Itâ€™s the time of year when the joys of cold weather are celebrated, by some at least however this time of year can be a worry. A 2016 Energy Saving Trust survey tells tells us home-owners struggle to keep their home as warm as theyâ€™d like.
The default response is normally to reluctantly get additional jumpers and blankets out. But there are straightforward energy-efficiency measures that can help keep your home warm longer term.
Before we get into it you may be entitled to claim additional money from the Government depending on your circumstances. These schemes include Warm Home Discount Scheme, the Cold Weather Payment, and the Winter Fuel Payment. Further information can also be found on the Energy Saving Trust website.
Ok, hereâ€™s some tips you might like to think about for next winter, or perhaps in between cold snaps.
1. Draught proof your home
Energy Saving Trust research has found that 46% of people still need to draught-proof their windows and doors.
Cost: A good DIY draught-proofing job could costs between Â£85 and Â£275 for materials and professional installation for your whole house.
Saving: Draught-proofing windows and doors can make your home a more comfortable place to live and could save you Â£10 to Â£30 a year on heating bills.
2. Insulate your pipes
Insulating your hot water pipes is a quick and easy way to save energy. As well as reducing heat loss from your system, pipe lagging will also prevent pipes from getting too cold in winter, and therefore prevents pipes bursting.
Pipe insulation is an easy DIY install â€“ you can buy foam insulation tubes online or from a DIY store and slip them over your pipes. In a typical 3-bed semi-detached house, materials will cost around Â£20, and you will save around Â£3 â€“ Â£7 a year on your energy bills, as well as reducing the possibility of expensive repair bills from burst pipes.
3. Upgrade heating controls
Smart thermostat image
Room thermostats allow households to set and maintain the temperature at home.A programmer sets the heating to turn on and off at certain
times of the day to suit your lifestyle. Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) let householders control the temperature of each radiator.
Cost: Costs can vary significantly due to the variety of heating systems types and sizes and controls available. We recommended comparing quotes from professional installers.
Saving: Installing and using a full set of heating controls means that you can be warm exactly when and where you want in your home. You could also save around Â£75 to Â£115 a year if you currently donâ€™t have any of these heating controls.
4. Get a new boiler
Modern boilers are more efficient than older models. If your boiler is more than 10 years old it will be far less efficient than a newer model, consider replacing it with a more efficient condensing boiler.
Costs and savings vary depending on your current boilerâ€™s efficiency, fuel type and your house type but fuel bill savings can be significant.
5. Top-up your hot water cylinder insulation
Nearly all UK hot water cylinders have some insulation, however those with a hot water tank jacket under 25mm thick could benefit from top-up insulation.
Cost: A hot water cylinder jacket costs around Â£16.
Saving: Topping up your hot water cylinder insulation from 25mm to a 80mm jacket could save around Â£20 a year.
6. Top-up your loft insulation
The majority of homes have some loft insulation but many donâ€™t have enough. The recommended depth is 270mm.
Cost: Topping up your loft insulation from 120mm to 270mm could cost around Â£240.
Saving: Topping up your loft insulation from 120mm to 270mm will help stop warmth escaping through the roof and could save around Â£12 a year.
7. Insulate your walls
Although wall insulation is a bigger investment, and costs vary, it can keep your home warm and cosy and result in a large saving.
Most homes built after 1919 have cavity walls. If your homeâ€™s cavity walls are uninsulated, adding cavity wall insulation could save up to Â£145 a year off your energy bills (based on a typical semi-detached house).
Most homes built before 1919 have solid walls. Solid wall insulation can save around Â£245 a year off your energy bills (based on a typical semi-detached house).
Making a difference on a budget (Hacks)
Use tin foil
One way to prevent unnecessary heat loss from radiators, particularly on those attached to external walls, is to use heat reflective aluminium foil behind the radiator. This prevents heat disappearing through the wall by reflecting it back into the room. Foil specially designed for the purpose can be bought for under Â£10. You can even use good quality kitchen foil, although itâ€™s generally not as effective.
Thick curtains are one of the main ways to protect your house from losing heat through the windows. Curtains with a thermal lining are a relatively cheap option. The thicker the better. If you donâ€™t want to splash out on new curtains you can line them yourself with materials like cheap fleece. You can even use PVC shower curtains. And itâ€™s not just windows that can have curtains. Placing a curtain in front of doors to the outside adds another layer of protection. And it doesnâ€™t even need to be a curtain. Perhaps an old rug that you can pin up over the back of the front door.
Let the sunlight in during the day. Itâ€™s important to try to use as much natural â€“ and free â€“ heat (in the form of sunlight) as possible. Window shades and curtains should be kept open during the day, advise Age UK. Closing your curtains as soon as dusk falls will maximise your houseâ€™s potential to retain that heat.
Double Glazing Hacks
Double glazing is heat-efficient but itâ€™s relatively costly. If you canâ€™t afford it, why not fake it? Thereâ€™s a special film that you can put across [single-glazed] windows that can imitate the same effect, albeit to a lesser degree. You can attach the film to the window frame using double-sided tape and then fix it using a hairdryer. Thereâ€™s a downside. You wonâ€™t be able to open your windows without breaking the seal. But a pack to cover a medium-sized house would be about Â£15. So it could just be redone from time to time or a short term thing for a really cold spell. Alternatively, self-adhesive foam strips can help seal any gaps in the edges of windows. Metal or plastic strips with brushes or wipers attached cost a bit more but will last longer as a result, according to the Energy Saving Trust. These can also be used as draught excluders around the hinges and frames of doors.
Stop heat being lost up the chimney. Itâ€™s now fairly common to have fireplaces that are merely decorative. If youâ€™re not using yours then you should consider a chimney balloon. Thereâ€™s an amazing amount of heat that can be lost through an open fireplace. A chimney balloon, made from a special laminate, can be bought for about Â£20 and works by being placed inside the chimney hole, just out of sight. Itâ€™s then inflated until it completely shuts out any incoming cold air or escaping heat. Just be sure not to start a fire without removing it.
Watch out for mini-draughts. Lots of draught comes through the letterbox. Itâ€™s worthwhile putting an extra barrier there in the form of a â€œbrushâ€. They may be a nightmare for junk-mailers trying to force through that 15th pizza takeaway offer, but they could prevent a chill breezing through the house. The same goes for keyholes, which can be protected with â€œsimple circular (keyhole covers) that slip over the topâ€ especially with the older, wider keyholes. Cat or dog flaps can also be filled with some sheepâ€™s wool insulation or pieces of blanket. Itâ€™s amazing how even a small draught can make a room a lot colder, so if you can cut that bit of air out it immediately makes a difference.
DIY draught excluders are one lesson people can learn from previous generations. Old-fashioned draught excluders work well. In the past it wasnâ€™t unusual to have a â€˜sausage dogâ€™. For the uninitiated, â€œsausage dogâ€ draught excluders are vaguely reminiscent of the shape of a dachshund and typically rest at the bottom of doors, stopping heat escaping through the gap between door and floor. Anybody whoâ€™s ever been smoking inside a room that they shouldnâ€™t will probably be aware that almost any material or piece of clothing can be used to wedge the space. And simple draught excluders can be made from cutting an old pair of tights and stuffing them with socks. But the more ambitious can go further. If you really want to go all out you can decorate them. The stuffing can be almost anything from rice and lentils to gravel, suggests the website Singerdiscount, which also provides a relatively simple guide.
Clear your radiators.
Try and avoid placing large pieces of furniture in front of them. At least in the short-term, the sofa you love by the radiator is absorbing heat.
Putting a shelf above the radiator, especially if you have high ceilings, can also help channel the warmth. But itâ€™s important not to place things on the radiator itself. You can put a shelf above it to stop the hot air rising directly above it. This is particularly the case if the radiator is below a window with curtains, where warm air would be trapped between the window and the curtain.
Shutting off unused rooms
Shut unused rooms. Keeping doors closed will prevent cold air moving into the rest of the house and contain the heat youâ€™ve generated in a smaller area.
Cover bare floorboards. Floors account for as much as 10% of heat loss if theyâ€™re not insulated, according to the National Energy Foundation (NEF). Carpets came into being for a reason, those with wooden flooring have to deal with heat loss. Rugs and blankets can help mitigate this and have the added bonus of keeping your feet warm. Sometimes itâ€™s just the psychological element. But if there are cracks or gaps in the flooring itâ€™s a good idea to squirt some filler into them, advises the NEF. â€œFloorboards and skirting boards can contract, expand or move slightly with everyday use, so you should use a filler that can tolerate movement,â€ suggests the NEF. These are usually silicon-based.
Insulating your whole house professionally can seem expensive to some. But DIY loft insulation is a possibility. Rolls of foam insulation are cheap, and three rolls of 8in deep foam should be enough to give most lofts an important layer of protection. Mineral wool (such as Rockwool or Rocksil), glass fibre and recycled paper products all work well, according to the NEF. But remember to wear a facemask, goggles and protective clothing if you do it yourself, and leave sufficient gaps around the eaves to avoid condensation, the NEF warns.
Donâ€™t undo your work by having an inefficient loft hatch. Some people might have a lovely insulated loft but the loft hatch might be an old timber one thatâ€™s not insulated. Insulating it can be done with same self-adhesive strips as for window and doors. Itâ€™s also worth checking that none of your roof tiles is loose or missing. If you have loose tiles or a damaged roof then youâ€™re going to get water that can get into your loft and as soon as the insulation gets wet it loses its efficiency. Although the difficulty of checking may be the biggest obstacle, if itâ€™s safe to do so then a single tile or so can be relatively cheap to replace.
Timers for heating
Setting timers on heating is important. â€œItâ€™s a myth that keeping it on all day is better,â€ If itâ€™s very cold, the timer should be set to switch the heating on earlier, rather than turning the thermostat up to warm the house rapidly, according to Age UK.
Well, thatâ€™s it and we hope you find it helpful. The first part of this was from energysavingtrust.org.uk, do check them out. If you think of anymore hacks let us know in the comments or by messageing us @snowwatchGB on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.