London: With winter nearly here and heating bills rising, many Britons are considering which energy-intensive household appliances they can live without. Even in a nation of tea lovers, the kettle could be at risk.
Qettle, one of the main manufacturers of boiling water taps, said customer inquiries on the potential energy savings of the appliance versus a kettle have risen about tenfold since last year.
“People are working their way through every appliance in their home, working out what it costs to run,” said Alexandra Rowe, director at Greg Rowe Ltd., the family business behind Qettle. “There’s a lot of attention to detail.”
In a sign of British households’ growing unease about rising energy bills, Qettle recently set up an energy calculator on its website that allows prospective customers to work out the cost of the taps, which offer instant boiling water, for themselves.
Rival Quooker also reports a “significant uptick” in customers asking about the energy savings of boiling taps which its advertisements say “will save you energy, money, water and space.”
But with a price tag of between 500 pound( $587) and 2,000 pound to buy a tap in the first place, buyers may be waiting many years to see the savings.
“It depends entirely on usage,” said Karl Whittle, a professor of energy at the University of Liverpool. “If you’re a family that’s using it to help with cooking, then it will no doubt save you energy over time.”
Whittle likens the taps to solar panels; there’s a large investment up front and it takes years to break even.
Rising energy costs
Since bills started rising earlier this year, Britons have been looking for ways to cut energy usage. Sales of low-energy slow cookers, air fryers and sandwich makers have jumped and online searches for energy monitors, devices which help customers track their usage, have hit an all-time high. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson even told Britons in September that they could save 10 pound a year by replacing an old, inefficient kettle with a new one.
While consumer groups claim that boiling water taps could lower energy bills, much will depend on how effectively they are used. The taps are constantly on standby, using some energy to keep water at or near boiling, and require filter changes and occasional deep cleaning. For households of two people or fewer who hardly use boiled water, a kettle may be cheaper.
“The high upfront and maintenance costs of instant taps means that it would take you several lifetimes to recoup your investment in energy savings,” said Emily Seymour, energy editor at consumer magazine Which.
There’s also no consensus on how the costs differ between boiling taps versus kettles as there are many different models, and the numbers vary greatly.
According to Grohe AG, their taps, which reach nearly boiling temperatures, cost a third less to heat than the average kettle at around 25 pence a day for 3 liters of water. In comparison, Qettle says its taps cost about 24 pence a day when left on standby, while drawing down enough water for four mugs of tea costs 3.5 pence.
Quooker says their tap on standby amounts to 3 pence per day or one penny to draw down one liter. A kettle costs around 4 to 6 pence every time it’s used, the company says.
“Energy efficiency had never really been of interest to people but since the cost of living crisis has come around that’s changed,” said Stephen Johnson, managing director for UK and Ireland at Quooker.