Can switching off appliances really save money on electricity bills?

·3-min read
 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Britons are facing an average £700 increase in their gas and electricity bills following the energy price cap rise this month and will have to contend with another 50 per cent hike expected in October.

With the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, dismissing the idea of the government providing further help to struggling families as “silly”, households are seeking new ways to save energy and therefore, money.

According to an online survey of 1,500 people carried out by One Poll for British Gas, nearly half (46 per cent) of respondents said they are more interested than ever to make savings on energy bills.

Half (50 per cent) said they are already seeing an increase in their energy bills and almost one in three (28 per cent) said they are already stressed out about paying their energy bills this year.

New research by the UK’s largest energy company suggests that households could save an average of £147 per year just by switching off so-called “vampire devices”, which refers to appliances that use power even if they are on standby mode.

British Gas told the BBC that the figures are based on research conducted on electronics in 2019 but have been updated to reflect recent price increases more accurately.

But can saving money on your energy bills really be as simple as turning off or unplugging your devices?

According to the Energy Saving Trust, switching off all devices when not in use could save households an estimated £55 per year.

However, the organisation added: “Stats or prices related to individual appliances depend on several factors, including model, functionality and individual usage.”

According to the EST, appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, fridge and freezers account for the largest percentages of the average household’s energy bills. Wet appliances account for 16 per cent of total energy bill costs, while cold appliances account for around 12 per cent.

Consumer electronics such as laptops, TVs and game consoles account for around seven per cent of most people’s energy bills. Meanwhile, lighting takes up around six per cent and cooking four per cent with the use of the hob, oven, kettle and microwave.

While it might not be possible to switch off the most energy-guzzling appliances, households may be able to make some savings by ensuring their devices are turned off at the socket and lights are turned off completely when not in use.

But not everyone is convinced. An investigation by the Sunday Times last October revealed that in order to benefit from a £35 saving cited by the EST at the time - before the figure was adjusted recently - by turning off plug sockets, a household would have to have 38 TVs.

The investigation found that a smart TV that uses two watts while on standby would cost just £3.68 a year to remain on standby and would “waste minimal amounts of energy”.

MoneySavingExpert also added that the figures provided by the EST and British Gas are “a bit overblown”.

“It’s EU law that TVs and other devices made since 2013 can’t use more than 0.5 watts in standby mode,” energy and utilities analyst Will Lynn points out in a blog post.

“To show the scale of it, a TV watched four hours a day and left on standby the rest of the time would cost £1.03 a year.”

A more effective way of saving money may be to switch to more efficient appliances, as the new energy price cap increase will have a bigger impact on the cost of running energy-guzzling appliances.

According to Which?, the cost of running inefficient fridge-freezers, tumble dryers, washing machines and dishwashers will go up by £138, from £414 to £552.

In comparison, more energy-efficient appliances will only cost £41 more to run.

“Despite many efficient models costing more than inefficient ones upfront, they could pay for themselves in the savings in just a few years and even end up costing thousands less over their lifetime,” Which? said.