliances off completely instead of leaving them on standby.

It’s hard to believe that this basic advice still needs to be given in 2020, but this little habit is costing you around £30 a year, every year. If we all switched off properly, we would save our households £690m and prevent the production of 1.3 million tonnes of CO2.

When it’s 2℃ outside and you have the heating on, are you going to notice the difference between a thermostat set at 20℃ and one set at 21℃?

If you lower your thermostat by just one degree, you could save at least £80 every year and reduce your CO2 emissions by 320 kg. If everyone does the same, UK households will save £800m and stop us adding another 3.3 million tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere annually.

Every time a light bulb goes pop you could replace it with an LED one and you’ll soon have an all-LED lighting system. In an average household you can expect another saving on your bills of around £35 a year.

An LED-only UK would see households spending £230m less on their energy bills and prevent 430,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Of course, turning off lights when you’re not using them is also a way to save money, doing this could save you at least £14 every year.

These three steps, together with those listed below, could save you at least £308 per year.

Action Annual saving per person
Using a bowl for washing up £25
Doing one less wash in the machine a week £5
Only filling the kettle with what you need £6
Fitting a water efficient shower head £18
Draught proof doors and windows £20
Use smart heating controls £75

Simple habits and actions like these can quickly add up to significant savings both for individuals and families as well as for the country as a whole. If everyone followed this advice, the effect on our climate would be like taking millions of petrol and diesel cars off the road forever.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said making “small changes to our everyday lives” saves money and has “a positive impact on the environment.”

“Reducing the amount of energy we use cuts our household bills, so going greener can help you keep out of the red,” she said.

Updated on

The services and products mentioned on this website may only represent a small selection of the options available to you. Selectra encourages you to carry out your own research and seek advice if necessary before making any decisions. We may receive commission from selected partner providers on sales of some products and/or services mentioned within this website. Our website is free to use, and the commission we receive does not affect our opinion or the information we provide.