11 Hacks to Stay Cosy (and save money) at Home this Winter

With the cold winter approaching in the coming months, people in the UK rely heavily on their central heating systems.

70% of household energy consumption is spent on heating homes. Ideally we want to reduce this figure so that not only we can benefit financially but also a nation help meet the carbon reduction commitments that governments strive to achieve.

Sources come from Robert Marchand, a Lecturer in Operations Management at the University of Sheffield and also directly from the Energy Saving Trust’s official site.

Here are 11 simple tips for keeping your home warm for little cost – just in time for the cold months ahead.

 1. OPEN & CLOSE CURTAINS 

Open your curtains during the day to make use of free heat. 

And when it gets dark, close them to act as another layer of insulation and to keep the warmth in your rooms. 

opening curtains gif
Opening the curtains GIF

2. USE TIMERS ON YOUR CENTRAL HEATING 

Thermostats and Controls
Thermostats and Controls

Although a debate, experts at the Energy Saving Trust, as well as British Gas, say it’s cheaper as oppose to leaving the heating on low all day. Having the heating on as and when you need it is, in the long run, the optimal way to save energy, and money. (Putting a timer on your thermostat turns your heating on and off to keep your home at the temperature you set.)

It’s all about the total amount of energy required to heat your home.

With energy constantly leaking out of your home (depending on your insulation) it’s better to heat your home only when you need it.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy advise to turn the heating on earlier – such as 30 minutes before getting up in the morning at a low temperature instead of turning it on just as you need it at a high temperature. 

This is because a boiler heats up at a constant speed whether you set your thermostat to 20°C (68°F) or 30°C (86°F). 

Just don’t make the mistake of leaving your heating on low all day!

However, as stated before, it’s a debate – some specialists disagree and advocate keeping the heating on low all day, turning all radiator valves up to the max and the boiler down to the minimum. They say the problem with toggling the heating on/off is that every time it’s turned off, it creates condensation. Condensation on walls helps to conduct heat outside the home, meaning you leak heat more quickly.

TIP: To prevent frozen pipes, which can cause hundreds of pounds of damage, the Safe Energy SW recommend you leave the heating on to some degree during winter, even if you’re not there. Before going away, the rule of thumb is; keep your heating at a minimum 12 degrees, rather than switching it off.

3. DON’T BLOCK YOUR HEATING 

Living Room
Living Room

You might have placed your favourite seat in front of the radiator, but it’s obstructing and taking in all the heat that could be circulating your home. 

The same goes for your curtains or drying clothes – although it is still better than using tumble dryers as they use a lot of energy. Drying your clothes indoors on an airer can cause problems with condensation and damp, especially in old and poorly-insulated homes.

TIP: Try timing it so that you dry your clothes during the hours your heating comes on if the weather is not allowing you to dry your clothes outdoors.

 4. MAXIMISE YOUR INSULATION

When it comes to heat, around 25% is lost through the roof. 

This can be easily reduced by installing 25cm of insulation throughout your loft. 

It’s also worth seeing what’s going on in your walls, as around a third of the heat in an uninsulated home is lost this way. 

Although it’s not as cheap to install as loft insulation, cavity wall insulation could save up to £160 a year in heating bills. 

It’s also worth checking with your energy supplier to see if they have any insulation schemes running – which can sometimes mean cheap or free installation.

5. WRAP UP WARM

If you have a hot water tank, make sure it is properly lagged – or insulated. 

This will keep the water warmer for longer, and reduce heating costs.

The Energy Community reckons that insulating an uninsulated water tank could save up to £150 a year – but even just upgrading your tank’s ‘old jacket’ will help to save money.

Insulated Hot Water Tank
Insulated Hot Water Tank

If you have a gas, oil or LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) central heating system, it will always be cheaper to set the system timer so the hot water comes on only when required.

However, if you use an electrical immersion heater and have an Economy 7 or 10 tariff (where energy is cheaper at night), it’s cheaper to heat your water during the night. Make sure your tank is well insulated to prevent it cooling during the day, though.

 6. TURN DOWN THE DIAL

This may seem a little counter-intuitive, but bear with me. 

The World Health Organisation previously recommended a minimum temperature of 21°C (70°F) in the living room, but Public Health England revised this to 18°C (61°F) in 2014.

And research shows that turning your thermostat down by 1°C (34°F) could cut your heating bill by up to 10 per cent. 

So keep the dial at 18°C (61°F), save money and avoid the negative impacts of a cold home.

7. BLOCK OUT THE DRAUGHTS

Sausage Dog Draught Excluder
Sausage Dog Draught Excluder

Even a simple solution such as a making your own sausage dog draught excluder will help keep the warmth in your home. 

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that DIY draught-proofing your doors, windows and cracks in the floor could save £25 per year. 

Self-adhesive rubber seals around doors and windows and door draught excluders are relatively cheap and easy to install. 

Weatherize Windows with Plastic Film Insulation
Weatherize Windows with Plastic Film Insulation

You can also put cling film on your windows to act as insulation. According to the Energy Saving Trust, you can use any material for the second layer of glazing, as long as it’s transparent and airtight. However, while clingfilm works in theory, in practice you’ll probably want to use specialist secondary glazing as it’ll last longer. If you have double glazing, adding a third layer could make you a little warmer, but the benefit will be much less than when dealing with a single-glazed window.

If your windows are draughty, it’s worth fixing that as well as adding secondary glazing, as otherwise you’ll only get half the benefit.

So it’s worth getting those doors and windows sealed before winter properly kicks in.

 8. INSTALL THERMOSTATIC RADIATOR VALVES

Research at the University of Salford has shown that installing heating controls and theromostatic radiator valves results in energy savings of 40% compared to a house with no controls. 

These work by allowing you to programme your heating to come on at predefined times – so you only use energy when you need it. 

Thermostatic radiator valve
Thermostatic Radiator Valve

New smart thermostats can also be controlled remotely via your mobile so you can turn on your heating on the way home, ensuring it’s nice and toasty when you arrive.

It’s best to have as many controls as possible, so you’re in charge of the way you want your home to be heated. Installing thermostatic radiator valves and using them with your thermostat could save £75 per year according to the Energy Saving Trust.

The EST recommends using the thermostat to control the heat in your main living space and using thermostatic radiator valves to lower the heating in rooms you don’t use as often.

Thermostats control your boiler, while radiator valves control the water flow through each individual radiator.

Your thermostat controls your home’s temperature, so once it hits the temperature you set on the thermostat, the boiler will go off until the room temperature drops again.

Radiator valves are an extra control which you can use to set the temperature of each individual room (other than where your main thermostat is). So rooms that you don’t use very often can be made cooler (saving energy and money).

When the temperature in that room rises above what’s set on the radiator valve, it will stop water flowing through that particular radiator – the boiler will still be on to heat other rooms, but it will use less energy.

9. UPGRADE YOUR BOILER

If your boiler is more than 10 years old, it may be time to replace it with a new, more efficient model. 

Depending on your old boiler type and house, you could save up to £350 with a new A-rated condensing boiler – which uses less energy to produce the same amount of heat. 

Plus, if it’s new, you’re less likely to have any issues going into the winter season.

Electric heaters are one of the most expensive forms of heating. The Energy Saving Trust say the cheapest way to heat your home is by using an efficient gas central heating system, with a full set of thermostatic radiator valves, a room thermostat and a timer.

 10. REFLECT THE HEAT

Radiator panels are relatively cheap, easy to install, and ensure that heat from your radiators warms up your room and not your walls. 

They work by reflecting the heat back into the room.

Some reckon painting your radiators black works too, but the answer’s no, according to the Energy Saving Trust. It’s best to keep them the standard white, although the difference is not huge. Radiator panels can save energy, but not very much. It’s more important to insulate your walls to prevent the heat leaking out of your home altogether. See our Free Insulation guide for more.

As for putting reflective panels behind radiators, yes, these could help cut energy use. The idea’s they reflect heat from the radiator back into the room, so it doesn’t escape through external walls. The Energy Saving Trust says homes with uninsulated walls will get most benefit.

Reflective Panel Behind a Radiator
Reflective Panel Behind a Radiator

11. KEEP DOORS CLOSED

It’s better to keep doors closed for the area you want heated.

Radiators, electric panel heaters and convection heaters all work by creating a convection current in a room. As hot air rises, it circles around to the other side of the room, cools and sinks and travels back along the floor to the heater to be reheated again.

Closing doors makes sure this current remains within the designated space.

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