Top Tips for Busting Energy Bills

Our guide to helping you reduce the cost of energy bills in your student home.

Cost of Living - Housing and Bills

According to the National Student Accommodation Survey 2022, at least 40% of students are left to pay for electricity, gas and/or water each month in addition to their up-front rent, with 79% of those worried about the rising costs of energy bills.

We’re seeing lots of tips and tricks from various sources on how to reduce energy bills, with some more useful than others. With this in mind, we’ve put together our favourite little ways of reducing energy bills, aimed specifically at students (we know you can’t really control how long your housemate showers for or if they fall asleep with the TV on). Some of these tips are less patronising than others, but if we can save just one student a single quid, then we think it’s worth it!

1. Cook passively

Did you know that a boiled pan of water can retain its heat for up to 30 minutes after it’s taken off the heat? Passive cooking uses this leftover heat to finish cooking things like pasta and vegetables, meaning that you only use energy to heat the water for a couple of minutes instead of up to the 15 it would usually take. Of course it’ll take a bit longer to cook when the water isn’t being constantly heated, but we think it’s worth a try! - Barilla have put together a guide to passive cooking which includes cooking times for different kinds of pasta.

2. Use pans wisely!

If you’re cooking something on the hob and can’t use passive cooking, be clever with the size of the pan you use. For example, you won’t need a huge pan cook something small just for yourself, so choose a smaller one to avoid heating water unnecessarily. It’s also worth keeping the lids on the pans to keep the heat in – any heat escaping is pretty much money evaporating.

3. Electric blankets

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase ‘heat the person, not the room’ being banded about recently, and it’s, in some senses, true. If you spend most of your time in your lounge or communal area and only go into your bedroom to sleep, there’s little point heating the entire room. Things like electric blankets can make your bed extra toasty and cost as little as 3p per hour to run. Obviously there’s an up-front cost involved but there are some great deals around, and if all else fails – it could be a useful (if very mundane) gift idea to ask for – socks for Christmas are overrated anyway!

4. Air fry and slow cook *pretty much* everything!

Air fryers and slow cookers seem to be everywhere at the minute, with everyone from TikTok chefs to your distant relatives raving about them, and for good reason. They cost just a fraction of an oven or hob to run, and you can cook pretty much everything in them, one way or another! You can pick basic air fryers up from as little as £20 and slow cookers for even less.

5. Using the oven is so 2022, use your microwave instead!

Again, microwaves cost a lot less than using the oven or hob, and you can cook more in them than you would think. From frozen veg and scrambled eggs, to pasta and even bacon! Save the Student have put together a list of 10 Quick and Easy Microwave Recipes – you should definitely check it out!

6. Leave oven door open!

Okay so we lied – there are SOME things that an oven just can’t be beaten on, like a crispy pasta bake or a 66p frozen pizza when you’re hungover. If you do use the oven, why not leave the oven door open after you’ve finished cooking? Instead of being wasted inside a closed oven, the heat will escape and help to heat the room.

7. Batch cook

If you do have to use the oven to make multiple meals at once, either for you and your housemates or just for yourself, and then store in the fridge/freezer to be microwave cooked another day.

8. Switch rooms ‘off’

Got a spare room in the house that isn’t let out or used? Lock the windows, turn down the radiator and close the door to isolate the room. If an dead room is being heated, it’s money being wasted. If you know a room isn’t being used but it’s locked, it’s worth asking the landlord to either give you access to turn the radiators off, or ask them to do it themselves.

9. Don’t charge at home!

Wherever you can, try and charge your devices anywhere but at home. Whether it’s the library, on the train or at the pub. It might not save a fortune, but everything adds up and this is an easy way of saving a bit of cash. If you do have to charge something at home, only do so for minimum you need, then carry on charging somewhere else. From February, the Students’ Union will be opening a Warm Bank at the Hubs, offering students a relaxed and inviting space to unwind, study and socialise, as well as facilities to charge your phones, tablets and laptops. There will also be free tea, coffee and hot water, along with microwaves to heat your own food.

10. Don’t wash up!

Contrary to everything you’ve ever been told, don’t wash up*. Okay, so there’s a catch: Only wash up when you either have enough to fill the dishwasher or if you don’t have one, enough to warrant filling a bowl of water. Obviously if you can just rinse something then do so, but don’t fill a whole bowl of water to wash one bowl and a fork.

*SHSU is not responsible for household fallouts caused by anyone not doing their fair share of washing up.

11. Save water

You can order water saving products from Yorkshire Water such as shower efficient shower add-ons, which will help to reduce the amount you use and pay, with their Flushsaver saving 1.2 litres of water with every toilet flush alone.

12. Shower for less

Whilst it’s tempting to stay in the shower for far too long, especially when the water’s hot and the house is cold, by showering for less you could save a huge amount of water, which is obviously good for both the planet and your purse! Yorkshire Water have put together a Spotify playlist of songs that last for 4 minutes, so perfect for doing your own 1 man shower show!

13. Be laundry savvy

Only do a load of washing when you’ve got enough clothes to fill the machine, and consider washing at a lower temperature such as 30 instead of 40. It’s also a misconception that quick washes use less energy because they don’t take as long, but they actually require more power to wash in a quicker time. It’s okay to use a quick wash when you need to, but if you’ve forgotten to wash that killer outfit you need by tonight, see if you housemates also need something washing to fill the machine.

14. Don’t be a drip

Got that annoying kitchen tap that just won’t stop dripping? Get your landlord to fix it – something as small as a dripping tap can end up wasting over 5,000 litres of water over the year!

15. Time for tea?

If you’re boiling the kettle, make sure you only boil as much water as you need (e.g. there’s no point boiling a full kettle just for one hot drink. If you do have leftover boiling water in the kettle, why not offer your housemate a brew or use the leftover water (mixed with cold, of course) to wash some dishes?

16. Ditch standby mode

We all know those people who are slaves to turning everything off at the plug, and despite it sometimes being annoying, it’s for good reason. Turning things like TVs and games consoles off at the wall will save a decent amount. Just turning one TV off at the wall will save up to £30 a year.

17. Lights out

Perhaps the most obvious (and slightly patronising) tip that’s being banded about all over the place is to turn lights off in rooms when you’re not using them. It’s a simple tip, but everything adds up, and it’s way too easy to forget to turn the kitchen light off when you’ve been cooking, or to leave the hallway light on for everyone to move between rooms but try and get into the habit of switching off as much as you can.

18. Curtains

Keeping your curtains closed as much as possible helps to keep the cold out and the heat in – heat escapes far quicker through windows than it does through ones with closed curtains. It’s important to get a good amount of daylight and we’re not suggesting keeping them closed all day, but whilst we have shorter days it’s a good idea to keep them closed whilst it’s dark outside.

19. Draught proofing

Lots of houses in Sheffield are quite old and may not be the most energy efficient. One of the main ways homes lose heat is through gaps in the edges of doors. You can buy a draught excluder from as little as £5, and this will help stop cold air entering uninvited. It’s a small investment but you’ll be able to take it with you wherever you live, so could save you money over your 3 or more years at Uni.

20. Unexpected housemates

Most of us have been there – a housemate has unofficially moved their new boyfriend or girlfriend in, and now they basically live there rent free. Don’t be afraid to speak up (politely, of course) and request that they contribute to the bills. If you can show that energy bills have risen a noticeable amount since they started staying a lot, even better.

21. Meter reading

Whether energy bills are included in the cost of your rent or not, it's important to submit up to date meter readings for gas, electricity and water once a month. If not, energy companies will estimate how much you're likelt to use, which is often wrong. Citizens Advice have created a handy guide to taking meter readings, which covers all different kinds.

22. All the help you can get

We've all heard the phrase 'take all the help you an get' and when it comes to energy bills, it's never been more true! Whilst some of the Government support that's been announced doesn't apply to students, lots of other support available does. Check out this insightful guide to help with energy bills from Save the Student, which covers what support applies to students and what doesn't.

 

There are also lots of other tips out there including from the Energy Saving Trust, a guide to energy bills and terminology from EDF and tips for reducing water usage and water heating costs from Yorkshire Water.

Any top tips that we haven’t listed here? Send them in to studentrights@shu.ac.uk and you could be featured in our social media campaigns!

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