Winter is coming and with it, higher fuel consumption. You’ll need to crank up your boiler to combat colder temperature and turn on lights earlier to chase away the 4pm dark. And you know, plug in that electric blanket, take warm showers, and put the kettle on all the time. Keeping hygge—or just warm—in the UK’s long, overcast winters isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to break the bank.
If you’re signed up to a direct debit with your energy company, your bills will be averaged over the year, so you won’t be paying dramatically dearer bills in the depths of winter than you did during balmy, sun-filled June, even though your usage will be higher. But those bills will be an average of your consumption over the year, so being profligate with the thermostat during a surprise March blizzard will cost you all year long.
Using an energy comparison service to find a new, cheap tariff is the best place to start, but here’s how to push your energy costs down even further during the winter months:
Turn down thermostat and wear warmer clothing
Heating our homes accounts for 53% of our energy bills, but every 1 degree Celsius you turn down your thermostat, you can shave 10% from those costs, saving up to £85 a year. But you won’t have to shiver. The NHS says that anyone who’s under 65, healthy, and active can keep their home under 18C without ill effects. However, if you are over 65, or if you have a heart or lung condition, you shouldn’t lower your heat below 18C.
You can stay comfortable in your home at lower temperature by putting on warmer clothing, like jumpers and socks. Furthermore, ensure you’re only heating the areas of your home you’re occupying, when you’re occupying them. Use radiator valves to turn down or off the heating in rooms you’re not using, such as your bedroom during the day.
Turn the heating down when you’re not home—a timer or smart thermostat can rev it up again before you get home—and at night, when you can cuddle under flannel sheets and a high-tog duvet with a hot water bottle. If you turn down your heat 5-8C for 8 hours you’re asleep (ideally), you can reduce your heating bills by as much as 10%.
You may also be able to turn down your heating while cooking dinner or running a tumble dryer, as the heat from those activities can warm your kitchen at least.
Your house is sieving heated air all the time and letting the cold outside air in. While it’s important to maintain ventilation, especially in rooms with open fires and where water is used, like bathrooms and kitchens, draughts can be chilling your house and making your boiler work harder.
On windows, place draught-proofing strips, either self-adhesive foam or metal or plastic with brushes attached, on the gap between the glass and the frame. On doors, use foam, brush, or wiper strips around the edges, a draught excluder at the bottom, and a brush or flap over the letter box. Properly sealing up doors and windows, can trim £20 from your annual energy bill.
Use a draught excluder on chimneys and save £15 a year, but remember to remove it before lighting a fire. Additionally, seal up cracks in the walls and between floorboards and skirting boards with fillers. Sealing draughts will also makes your home feel warmer, allowing you to turn down your thermostat.
Without proper insulation, you could be losing a third or more of the cost of heating your home through your walls and roof. Insulating your home is an investment but one that will pay off in energy savings in fewer years than you might think.
Cavity wall insulation, which costs an average of £720 to install, can slash £70 to £250 from your annual energy bills, according to data from the Energy Savings Trust. And loft insulation, which can cost up to £400, can save you £120 to £220 on energy every year.
Use the sun
Use the rays of the sun to heat—and light—your rooms during the day and you can dial down your thermostat and turn off your lamps. Then, as the sun sets, draw heavy curtains over your windows to keep that heat in.
Have your boiler serviced
Having your boiler serviced by a qualified engineer every year can guarantee it’s running efficiently and not costing you unnecessarily kWh and pounds during the cold winter months.
If your boiler is old and very inefficient, you may save money in the long run by investing in a new one with a better efficiency rating, although new boilers start at more than £2,000, so you won’t see the payoff for several years.