As the days are getting colder, we’ve put together a quick guide to help households save money while keeping warm.
This guide is intended to give you a quick overview of opportunities to reduce your energy bills. There are many helpful sources available, for example the Energy Savings Trust website. Feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.
Switch Energy Provider
First, make sure you’re not paying more than you need to…
Ofgem have estimated around 60% of households could save ~£300 from changing providers. If you haven’t changed your energy provider recently, use a price comparison website to see how much you could save. You’ll need to enter your postcode and you’re your latest energy bill to hand. If you don’t have your latest bill, websites can still identify cheaper available tariffs and estimate your annual savings.
There are a number of Ofgem accredited websites, so you can be sure you’re using impartial and regulated service. These include uSwitch, Money Supermarket, The Energy Shop, Runpath, Simply Switch, My Utility Genius, Switch Gas and Electric, Energylinx, Unravel It, Energy Helpline, Quotezone.
You can switch providers quickly online – just fill in your details as requested. If you change your mind, there’s a two-week cooling off period when you can cancel the switch for no cost at all. On the day of the switch, you should notice no difference whatsoever! There is no need for new wires or pipes – you’ll just be getting a (lower) bill from a new provider.
Things to bear in mind…
Prepayment tariff are some of the most expensive on the market so if you’re on a prepayment rate, potential savings could be high. However, changing to a regular tariff will require a change of meters, and some energy companies may charge for this service.
There are often cheaper tariffs available for direct debit payment and electronic billing (receiving your bill by email, not post).
If you can afford to, consider a 100% renewable electricity tariff – they may be only slightly more expensive than a regular tariff, and many price comparison websites will highlight which tariffs provide 100% renewable electricity.
Improve the energy efficiency of your home
Quick, do-it-yourself ways to make your home warmer for less
If you can see gaps around your external doors, or can feel a draught coming in through gaps on the top, bottom or sides, draught proofing (or weather stripping) will help to keep you warmer. You could get professional help for this, but it’s quite easy to do yourself. Most hardware stores (or Amazon etc.) sell self-adhesive draught proofing tape for less than £10, which you can stick around your door frame to keep the draught out.
A government report has estimated one in three homes could benefit from draught proofing, and Ovo Energy has estimated it could save you £55 a year.
To keep the cold from coming in through the windows, pull the curtains closed after dark. The thicker the curtain, the better it will keep the cold out. You can also buy ‘thermal curtains’ which are designed with thermal insulation in mind.
Hot Water Tank
If your hot water tank feels hot or warm to touch, then heat is being lost through surfaces. If your hot water tank is uninsulated, you could save £85 a year with just £15 worth of insulation. If it currently has thin insulation (around 25mm), then additional ‘top up’ insulation to 85mm can be installed, providing additional energy savings.
Surrounding hot water pipes can also be insulated easily – just check the diameter of your pipes, and you can find ready-made pipe insulation from your DIY store.
While you’re checking the insulation on your hot water tank, check the temperature set point too. The temperature should be around 60C to ensure that harmful bacteria are killed. If the set point temperature is currently higher, then reducing the temperature setpoint will save you money, and reduce the risk of scalding from hot water.
If you are currently using incandescent or halogen light bulbs, you could save £35 a year by switching them to LED bulbs. LEDs last longer and consume around 80% less electricity than traditional lightbulbs, while providing the same light output.
While many people used to complain about the ‘unnatural’ or ‘harsh’ lights provided by LEDs, developments in LED technology have come a long way, and they now provide light that’s very similar to traditional incandescent bulbs. Some even come in a range of brightness, colours, or with dimming functionality.
Replacing all the light bulbs in your house may be costly, so consider starting with the most frequently used lights to maximise the potential savings. CFL (compact fluorescent bulbs) are more efficient than incandescent/halogen bulbs, so start by replacing incandescent bulbs rather than CFLs.
Thermostats and Heating Controls
There’s no need to keep the heating on when you’re not at home, so be sure to program your heating system to switch on only when it’s needed. Turning the heating on 30-60 minutes before you wake up or arrive home should be sufficient to heat up the home in time.
Turn off the radiators in rooms that aren’t being used. If you’re switching off the heating in some rooms, be sure to shut the door, and make sure the doors are well-insulated to avoid draughts creeping in! Even old towels can help to block any air gaps at the bottom of the doors.
Adjust the radiator valves to provide the temperature you want for each room – for example, a warmer living room but a cooler bedroom.
If you can’t control the radiators individually, consider fitting a radiator valve or TRVs to each radiators
For any radiator on an external wall (i.e., the other side of the wall is outside), adding a radiator reflector panel to the back will make sure the heat in reflected back into your house, and not lost to the outside. The benefit will be most noticeable if your walls are poor insulators (for example, solid walls). You can buy reflector panels for around £10 in DIY stores or online. Making your own panels (with some kitchen foil and cardboard) is an option, but some experts warn that the foil oxidises quickly, reducing the shininess and effectiveness of the panels.
Avoid blocking radiators with large pieces of furniture (e.g., sofas or curtains). Radiators work best when they can radiate the heat into the room, and allow hot air to circulate throughout the room. If there’s a large object blocking the radiator, the room won’t be heated evenly and effectively.
Longer Term Energy Efficiency Measures
If your boiler is quite old (particularly if it’s not a condensing boiler) you could significantly improve the efficiency of your heating system by upgrading to a new boiler.
If you currently have single-glazed windows with poor fitting frames, consider replacing them with double- or even triple-glazed windows. These will provide greater insulation and also keep the noise out!
Heat rises, so heat loss through the roof can account for 25% of heat loss from a building. Insulating the loft with mineral wool typically costs around £300-400 with professional installation, which saves around £100-200/year. If you already have thin roof insulation (around 120mm), then additional ‘top up’ insulation can also be installed up to 270mm.
Install a smart thermostat: ‘Smart’ thermostats will learn your daily routines and habits, then adjust your heating programme to match your preferences. Many smart systems can be controlled by a smart phone – which means you can turn off the heating if you’re expecting to be home late, or similarly turn the heating on if you’re expecting to be home earlier.
The government has a number of schemes to support energy efficiency measures, and to provide financial assistance to keep homes warm during the winter.
If you live in social housing or receive certain benefits (for example, Pension Credit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit) you may qualify for one or more of the following:
Affordable Warmth Obligation: financial assistance for insulation or boiler repairs and replacement.
Warm home discount scheme: a one-off discount applied to your electricity bill
Cold Weather Payment: a payment of £25 for every seven days of temperature below 0 degrees C in your local area.
Winter fuel payment: an annual payment of between £100 and £300 to help with the cost of heating in the winter