We’re barely out of summer, but already there’s a chill in the air. You are – whisper it – already wondering whether it would be indecent to switch on your central heating, until you remembered that these days such drastic action might lead to bankruptcy.
Last month, research by MoneySuperMarket found 22 per cent of us were already dipping into savings to pay for our energy. The energy price cap, arriving on October 1, will mean an average household should expect to pay around £2,500 for a year’s energy. So now seems like an appropriate time to consider our options before we reach for the thermostat.
Windows of opportunity
“There are many quick, cheap, efficient ways you can save energy in your home,” says Josh Jackman of The Eco Experts.
Dirty windows can leave your rooms cooler; they allow less sunlight to penetrate and so impede the room from warming naturally. It’s time to book a pre-autumn window clean. Investing in some high quality thermal curtains – available for around £95 – can also save you £327 per year from October, says Jackman. Investing in any curtains, in fact, is better than leaving a window uncovered. Make sure you close all curtains at night and open them during the day. If you do have curtains and don’t want to replace them yet, thermal linings can be bought separately and easily fitted.
Detect your draughts
Some 40 per cent of heat is lost through windows, doors and floors, according to Simple Energy Advice. To counter this, try draught-proofing strips for windows which come in wiper, foam or brush formats (although you may need to call in professionals to draught-proof sash windows due to the more complex mechanism). Myriad products such as foam tubes to hinged flaps can be bought for the gap beneath doors but draught excluders can be made at home, according to MoneySuperMarket, by stuffing some tights with old socks. And as naff as they may be, letterbox and keyhole covers do work. For floors, filling in cracks between floorboards and behind the skirting with a silicon-based caulk will go some way to prevent cold air streaming in. Blocking off chimneys – while not in use – with various sizes of wool plugs and chimney balloons can also stop warm air being sucked out.
“Draught-proofing your home is a no-brainer,” says Jackman. “It typically costs £225 to have it done professionally and will generally save you £45 per year. You’ll get a warmer home and break even after just five winters.”
Insulate to accumulate
A quarter of heat is lost through roofs, but roof and loft insulation can be installed for around £530 and should save you £347 per year on average. “You’ll typically break even in one and a half years,” says Jackman. He also recommends insulating your hot water tank. It costs £17, on average, and will cut your energy bills by £48 per year.
Get ready for plummeting nights
With cooler temperatures, warmer duvets are required. For winter, duvet tog count should be upwards from 12 tog rising to 15 tog for extremely cold conditions. A ultra long water bottle, first devised by Richard Yu of YuYu Bottle, is also a wise buy. There are various iterations on the market starting at around £13.
Many swear by weighted blankets for their ability to relieve insomnia and anxiety, but they’re also good at adding extra warmth while remaining breathable. Prices start at around £50.
But if you do crack and turn the heating on...
The World Health Organisation advises that an adequate standard of warmth is 21°C in the living room (and home offices) as these are areas you’re most likely to sit for long periods. The Sleep Foundation recommends keeping bedroom temperatures between 15.6 and 19.4°C for comfortable sleep (children’s bedrooms should sit between 17 and 20°C). Bathrooms should be warmer (between 22-24°C) and other occupied rooms around 18°C. A review by Public Health England suggests over-65s and those with pre-existing medical conditions should keep their home heated to this temperature, but that healthy under-65s might want to keep their homes slightly cooler.
Only heat what and when you need to
“If you leave the heating on all day, you’ll waste a horrendous amount of energy and money,” says Jackman. The Energy Saving Trust recommends programming your heating to come on half an hour before you get up and turn off half an hour before you go to bed.
Although some may prefer to fend off the worst with a warm fleece and slippers. “If you’re able to throw a jumper on and turn the thermostat down, do it,” says Jackman. “It’ll save you £109 per year for every degree you go without.”
As well as turning the heating off when you’re not in the house, you should turn it off if you’re not in the room. If there are rooms in the house you rarely use – say, the bedroom of a grown-up child who’s away at university – then turn off the radiators and keep the doors closed when they are unoccupied. If you’re letting some rooms stay cold though, be alive to the risk of damp and mould.
Don’t put furniture in front of your radiators. “By making sure your radiators are able to do their job without half of their heat getting lost behind the sofa, you’ll typically save £300 per year,” says Jackman. Keeping your radiators clean is also advisable, as the heat will emanate more effectively if they’re not covered in dust. You should bleed them, too, as more energy is used when air is trapped inside.
Consider what kind of heating you’re using
An efficient gas boiler plus radiators with temperature controls in a well-insulated home is generally more cost-effective than using an individual plug-in electric heater, according to the National Energy Foundation. But, says the Foundation, electric heaters are suitable for heating a space sporadically. Oil-filled radiators are cost-efficient for well-insulated rooms while convection heaters can work with smaller rooms. The Telegraph has reviewed many portable heater options depending on space.
If you have a wood-burning stove, you might assume it would be cheaper to run than central heating, with gas prices so high. Which? says whether it actually is cheaper depends on how energy-efficient your home is and how efficient the stove is – plus it won’t do much for the other rooms.