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Queen's University Professor John Barry shares 11 cheap and easy tips to cut your energy bills

Belfast Live logo Belfast Live 11/04/2022 Shauna Corr
Professor John Barry, Queen's University © Queen's University Professor John Barry, Queen's University

Rising energy costs have hit families and households across Northern Ireland hard in recent months.

But with grants to make our homes more energy efficient, install insulation, new windows and heat pumps a long way off - most of us have no option but to continue buying oil and gas to stay warm and keep the lights on.

Despite being tethered to increasingly expensive fossil fuels, there are still some steps you can take personally to drive down your energy bills according to Queen's University Professor, John Barry.

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The Green Political Economy expert is a huge advocate of energy efficiency and believes one of Stormont's top priorities should be helping us retrofit our homes so we aren't "paying to heat the street".

While we wait for that to happen, the Queen's professor has a few money saving tips when it comes to oil, gas, petrol and diesel.

They are:

  1. Shop around for oil
  2. Join an oil buying club
  3. Only have radiators on in rooms you are using
  4. Buy weighted blankets and wear jumpers
  5. Turn thermostats down a degree or two
  6. Don't leave anything electrical or electronic on standby [including your WiFi overnight]
  7. Wash clothes at lower temperatures
  8. Draft proof you windows and doors
  9. Cycle or use public transport if possible
  10. Don't fill the kettle to boil it
  11. But do fill the dishwasher or wash your dishes by hand

"It's a real challenge since heating is the major energy cost for people," Professor Barry told us.

As oil and gas prices continue to grow, motorists across Northern Ireland have also seen the price at the pumps jump by around a quarter in recent months with concerns now turning to fuel rationing amid news a diesel shortage could soon hit.

Meanwhile, new research from Bryson Energy on behalf of the Consumer Council has found there's a need for a fuel bank scheme in Northern Ireland.

Scotland, Wales and England already have fuel banks that provide vouchers to those a prepayment meter after referral by a third party because they are at crisis point. The vouchers provide around two weeks support with gas or electric so "customers need not choose between eating, heating or lighting their home".

A Northern Irish household is considered fuel poor "if, in order to maintain a satisfactory level of heating - 21oC in the main living room and 18oC in other occupied rooms - it is required to spend over 10% of its household income on all fuel use". Factors influencing fuel poverty include income, fuel costs, the home's energy efficiency and behaviours affecting energy consumption.

Oil remains the largest source of heating in NI (68%), followed by gas at 24%, and 8% from other sources.

It's estimated the numbers of homes in NI suffering fuel poverty rose from 22% (160,000) in 2016 to 31% (241,800) in 2021. While the £200 Department for Community grants for the must vulnerable will have helped a little - the number in fuel poverty will be even higher than that estimated for 2021 following a raft of energy price rises across the board.

National Energy Action (NEA) Northern Ireland, Advice NI and the Fuel Bank Foundation all took part in the research, which found a fuel bank scheme should be introduced in Northern Ireland.

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