Did you know that much of your water use at home contributes to your energy bill? Each household in the UK uses on average around 360 litres each day. But about 21 per cent of a typical household's heating bill is from heating the water for showers, baths and hot water from the tap. This is on average about £140 a year.
Saving water can reduce your water bill (if you’re on a water meter), reduce your energy use and bills, reduce the impact on your local environment, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by using less energy to pump, heat and treat the water.
When we use water, we are often using energy, mostly to heat the water. Generating energy produces carbon dioxide emissions which is one of the main greenhouse gases causing climate change. Heating water for use in our homes makes up about 5 per cent of the UK’s total carbon dioxide emissions.
No-one likes to waste water. However, many of us don't realise that water usage contributes to energy bills. Simple water use changes can save you money.
Water heated by a boiler
In most homes, the hot water is supplied by the main central heating boiler, either directly if it is a combi boiler, or from a hot water cylinder. Often there will be an electric immersion heater in the cylinder as well.
Tip – use the boiler to heat the water, even in the summer. The immersion heater will be more expensive, and should only be used as an emergency back-up.
Water heated by immersion
In some homes, particularly those with electric storage heaters, water can only be heated by immersion heater. There may be two immersions, one in the top of the cylinder and one in the bottom. Usually the bottom heater comes on at night, and heats the whole cylinder using cheap off-peak electricity. The top heater is used to provide additional hot water during the day if required, using expensive peak rate electricity.
Tip – do not leave a peak rate immersion heater on all day and all night. You will waste a lot of money keeping water hot when you don’t need it.
Five steps to saving money on your hot water bills
- Use less water and hot water in particular.
- Insulate your hot water cylinder – a well fitted tank jacket could save you around £25 to £35 a year, more if you heat your water electrically. Insulating the hot water pipes will save more energy, and can help your taps to run hot more quickly.
- Controls - make sure you have the right controls, and have them set correctly to give you enough hot water when you want it, rather than when you don’t want it.
- Fuel switching – gas and oil are cheaper than electricity, so they could be worth considering, or alternatively a low-carbon form of heating such as biomass.
- Solar – once fitted, solar water heating can provide a good proportion of your hot water requirements with virtually no running costs.
Passive Flue Gas Heat Recovery Device
If you have a combi boiler, you may not be able to fit solar water heating, but you may be able to fit a Passive Flue Gas Heat Recovery Device (PFGHRD). This recovers additional heat from the boiler’s flue gases and uses it specifically to heat the hot water supply.
New water-efficient showerheads use technology that can produce water flows that feel far higher than they actually are - an easy way to save both water and energy. They are most effective on power and mixer showers with a high flow rate. You should not attach a low flow showerhead to an electric shower as this could cause possible damage to your shower unit.
A standard bath has a capacity of around 80 litres, so even when it’s less than half full it uses a lot of water. If you’re buying a new bath, look for one with a lower capacity. Of course, you can always save water and money by taking a quick shower instead of a bath.
Looking to replace water-using appliances such as dishwashers or washing machines? Look for products with the new Water Efficient Product Label and/or the Waterwise Recommended Checkmark as these models can help you to save water, energy and money.
Lower flow taps
Taps with a low flow rate can be fitted to bathroom and kitchen sinks. Click point taps are better for kitchen sink taps; aerated or regulated flow taps are more suitable for a bathroom sink; but all work very well.
Flow tap aerators and regulators
If you’re not replacing taps or shower units, you can still save water by fitting flow regulators to showers and aerators to taps. Flow devices are easy to install. They often contain precision-made holes, filters or flow aerators to regulate the flow of water without changing how it feels to you.
If you have an electric shower you should not fit a flow regulator as this could cause possible damage to your shower unit.
Water efficiency labelling
To help you identify products that are water efficient, the Bathroom Manufacturers Association has a Water Efficiency Products Labelling Scheme. To identify award-winning water-efficient products, look for the Waterwise Recommended Checkmark.
Snub the tub
If everybody in your family of four replaces one bath a week with a five-minute shower, you can save up to £15 a year on gas bills and up to £25 on water bills (if you have a water meter).
Change your head
If a family of four replace their inefficient shower head with a water-efficient one they could save around £80 off their gas bills and around £115 off their water bills (if they have a water meter) each year. That’s a total saving of around £195.
Turn it off
A running tap wastes more than six litres of water a minute, so turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, shaving, or washing your face. Use cold water if you don't need hot.
Don't be a drip
A dripping tap can waste more than 5,500 litres of water a year, so make sure your taps are properly turned off and change washers promptly when taps start to drip.
Make it go further
Try to avoid wasting water from running taps while waiting for hot water.
Fill ’em up!
Make sure that dishwashers and washing machines are full before you use them, and always use the most efficient water and energy settings.
Using a sink of water to wash up twice a day rather than having the hot tap running could save around £30 on your gas bill and about £30 on your water bill (if you have a water meter). If you need to rinse utensils or wash vegetables, use cold water if possible and don't leave the tap running.