Alternative energy-saving techniques: will they save you money?

Updated on 05 December 2013 | 18 Comments

There are numerous weird and wonderful ways you can supposedly reduce the energy you need to heat your home. We sort the fact from the fiction and identify which ones may actually save you money.

Chancellor George Osborne announced this week that the Government will cut £50 from energy bills following changes to the 'green' and social levies on bills. Read Energy companies to reduce bills after Government says it will cut 'green' obligations for more.

The news comes after most of the Big Six energy firms announced price rises averaging 8% for the coming year.

According to Ofgem, the average household duel fuel bill is now £1,315 a year. Ten years ago it was less than half that amount at just £543. We are paying more for our household fuel than ever before.

So it’s no wonder that consumers are turning to a number of different ways to keep their energy bill down. But are any of these alternative techniques actually worthwhile? Will they save you any cash?

Insulating paint

Some companies advertise insulating paint for inside walls which supposedly cuts down heat loss to the outside.

However, it’s hard to see how this works. Thermal insulation works by trapping bubbles of air (in foam products) or pockets of air (in fibre products).

The thicker the insulating material, the more air is trapped, and the greater the insulation. With cavity wall insulation foam or fibre is injected the gap in external walls and can reduce fuel bills considerably.

But despite the supposed magic ingredients of insulating paint, it’s scientifically impossible for it to have the same effect – unless you painted about 20 layers of the stuff.

Verdict: Waste of money

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Painting radiators black

Some people suggest that simply painting your radiators black, instead of the standard gloss white, would warm up your home. The thinking is that black is a better colour at absorbing and then giving off heat.

But expert opinion is split on whether black radiators would make your home warmer than white ones. The conclusion appears to be that if there is a difference, it’s only a very small one.

Verdict: Doubtful

Foil behind radiators

B&Q and Homebase both sell specialist radiator foil to put on the wall behind a radiator. The theory is that the foil will reflect the heat back into a room rather than letting it escape through the walls of a property.

You don’t need special foil to do this though – any tin foil will do. DIY experts suggest wrapping the foil round a piece of cardboard to make it easier to install behind a radiator.

Verdict: True. The Energy Saving Trust recommends certain reflective radiator panels, but a homemade effort will achieve the same effect

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Cling film on windows

If you don’t have double glazing you can make your own with cling film. The theory is that single-glazed windows are inefficient as thermal barriers – there’s little to stop heat escaping and the property getting cold.

Cling film on windows provides a second barrier to heat transfer, creating a very basic double glazing system.

You can probably do this with bog standard cling film, assuming the role is wide enough, but Homebase sells Stormguard glazing film at £8.99 for six square metres.

Verdict: True. I used to do this every winter in my old flat. Without the cling film the inside of the windows were covered with condensation every morning; this was completely eradicated when the glazing was put in place. It’s tricky to install though and involved the use of a hairdryer

Keep heating on low all day

Opinion is split about whether it’s best to leave the heating on low all day or whack it up high when you come home from work.

The thinking is that warming a property from cold could use more energy than having it on a low temperature all day.

However, experts say that while boilers use more power initially to heat radiators from cold, it’s more expensive to keep the boiler running all the time, even if the temperature of the central heating is set low.

Verdict: A timer works best. Program it to come on shortly before you are going to need it – just before you get up or come in from work – and to go off again when you leave the house or go to bed.

Do you employ any uncoventional energy-saving techniques in your home? Do they work? Let us know in the comments box below.

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More on gas and electricity:

How I’m heating my house for 8p a day

Energy companies to reduce bills after Government says it will cut “green” obligations

Where to get help with paying your energy bills

Ten ways to save on energy


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