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The first of April 2022 cometh

I’ve been checking out what the upcoming change in the price caps means.

Electricity usage is going up by a third (so a bill today of £100 will be £133.33) per unit – the standing charge is then on top of that, for a 31 day month, £13.95.

Gas usage is going up by just under 75%, (4p -> 7p is 4*1.75) so a bill of £100 will become £175 and the standing charge is a max of £8.37. As this is happening over the summer, what is likely to happen is everyone moves to heating hot water with immersion heaters from solar power where possible. Immersion heaters are really good in terms of efficiency – using 3units of electricity to get a completely cold hot water tank up to temperature – at the maximum for electricity, that’s 84p. Do this at mid-day, using solar power which is what we do from March to October, and the savings can be huge – we spent £8 on gas (i.e. the standing charge) in August which is not the month we get the most from our solar panels…

Switching from baths to showers over the summer makes this a cheap way to make the most of energy use without too much bother.

Of course, I’m typing this as someone with an energy efficient house and not being penalised for having a bad credit score.

I’ve spent the past three years reducing my electricity and gas usage by insulating and switching technologies – not all in one go, but in small steps, the most expensive being changing 8 radiator value controllers for remote, programmable ones (£500).

But I could have done this one room at a time, reducing the bill to £60 a room, though there is a discount for the bulk buy. When I replaced the halogen bulbs to LEDs, I did this in stages to break down the costs.

We’ve saved more than 70% of our electricity use over three years, which we’re now enjoying relatively speaking and 30% of our gas use. Of course, planet Earth is also in a position to enjoy this.

Sounds great, how do I do this?

Electricity usage is easy – more efficient lights and devices, only 7% of our usage is lighting. Heathing is harder and there are three basic options…

Going smarter

If you haven’t done so already, changing room or zone thermostats can be ground breaking. A simple digital thermostat, the Heatmiser slimline, costs about £53 (this time of year) but can deliver significant savings if you have everyone out of the house for school and work each day.

They have four periods a day where you can say what you want the temperature to be. Cold over night, warm when you get up, cold while you’re away and warm when you get through the door. A different setting for Saturdays and Sundays and saving 20% on your heating is very easy to do. It can be overriden for holidays and high days (or working from home days), and for holidays to prevent damage from damp and frost.

We started our journey that way and using smart radiator valves, you have a winning combination for getting the most out of your system, saving up to 30% in combination. We still use this approach for two of our rooms.

Semi-smart

This is what we did with our upstairs – a series of smart valves on our radiators. Any number of scheduled temperatures over 7 day, 3 day or 2 day patterns (think everyday, different during the working week and unique programmes for Saturday and Sunday or a set for Monday to Friday and a set for Saturday and Sunday). You need a wired internet connection.

This makes for better fine tuning and savings around 25% especially when teamed with open window detection and geo-fencing. It is costly, but a one off cost of £50-60 depending on how you buy.

If I were renting a house with radiators, I would replace the existing radiator thermostatic valves with these and take them with me. Each valve takes 20 minutes or so after the first one is paired.

The whole hog

The next step after the programmable thermostat is the remote programmable thermostats, usually over the internet and there are various systems, typically £85 per unit and the need for a hub (typically another £25). Savings of up to 30% per zone done.

For a geo-fencing capability, you may need to pay a service charge annually of £24 but it’s not necessary to make full use of the systems.

Easy to do?

Not trivial, it just needs some time, patience and a screw driver. Don’t do when you need the boiler on full power to keep the frost at bay!

The use of a thermostat always gives you repsonsiveness against what the weather is doing – some claim to do that with weather reports but that’s unnecessarily complicated. What programmable thermostats do is go to the next level and tune comfort.

Would you go back?

No. I wouldn’t necessarily pay for the full geo-fenced automation but the comfort piece is lovely and seeing the humidity in every room with our system is a boom allowing us to reduce damp in some of our rooms with heat and ventillation: we’ve taken out 20% humidity. If windows are open, the heat loss is limited. It’s all good.

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