Winter is the most testing time of year for any household, in terms of both keeping warm and being able to pay unavoidably higher bills. Lower temperatures inevitably mean greater energy consumption as you're forced to turn up your boiler and increase the amount of time your heating is in use. Too many people now struggle to keep their house warm throughout the winter months but a few changes to your habits and some home improvements can help significantly reduce the cost of your energy bills. Some of these options will require investing money in your home but will help save money by lowering costs in the long term. With that in mind, here are our top 5 winter energy saving tips.
While you're addressing other issues with the temperature of your home, it's worth making an extra effort to keep yourself warm. Nobody should have to to wear extra layers to keep warm in their own home but a thick jumper or a cozy blanket can be the difference between your heating being sufficient or insufficient for your needs, especially if you're the sole resident of your property. Adding a cozy blanket or throw to your bed will keep you warmer in bed and mean that you don't need your heating on throughout the night; be sure to choose a thicker, warmer blanket to prevent cold air, such as wool, cotton fleece or cashmere. At the very least, you should be able to turn your heating down as your bed helps you retain your body heat. Wearing more layers or warmer clothes shouldn't be a substitute for improving the temperature in your home; it isn't reasonable to expect you to wear an Arctic sleeping bag while watching the TV, but dressing appropriately for the season can help take the edge off the cold.
Even if your home is well heated, draughts can quickly undo your heaters' work by introducing cold air. Draughts can come from almost anywhere that there's a hole in your property or an improperly sealed feature. The most common among these are the gaps around doors, windows, attic hatches and any other feature that can be opened to the outside world. Fortunately, there are a number of different solutions that are quick, inexpensive and easy to apply without help. The easiest way of preventing draughts under your doors is by adding a draught excluder, especially on external doors or doors that lead to rooms without heating, such as your garage. Draught excluders are available in two main types: those which attach to the bottom of your door, usually with a similar appearance to a brush, and traditional cushion style excluders that can be placed on the floor next to the door to block draughts. Excluders fitted to your door are undoubtedly more convenient but the cushioned style can become features in their own right, with a huge variety of both stylish and funny looks to choose from. Draught preventing tape can be fitted around older windows to prevent draughts sneaking in, especially useful if there are windows you're not planning on opening throughout the winter.
Potentially costly but always worthwhile, you should consider updating your heating system if it's older than about fifteen years. Modern boilers are considerably more efficient than their older counterparts, consuming significantly less oil or natural gas than older models. There are also alternative energy sources that can help you reduce your bills over time. Electric radiators were long considered one of the more expensive ways to heat your home but have become increasingly efficient. If combined with electricity generating devices such as solar panels or wind turbines on your property, you can greatly reduce the amount you pay on your heating bills. You'll still need a boiler to heat water and these energy producing technologies are quite expensive and require a lot of space. However, increased pressure to move to greener heating methods means you can often receive subsidies to help you install them. You might even be paid for generating excess electricity that can return to the local grid! It's also worth ensuring that your windows and doors are up to date, with at least double glazing to minimize heat loss. Even the best heating system can be severely hampered by single glazed glass. Updating your home is unavoidably costly but any money you spend should be considered an investment in future savings, especially if you plan on staying in your home for many years.
Whatever your type of heating system, it's important to make sure your settings are correct as you prepare for the colder months. Modern digital thermostats will usually allow you to manage the settings of your central heating in great detail, with individual programs for each day of the week. Alternatively, many thermostats will allow you to set the heating to activate if the room temperature drops below a certain temperature, helping you maintain a comfortable level throughout the winter. Modern digital controls often come pre-programmed with settings for summer and winter, optimized for saving energy whatever the time of year. Even if you're still relying on a simple timer and individual valves for your radiators, it's possible to save money by adjusting them properly. Lowering the temperature before bed, where you should be able to tuck in and keep warm with the help of some blankets, will reduce your energy expenditure. Similarly, there's little point in leaving your heating on at a high temperature while you're at work. Setting your timer to activate your heating half an hour or so before you expect to get home should mean it's nice and warm when you come in. You should also consider which rooms in your property are rarely visited; if you have a spare room, for example, it's worth turning off the radiator and placing a draught excluder to prevent the cold from spreading to the rest of the house.
Properly insulating your property is one of the most effective ways of saving energy and one that you should always consider. There are a number of opportunities for adding insulation throughout the home. Almost any hollow space in your home is a potential insulation location, from your loft space to walls and under your floors. Where you'll be able to insulate depends on a number of factors. About a third of heat loss occurs through the external walls of your house, making wall insulation a sensible option. Most modern houses are built with wall insulation, while those built before 1920 probably have solid walls that won't allow for insulation to be easily inserted. Properties built between 1920 and 1990 likely have hollow walls that will allow you to install cavity installation. A quarter of heat loss occurs through the roof of a home and loft insulation is usually the easiest to install, a simple matter of lifting the floorboards and placing insulation sheets. If you have a room in your loft space, insulation will need to be fitted to the roof itself rather than the loft floor and under these circumstances it's usually better to consult a professional rather than attempting the work yourself. Underfloor insulation can be installed throughout your home; this is especially easy in older homes with timber floors, where it's a simple matter of placing insulation beneath your floorboards. Modern concrete floors can also be insulted by placing insulation on top of the concrete and below your floor surface. It's also possible to insulate your pipework; this will ensure minimal heat loss as water travels around your central heating and wherever else it's needed, letting you enjoy the full benefits of your boiler.