We’re probably all going to end up spending a little more time at home than we had planned this winter. Whether you’re working from home or just spending more nights in, as the cold weather creeps in it’s time to start thinking about how to keep warm (and, more specifically, how to keep your house warm without sending your heating bills through the roof).
No one wants to spend their days shivering on the sofa or trying to type out an email with frostbitten fingers, so let’s face facts: switching on your heating will be necessary at some point in the winter.
So how do you save money on energy and heating bills? We’re taking a look at a couple of frequently asked questions about central heating and giving you some top tips on how to save money during the winter.
If you’re conscious about your heating bills rising, then you’re probably thinking, ‘how long should I have my heating on for? Is it cheaper to leave the central heating on low all the time? Is it more expensive to turn the heating on and off?’
Saving money on your energy bills isn’t just about whether your heating is on or off, though that’s certainly part of it.
The debate raging around the on/off question is widely discussed and not often agreed upon, but experts from the Energy Saving Trust revealed that leaving the heating on low all day isn’t actually cheaper.
In fact, only using the heating when you need it is actually better for your bank account overall, as you’re saving energy.
It’s easier to think about this in terms of energy loss. Your home is constantly losing heat and energy to the world outside, so when you keep the heating on all day, you’re losing energy all day too. If you only heat your house when necessary, then you’re losing the minimal amount of heat.
So if you’re looking to maximise your central heating’s energy efficiency (and save some money) then you’re probably better off only using the heating when you need it.
It’s that time of year again when we all start looking at our boilers with vaguely confused expressions and hoping that they’ll last us through another winter. Well, when we’re thinking about how to save money on energy bills, there are a few questions you should ask yourself about your boiler:
How old is your boiler? If your boiler is over ten years old then it’s likely to be less efficient than its newer counterparts and could be costing you a lot of money in the long run.
Do you have a condensing boiler? Condensing boilers are highly efficient, but standard efficiency boilers are rarely over 80% efficient (that could be a significant difference when it comes to your energy bills).
When was your boiler last serviced? Getting an annual boiler service can help to make sure that your boiler maintains it’s maximum efficiency for longer.
Do you have boiler cover? Regardless of how well you keep up with your boiler maintenance, if your boiler breaks down then you could be left without heating and hot water. That’s something no one wants to think about at this time of year. Having to find and call out a gas-safety registered engineer, and replace parts (or maybe even your whole boiler) can be an eye-watering expense, so looking at homeowner care plans and boiler cover could save you money in the long run.
Let’s take a look at the things you can do to reduce your energy usage and save money on your heating bills this winter.
Maybe it’s not quite cold enough for you to turn on the central heating yet - or maybe it is, but you’re steadfastly refusing to switch your heating on for as long as possible - either way, layering up and having a warm drink should help you fend off the chill. A hot-water bottle and a blanket couldn’t hurt too. This’ll save you money on energy bills but watch that it doesn’t get too cold or you might have some frozen pipes to deal with!
First, it’s worth identifying the ‘problem areas’ in your house where draughts are causing issues. Once that’s done, there are a number of things you can do to stop draughts in different areas of your home.
Windows: If your windows are the main issue, you can get draught-proofing strips for the window frame, though brush strips are better suited for sash windows. Closing thick curtains can also do wonders for stopping draughts in your home. For a quick, cheap and a bit of an unusual fix for draughty windows you can also put clingfilm over your windows to create a temporary layer of secondary glazing.
Doors: First, make sure internal doors are closed to keep the heat in. You can use draught-proofing strips for any gaps around the edges of the door frame, and draught excluders on the bottom of doors (you can even make your own if you fancy an easy craft project).
Fireplaces and chimneys: If you use your fire then skip this one, but if you don’t and you have an open chimney then there are ways to eliminate fireplace draughts. Why not try blocking up a chimney with an inflatable pillow or fitting a cap to your chimney pot?
Floorboards and skirting: If you have gaps in your floorboards or skirting, you can prevent hot air from escaping by filling them – use a silicone-based filler though, as floorboards need to move.
Your thermostat controls your home’s temperature by communicating with your boiler. Once your house hits the temperature you set on the thermostat, your boiler will go off until the temperature drops below it again. But have you ever thought about how old your thermostat is?
If you have an old-fashioned thermostat then you may find that there’s a 3-5°C delay in your boiler switching on again. That might not seem like a lot, but your boiler will then need to heat your house for longer to get back up to your set temperature, meaning it’ll use more energy.
Getting your hands on a more modern thermostat could be more accurate and save you some money by preventing energy from being wasted.
It can be so tempting to turn up the heat on your thermostat when it gets cold, but did you know that turning your thermostat down by just 1°C could save you up to £75 a year? Often you won’t notice the difference, but it’s worth trying out anyway – if you get too chilly, then you can always turn it up again.
There’s no point wasting energy when you’re not home, and although most of us will be spending a lot more time in our houses this winter, there’s still a place for timing your heating. You’re not likely to need your heating on when your curled up under a duvet while your sleeping, or when you know you’re going to be out of the house. Try timing your heating so that it’s warm when you wake up or come home.
Hot water cylinders heat and store water for your heating and hot water, but have you considered how much heat yours might be leaking?
Hot water cylinder jackets are relatively cheap and easy to fit (no need for an engineer). They’ll help you to retain more heat for longer and save you from having to waste energy reheating water.
This one will be particularly useful for everyone who’s got a home office set up and is working from home this winter.
There’s not much point in heating a spare bedroom or the hallway (unless you desperately need to dry your socks and there’s no room anywhere else), so why not be a bit more selective with the rooms you heat?
If you have thermostatic radiator valves, you’ll be able to control your heating, room by room. They’ll enable you to turn down the heat in rooms you’re not using, minimising the amount of heat and energy you’re using to keep warm, therefore saving you money.
Energy vampires are appliances and technology that drain electricity when they’re not being used. Anything that sits on standby is likely using energy that you don’t need to use – chargers, laptops, televisions, games consoles - even the kettle is guilty.
So how do you stop them from sucking away at your energy supply?
Unplugging them or switching the plugs off at the wall could save you a considerable amount of money, as it will stop you using energy that you might not even have known you were paying for.
So, as we settle in for a cold winter at home, try out a few of these energy-saving top tips; they could be the key to saving money on your energy and heating bills!