Posted on 5th October 2017 by Flow Team
With winter on its way, there’s a familiar feeling in the air as it starts to gets cooler and damper. The wintery seasons can end up being expensive when you’re making every effort to ensure your home is a cosy hideaway from the dismal outdoors.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Although you expect to pay a bit more on your heating through winter, there’s a great deal of preparation you can do to ready yourself for the nasty weather without being a burden on your energy bills. In fact, making the right investments and cutting the right corners can lead to substantial savings – so large that you might forget why winter was ever such a worry in the first place!
This blog will take you through the many steps you can take today in order to maximise warmth and slash your expenses. Read through to the end and you’ll have plenty of inspiration to get started with, with items to buy, projects to start and actionable points which – when mixed and matched – will make a noticeable difference to your energy bills.
Insulating your loft will stop heat from escaping upwards through your loft space. Ideally insualation made up of 100% sheep wool (although other materials will do!). If you can’t cover the whole loft, then cover the loft hatch with insulating material and draught proofing – this alone can prevent a great deal of heat loss.
Up to 35% of the heat in your home can escape through uninsulated walls. Install cavity wall or solid wall insulation to save on your heating bills.
Not the cheapest measure to take, but it can be worth doing, especially if you’re replacing or repairing any existing flooring. If you’re able to insulate the entire floor, you can expect to save around 5-10% on your energy bills. Make all of the above even more affordable by seeking an insulation grant where possible.
By installing an energy-efficient heat pump you can not only take advantage of renewable heating. You can also get paid by the Government for producing your own hot water via the Feed-in Tariff!
Add weather strips around your doors and doorframes to prevent cold air getting in. Any kind of insulation to block gaps will do – even a sponge in the letterbox could work!
An old-fashioned bath uses a lot more hot water than contemporary showers!
Keeping lengthy shower visits to the minimum is a good way of cutting energy bills (see the next tip for some precise guidelines). If you can tolerate it, using lukewarm water will also contribute significantly to a reduction in costs.
The famed “Navy shower” was originally designed as a means of conserving water while at sea. Here’s how it works. First run your shower for one minute, then turn it off to when it’s time to lather up with soap and such. Switch the shower back on for one minute for a rinse. Turn the shower off, add conditioner and repeat. That’s a total of three minutes of water usage with no compromise on cleanliness!
With a sweaty bike ride into the office or a gym session before work hours, you have the perfect excuse to let these fine establishments pay the bill! It doesn’t save the planet but it definitely helps save you money!
Tap aerators and low-flow shower heads inject air into the tap, keeping flow rates high while using up only a fraction of the water.
All the heat in your house can easily escape through open windows and doors. Don’t waste that valuable energy – keep those doors and windows closed. Then, if things are getting warmer again, you should turn the heating off for a while before resorting to throwing windows and doors open again to cool things down!
If your garage shares one or more its walls with the main house, then ensure the garage door stays closed. A warmer garage means the adjacent rooms will be warm too.
When you need to let heat and steam out of your kitchen, don’t rely on the electricity-eating extractor fans. Let natural wind power do the work and open your windows!
Installing a pelmet framework above your windows not only adds some decorative flair to your living space, it also helps to maximise the efficiency of your house by prevent cold air from outside seeping in.
Why not make use of the excess heat generated by the oven and stove? Keep doors open if they separate your kitchen from other rooms. The warmth will travel more easily around the house this way. The same applies to cooling: allow your cold, conditioned air to circulate between rooms before adjusting levels.
Keeping Heavier curtains closed at night will better store the house’s heat until morning.
Ensuring those heavy curtains are pale and brightly-coloured will help sunlight during the day to bounce from surface to surface, reflecting and spreading light into the room more easily so you don’t have to rely on electric lighting.
Throw those curtains open during the day so that sunlight can get into your house to heat it. When it comes to evening time, draw them again to stop that heat from escaping back out the window.
If you’ve got a chimney, there’s a good chance that cold draughts are whistling down and nullifying your efforts to keep warm. A chimney sheep (or chimney balloon) will quickly make your draughty chimney a long-forgotten memory.
If you’re using a regular boiler, turn down your thermostat on the hot water tank. Don’t produce scalding hot water if you always mitigate its heat with cold water in your shower or bath. Instead try and heat it to the right temperature from the outset.
Reducing the temperature on your room thermostat by only a single degree can save around £50 or more per year. So turn that dial down or turn it off whenever possible – remember there’s no point heating a house with no-one in it!
Positioned near a source of cold like the front door or heat sources like fireplaces can cause your thermostat to malfunction as warmth and cold alter its temperature recordings. Keep it isolated!
For optimal results keep your thermostat settings at around 20-21 degrees Celcius during day time. When night comes, turn your heating off if you can. In extremely cold climates you can keep temperatures set at between 18 and 20 degrees or preferably lower, if you think an extra blanket in bed will make up the difference in snugness!
Don’t heat an empty room – set your thermostat to a timer and warm rooms only when they’re being used. Consider purchasing a smart thermostat which will let you control the heating of your home from wherever you are. You can turn the heating on and off as appropriate and minimise wastage in the process.
Installing thermostatic valves on radiators in rooms that you rarely use allows you to set individual heat preferences on a room-by-room basis.
If you have a hot water tank in your house, consider insulating it. You can pick up the materials at your local DIY store and get your tank a nice jacket in order to prevent gradual heat loss.
Although it can feel like a significant blow to the wallet, installing either double or triple glazing in your home will maintain heat levels better as well as reducing your energy bills a little each year. The addition of solar glazing will also prevent your house from overheating during summer months by filtering out harmful UV rays.
A cheaper alternative to double or triple glazing, magnetic secondary glazing can be fixed to your existing window frames to reduce draughts, noise and condensation. Furthermore, it can be removed as needed.
Setting these appliances to a lower temperature setting means they won’t need to work so hard to keep your items cool. NOTE: Below 5°C is the maximum recommended fridge temperature to prevent the spread of unsafe bacterium – go for between 0 and 4 degrees for optimal results.
In this vein, when it’s time to defrost food try doing so in the fridge. The frozen produce will help in the refrigeration efforts, though it will take longer to complete defrosting.
If warm air is able to seep through broken seals, even in small amounts, your appliances will need to work harder to keep temperatures ideal, using more electricity in the process.
When empty, these appliances need to work harder, because warm air from outside is held within the gaps and spaces every time the door opens. Keep them at capacity, and they will stay cooler for longer. If you don’t have enough food and drink, then fill them with screwed up newspaper instead.
Check if your fridge or freezer has one of these available. The benefits should be fairly obvious (you’ll use less power) and the drawbacks, if any, will be hard to notice – so go ahead!
When ice starts to build up in the freezer it can affect the door seals on the unit while using more energy to perform the same job, so regular defrosting will prevent waste.
If you are able to access the back of the fridge unit, try to get your hoover there at least once a year. Removal of dust can ensure the fridge runs at maximum efficiency!
Old fridge models, especially units built before the 1990s, can be real vampires when it comes to using energy. Replacing them with the more up-to-date, efficient and environmentally-friendly alternatives from the modern age can cut your outgoings significantly!
You may not be guilty of this. But do you really need that extra fridge in the garage? When was the last time you used it? Think about the potential savings!
Replace your lighting with low-energy LED lights wherever possible: they use up to 90% less energy while lasting 10 to 20 times as long!
This is especially worth doing if you can’t bring yourself to invest in LED lighting. Shut off the lights in rooms they’re not being used – it’s that simple. You can even create a family game around the idea to make it fun.
With the right investment in products, you can manually determine the times of day that lights and electronics will turn on and off, so you never have to remember to be on your best behaviour again.
Ensure that lights are only used when somebody’s in the room to benefit from them! Motion detector lights conveniently turn themselves off when nobody’s around, while their rapid jumping to attention acts as a great deterrent to potential intruders.
Adding dimmer switches gives you extra control over your lights, providing a simple way to save energy. A dimmed light reduces overall wattage and energy output, with added atmospheric benefits to the space you’re in!
There are plenty of new digital systems on the market which provide owners with finite control over all the lights in the home. Some can even be controlled through simple mobile apps!
Try to work out if all your free-standing lamps and lights are really needed for the space they’re in. Although you might be attached to the décor, if the room is light enough, that extra lamp could be clocking up the bills for little benefit in return.
Dust, when left to its own devices, can be a surprising impediment to light. When it begins to cake your light-bulbs, up to 50% of light output can be blocked. Make sure you dust fittings and bulbs regularly to ensure the lights you’ve turned on can provide maximum efficiency and brightness.
Appliances which are highly-rated for their eco/green and energy-saving potential may be slightly more expensive at the point of purchase. However, the expected energy savings should cover the added expense in under two years.
If you’re reheating a meal, or have the choice of where to cook it in the case of supermarket ready-meals, then go for the microwave before the oven. The microwave heats up food much faster and efficiently.
When it comes to cooking, cutting your meat, vegetables and even your sundries into smaller chunks will allow them to cook much faster – a fun scientific quirk relating to surface area!
Setting your washing machine to use the lowest available temperature settings is another great way of saving energy. Most modern bio washing powders will break down just as easily at lower temperatures. In some cases, higher temperatures can cause bio tablets and powders to work less effectively!
If your machine doesn’t feature a special ‘half load’ setting, fill it up to the maximum capacity with clothing. You wouldn’t want to waste all that energy on clothes that aren’t in there! If you can’t get a full load in there, then change the settings to use less water if possible.
Letting your washing machine go above its capacity affects its efficiency. Make sure that the maximum spin cycle is selected before attempting to wash large loads like this.
Hang clothes when you can, whether inside or outside. Tumble dryers require large motors and heaters as part of their drying process, making them one of the more expensive appliances to run. If you hang clothes outside, the blowing of the wind can do much of the ironing work for you! Try to reserve the dryer for heavier, thicker materials.
If you have to use it, the tumble dryer will reserve some heat from its first spin, making the second load dry in much less time.
Sometimes using the dryer is something that can’t be avoided. Cleaning out the lint filter after every couple of uses makes for more efficient operation, providing electricity savings in turn.
While the dryer is spinning, it’s advised that you check the clothes yourself occasionally, rather than waiting for the spin cycle to complete. Sometimes you’ll catch the clothes dried long before the expected time, and you can save on surplus spin-time!
Making the most of the BBQ in the summer months isn’t just for pleasure. Dinner by BBQ means that no electricity or gas is used in the cooking process (although you’ll have to buy charcoal, of course!). Using wood that you’ve foraged is another way to make further savings, being absolutely free!
Don’t boil a full kettle of water if you only require one quick cup of tea. Boiling just the right amount of water prevents wasting any energy on heating the excess.
Invest in a thermos flask and store your kettle-boiled water. The heat should last for most of the day, preventing the need for multiple blasts on the kettle.
Try to plug as many of your electronics into a power strip, or extension block, as possible! Turning the power strip off at the plug ensures that no electricity will be consumed, stopping everything that’s connected from sucking up energy while hibernating or on standby.
It might not be a lot, but your computer, toothbrush charger and other appliances will consume at least some energy while they’re on standby mode. Turning them off when they’re not in use can reduce your bills by a surprising amount!
When your laptop or phone is showing it’s ‘100% charged’, that’s the time to unplug. You can’t charge beyond capacity!
While you’re in the process of getting all your electronics plugged into as few places as possible, why not investigate whether any can be replaced? If you’re carrying any form of old, antiquated technology there’s a very good chance you’re missing out on an energy-efficient version that’s available in shops now.
Look into buying a set of radiator reflectors. Sticking them on the wall behind the radiator allows heat to bounce off the wall and back into the room, reducing the amount of work needed to warm the space.
Blocking the radiator with wet or damp clothing stops heat from radiating outwards, lowering the room temperature and causing the boiler to work harder. Try to avoid this, if possible, by using a clothes horse or airer to dry your items indoors!
The same principle applies to furniture as to clothing. Putting anything in the way of your radiator is going to stop that much-needed heat from circulating properly – give those radiators some breathing space!
Air that’s trapped inside your radiator pipes can prevent heat from circulating properly. Ensure maximum efficiency by getting yourself a radiator valve key and putting it to good use regularly.
Enhance your radiator’s heating capability. Buy a radiator booster, which sits on top of the radiator and pushes heat into the room by acting as a small fan. A correctly-fitted radiator shelf acts in a similar way, preventing heat from escaping upwards – especially useful if your radiator is located next to a window.
If you’ve got tile, wood or even laminate flooring, you’ll know they can get really cold in winter. Putting a rug down will help to keep your feet warm when you’re moving around the house as well as providing extra insulation, preventing the need for extra heating.
Replacing your older model with a new, energy-saving condensing boiler can be a great move for saving money! Its big selling point is the huge amount of efficiency gained when exhaust gases, usually lost to the atmosphere, are recycled into heat energy.
A combi boiler also offers significant advantages over older, regular models, by performing the trick without any need to store hot water in a tank.
Reduce cooking times, reduce your bills. Sticking a lid on your pot and pan prevents excess heat from escaping into the void, so you can turn your hob setting down and spend that heat on your delicious food instead.
If you’re using a small pan to boil your water, you only need to use the small ring on your hob or stove. Putting your tiny pot on a giant burner just wastes electricity.
Cooper is a good choice of metal for use in cooking utensils because it conducts heat so easily. With extra heat conduction from the copper pots, pans and utensils, the amount of time required for cooking is reduced.
When you’re cooking in the oven, try to use the window to check on the status of your meal more often than not. Opening and closing the oven door can cause temperatures to drop by up to 25 degrees – keeping it closed means less hard work needed to maintain high temperatures.
You’re already using that oven, why not make the most of the heat that’s there and stick some extra meals on the rack? Making a few meals at once will immediately save your oven from unnecessary, lengthy and wasteful warming up time. If you’re following other tips in this guide, you’ll know that leaving the oven door open after cooking will help to warm up the kitchen and any adjacent rooms.
Dishes made of either glass or ceramic tend to hold heat a lot better than the alternatives. That means, when it’s time for some oven baking, a slightly lower temperature can be used.
Try turning off your oven or stove a little bit earlier than recommended. Usually, the remaining heat that’s stored in your pot, pan or dish is enough to finish the cooking process.
Getting into a habit of cleaning the oven immediately after using it can lead to great savings, because a clean oven takes much less time to warm up.
A real kitchen curiosity, a halogen oven – while unconventional – can offer savings up to 75% in terms of energy usage. Remarkably, it also cooks food up to 50% faster. Use it frequently and the savings could be gigantic!
The softer tones of pale colours on walls and furniture can help to reflect light in the room, so you can achieve the same level of light while using less demanding, low wattage light bulbs
If you’ve got some free-standing lamps that you can’t bear to get rid of – that’s fair enough! Add some light-coloured, pale lampshades and put them in the corner to maximise your light output. By putting them in the corner, light will bounce off multiple walls.
Surprisingly, dishwashers tend to use far less water than washing by hand. Just make sure to keep them on minimal energy eco modes where possible to ensure they use as little water and as low temperatures as possible.
Try to avoid taking separate trips to the dishwasher. Fill it up and turn it on only when there’s no space left. Washing smaller amounts of dishes over several washing cycles is a significant waste of energy.
Many people leave their water on all day, trying to ensure it doesn’t run out. In family houses this practise is fairly understandable, but the benefits are a trade-off for increased energy bills. If you stop feeding your water tank during the periods you aren’t using it, the hot water is not at risk of running out!
Don’t rely on a constantly running tap for the hot water you need. Fill your sink up in advance and you will use significantly less water and energy, saving money in the process.
People always say they want to read more! Easier said than done, maybe, but does it help to know that you’ll be saving money for every minute the TV is switched off? If reading really isn’t your thing, take the opportunity to get out into nature and fill your time with valuable hobbies!
Granted, it’s not likely you’ll give up all visual entertainment for good. So consider adjusting the brightness and contrast levels on your TV and other screens such as your computer’s. Lowering brightness and contrast can reduce the amount of energy you’re using, but be careful to make sure you aren’t straining your eyesight as a consequence. Shop-bought screens often come with fancy and wasteful showroom settings intact – restore to factory settings if you’re unsure!
Old CRT screens and even plasmas can be woefully inefficient compared to modern equivalents. Look into whether an LCD or LED TV model is within your budget – they should deliver substantial returns over their lifespan.
It’s not always easy, but try to avoid being choosy. Keeping the doors to these appliances open means they must work much harder to stay cool. Try to decide ahead of time what you need from inside, and grab as much as you can at once.
Adding warm elements into your fridge or freezer just means it has to work harder to restore its balance of cool air. Let food reach room temperature before storing away.
The principle works in reverse. Don’t chuck totally frozen food into your hot pan – it’s going to take a lot of fire and energy to cook that way.
Few people know that changing the direction of your ceiling fan reverses the flow of heat and cold. To get more heat in winter, the ceiling fan should blow clockwise, distributing warm air downwards. When it rotates counter-clockwise, it should create a cooling wind throughout the room.
Having a professional inspect your heating system once a year can help ensure it’s running at maximum efficiency. This is a good habit to get into in the months just before winter, as the dark and cold season is the worst time for problems or issues with your boiler or heating system to materialise.
Probably one of the fastest ways to reduce your expenditure, if your social circle allows for it. Move in with friends or with your partner – or vice versa – and you could potentially cut your bills by half, a third, or more … even if you and your new housemate(s) do consume a bit more energy overall.
If you find you’re charging your phone on a regular basis, perhaps more often than you’d like, then it’s time to make adjustments. Consider switching down the brightness on your phone, using less sound and minimizing WiFi or Bluetooth usage. Anything that makes the phone live for longer also prevents charging, saving money in the process.
Check for leaks about the house, or hire a professional if necessary. Leaky roofs can mess with the insulation you have – making it less effective – and leaky water pipes are wasteful, too. Therefore it’s imperative to catch the problem areas before worse damage is done.
Over a house’s lifespan, tiny cracks in the seams can begin to emerge. If the house is very old, cracks can develop into significant openings in the attic, basement and elsewhere! Check to see if there are any gaps and, if so, fill them with caulk, spray foam or an equivalent sealant so no heat escapes and no cold gets in.
This one’s self-explanatory and a really easy victory when you’re focused on saving energy and money.
Why not store cold water in your fridge – bottled or in a jug – instead of running the tap multiple times, trying to achieve the perfect cold temperature? Now your cold beverage is there waiting for you every time you return.
As you’ve already learned, there are all kinds of ways you’re using energy while at home. Leaving the house gives you a perfect opportunity to switch off electronics and unnecessary heating – save on your energy bills by spending more time with your loved ones.
American-style fridges are necessary in some houses, especially if you’ve got a large family to feed. However, if you find that your giant appliances aren’t seeing much use, now is as good a time as ever to downsize.
Don’t sink more money into your heating system if you’re finding it hard to stay warm at night. A thicker duvet makes all the difference by more effectively retaining the heat you’ll naturally generate once you’re under the covers.
This should be your first resort when you’re trying to beat the cold. It’s the way of our ancestors, after all, to utilise clothing in order to survive in less pleasant environments. Use warm, woollen clothing more frequently and you’ll find your dependence on central heating system drastically reduced. Decorative throws on top of sofas and seating can also help to provide extra warmth when needed!
Depending on your setup, one of or both your kitchen and bathroom will utilise some kind of exhaust or extractor fan designed to remove hot, damp air and smoke from the rooms. Once the job is visibly complete, turn those fans off, or do it as soon as possible in order to make a saving.
Although they can be very convenient in a cold home, portable heaters also tend to waste a lot of energy. If and where possible, try to make use of regular heaters such as radiators. If necessary, install some electric baseboard heaters to do the job more effectively.
If the intensive hardware and bulk of a desktop computer isn’t strictly needed for your purposes, investigate whether a laptop or tablet device will do the trick. On top of the added convenience, laptops and tablets are more energy-efficient than desktop alternatives.
Many computers arrive with screensaver settings on by default. Adjust your preferences so that the computer goes to sleep or enters standby mode instead of going to screensaver and you will save some energy in the process.
Many appliances in your home could be using more current and energy than strictly necessary. A voltage optimisation device will need to be installed by a professional, and may not compatible with some of your appliances such as ovens, showers, heaters. However, it should combine easily with washing machines, lighting and television and could save between £50 and £135 per year.
The cost of installing solar panels decreases with every year. Although the Government subsidies have somewhat dried up in recent years, a significant investment in solar panelling for your home can pay dividends over an eight year period. The feed-in tariff is a Government scheme rewards individuals for generating renewable and low-carbon energy, and it could net you payments of over £500 per year based on the output of a 3.8kW solar system.
Gutters and drains which become full of debris can contribute to greater damp and cold in your home’s walls. Emptying them of rubbish regularly should prevent greater damage down the line as well as instantly improving your home’s defences against winter weather.
If you have any air vents in the home, check that they aren’t covered or otherwise blocked by curtains, drapes or furniture. If they are, you could be contributing to increased heating costs.
There may be cold and hot water pipes connecting directly to your water heating unit, depending on your setup. In either case, a trivial and cheap trick you can use is insulating these pipes – the first six feet in particular – in order to slash your prices. The benefits will be even greater if you can get a jacket to fit the unit itself!
Surprisingly few people know that there are enormous potential benefits from shopping around. There are numerous comparison sites available that will help you see the relative cost of your energy tariff compared to others. In mere minutes you could have a great bargain tariff to switch to, leading to big savings in future years. Sometimes switching energy supplier can lead to savings of up to and over £450 per year.
Unplug yourself – it’s as simple as that. There are tons of activities to get involved with that require no electricity. Dig out your board games, take up knitting, start making a scrapbook or begin volunteering – solo or as a family unit. Make this your excuse to take up exercising more. Literally every little change you make will help cut expenses.
Another quick win if you’re trying everything possible to cut your energy bills: stop heating the house, jump in the duvet instead, and get a good night’s rest as much as possible during the dark winter months.
The British Fenestration Rating Council, among other professional standards bodies, assign a rating to glazing on windows and doors according to their energy efficiency. Make sure all your glazing is labelled ‘A++’ for efficiency, or as close as possible, and you’ll find your bills will shrink significantly as less heat escapes your property.
If you can’t sink any more money into getting the most energy efficient windows available, then consider this shortcut. Covering windows and glass door panels with clear plastic film has been said to reduce the amount of heat that can escape through them!
Every year people across the world participate in ‘Earth Hour’, an event encouraging individuals and collectives to turn off all non-essential electric items for just one hour. Despite the short timeframe, a stunning amount of energy is saved this way, and with every extra participant the energy savings become even more epic.
Granted, this is not an option for everybody. But for those with a significant other – or snuggle buddies within their friendship group – getting together for a casual cuddle is one of the best ways to generate some all-natural warmth.
Unfortunately, not everybody’s closest companions are inclined towards cuddling. If that’s the case, consider whether getting a pet might be an option. Look at this way: a well-trained pup is unlikely to reject your warming hugs. It will also give you the perfect excuse to get up and out of the house, where you’re adding to your bills just stay comfortable and entertained.
Rather than relying on artificial lighting, why not make the most of the natural light in your home? A strategically-placed mirror next to a window will send light reflecting around the room, brightening the whole atmosphere without a single drop of energy spent.
Thanks for reading. We hope that you’ll feel ready for the winter, sufficiently armed with tips and tricks to keep your energy bills under control while ensuring warmth and comfort in the home. Compare your current tariff to the Flow Energy alternative or get in touch if there’s another way we can help you with your energy bills this winter.