The Sorry State of my Utility Bills!

As part of my effort to be more sustainable, to reduce my carbon footprint and move ever increasingly (albeit very very slowly) closer to self-sufficiency I have been taking an in-depth look at my utility bills. Not just the recent ones but over the last two years so I can take stock of my electricity, gas and water usage and look to see where and how I can make changes.

Water usage

I am on a water meter and am grateful for the landlord getting it installed. This does help me to look at how much I am using and costs me less, as I pay half the amount now than i did in my old house which wasn’t metered.

I am billed every 6 months for water; a spring/summer bill and a autumn/winter bill. I generally expect my summer bill to be higher than my winter bill as I have to water my garden and this often requires the use of the outside tap.

So my usage is as follows:

Spring/Summer 2014: 47 cubic metres; daily average rate 0.26 cubic metres

Autumn/Winter 2014/5: 33 cubic metres; daily average rate 0.21 cubic metres

Spring/Summer 2015: 44 cubic metres; daily average rate 0.23 cubic metres

Autumn/Winter 2015/6: 68 cubic metres; daily average rate 0.37 cubic metres

Now when I received my last bill, I was shocked to see how much my bill had gone up by and really racked my brains to try and figure out what had happened, maybe I had sprung a leak somewhere?

Now there are two people living in my house; myself and Sam which means per person we used 0.13/0.105/0.115 cubic metres respectively for the first three billing periods which is slightly lower than the UK average of 0.15. So we are doing pretty well although I know further water savings can be made!

What I remembered, was that for the last billing period we had a friend stay with us for that 6 month period (plus his girlfriend also stayed over some of the time) which means more washing, more showering etc. So if we divide the daily average rate by 3.25 (the .25 representing the girlfriend), the rate per person is 0.114 which is in line with the previous billing periods and still below the UK average. Phew – no leak!

But like I said, there are definitely ways which I can further reduce our water usage, and I aim to get our usage to below 0.1 cubic metres (100 litres)/ day. Here are some water saving ideas:

  1. We have a condenser tumble dryer where the water collects into a plastic reservoir. I normally throw this water down the sink but instead will use it to water plants in the garden therefore reducing my need to use the outside tap.
  2. I don’t always fill up my washing machine before turning it on and don’t necessarily use the economy wash setting but now I will make sure there is a full load in the washing machine before switching it on and will use the economy wash depending on how dirty the clothes are.
  3. I will not leave the tap running when brushing my teeth or leave the tap running when washing up.
  4. I often fill the kettle up when I am about to make a cup of tea but will now reduce that to filling the kettle halfway as I don’t need a whole kettles worth of hot water for one cup of tea (will also help with electricity)!

Gas usage

My gas provider has funny ideas about when to bill me but generally my bills can be divided into six month periods too. So my gas usage is as follows:

Summer/Autumn 2014: 2962.21 kWh; daily average rate 16.28 kWh

Winter/Spring 2014/15: 7000.76 kWh; daily average rate 38.04 kWh

Summer/Autumn 2015: 2945.58 kWh; daily average rate 16.36 kWh

Winter/Spring 2015/16: 5933.99 kWh; daily average rate 31.56 kWh

The only things we use the gas for in our house is central heating, hot water and the hob. Obviously, the higher numbers for the winter spring period is due to the fact that we have the central heating on in this time and I am more likely to cook hot meals than eat a salad or cold meal in the winter. I don’t have much to compare our daily usage with but I believe this is in line with UK averages for a small house.

Since looking at my carbon footprint back in January, I have tried to reduce my gas usage and so I turned the hot water temperature down to 60°C (it was previously at 70) and I have further limited the time the hot water is on for (couple hours in the morning and couple hours in the evening). However, the shower is run from the hot water tank (its not electric) so we can certainly make sure we don’t take extended showers or too many baths to save us both money on gas and water!

The central heating is probably the main issue with the gas bill as I like to be warm and am not all that particularly willing to compromise but in my quest to be more eco-friendly and sustainable I will make sure that I put off turning the central heating on until it is absolutely necessary, ensure that it is only on when we are in the house and that the temperature is set at an appropriate level. I may need to also invest in more jumpers and thermals!

Electricity usage

I left this part til last because it is probably where we are the worst! Whilst our house isn’t lit up like Santa’s grotto at Christmas, there are certain habits we have which, if broken, would certainly help to save us money. Again our bills can be split into two periods.

So my electricity usage is as follows:

Summer/Autumn 2014: 955 kWh; daily average rate 5.25 kWh

Winter/Spring 2014/15: 1177 kWh; daily average rate 6.40 kWh

Summer/Autumn 2015: 951 kWh; daily average rate 5.28 kWh

Winter/Spring 2015/16: 1563kWh; daily average rate 8.31 kWh

The first observation is that this last billing period there is a large hike in electricity usage but we did have an extra person with us for some of this time – extra TV, extra computer, extra lights on etc. The second observation is that the winter/spring period is generally higher as we rely on lights being on during this time!

However, there are a few bad habits we need to break to ensure we save money and energy.

  • We don’t currently use energy saving light bulbs but we will make a conscious effort to change over to these.
  • We will not leave the T.V. and DVD players on standby – they will be unplugged when we leave the house and when we go to bed! That also goes for computers too.
  • We not leave the phones on charge for unnecessarily long periods of time – we should charge our phones only for the appropriate length of time needed.
  • We will not leave lights on in rooms we are no longer using.

Hopefully, by doing some of these things we can become that little bit more sustainable whilst saving some money too!

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