Throughout the winter months, it’s always tempting to crank up the central heating and let ourselves bask in the artificial warmth. But recent increases in energy bills across the board (which are due to continue increasing for at least the next 15 years according to consumer watchdog reports) have meant that UK homeowners are really starting to feel the burn (pardon the pun).
Indeed, it’s been estimated that around 23 million UK households ration their energy use during winter and that the average annual energy bill in the country is just a shade over £1250.
There are Government initiatives in place to help those at risk, but even those of us in the lower-middle classes (a sector growing by the year) could end up having to choose between feeding our families or heating them.
The UK might very well be in the midst of an affordable energy crisis but there is no reason to compromise your health and well-being. Contrary to popular belief, there is no need to have the boiler pumped up to 11 to stay warm and here, we’ll be examining a few helpful tips that will hopefully help UK homeowners to stay warm this winter without spending a fortune in energy costs.
Monitor your usage
The first step to cutting down on your energy consumption is to keep an eye on exactly what you’re using and when so that you have an accurate overview of exactly how you use your energy.
There are numerous online tools and smart device energy apps you can use, which quite accurately measure exactly how much energy your expending and where and when you’re spending it. Once you’re able to visualise the patterns of energy use in your home, you can start making positive changes.
Get your boiler serviced
Every household boiler should be serviced by a gas safe registered heating engineer at least once a year. Failing to do so could lead to serious problems over the winter months and yet it’s something that so many homeowners tend to overlook.
A fully-qualified engineer will be able to not only service your boiler but complete any minor repairs that might need to be made to ensure you’re safe and warm for Christmas.
Make a small change
It’s estimated that as much as two-thirds of an average household’s energy expenditure is spent on heating our homes via a central boiler. By turning down the thermostat just a single degree, you could save as much as 10% on your energy bill and you’ll hardly notice the difference.
Lighting too is generally used much more during the winter as the days are shorter and the nights are longer. By fitting energy-efficient lightbulbs throughout your home you could save as much as £3 per year, per bulb, and they will generally last 10 times longer than a conventional bulb.
Taking advantage of our planet’s natural source of heat (the sun) is rather straightforward. Make sure that during the day the curtains are open on the south-facing side of your home. The sunlight will filter into your house, heating it naturally.
Make sure you close them at night, however, to trap the heat in and reduce any cold chills you might get from the cold windows. You can help reduce light infiltration by taping a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet to the inside of your window frames, and installing drapes or shades.
Seal the leaks
Detecting and sealing air leaks in your home is one of the most efficient ways you can preserve heat without raising the thermostat. The majority of gaps in your home will be around plumbing,
in recessed lighting and behind closets and cupboards, but you might want to hire a qualified technician to fully survey your home for a more thorough inspection. Adding weatherstripping or caulk around windows and leaky doors will also help.
Find a better deal
It might be down to stubbornness or sheer bone idleness, but most British homeowners generally prove remarkably stoic in their choice of energy provider. It’s not difficult at all to switch though.
Indeed, more often than not, all it takes is a few clicks on a price comparison website. So, if there is a provider who can offer you a better deal, don’t hesitate to switch.
The old reliable fireplace is a wonderfully elegant and affordable way in which to keep your home toasty and there are a few handy tricks you can use to maximise that ‘toastiness’.
Keeping the fireplace damper closed when not in use is obviously recommended and when you are using the fireplace you can reduce heat loss by slightly opening a nearby window (I won’t pretend to understand the science behind it, but trust me, it works!). Also, ensure the grates are curved like a ‘C’ to allow the fireplace to draw cool air in and expel warm air back into the room.
Water heating can account for as much as 25% of the winter energy consumed in your home. You can cut down on this by taking more baths instead of showers, by sharing baths or by turning down the temperature on your water heater.
Ultimately, it’s all about making a series of little changes and making sure you’re on top of your electrics, your heating and everything else that could have an adverse effect on the heat of your home.
Above all else though, never hesitate to call in professional contractors if you are unsure. It might mean an initial cost but it could save you countless pounds in the long run. Besides, who wants to be cold at Christmas.