Trying to estimate energy usage can seem difficult, but there are some simple ways you can work out your household energy consumption
Understanding your bill
Working out your household energy consumption starts with a good understanding of your energy bill. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done since energy bills come in all different shape and sizes.
Some of us on dual-fuel tariffs may get one bill for all our energy, while others will get two bills, one for gas and one showing the cost of electricity.
Then there's the frequency: some of us will get monthly bills, others quarterly. Finally, depending on what supplier you’re with and which plan you're on, your bill could have a different layout.
Luckily, there are a few common factors that will help answer the question: how much energy do I use?
- Bill period Somewhere in the main summary box, usually located on the front of your bill, you will find the billing period. These can vary significantly, so make sure you make a note of it, otherwise your spend may not make much sense.
- Energy used This is the crucial figure, and will usually be stated in pounds spent. Your bill will also usually specify whether this is based on a meter reading or is estimated.
- Total Unfortunately, your energy use is subject to VAT. Also, there may be extra charges for other reasons, so besides the energy spent there will be a total amount owed.
- Usage Often tucked away on the back your bill, this is arguably the most important bit of info. Your usage breakdown will usually include kilowatt hours used (kWh), the cost per kilowatt hour and your latest meter reading.
To work out how much energy you use the crucial figure is usage. Depending on which supplier you're with or what plan you are on, the same usage figure could lead to a wildly different total cost of electricity.
Read your meter
If you can't find your latest bill, or just don't want to spend the time deciphering it, then you can always go straight to the source. Your gas and electricity meter is the best place to work out how much you've used because it can give you a running total.
To work out how much you're using in a week, just read your meter, make a note and check again in a week.
The most common type of electricity meter is a standard meter giving you clear, mechanical digits to read. Read the digits left to right and ignore any digits in red, just take a note of those in black.
Dial meters can make things a bit more complex. Again, you should read the dials left to right, and ignore the red numbers. But, remember that dials next to each other will rotate in opposite directions.
View our video tutorial on how to read your meter.
Using an energy monitor
An energy monitor is the best and easiest way to estimate your energy usage. An energy monitor will record exactly how much energy is being consumed by your property in near-real-time. The best energy monitors will also show your spending as well as well as usage, and will link up to your computer.
Energy monitors are often available for free from some energy suppliers, but otherwise will cost you between £30 and £100. The most common ones will communicate with a small chip that connects directly to your electricity meter. Smaller scale, plug-in meters work on a single socket and monitor all energy use of appliances plugged into that socket.
Energy monitors should not be confused with smart meters, which are digital electricity meter readers that replace your existing meter (though many do come with an energy monitor). Smart meters are gradually being rolled out across the UK, but are at present only offered by a few of suppliers.
Reducing your energy use
Knowing your energy usage is all well and good, but the main reason we want to know this info is so we can do something about it. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that using an energy monitor reduces our energy consumption by between 5% and 15%. So, now that you know how to measure your energy usage, what can you do about it?
- Drop the thermostat - The easiest technique by far is simply to drop your thermostat by one degree for a few weeks and see how you feel. While you may notice a slight difference, the chances are you will simply find yourself using your slippers a bit more and wearing a jumper indoors, a small price to pay for significant energy and money savings.
- No more draughts - Stopping draughts entering your home is another easy quick-win to cutting your bills and reducing UK energy consumption. Common culprits are gaps around windows or under doors and floorboards, and draught-proofing is cheap to buy from most DIY stores and easy to install.
- Loft insulation - Not quite as cheap as draught proofing, but a much bigger energy-saver, loft insulation is a no-brainer when it comes to cutting your bills. Many homes already have insulation in place, but even then you may still benefit from a top-up.
- Lighting - Another straight-forward one, but replacing all your light bulbs with energy-saving bulbs and turning the lamps off when you leave the room is just about the most basic thing you can do, and will save you energy and money in the long run.
For more energy saving tips, see all our energy saving guides.
Now you have all you need to estimate energy usage and reduce your UK energy consumption you never have to wonder 'how much energy do I use' again.