Over the last few years in particular, it has become cause célèbre to complain about high energy bills, and there have been countless discussions in government and the media about how those bills can be lowered. While we all like the idea of economising wherever we can, we would do well to look a bit deeper than the two-minute news reports, the prognostications of government figures, or the energy supplier adverts if we want good answers to our questions. We need to look at our own lifestyle choices, the realities of the energy markets, and the objectives of Parliament in passing new laws governing the energy industry.
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What you, the consumer, can do to reduce your energy bills
There are numerous things you can do that directly affect your monthly energy costs. Some are simple lifestyle changes, some require a financial commitment on your part, and some relate to alternatives you might not have considered.
Lower your thermostat – Obviously, lowering the temperature setting on your furnace during the winter months will result in you having to spend less on energy. This is a reasonable practice, so long as you bear in mind that the furnace is there to provide comfort, and you exercise moderation when turning down the thermostat. If you’re miserably cold all the time, you will either continue to suffer or abandon your attempts to reduce your monthly bill. And if your family is miserably cold, you will likely experience a level of emotional suffering that will make a case of the shivers seem quite pleasant by comparison.
Dress appropriately to the season – Again, moderation and common sense are called for. If you dress for a day at the beach during the dead of winter, you will either pay an exorbitant heating bill for the month or you will be miserably cold. By the same token, you don’t want to go overboard and dress for a hike across the Arctic Tundra while eating dinner or watching television.
Electric, coal, or gas furnace – The cost to heat your home with any of these will depend not only on how warm you keep your home, but on market factors that are beyond your control. According to government statistics, between June 2014 and June 2015, the price of solid fuels decreased by .2%, and the price of liquid fuels dropped by 26%. During the same period, domestic electricity prices fell by only .2%, and the price of gas fell by 4.5%. Logic would therefore seem to dictate that a gas furnace would be less expensive to operate than an electric or solid fuel furnace, with all other factors being equal.
Unfortunately, those other factors rarely are equal. From things like the inherent efficiency of the different types of furnaces to the almost incomprehensible mechanizations of the energy producers, distributors, speculators, and taxing authorities, determining the relative cost is not an endeavour for the faint of heart or the maths-challenged. You’ll likely have noted that despite the dramatic decreases in the price of crude oil these last few months, the price of gasoline at the pump hasn’t fallen in a similar manner.
In addition, changing out your furnace to a more economical type will require an investment that will require years of lower energy bills to offset. And the payoff from a more eco-friendly replacement, such as solar, could take years beyond your intended stay in the house, or even the rest of your life.
Insulate your home
Storm Guard explains that this is one of those areas where you will have to spend some of your hard-earned money to see your monthly bills lowered, but it will likely offer a more substantial payback over a shorter time. Despite an expected increase in net cost following the EU ban on discounts for energy-saving construction materials, many homeowners – especially those who live in cavity-wall homes – will realise a fairly short break-even point after installing insulation.
There are any number of other measures you can take to reduce your monthly energy bills. And while it is admirable (some would say critically essential) to try to reduce your family’s carbon footprint by switching over completely to renewable energy resources, such a noble effort is still priced beyond the reach of most homeowners. For now, use your inventiveness, tempered with common sense and thorough research, to take measures that will be both beneficial and affordable to you and your family.