The weather is getting colder, but that doesn't have to mean having to pay sky-high energy bills. Here are our top tips for keeping warm at home.
As the nights draw in and the temperature really starts to tumble, many of us are turning the thermostat up to the maximum and diving back under the covers.
Of course, that could leave you with a monster energy bill to contend with when spring eventually arrives.
If you want to keep costs to a minimum without freezing, have a look at our top tips for heating your home for less.
Please note that this is one of our evergreen guides, so some of the tips here will only really work if you're looking to save money long-term. However, most of them can be done immediately.
Let’s get one of the most obvious ones out of the way now. Putting on more layers will keep you warmer so that you don’t have to put the heating up as high.
Heat your home by doing some cooking
Make your evening’s casserole double as an evening’s heating. Better yet, you could do a few batches in one go to make the most of that oven heat.
Switch your energy supplier
You could save money just by switching to a better deal. Anyone on their supplier's standard tariff could save hundreds of pounds, so it really is worth doing.
Plus, switching is easy and won't necessarily require anyone coming to the house (more on how it's done here).
Get cavity wall insulation
A number of energy suppliers will provide free insulation if you are on certain benefits.
With cavity wall insulation you can save between £90 and £275, depending on what kind of home you live in.
Get loft insulation
You can get free or discounted loft insulation from most of the 'Big Six' energy suppliers.
Just answer a few questions to see if you’re eligible (about 90% of homes are), arrange an installer to come and visit and get your loft insulation installed in less than a day.
Don't forget underfloor insulation
Older houses with suspended floors are likely to let more heat out of the floor so it’s worth looking into underfloor insulation.
New builds tend to have polystyrene insulation a few inches below the concrete floor surface, but you could still get insulation if you want to save that bit more on your heating.
You can do this by adding an insulating layer like fibreboard or polyfoam under your carpet or floor covering.
Alternatively, you could go for underfloor insulation if you have a hatch which lets you get into the crawlspace under the floorboards. Or you could save yourself a lot of bother by getting someone in to do it.
Get up to £5,000 to make your home more efficient
You could get a new Government grant to pay for the above insulation work or any home improvements that make your home more energy efficient.
As we explain in more detail here, the Green Government grant could see up to £5,000 paid towards your renovations by the Government.
Not only would this work cut your bills, but it would also drive up your home's value if and when you decide to sell.
Take advantage of the discounts you’re eligible for
The Warm Home Discount could get you up to £140 off your electricity bill.
You can qualify if your electricity supplier is part of the scheme, yours or your partner’s name was on the bill and/or you were getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit.
You may also be eligible if you’re on a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go meter.
You could get between £100 and £300 tax-free to help cover your heating bills if you were born before 5 January 1953 as part of the Winter Fuel Payment.
You’ll usually get this automatically if you get the State Pension or another social security benefit, although there are some exceptions.
The Cold Weather Payment is available to you if you get certain benefits like Pension Credit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit.
You’ll get a payment if the temperature in your area is recorded as or forecast to be zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days.
You’ll receive a payment of £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between November 1 and March 31.
Download a thermostat app
If you’ve got a thermostat which can be connected to mobile devices, a thermostat app could be really beneficial to you.
You've probably seen the adverts for Hive, with the animation and the annoyingly chirpy rhyme which goes alongside.
Hive - which comprises of a physical thermostat, a receiver which communicates with your boiler and a hub which connects it all to the internet – can be controlled via an app on your computer, tablet or smartphone.
The app tells you what temperature your home is and gives you the option of changing it.
Set different temperatures for different rooms
Putting different radiators at different temperatures isn't always easy to remember, but it is useful.
Say you’re in the living room for the evening. You’ll want to have a bit of heat in your room for when you want to go to bed later, so you should keep the heating on, but the temperature low.
This saves you money on heating and stops you from being freezing cold in bed.
Programme or time heating
You can set an automatic timer to turn your heating on and off at various points during the day.
Programmers are a bit better in that they allow you to set different temperatures for each day and customise it throughout the week so you don't waste heat at the weekends.
You might want to buy a programmer that lets you override your normal pattern so that you can change it at short notice if your schedule is a bit erratic.
Consider getting a smart meter installed
Smart meters are gradually being rolled out and will be in every home in Great Britain by 2020.
Note that smart meters won't actively reduce your energy bills as some people think: they'll just give you a clearer picture of how much energy you're using so you can take steps to cut consumption yourself.
They also send meter readings direct to your supplier so that no one will have to come to your house to do a reading and you’ll be paying for the energy you actually use.
Opt for a brass radiator key
Radiator keys are necessary for ‘bleeding’ your radiators to prevent air blockages, which damage the effectiveness of your radiator. You’d be better off with a brass radiator key than a steel one as they’re much less likely to snap.
Put some tin foil behind your radiators
The idea here is that a sheet of foil behind your radiator will reflect heat back into the room rather than escaping through the walls.
If you want to go down the DIY route, you can fix some standard silver foil behind the radiator with sticky tape, or put it over some cardboard to help fit it more securely.
You could also buy specialist radiator foil from most hardware stores. You can pick up a four-metre roll from Screwfix for £5.99.
Buy a radiator booster
A radiator booster is a long tube that sits on top of your radiator, acting as a small fan.
It provides more warmth by dispersing the air that gets trapped behind the radiator and can raise the temperature in a room by as much as three degrees.
They're widely available from around £25-£35.
And a radiator shelf
Shelves that are fitted above radiators deflect rising heat which is said to make rooms warmer.
Shelves are more effective if they’re fitted above radiators which are underneath windows so that the bottom of the curtain rests on the shelf, preventing warm air being trapped between the curtain and the window.
Keep furniture and clothes away from your radiators
Keeping these things away from the radiator will allow heat to circulate more freely around the room.
Set your thermostatic radiator valves to low
At least to start with. Then you should gradually turn it up until it leaves the room at a comfortable temperature when the heating is on.
Turning it to a higher setting won’t make the room heat up any faster; that depends on the boiler size and radiator size.
Keep your heating on a low setting when you go away
Keeping your heating on a low setting when you go away will stop your pipes from freezing up, saving you a potentially hefty repair bill when you get back. Read more at How to protect your water pipes.
Block off draughts
You’d be surprised at how many draught sources you have in your home. There are a load of materials that you can use including sealant and polyfiller to block cracks in the wall and sealant strips for the windows.
Even things like a keyhole disc and letterbox flap will help keep the hallway warmer. Buy a chimney balloon if you’ve got a coal-fired chimney as a lot of heat escapes through the chimney too.
Hang up some lined curtains
Lined curtains make a difference when it comes to how much heat is released from your home. They're a bit heavier so they keep more warmth in.
Open and close them at the right times
Opening curtains during the day is important, particularly if you live in house with south-facing windows as they tend to let more light and heat in. Close them at night to keep said heat in.
Buy a more energy-efficient boiler
If your boiler is more than 12 years old it’s time to think about getting a new one.
Newer models are more energy efficient as well so even though you have to hand over a bit of cash initially, you’ll likely spend less on it and save money in the long run. Read more at Save money on your new boiler.
Have your boiler serviced
Perhaps your boiler is just acting up and you don’t quite know what’s going on. In this instance, your boiler might simply need a service.
You should get it serviced annually anyway so check when you’re due. It should take a good hour so make sure you’ve got a proper service rather than just a basic safety check.
Go for a premium heating oil for your boiler
Around four million households across the UK are not connected to the UK's gas network, and will instead have an oil boiler.
There are two different types of oil available for oil boilers: gas oil and kerosene. Kerosene has its fans as it’s a lighter and ‘cleaner’ fuel. In cold weather, it shouldn’t form crystals which stop the oil flowing as easily.
You can buy a premium type of kerosene which contains additives which help it to burn easier and more efficiently. It’ll cost about £20-£30 more per 500 litres than standard kerosene.
Alternatively, you could buy additives yourself. A £15 bottle will treat about 1,000 litres of heating oil. For certain boilers, you’ll need to use additives, but you can find out more from your manufacturer.
Install double- or triple-glazing
Double glazed windows keep more heat in, meaning that you don’t have to turn your heating up as high to keep your home warm.
You'll also get less noise and bother from outside so it's useful for a peaceful Saturday night in.
Were you born in a barn?!
You’ve heard it since childhood, but it’s true. Closing doors in your house will keep the heat in as well as stopping cold air from circulating from unoccupied rooms.
Do a free home energy check
Cuddle a hot water bottle
If all else fails, get a hot water bottle on the go. It means that you won’t be as reliant on the heating to keep you warm at night, nor will you have to invest in an electric blanket.
Top tip: fill your bottle at the same time as you fancy a cuppa and you can avoid having to boil your kettle twice.
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