Dom Littlewood practices what he preaches – as well as being a TV consumer champion, he’s savvy at saving money in his own home.
“I’m really, really good at keeping my energy bills down,” the 58-year-old says. “In fact, I queried them once with my energy supplier because I was thinking about getting solar panels. And he said, ‘Have you seen how much your bills are? Do you really want to be spending a fortune on solar panels when your bills are so low?’
“But I’m not sitting there shivering in an igloo with warm coats on and a hot water bottle – I live a reasonably normal life, I’m just very shrewd and careful about what I do.”
Littlewood, who has presented shows including Channel 5’s Cowboy Builders and the BBC’s Fake Britain and Dom on the Spot, is supporting the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero ‘It All Adds Up’ campaign, which is providing simple tips to help householders reduce energy costs.
Energy Street residents have become Energy Savers!🚀
Join @DomLittlewood as he meets up with the local residents of Energy Street to help them get energy efficient and save money this winter.🌡️💸
— Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (@energygovuk) January 30, 2024
The presenter explains: “It’s to try and help people who are worried or perhaps feeling the pinch during these these turbulent times around the world, just to give some general practical advice on small things they could do. Quite simple, either no cost or very small cost changes that you can make around the home just to try and save a few pounds each year. And as the title suggests, all these little changes add up.
“It’s like your mum or nan used to say: ‘Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’.”
Here are some top tips for reducing energy usage and therefore household bills.
1. Insulate hot water cylinder tanks
Littlewood points out that many homes still have hot water tanks that aren’t insulated. “For a very small fee you can buy jackets from any DIY store,” he says. “They’re simple enough for almost anybody to put on in just a few minutes. It’s a bit like putting on an extra coat, but over a year, it can add up to about £50 saving. That’s a pound a week – it certainly adds up.”
2. Do laundry at a lower temperature
“We’re encouraging people to wash clothes in the machine at a lower temperature,” says Littlewood. “Modern machines are very well adapted now, where they can clean clothes at 30 degrees the same as old machines used to do at 40. That can add up to savings, just by dropping it down those 10 degrees.” Dropping the temperature could save up to £20 a year.
3. Reduce combi boiler flow temperature
Reducing the flow temperature on a combi boiler is very easy to do, says Littlewood, and videos explaining the process are available on YouTube.
“Reduce the flow of the hot water coming out of the boiler,” he advises. “We say put it at perhaps 60 degrees – a lot are set at factory settings of about 83 degrees – and then monitor the temperature from your radiators, and that should be adequate enough to heat a room. That can save you about £70 a year.”
He stresses that this is a tip for combi boilers, as it’s recommended that the temperature for heating systems where the boiler fills a storage tank with hot water doesn’t drop below 65 degrees because, on rare occasions, legionnaires’ disease can form if the temperature isn’t hot enough to kill the bacteria.
4. Fit an aerated showerhead
Aerated showerheads mix water with air, and Littlewood explains: “It gives you a more powerful shower without using a lot more water, and adds up to a saving of about £40-odd a year.”
5. Bleed radiators
This is something which a lot of people overlook. “Obviously, if the radiator’s half full of air, you’re not getting enough heat out of it. It’s very simple to do – anybody could do it with just a radiator bleed screw, and you can pick those up for literally nothing,” he says.
6. Move furniture away from radiators
Littlewood says it’s very common for people to push settees or other furniture against radiators when they’re not being used, but he warns: “If you don’t pull those away when you turn on your heating in winter, most of the heat is absorbed by the settee or whatever you’ve blocked the radiator with. So it’s quite important to move those away and give enough room for the air to come out of the rads.”
7. Use draught excluders
“It’s the sort of thing we used to see our grannies use, draught excluders at the doors and big curtains at the windows and front door,” says Littlewood. “But actually, it does save an awful lot of energy because draughts suck out the warm air and they pump in the cold air.”
8. Use a chimney sock
If you’ve got an unused fireplace and the chimney isn’t blocked off, Littlewood warns: “The open chimney will suck out all the warm air and blow down the cold air.”
But for “a very small amount of money”, he says you can buy a ‘chimney sock’. “These are like balloons that you put up the chimney and out the flue, and then you block it off, and it keeps the cold out and warm air in. That’s something worth considering.
“It’s like putting a door on it. If you think about it, if you don’t do it, it’s like leaving a door open – goodbye to all your heat!”
9. Use smart tech
Littlewood says he’s a “massive fan” of smart tech in the home, explaining that although there’s obviously an initial financial outlay to buy it, it helps save energy by lights and heating switching on and off when needed.
“I turn the heating on before I get home, so the rooms are warm enough, and you can set it to turn the heating off when you don’t need it. And it’s the same with light bulbs and sensors in certain rooms like hallways and the kitchen – when I walk into that room, the lights come on, and they’re programmed to go off a minute later, so I never, ever leave lights on accidentally.
“They’re a few quid to buy initially, but over the long-term, they’re going to save lots of money,”
10. Don’t leave electrical appliances on standby
“We’re all guilty of this without failure,” says Littlewood. “We leave plugs in sockets on standby, all our phone chargers, TV’s and whatever else we’re using. They’re all costing money – turn them off.”
11. Wrap up your windows
If you’ve got draughty windows, Littlewood says you can buy “very inexpensive” plastic sheets in kits for less than £10 online and in DIY stores, and cut them to size for the windows before sticking them around the window frames with double-sided tape. “Although it looks messy, you can then heat the sheets with a hairdryer,” he explains. “They shrink and go really taut and you can barely see it.
He says the tip is really only for householders who haven’t got double glazing, and adds: “The amount of heat that retains in a room is amazing. It’s a great tip.”
He adds: “When people like me say do this, that and the other and you might save £50 a year, you might say, ‘A pound a week? I can’t be bothered’. But there’s £50 a year, and then you’re looking at saving £70 on your boiler flow, and you put a different showerhead in to save £40 a year. You’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of pounds that you can save.
“If your employer said how would you like a wage increase of hundreds of pounds for doing nothing but turning your boiler down and bleeding your radiators etc, you’d probably jump at the chance.”
The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero It All Adds Up campaign provides practical tips to reduce energy costs and make homes more energy efficient. For more information on cutting energy bills, visit gov.uk/saveenergy.