House in the snow

Top tips to stay warm at home, reduce your energy bills and cut carbon.

The biggest use of energy in the UK by far is neither electricity or transport but heat.  Heating our homes may be one of the biggest demands for energy but there are many ways to reduce our energy bills. And as most of our heat comes from burning oil and gas, energy efficiency measures not only save you money but they also help save the planet by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Seven quick hacks to heat your home cheaply

  1. Keep your thermostat at 19C
  2. Close your curtains from dusk til dawn
  3. Plug any leaky gaps around windows and doors with strip insulation
  4. Add roof insulation to 27cm in your loft
  5. Have your boiler serviced regularly and install a new one if old and inefficient
  6. Fit cavity wall insulation or solid wall insulation if your house is over 100 years old
  7. Use thermostat radiator valves to keep empty rooms or bedrooms at a lower temperature

Cheaper energy bills

Radiator on wall

Energy bills increase every year, well above inflation so it’s time we all stopped burning money. The quickest ways to reduce energy bills are to find a better tariff and then switch supplier but also to use less energy. Whilst many people are put off by the hassle of changing companies, in theory, it should take just a few phone calls.  Typically, you can save £150 a year and all you need is an up to date meter reading and bank details. There are also many green energy suppliers to choose from and an increasing number of these offer improved customer service. Some green suppliers are also offering a green gas tariff as well as renewable, clean electricity.

How to heat your home cheaply

Long term, the best way to heat your home cheaply is to stop waste and therefore reduce gas demand. Cutting how much energy you use is easy through insulation, smart heating controls and changing daily habits such as simply drawing curtains at night.

Insulation, insulation, insulation

Woman in warm clothing standing in the snowThe best way to stay warm, burn fewer fossil fuels and save money is through insulation. Just as you wouldn’t go out in the snow without wrapping up in a jacket and hat, you and your family will benefit from your home being wrapped up as well. Wall and roof insulation keep warmth inside so they will cut energy bills significantly and ensure you are heating your home and not the dark sky at night.

Roof insulation is recommended to a depth of 27cm, which is nearly a foot, so it’s worth getting out your ladder to check the attic today. For cavity wall insulation, small beads are blown in to fill the cavity through a tiny hole in the wall, which is then filled in and there is a ten-year guarantee on the work. Costs start from a few hundred pounds and could pay back this investment within a few years depending on your circumstances. Cavity wall insulation will also increase the energy performance certificate (EPC) of your house, which in turn increases its value.

Even solid walls can be insulated either internally, which is the cheapest option, or externally. Internal solid wall insulation involves insulation boards fitted to existing external walls so it is especially worth looking at if you are planning to redecorate rooms anyway.

Choosing thermal curtains and blinds

If you’re replacing your curtains or blinds, add an extra layer of fabric to prevent heat escaping through the windows. This involves choosing thermal lining for curtains and roman blinds as well as black out lining for roller blinds. These linings are thicker and have a tighter weave so less heat escapes than normal cotton lining. Thermal lined curtains are widely available and can be fitted to any fabric and don’t alter  how your curtain hangs so window dressings can be both attractive and functional.

A quick and simple money saving tip is to add thermal lining to the curtains you already have using curtain hooks. Finally, make sure curtains are drawn from dusk until dawn so they can do their job of trapping heat in your home.

Draught proofing

'Mind the Gap' wording

Some simple DIY tasks can make a big difference – fix any windows or doors where the glazing is broken or hinges need adjusting. A simple installation of a draught strip excluder around doors and windows is really effective and a letter box brush.  Add a chimney balloon if your fireplace is not used. All these insulation products are widely available from any DIY stores and takes moments to fit. Secondary film glazing is a genius way to stop draughts from single pane windows or if you live in a listed building with sash windows. These are easy to fit with a hair dryer and sticky back tape and extremely cheap. Secondary glazing makes a real difference to your home in a few minutes and can easily be removed for the summer.

Cutting down on hot water

As well as providing space heat, our boilers provide hot water for washing. By using less hot water by taking showers and not baths, we can cut down on both water and energy bills. Saving water is also important as climate change is reducing the amount of rainfall we receive, particularly in summer months. Low flow shower heads are worth considering for this reason.

Another option to save money is if your house has a hot water cylinder.  Modern boilers can heat hot water very quickly so you only need the water heated for the times of day when you normally would take a shower or bath. The hot water cylinder should keep water warm for hand washing in between times. Foam insulation around the hot water pipes and a jacket on your hot water tank are also good ideas. So have a look at your programmer and see if you can change your water heating settings to match your actual demand.

Top tip

If you don’t know how to program your hot water settings (like most people) there are tutorials available on YouTube if you search for your specific make and model.

Insulation options for tenants in rented flats and houses

Even, if you are in rented accommodation, you have a legal right to ask your landlord to make energy efficiency improvements. Not only does energy efficiency save you money off your energy bill, but it provides the landlord with a warmer home for years so the property will be easier to let in future. Landlords have to spend up to £3,500 on improving their property if it is substandard - an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of F or G.  Contact Citizens Advice if you need help on this issue.

New boilers

Boiler upgrades can make a huge difference it if it is more than 10 years old. Heating accounts for about 55 per cent of what you spend in a year on energy bills so an efficient boiler is really important and you don’t want to wait until it breaks.

But should we be using gas anymore for heating our homes? Are there not more environmentally friendly alternatives?

Alternative ways to heat your home

Renewable heat opportunities include biomass boilers as well as heat pumps. Heat pumps are either ground source or air source but like all renewables, the right technology depend on your home as to what the best options are. Read more about renewable energy heating options here.

Energy efficiency in your home

Energy efficiency at home involves lots of insulation, plugging draughts and gaps ad setting controls to reduce wasted energy and ensure your heating bills remain low. Carbon emissions from heat in the UK have increased for the last two years so burning less fossil fuels also helps to reduce greenhouse gases. So as well as living in a warmer home, by improving the energy efficiency of your house you help to reduce your carbon footprint and your bills.

We would love to hear your comments and stories about the issues raised in this article:

 

Disclaimer

This information is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

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