Throughout the second half of 2021, stories about the effects of soaring energy costs on the market and on households were never far from the headlines.
Disruption and price hikes seem set to continue into the new year too.
A consequence of higher heating bills is that more people than ever are looking to make their homes energy efficient: keeping cold air out and warm aim in.
Greater energy efficiency is better for your pocket and better for the planet as the more artificial heat you use, the more carbon emissions you generate.
If you’re considering changes to your home to save money on bills over the winter, here are a range of suggestions that will help. We work through
- quick changes
- followed by insulation
- and then renewables.
Quick energy saving hacks to save your heating bill
Begin by making the most of whatever warmth there is in your home.
A lot of energy-saving advice only really caters to those who have bought their property, but here are 10 simple and cost-effective hacks that you can adopt regardless of whether you rent or own.
1. Be smarter in the kitchen. Kitchen appliances consume 19% of the average household’s electricity. Use a toaster, microwave or slow cooker rather than your oven whenever you can as these appliances use far less energy.
2. When you do use your oven, make sure that the door is properly closed so heat isn’t wasted leaking out.
3. Once you’ve finished cooking, leave the door open to let the hot air into the room.
4. Be cleverer with curtains – and blinds and shutters too.
“Curtains lined with a layer of heavy material can reduce heat loss from a room through the window at night and cut draughts,” advises the Energy Saving Trust, so keep them shut when it’s dark.
5. If you don’t use a room during the day, consider if you need to open up curtains and blinds at all during the colder months.
6. Make the most of the insulating power of curtains by adding one behind external doors to block draughts.
8. If you particularly feel the chill at night, snuggle down with an extra blanket, bed socks and a hot water bottle – or even two.
9. Reduce unnecessary energy usage by unplugging chargers and switching sockets off at night. Wonder if it’s worth the effort? Electronic devices use as much as 90% of their power in standby mode.
10. Take another step to cutting unnecessary energy use by getting smart plugs. These can control several items at the same time and be set to switch on and off via a timer or even an app.
“Add a layer before dialling the temperature up and wear slippers over socks, or several pairs of socks when working from home”
How to optimise your central heating
When you do need to put the heating on, be sure to use it effectively.
Programme timers to switch your boiler and radiators on and off in line with your daily habits.
Usually up at 8am? Set the start time for 7.30am rather than 6am.
Typically go to bed at 10pm? Have it finish at 9.30pm.
Also experiment with thermostat settings.
There is no universal right temperature for your home so see how it feels one degree lower, then maybe another one or two lower after that.
At the same time, think about how you use different rooms.
While you don’t want areas getting damp because it’s too cold, you may decide that you don’t need every room warmed to the exact same level. Turn radiator valves down accordingly.
“Programme timers to switch your boiler and radiators on and off in line with your daily habits”
How to make your radiators more efficient
After conservation comes efficiency.
This doesn’t have to be complicated and there are lots of other measures you should introduce before contemplating a substantial investment such as solar panels.
Making your radiators more efficient, for example, will save a decent amount of energy and money and ensure that central heating works effectively.
Try these six simple steps:
1. Move furniture away from radiators so that the warm air can circulate.
2. Remove any covers that block the heat.
3. Install reflectors behind any radiators mounted on external walls.
4. Check that the temperature feels the same at the top as at the bottom. If not, you may have air trapped. Bleed the system to get everything working effectively again.
5. If some radiators take far longer to heat up than others, you may have too much sludge in the system. This can increase bills by as much as a quarter, so it’s worth getting the system flushed out if so.
6. Install thermostatic radiator valves if you don’t already have them. When used in conjunction with a programmable room thermostat, these could save you £75 per year and reduce carbon emissions by 320kg.
You’ll find instructions for all these suggestions online, but if you don’t feel confident tackling a task, look for an expert plumber on Local Heroes to do it for you.
How to make your home more energy efficient
Draught exclusion also makes a big difference.
At its most basic, this means getting the sausage dog type draught excluder that you push against doors.
The next step up is adding putty or metal strips to external frames. Install these and you’ll save around £30 on annual energy bills for a typical three bedroom semi-detached home.
Other places to consider draught-proofing are external doors, chimneys, around floorboards and skirting boards, loft hatches, pipework and old extractor fans (just be sure to avoid sealing up working fans and vents).
Again, if DIY isn’t your strong point, an expert tradesperson will be able to assist.
There are, of course, some jobs that should only be done by professionals.
Getting your boiler serviced regularly, for instance, will maintain peak efficiency, but if you don’t feel confident tackling a task, look for a plumber on Local Heroes to do it for you.
How to insulate your home to save money on your heating bill
After taking steps to conserve energy and easily improve your home’s heating efficiency, you’ll be at the stage where it’s worth researching more complex and costly energy-efficiency measures such as solar panels.
Again, however, energy conservation should be the priority.
Insulate wherever you can, from under floors to up in the loft.
“Insulate wherever you can, from under floors to up in the loft”
Grants may be available to help with the costs; enquire with your local council.
Walk around your home to find less obvious inefficient spots too.
Do you have a conservatory? That could be a considerable energy drain, especially the roof.
Adding blinds or other covering is a short-term improvement but replacing glass with solid material may be better in the long term.
Ask a trusted tradesperson for their recommendations about this and anything else you have questions about.
How to invest in your home to bring down your heating bill
When the time inevitably comes that you need to replace some aspect of your home, explore the most energy-efficient options available.
This may look like thermal-lined curtains rather than unlined ones or carpet in a room that previously had wooden flooring.
It might mean choosing triple-glazed windows (three sheets of glass and two gaps between them) or the most highly ranked double-glazed windows (two sheets of glass with a gap between them) when your current ones reach the end of their life.
The most energy efficient type of glass, known as low emissivity or low-E, features an imperceptible coating of metal oxide on one of the internal glass surfaces, letting light in but also reflecting heat back.
It is not, however, only the glass that matters.
The frame and window composition make a difference as well.
This is why the British Fenestration Rating Council (BFRC), the body responsible for assessing the energy performance of windows and doors, considers the whole unit when assigning a rating of A++ down to E.
BFRC ratings are based upon solar gain (heat in through the window) versus thermal losses and air losses (heat out through the window).
If you need to replace your boiler, that is the moment to investigate the feasibility of a heat pump or related projects such as installing electric underfloor heating.
Check out a quote with a local electrician from Local Heroes.There are different varieties of heat pump including air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps.
Often described as a reverse fridge, these take the heat from the source (air and ground respectively) and use a compressor to boost the temperature further. This heat is then transferred into your home’s heating system.
Heat pumps use less electrical energy than the amount of heat energy they produce, making the process energy efficient.
Despite the sustainability gains, however, there’s a lot to consider before going ahead with one.
Installation costs can run as high as £10,000, and there are also follow-on costs to updating the heating system within your home.
The ongoing running costs vary depending on the kind of boiler you’re replacing, and you need to be sure that your home is suitable in the first place.
Remember that higher initial costs could be offset by lower bills in the long run; likewise, the carbon footprint associated with manufacture and fitting could be counterbalanced by lower usage emissions, especially if you get your electricity from renewable sources.
Again, you’ll need qualified electrician for some of these jobs, but it’s also worth seeking their professional advice and opinion before committing to any major renovation.
Tell Local Heroes what needs doing and they’ll find a trusted local tradesperson for you.