With heavy snow blanketing most of the country, there is no doubt that the first really cold snap of winter is finally here.
But the cold weather is terrible news for households that cannot afford to heat their homes the way they’d like.
Just one in five (18 per cent) of us are putting central heating on as much as we need to, according to research by survey firm YouGov last week. Even worse, 15 per cent of people cannot afford to heat their properties at all.
There are a few ways to save money on energy bills and heat your home for less – but separating fact from fiction can be tricky.
Staying warm: As the cold weather bites, many are worried about the cost of their heating but there are ways to save money on it
There are plenty of ‘energy-saving tips’ that won’t save you anything at all, and could just end up costing you money and time.
Fortunately This is Money has done the legwork and uncovered what works – and what doesn’t.
Money-saving energy tips that work
Some of the best energy-saving advice might sound like something your grandparents would have said, like blocking out draughts where possible.
But that’s because that advice has stood the test of time – and the test of generations living in colder, draughtier properties than we do today.
Draught-proof gaps around windows, doors and floorboards by fitting foam strips, plastic seals or brushes.
Seal gaps between floors and skirting boards with a simple sealant bought from any DIY store for a few pounds. This small outlay could save you £30 a year in energy bill savings and make your house feel much warmer.
Ben Gallizzi, energy expert at Uswitch.com, said: ‘As temperatures plummet, many households will be looking to save money around the home quickly and easily.
‘Draught-proofing is a quick and cost-effective way to keep your home warm while saving money on your bills.
‘Seals between the door and the frame will help prevent heat escaping, and you should also block any gaps around your windows and your loft hatch. Draught excluders placed at the bottom of the door of any room you are in can also keep the chill out.’
Reduce the flow rate on your boiler
A simple tweak to your combination boiler settings could save you more than £100 a year.
Boilers have a flow temperature – the level they heat radiators to. These work more efficiently if the temperature is set to 60C.
However, boiler flow temperatures are often set much higher than that, according to research from charity Nesta.
Lowering the flow rate on your boiler from 80C to 60C saves nine per cent of total gas use, or £112 for an average home.
Settings tend to vary from boiler to boiler so it’s worth digging out the manual to find out how to reset yours.
You should also make sure your boiler is regularly serviced and consider boiler insurance, with just one fifth of home insurance policies covering boilers.
Fit special thermostatic radiator valves
Your radiators may have little numbered dials attached – use them. These are called thermostatic radiator valves and they set the heat each radiator gives out.
Setting them to the level you need them can save you energy, and therefore money, as you can control which rooms are being heated and by how much.
The cost saving depends on how you use these valves – but some energy firms claim these can cut energy use by up to 40 per cent. It’s worth noting that modern thermostatic valves are a substantial improvement on older ones – and if you get them fitted, learn how to use them properly.
Only use appliances when they’re full
Gallizzi said: ‘Big household appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers are some of the biggest energy guzzlers.
‘To make sure you are using them efficiently, only run them when they are full to cut down the number of washes. It is also recommended that you wash your clothes at 30C.’
Insulate your property
If you can afford to, upgrading or installing insulation can really help save money. However, this does come with an upfront cost – which might cancel out any cost savings for a while.
Gallizzi said: ‘Improving your home’s insulation is a bigger and longer-term job that can save you money on your bills.
‘Home insulation has improved drastically over the years, but millions of British homes do not meet today’s standards.
‘If you are considering going down this route, it’s worth talking to an expert to see how your home’s energy efficiency can be improved.’
> Ask an Expert: Is it cheaper to use an electric heater to warm the room I am working in, or put the central heating on?
Paint it black: Rumours that painting a radiator black can make it much more efficient are overblown – although it can make a marginal saving
Money-saving energy myths to be wary of
Leaving the heating on low all day saves money
There is an urban myth that leaving the central heating on a lower temperature all day works out cheaper than blasting it at higher levels for shorter periods.
However, experts at the Energy Saving Trust say this is untrue, and it is more effective to use shorter bursts of heat.
Putting foil behind radiators saves energy
This is a really old tip – and there is a small grain of truth to it. The idea is that putting reflective foil behind a radiator bounces heat back into the room, rather than it disappearing through a wall.
That does work in theory. But if you use standard kitchen tin foil, this will oxidise over time – making it almost useless at saving any heat.
Buying professional radiator reflective foil is more effective. This costs around £8 for a four-metre roll at stores like B&Q and Screwfix.
Painting radiators black helps save money
The rising cost of energy has led to this ‘tip’ being shared widely on social media. The theory is that black items retain heat better, so painting radiators this colour makes them more effective.
However, this is unlikely to do much. If you painted your radiator matte black it would be about 1 per cent more effective than a white one.
So no need to repaint your radiators unless you really like the look.
It is cheaper to use energy at night
This can be true – but it all depends on the type of tariff you have.
If you are on an Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariff it will be cheaper since you’ll pay less for your energy at night.
But for most people on standard eenergy tariffs, such as widespread energy price cap tariffs, running appliances at night doesn’t make any difference to the cost or the amount of energy used.
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