Clocks go back - time to get your house in order

Clock 650 X 300The cost of heating has risen sharply in recent years. Ofgem, the UK’s energy regulator estimated this year that the average variable tariff for a dual fuel customer will be £1,254 per year. This is nearly 5% of the average UK household budget! But if heat is escaping from your home, you may be paying far more than this. Follow the tips below to see if you’re doing all you can to stay warm this winter.

1. Investigate and insulate
By stopping heat loss caused by draughts in your home, your boiler will use less energy trying to maintain a certain temperature and you’ll save money. Did you realise that turning your room thermostat down by just one degree could save you around £80 on your energy bill?*

Insulating just means stopping heat escaping and so the first thing to do is check your home for ways that heat could escape. You may be surprised…

Letterbox? Get a letterbox brush to cover it.

Chimney? A chimney balloon, which can be deflated if you want to light a fire, can prevent all the hot hair in your home disappearing into it.

Doors with gaps underneath? Perhaps you could put a draft excluder across the bottom – you can make these cheaply or pick them up from your local DIY store.

Drafty floorboards? Surprisingly, the Energy foundation estimates that you lose as much as 10% of heat through uninsulated floors. Get rugs and fill in gaps with a silicon filler. You can even cover your keyholes. The one exception is air vents, which should never be covered.

The Energy Saving Trust has created a set of straightforward articles about insulating your home, including possible savings:

2. Make the most of your radiators
If you have sofas or chairs in front of radiators, then this will block much of the heat from reaching the rest of the room, meaning it could take longer to heat up. Even just moving the sofa away from the radiator a few inches can help.

Next time your radiators are on, touch the top of them to see if they are colder at the top, compared to the bottom. If they are, they may need bleeding, or in other words, you need to release the trapped air pockets. This air causes the radiator to circulate hot water less effectively and so give out less heat – meaning it takes longer to heat your home.

Bleeding is a straightforward process (see online tutorials for step-by-step guidance) but you must make sure the heating is off, or tuned down, when you do it. If not, you may burn yourself by touching the radiator or you may get sprayed with hot water.

If you have radiators fixed to external walls, you could line them with aluminium foil to reflect the heat back into the room instead of letting it escape through the wall. You can use ordinary kitchen foil, but heat reflector aluminium foil sheets (also called radiator reflector panels) are considered more effective.

3. Check the roof
Now’s the time for some routine maintenance of your external water system to make sure no water escapes or gets in, which will make your property cold, uncomfortable and potentially damp. Exercise all the usual precautions when using a ladder to undertake these tasks.

Check for cracked or missing tiles, which can let rain into your home. Make sure you clear out your gutters as leaves, plants and other debris can quickly clog gutters and drains, which can lead to water damage. Also, make sure your home’s downpipes (the pipe that carries waste water or rainwater down to your drains) aren’t cracked or split - you can check behind the pipes with a mirror. You can also remove any vegetation that’s grown around the pipes at the same time, as this has the potential to cause damage.

Finally, make sure the water runs freely through your pipes; if it doesn’t you may have a blockage that could cause problems later on.

4. Use your curtains – and line them too
If you live in a house that doesn’t have double-glazed windows, keep the heat inside by closing your curtains, blinds or shutters when the sun goes down.

If you have curtains, the thicker they are, the better. If they’re not lined, you can easily line them yourself with thick material. You don’t need to worry about doing a perfect job – you won’t be able to see it, and neither will anyone else as you will only shut them when it’s getting dark.

However, when the sun’s up, get the curtains open - the sun shining through your windows will help keep the room warm.

5. Shut the doors and don’t heat rooms you don’t use
We waste £2.2 billion every year on unnecessary heating, that is, heating our homes when there’s no one in them. Simply by turning off the heating when there’s no one at home could save you as much as 11% off your fuel bill!

When you are at home, do you need to heat every room? The spare bedroom? Do you need to heat bedrooms at night when you’re tucked up warm? By only heating the rooms you need and shutting the doors on those unheated rooms, you could save money.

These tips are designed to help keep you warm and not waste money on heating. It’s also worth checking if you’re eligible for help with your reduced winter fuel bills.

Cold Weather Payments
If you’re on means tested benefit you might be eligible for a Cold Weather payment. They’re paid when the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below for 7 consecutive days. It’s possible to get £25 for each 7-day period of very cold weather from 1 November 2019 and 31 March 2020. You can find out if you’re eligible here.

Warm Home Discount Scheme
If you’re on means tested benefit you may also be eligible for £140 off your electricity bill for winter 2019 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. You’ll need to get both gas and electricity from one supplier, and they’ll need to be part of the scheme. Contact your energy supplier to check if you’re eligible. In the meantime, you can find out more here.

Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment is for anyone born on or before 5 November 1953 and they lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of 17 to 23 September 2018 (this is called the ‘qualifying week’). You could receive between £100 and £300 and if you are eligible you will receive this payment automatically. Find out more here.

*Calculation based on a typical, gas-heated three-bedroom semi-detached home

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