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Shop around, unplug and take your meter reading

Don’t wait until the huge bill arrives, take simple steps now to reduce your energy consumption and how much you will have to pay

If you’re already aghast at your energy bill, here’s what you need to do before the next one lands.

“The single most important thing you can do is to take your meter reading and submit it to your energy provider,” says Ronan Leenane of WeCanSaveYouMoney.ie.

The company has thousands of commercial and residential clients all over Ireland and is currently fielding unprecedented numbers of queries from anxious bill payers.

“If you don’t take a meter reading and submit it, you risk getting an estimate. The reason you need to be proactive about it is that the estimates can be wildly wrong,” he explains.


“The real worry for domestic users now is how will we make it through the winter. It’s so important to get the best rate possible and make sure you are only paying for what you use. So read your meter.”

As part of that, shop around and don’t be slow about switching utility providers if you find a better deal.

“Switching suppliers is actually the easy option to save money and we’ve got a lot better as a nation about doing it,” says Darragh Cassidy of Bonkers.ie, the price comparison and switching website.

Currently around 20 to 30 per cent of people switch energy suppliers every year. “Unfortunately, it tends to be the same people, so there’s more than 60 per cent of people out there who haven’t switched in years, and they could absolutely save money by doing so,” he says.

Unfortunately, the discounts available to switchers aren’t as big as they previously were. They are currently closer to 10 per cent, where previously 30 per cent wasn’t unusual. However, Cassidy points out, given how much bigger people’s bills are, 10 per cent of them is nothing to be sneezed at.

“With something like broadband or telecoms you might say that you are buying for reasons other than for price, but for electricity, it’s just price. It’s the same pipe, the same wire, the same grid. All that has changed is the logo of the brand,” he points out.

After that, change your usage patterns. Little things add up. “People don’t realise that for the 10 seconds your fridge is open, it takes 40 mins to cool back down, and that it uses up more energy to do that. Similarly, if you’re freezing food, don’t put it hot into the freezer, let it stand and cool down first,” says Cassidy.

When you’re not using something “Don’t just turn it off, plug it out. There is a little draw from something plugged in, even if it’s turned off,” he adds.

Consider your lighting choice. “Energy saving light bulbs are a quick fix which start delivering savings immediately,” says Stuart Hobbs, director of Energy Services at SSE Airtricity. “Using low-wattage bulbs in hallways and areas that don’t need a lot of light can help reduce costs, and replacing incandescent lamps with energy-efficient LED lighting is something that can be done in any building and will help reduce energy waste. For additional savings, particularly in offices, combine efficient lighting with motion sensors or timers so lights only switch on when needed.”

Be careful about heating. “Turning your thermostat down by 1°C can save you 10 per cent on your heating energy use,” says Hobbs. “Besides the safety benefits, servicing your gas boiler annually keeps it running efficiently, ensures it uses the right amount of gas and avoids breakdowns.”

After that, get smart. “Smart thermostats allow you take more control of how and when your property is heated and zoned controls ensure you’re not heating empty spaces which wastes energy and costs money,” he says.

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times