We are heading into a winter where the only certainty is the cold. Staying warm and comfortable at home is important, but it’s vital to do it in the most efficient way possible. Money is tight for some, while others may be looking at ways to decrease their spending or improve their carbon footprint generally. Heating the home is known to be a drain on finances during the winter months, but did you know there are some simple things you can do to heat your home more efficiently?
There are, of course, plenty of energy-saving myths lurking on the internet. But this doesn’t mean that many of the tips available are not true. So let us help you sort the fact from the fiction by giving you some genuine hacks you can easily implement in your home. Your central heating doesn’t have to be a money pit – stay warm the smart way and watch your energy bills decrease compared to previous years.
Invest in some simple energy efficiency accessories
Sometimes, to benefit from savings in the long term, you need to invest a little initially. There are some excellent accessories for the home that can make a big difference in keeping those heating costs to a minimum. Take a look at the following suggestions:
Also known as radiator reflectors, you attach metallic panels to the wall behind your radiators on external walls. The idea is that they reflect the heat emitted from the back of your radiators, ensuring that heat doesn’t simply diffuse straight out through the wall.
Radiator panels only cost a few pounds, and they’re straightforward to install. They are particularly effective on walls with little or no insulation, so if your home has this problem, a small investment in some radiator reflectors could make a big difference.
If you live in a home with very high ceilings, most of the warmth from your radiators may be dissipating upwards. This means the centre of the room never gets heated – you’re basically paying to heat the part of the room that’s above everyone’s heads!
If you fit a shelf about 15cm above your radiator, it will help direct the heat towards the centre of the room. This helps cut your heating bills because it warms more efficiently, so you won’t feel the need to turn up that thermostat to feel the warming effect.
Thermal curtains and blinds
There is no bigger culprit than exterior doors and windows when it comes to heat loss from the home. Glazed patio doors and large bay windows are notorious for causing this problem. Losing heat this way can cause your energy bills to rise unnecessarily.
Ordinary curtains go some way towards keeping out the draught, but did you know there are specialist thermal curtains and blinds out there? They are fitted with a sophisticated layer of insulated fabric that actively reduces heat loss to help cut your heating bills. Studies have shown they can reduce heat loss in the home by as much as 25%.
Set your thermostat correctly
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that if your boiler doesn’t need to work hard to heat your home, it will use less energy. However, getting the settings right is not quite so simple – it really depends on the setup of your system.
A good rule of thumb is to have the boiler fire up 15-30 minutes before you need the house warm and turn it off 15-30 minutes before leaving. This should ensure your home is at a comfortable temperature whilst you are there while avoiding paying for unnecessary heating.
If you have a room thermostat
The radiators should be switched on in all the rooms you want to heat, with the boiler set to maximum. Set your thermostat to a temperature in the range of 18-21°C, depending on what you are comfortable with. Your room thermostat will monitor the room temperature and switch your boiler off when the target temperature is reached. Setting the boiler to max means that the target temperature will be reached more quickly, meaning it can switch off sooner.
There is evidence that you will experience energy savings of 1% for each degree your thermostat is turned down per 8 hours. Combine this with turning thermostats back 7-10° for another 8 hours per day. This could enable you to save up to 10% on your annual energy bill.
If you have radiator thermostats
Radiator thermostats do not control the boiler directly. Instead, they regulate the flow of water into the radiators, which impacts the amount of heat those radiators produce. To take advantage of this system, you should set your boiler to maximum and then adjust the radiator thermostats to a comfortable temperature. If you have lots of differently-sized rooms or rooms that are rarely used, this can be a great system to save energy and trim down your heating bills.
One thing worth noting is that in rooms that are rarely used, it is best not to turn the radiator off completely. This is because it can lead to a build-up of moisture that causes damp. Instead, keep radiators in those rooms at the very lowest setting.
If you don’t have room or radiator thermostats
It’s simpler if your home doesn’t have thermostats, though the method may not be as effective. All you need to do is set the boiler to a level that makes the whole house a comfortable temperature. Naturally, the lower the setting, the less energy the boiler will use. So try to find the lowest temperature that keeps you comfortable to reduce your heating bill effectively.
Sort out draughts around the home
It is widely documented that about 25% of the warmth your boiler produces is lost through the roof of the home. Similarly, around 35% escapes through the walls and any gaps in/around windows and doors. Finally, about 10% of the heat even disappears through the floor. Collectively, these areas are known as the ‘thermal envelope’.
To combat this, homeowners are encouraged to make their homes as airtight as possible (whilst still allowing some oxygen in, of course). If you can achieve this, you could cut your energy bill significantly.
Try these quick hacks to see a real difference:
- If there are any gaps around your door and window frames, there are special foam strips you can buy to plug those gaps and eliminate draughts.
- If your home doesn’t have double glazing, you could buy some glazing film. It’s a kind of window protector that is known to also prevent heat loss and exclude draughts without impeding the view through the window in any way.
- Some DIY draught excluder hacks really work. A common technique is to stuff old jumpers with cloth or dry rice and tie off the ends. You can then push these jumpers into gaps where heat is escaping to protect against heat loss.
- Fill gaps in floorboards or under your skirting boards using a sealant. This is an area where heat is lost that many people overlook, but it can make a big difference.
- Install letterbox and keyhole covers on all exterior doors. This will ensure no heat is being lost through those little gaps.
Dress in layers
It may seem obvious, but you will not feel the need to crank up the central heating if you wear warm clothes at home. Unfortunately, many people consider comfort in the home to mean having the freedom to dress in shorts and a t-shirt, even in the winter months. But if you want to cut down your energy bills, this is a mindset that needs to change!
The best advice is to dress in layers. For example, wearing a vest and a light pullover will retain heat more effectively than a single woolly jumper. You could also wear a fleece over your t-shirt, or perhaps a dressing gown. By dressing appropriately, you might find that there are days when the heating doesn’t need to come on at all. And it goes without saying that this will drastically reduce your energy consumption and cut your heating bills.
Clean your radiators
Making sure that the water flowing through your radiators is clean will make the whole system more efficient. It will also extend the lifespan of your central heating system. When your radiators are warm, check for cold spots – this is a clear sign of sludge build-up. Another warning sign is when a radiator takes much longer to heat up than others.
According to Which, a heavily-sludged heating system could cause your energy bills to be up to 25% higher than necessary. First, check your radiators by bleeding a little from your radiator valve into a container. You may not get any of the actual sludge by doing this, but if the water looks cloudy, the system may require a clean. Once the system is clean, consider adding a chemical inhibitor to prevent sludge from building up again.
Switch energy providers
If you have been with your current energy supplier for longer than the initial contract, you will likely revert to the standard tariff. Unfortunately, this is almost always more expensive than the energy prices that came with your initial tariff. Using price comparison websites like Go Compare or Compare the Market, you can find the cheapest tariffs on the market to heat your home.
This simple step could result in substantial reductions to your heating bill, as well as your general energy costs. Consider switching to a provider that offers a carbon-neutral tariff if you are also concerned about your carbon footprint. You may also find that there are other benefits to making a switch. For example, some providers offer a free smart meter installation, and if you become a Compare the Market customer, you can enjoy rewards schemes like Meerkat Movies.
Generally speaking, it is good to close the doors in the areas you want to be heated. All types of radiators and other heaters work by creating a convection current in a space (such as a room). As the warmed air rises, it circles around the space so that the entire room is warmed. It then cools, sinks to a lower level and travels back towards the radiator to be warmed up again.
When you close the doors in the room, you want to be heated. You ensure that this current flow is kept within the designated space. The flow becomes far less efficient when much of the air flows out of the room and into a different space. So if you are only using certain rooms, have the radiators heating to a comfortable temperature and close the door to get the most out of them.
A little effort goes a long way
To lower your energy bills, all you need to do is follow the advice in this guide. None of them are expensive or complicated – they require a little effort and attention. Unfortunately, so many of us are not mindful of how we heat our homes in the winter, and it causes energy to be consumed and bills to rise unnecessarily. If you are reading this article, you are obviously starting to pay attention to your energy consumption as winter approaches.
It doesn’t have to cost the earth to have a comfortable home in winter. Whatever your reasons for reducing your energy bills, we hope this guide has given you food for thought. Consider which of the measures you could take and start applying them as soon as possible. The savings you experience could help ease any financial worries you may have or make for a better Christmas this year!