Does tinfoil behind the radiators save money? Expert debunks myths

Energy: Martin Lewis advises checking direct debits

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The Ofgem Energy Price Cap level increased to £4,279 since January 1, adding more pressure on to families already struggling with the cost of living crisis. The average consumer is now predicted to pay £3,702 from April, when the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) comes to an end. To help keep costs low, an energy expert has debunked some common myths and answered some popular questions that could help people save money on their bills.

Jack Ferguson, energy saving expert at said: “A typical oven is 30p per use, so switching to colder options just twice a week can save the average home £1.20 a fortnight.

“Next up is the central heating – most homes in the UK use natural gas which cost 10p per kWh, so a typical home with a 24kW boiler could use up to £2.40 per hour, so reducing your heating by half an hour in the morning and evening could save you £33.60 over a two-week period.

“Tumble dryers are known to be one of the more costly appliances in the home – at £1.53 per cycle, reducing usage by two loads a week could save you £6.12 in a fortnight, bringing the savings to just over £40 for these three changes alone.”

Mr Ferguson addressed energy saving everyday queries and debunked some common myths to help households discover savings.

1 Washing clothes at lower temperatures does not clean them properly
He said: “Wrong. Manufacturers of washing powders and liquids have designed them to work effectively at lower temperatures. Most of the energy used by a washing machine is to heat the water, so lower temperatures will save you money.

“Some items like bedding or underwear may need a high temperature wash, but for most items you shouldn’t need those expensive programmes.”

2 Tumble dryers are bad
It is probably the “most feared” appliance in the home, as everyone thinks it costs a fortune to run – but given the UK’s maritime climate, most of us need to use it to get the laundry turned around quickly.

He suggested that Britons try to use a clothes line outdoors when they can but if they must use the tumble dryer, think about the time of day for using it. If they have solar panels then aim for the peak periods around noon, or if individuals have off-peak electricity (e.g. economy 7), then try to use it then – some appliances have a handy timer function which can help.

Modern tumble dryers have sensor functions, so people could try to use these as they will stop once the moisture levels are low – rather than running for a set time even if the clothes are already dry.

With any appliance, people should regularly check it is functioning properly (check the user manual), and register it with the manufacturer in case there are safety recalls. It is also advisable to have a smoke alarm in the same room.

3 Does tinfoil behind the radiators save money?
Mr Ferguson said: “Not for long! Ordinary tinfoil is made from very thin rolled aluminium which becomes dull as it oxidises, reducing its effectiveness quickly. Radiators only give off around 20 percent radiant heat, the other 80 percent is actually convection heat which will not be reflected anyway.

“There are a variety of specialist reflective radiator panels on the market which are good for older homes, however, if you already have cavity wall insulation then it’s less likely you will make any significant savings with these.”

4 “Grants are only for people on benefits”
He explained that it is a common misconception that people can only get assistance with energy saving measures if they receive certain benefits.

Jack continued: “There are lots of different initiatives to help people save money, from new heating systems and insulation, to small aids such as water widgets or shower timers – many of these are available to everyone, so why not have a quick search and see what you can get help with.

“Organisations like the Energy Savings Trust and the Government’s £12 billion ‘Help to Heat’ schemes are a good place to start – remember, the cheapest unit of energy is the one you do not need.”

5 “Do dehumidifiers save money?”
Lots of influencers have been championing the dehumidifier recently, which when used appropriately can save on heating costs.

Put simply, a dehumidifier is an electronic device which condenses the moisture from the air which can then be disposed of. Dryer air is easier to heat, so if a person has a humid home then they may be saving money.

The “downside” is that they usually cost more than £100 and the cost of a 300 watt dehumidifier could be over £17 a week if they need to run it 24 hours a day.

The energy expert recommend that people check the air moisture level of their home before purchasing, they can buy a basic ‘thermo-hygrometer’ for around £10 which will let them know the ‘relative humidity’ of the air – 30 percent to 60 percent is reasonable, if it’s higher than that for prolonged periods, then it’s worth further investigation.

Mr Ferguson concluded: “When reviewing home energy usage, we recommend you ask yourself some simple questions; firstly, ‘Do I really need to use it?’ Or ‘is there a cheaper way?’ Secondly, ‘Is the energy saving tip safe?’ Letting heat from the oven into the home could be dangerous if you have young kids and pets running around – always think safety first.

“Finally and quite crucially, ‘Can I make it a household habit?’ Experts will give you different answers on how long it takes to create a habit, but the more times you repeat a behaviour, the more likely it is to stick.

“So, make a list, share it with your household – even pop reminders on devices to help make those money saving habits second nature.”

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