This post first appeared on Shaz30’s Thought for the Day blog:

I work for an energy company, and as a result I often get asked about how to save money on your energy bills. I spent nearly a year advising people on how to reduce their bills within their homes by reducing consumption, so I feel I am well placed to write a blog post about it for Big Energy Saving week.

Saving energy is very important in reducing our energy bills and reducing the effects of climate change. When I was visiting homes offering advice, I used to be continuously shocked about how wasteful people were with their energy usage. Fuel poverty is a real problem that affects millions of people. Using energy more efficiently can help reduce fuel poverty.

Here are five energy saving tips that can make a big difference to your energy usage.

1) Use your heating only when you need it

Biggest Mistake: Leaving the heating on when you are not home

If you have a programmer for your heating use it! You could set your heating on a pattern that can reflect when you need it. For example if you work 9-5, you could set it to turn on for half an hour before you get up until half an hour before you leave the house. This would heat your home when you actually need it to be warm. In the evening, you could have your heating set to turn on half an hour before you get home and to turn off half an hour before you go to bed.

If you have thermostatic radiator controls you can turn the heating off in the rooms you are not using. If you have a thermostat you can use that to make the heating cut off when the room reaches a certain temperature. The World Health organisation recommends 21 degrees for the living room and 18 degrees for everywhere else. The amount of people who had their thermostats set to 30 degrees and then complained about high energy bills staggered me. Of course your bills are high, you live in a sauna!

If you have electric storage heaters than you have a problem, because they are going to be expensive and difficult to use. Make sure you turn the input on over night so the heaters store energy as you are likely to be on economy 7, an energy tariff which gives you cheap electricity at off peak times.

2) Turn electrical appliances off standby

Biggest mistake: Leaving the TV on 24/7

Lots of modern electrical gadgets are no longer built with an off switch. This is annoying because they have to be switched off by the mains plug or they still use power. A report I often quoted when I was working in advice, stated you could be wasting up to £80 a year on leaving your appliances on standby. For example leaving your TV on standby mode, or having your phone charger plugged in and switched on at the mains when it is not connected to the phone.

Switching appliances off can make a big difference. Many people do not realise the cost involved in leaving appliances on standby. Some people have complicated set ups for their appliances where they can’t easily reach the plug sockets. A solution for this is to get smart plugs that can switch off your appliances for you once you activate it. I used to hand them out and they can work really well.

3) Use only what you need

Biggest mistake: Over using the dishwasher/tumble drier

This may sound obvious, but habits are hard to shift without thinking about what you are using. Take the example of the dishwasher, anything that uses electricity to heat water is expensive, meaning that appliances like the dishwasher and the electric shower are very costly. Boiling your kettle costs on average 2.5 pence per boil. Your dishwasher 17p per cycle and your tumble dryer 62p per cycle

Before you use these expensive devices you should think about whether you need to. If you only have a couple of plates to wash, then using your old fashioned hands makes more sense. If you are only drying a pair of jeans is it worth spending around 62p? If it is a warm day you could use a clothes horse instead. When you boil a kettle only use the amount of water that you need to use. If you are making one cup of tea, filling the kettle to the top will be an expensive waste of money.

4) Make different purchasing decisions

Biggest mistake: Buying inefficient products like plasma TVs

Choosing the right appliance can make a significant difference to the amount of energy you use. Appliances that appear cheaper to begin with, can cost more money in the long run than more expensive but energy efficient equivalents.

An illustration of this is comparing Plasma televisions to LED televisions. Plasma televisions are cheaper to buy but are more likely to be C energy rated than an LED TV which can be A+. Over the lifetime of the product the Plasma TV will much higher usage costs than the LED television. When you buy new electrical appliances try and find A+ energy rated appliances, as they will be much cheaper to run over their lifetime than lower rated appliances.

A simple quick fix to think about is using low energy lightbulbs. The old standard lightbulbs produce more heat than they do light, thus they are very inefficient and expensive to use. Low energy lightbulbs use a fifth of the power to light up a room. Over a year that amounts to pounds and pounds.

5) Make your house more efficient

Biggest mistake: Leaving the windows and doors open whilst having the heating on

If you make your house better at keeping energy or heat in, than you will have less need to use energy for things like heating. The simplest way to do this is to make sure that you try to minimise the way heat can escape your house. A really easy thing to do is when it is cold, is to make sure your doors and windows are closed. Sounds simple but people often get into the habit of just leaving them open. I went to lots of houses and pointed this out to people, who were a bit taken aback because they had not thought about the consequences of having their window open.

Beyond keeping your windows closed you can also draught proof your house quite cheaply. DIY stores are full of things that can draught proof your house like special tapes for your windows. You can get door snakes/ draught excluders that sit at the bottom of your doors and helps prevent heat escaping underneath them.

A more costly option that can make a real difference is insulation. There are a variety of options including loft, cavity and external wall insulation, with loft being the easiest and most effective to install. These insulation measures can reduce your energy usage significantly by reducing heat lost through the roof/walls/ floor.

There are schemes out there for funding, especially if you are low income or live in a low income area. It is worth asking the energy company if you are entitled to free or vastly reduced insulation, as energy companies are obligated to reduce energy usage along with carbon emissions.

The point that I am trying to get across is that if you think about your energy usage, you can make a real difference to how much you use. Habits are easy to fall into, but can be very wasteful. With winter fast approaching, using less is going to be really important in trying to keep energy costs down, fighting fuel poverty and reducing the effects of climate change