It’s officially winter! In the last week or two we’ve had three helpings of snow so far in our local areas, and will see temperatures dropping to a very chilly -3c this week. Although working from home through summer 2020 may have been idyllic for some, working all day from home through the winter could certainly see a sharp rise in utility bills for many families. Before Covid-19, most families spent an average of six hours or longer out of the house for work or education purposes Mondays to Fridays. Tot the figures up and that’s a possible 30 hours or more per week of the heating being on per household this winter!
So, if you’re spending more time at home this winter and you’re worried about the energy bills you may be facing over the upcoming colder months, keep reading to find out some effective ways to help keep the heat in your home for longer and generally reduce your utility bills.
Install Smart Heating and a Smart Meter
Smart Heating Systems allow you to have more control over your heating, be more energy efficient while keeping the house warm and make it easier to save money. Smart heating thermostats are made up of two components: a smart module that’s wired to your boiler and connects to your home wi-fi network, and a thermostat that must either be screwed to the wall or freestanding in a room in your home. The thermostat communicates the change in temperature to the smart module, which alters the heating as required. You can also use a smartphone app to change the temperature – ideal if you’re going to be out the house for longer than expected or going on holiday (post-lockdown 3 of course!).
In addition, a smart meter measures how much electricity and gas you’re using, as well as what it’s costing you. If you check it regularly, it may help you to reconsider whether you really need to turn the heating back on or re-boil the kettle you forgot you boiled half an hour earlier!
Insulate Walls and Loft
Insulating your loft and cavity walls can typically save the average home £315 a year. It can be expensive to have your house professionally insulated, but simply insulating your loft yourself with rolls of glass fibre insulation is a cheap and effective compromise. Invest in rolls 270mm deep, which will provide a decent layer of protection. Foam, mineral wool and recycled paper can also work well, remembering to leave sufficient gaps around the eaves to avoid condensation. Always wear protective clothing including a face mask, goggles and gloves.
Cavity wall insulation is not so simple and will require a professional hand. In general, houses built from the 1990s onwards will have wall insulation to keep the heat in, but if your house is older than that, it may not have any wall insulation at all. Many cavity walls can be insulated by injecting insulation material into the cavity from the outside. A specialist will drill holes in the outside walls, inject foam, mineral wool or polystyrene beads through the holes and then seal them with cement. With a third of heat being lost through the property’s walls, cavity insulation can see a typical semi-detached house save around £400 per year on energy!
Compare Energy Suppliers
Just like car insurance, it pays to also compare energy suppliers each year. If you haven’t switched your tariff or supplier recently, there’s a good chance you could save a lot of money. Once your contract or tariff expires with an energy supplier you’ll be automatically placed on out-of-contract rates, also called standard or default tariffs, which can cost you hundreds of pounds more per year than price capping the cheapest deal available. Most fixed tariffs last a year, so to avoid overpaying, switch once a year to a cheaper deal or provider, timing the switch to coincide with your contract ending. If there are several months left on your contract, but you still think you could save money by switching, it may be worth looking into your supplier’s exit fees. Sometimes the hassle and the cost doesn’t make swapping mid-contract worthwhile, but it won’t cost you anything to find out.
Replace Light Bulbs
Did you know an LED light bulb costs around £1.70 a year to run? Over its lifetime, that could cut £180 from your energy bills compared to an old-style halogen bulb. Although the first generation of energy-saving lightbulbs didn’t provide the strongest source of light – remember waiting for them to ‘warm up’? LED bulbs provide instant light with various bulbs providing brightness and colour options from ‘cool white’ to ‘warm white’. LED’s are now ideal for main lighting, table/floor lamps, ambient lighting and spotlights.
Draught-Proof your Property
Draught-proofing your house by stopping heat from escaping through gaps around windows and doors could help you save money according to the Energy Saving Trust. Draught-proof strips bought online or from a local DIY store can be easily fitted around windows and doors, with brush or hinged flap draught excluders on the bottom of doors. Inflatable pillows can block draughts coming down your chimney and draught-proof foam strips around your loft hatch can also be very effective options to help reduce or eliminate cold air coming in and warm air escaping.
Choose Energy Efficient Appliances
Household appliances such as televisions, fridge freezers, ovens, dishwashers and washing machines are responsible for a high proportion of your household’s overall energy consumption. While upgrading appliances such as these can be costly, you’ll cut down household energy considerably if you’re able to replace older models. When purchasing new models, look for an Energy Efficiency Rating of A+++ for top efficiency.
Turn Off your Appliances
Always unplug or switch appliances off at the wall if you can. Including cables and chargers. Keeping appliances on standby mode uses unnecessary energy, with an estimated 5-10% of household energy bills stemming from this wasted use of electricity.
Replace your Boiler
If your home is currently being heated by an old boiler, replacing it with a new A-rated condensing model (which are very efficient by capturing wasted heat released from the flue and using it to heat water returning from your central heating system), could shave a cool £315 off your energy bill per year living in detached property. Installing heating controls at the same time will help to save even more money. However, the outlay cost for a new boiler can be expensive, especially when you include installation, so if saving money is your priority it is probably better to hold off on replacing your current boiler until absolutely necessary.
You can take simple measures to bring your water bills down by choosing showers over a baths, only running a washing machine or dishwasher for full loads, using the water saving button on your toilet, fixing any leaks or drips and by erecting a waterbutt in the garden to water plants.
Invest in Solar Panels
Although the initial cost of solar panels can be expensive (the average 4kW solar panel system costs between £6,000-£8,000), if you’re planning to stay in your property for a while, they can generate enough electricity to save approximately £270 per year on electricity bills. Plus, variables like solar panel grants, such as the Smart Export Guarantee, can further increase your savings and help you break even on the installation cost even faster. Cash saving benefits aside, any solar panels are worth it for protecting the environment and reducing your carbon footprint.