Managing utility bills and living costs as a student can be difficult enough as it is, but with the current economic climate, the cost of living is increasing day by day in the UK and is proving a challenge for students nationwide. As we brace ourselves for the cold months ahead, here is a list of ways you can improve your energy efficiency and cut back on living costs throughout the university year.
Which? Predicts that the average cost to run a washing machine will rise by almost double in the coming months. To maximise more efficient use of your machine, make sure you fill the machine to 80% capacity with each load. This might mean coordinating a dark clothes wash or white clothes wash with your housemates. Filling the machine with a larger load once a week will dramatically cut energy costs from repeatedly washing smaller loads. Similarly, washing clothes on a lower temperature setting is also a great way to reduce energy, therefore, unless clothes are stained, consider setting the wash to 30C. Likewise, an easy way to save money is to dry laundry on a clothesline or on an airier rather than tumble drying it. In order to ensure clothes dry properly, and to minimise the risk of mould, make sure to hang them in a well-ventilated room and leave the windows open.
As the temperature drops, the question of when to turn the heating on can linger on people’s tongues. Heating is often the biggest contributor to household bills, so learning how to use it efficiently or avoid turning it on all together can be one of the best ways to save money. In order to prolong the period without heating, make sure to layer clothing and load up on hot drinks to help bear lower temperatures (just be careful not to catch a cold!). Make sure to keep internal doors closed to keep heat in and check windows are shut properly throughout the day to prevent drafts.
When the weather does drop too low to function without frozen fingers, try to only turn on the heating when it’s actually needed, rather than letting it run on a low setting all day, to avoid losing minimal amounts of heat and maximise energy efficiency. The optimum room thermostat temperature for energy saving, whilst still maintaining a comfortable environment, is around 18C – so try and start off the winter using this setting and adjust by 1 degree each day if needed. Just note that 1 degree could be the difference between saving and spending £75 a year!
If possible, try to time your heating so that it’s off during the night when you’re tucked into bed, but warm as you wake up or towards the evening. Moreover, think about switching the heating off 20 minutes before you leave the house as there will still be residual heat in your home to last until you head out the door. Just as you should consider when you need the heating most, choose which rooms to heat, too. You most likely don’t need to keep the hallway or any utility rooms warm, so turning off the heating in rooms where you don’t spend much time could save you a little extra money.
With the current climate crisis, many of us have been taught to turn off the light once we leave the room. However, in order to cut electricity usage down further, we should also be switching off all standby electricals. From the TV to the kettle, almost all appliances can be turned off at the plug-in between uses without affecting their programming. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that switching off standby could save you an extra £65 a year, whilst turning off the lights alone will save you £25 a year.
When using appliances, make sure you are using them correctly and that they are clean to maximise energy efficiency. This means not overfilling the kettle, setting the dishwasher to eco, and cleaning the insides of fridges and freezers to ensure no electricity is being wasted from blocked vents and poor drainage.
Ultimately, there is no quick fix to reducing living costs. It is lots of small actions and changes on a day to day basis that accumulate to make a difference. You might not notice the benefits week to week or even month to month, but using a handful of these suggestions in combination will make the coming months a little easier on your purse!