Tempted to turn up the thermostat in biting cold weather? Then think again… there are other ways to keep warm that could slash your heating bills and save you hundreds of pounds
Many of us started the year off with a big freeze, as plunging temperature left most of the UK covered in snow and ice.
At the same time, energy bills have soared, and all of the Big Six energy firms, along with a number of smaller providers, have raised prices leading to higher energy bills for households across the country.
The average dual-fuel bill for a household with a Big Six energy provider now costs £1,137 – a rise of 7.95% even since the start of December, according to energy comparison site uSwitch.
Switching energy companies is the number one way to save money on your bills. If you have not done it for a while, it can cut yours by £287 a year on average.
However, it is not the only way to reduce your bills. Here are other money-saving tips.
1 Fit foil behind your radiator
(Saving: £40 a year)
The theory is if you put tin foil on the wall behind your radiator, heat is reflected back into your room instead of being lost through the walls. This way, you keep more of the heat in your home and you are not wasting money on lost energy.
Unfortunately, you can’t use bog-standard tin foil for this one: you’ll need to buy specially designed thickened sheets.
One company offering them is Radflek. It says, on average, its sheets (with packs starting from £21.99 for between three and six radiators) can reduce the energy lost through walls by 45%, or £40 a year from your annual bill. So you will soon recoup your initial outlay.
2 Banish ‘energy vampires’
(Saving: £30 a year)
Energy vampires are devices that burn through energy even when they are not in use and in standby mode. Turning off these devices could knock around £30 off your annual energy bill, according to the Energy Saving Trust. For example, rechargeable devices, such as smartphones, continue to use power even after a phone is fully charged.
Desktop computers are one of the biggest suckers as they use the same amount of energy when they are in screensaver or sleep mode and can waste £62 a year, according to energy provider, Eon.
To avoid burning energy on these devices, switch them off at the plug when not in use.
“My energy bill was slashed by £104 a year when I ditched my old boiler”
Philip Dyte, 30, who lives in a one-bedroom flat in London, says his bills went down by £100 when he upgraded to an energy-efficient boiler.
“I had upgraded as part of general refurbishment and I thought there might be an improvement in cost, but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so pronounced,” he said.
Although he’s not sure, he thinks the older boiler was decades old, and the replacement cost him £1,000 including installation.
“My mum always taught me to switch off lights and electronics I wasn’t using,” he adds.
3 Grab an extra jumper and socks
(Saving: £75 a year)
Warming yourself with extra jumpers or a pair of thick socks, plus adding extra blankets, a hot water bottle and a winter duvet at night, will mean you won’t have to turn the heating on as high to stay warm.
While putting on an extra layer to stay warm probably isn't much of a revelation, how much you could save by doing so might be.
Of course you will want to make sure your home is warm, even turning your thermostat down by one degree can cut your annual energy bills by £75 on average, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
4 Try a self- heating rug
(Saving: £75 to £150 a year)
Instead of taking apart your floor and installing underfloor heating, you could buy a self-heating rug.
RugBuddy, for example, fits under a household rug and acts rather like an electric blanket.
It plugs into a socket and costs between 1p to 5p an hour to run, depending on the size. Be Warmer has a range of sizes and wattages, starting from £97 for an 80-watt 50cm x 100cm rug). It says customers report turning down their thermostat by one or two degrees when they have it on.
5 Turn lights off when not in use
(Saving: £15 to £50 a year)
Leaving a light on doesn’t add much to bill, but over a year it can start to mount up. Switching off lights when you don’t need them will knock £15 off your annual energy bill, while switching to energy-efficient bulbs can reduce bills by an extra £35, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
“To save energy, I use an app to control my heating and lighting”
Matthew Hill, 26, from Kent, can control the temperature of his heating and schedule when it goes on and off when he’s on the go.
“Using a lot of electricity can cause bills to rocket but by scheduling the lights, I can make sure even if I’ve forgotten to turn off a light, I know by 11pm it will go off automatically,” he says.
Matthew says his first priority is always finding a great green energy supplier, not just money-saving, as he has two electric cars at home. He is an Ovo customer, as it has an electrical vehicle tariff which lets him charge both cars for free using nationwide charging points. Since switching, he has seen his bills go down by £10 a month.
“I have made it a priority to make my home smart, both for saving energy and because I’m lazy, with Hive thermostats, smart plugs and energy-efficient light bulbs,” he adds.
6 Wash your clothes on a cooler setting
(Saving: £13 a year)
When you wash your clothes, around 90% of the energy used by your washing machine comes from heating the water, according to Ben Gallizzi, energy expert at comparison and switching site uSwitch.
By turning down the temperature from 40 to 30 degrees. you could cut £13 off your annual bills and you will still get your clothes clean. Most washing detergents work at a lower temperature, and you’ll only need a hotter wash if your clothes are very dirty.
7 Swap one bath a week for a shower
(Saving: £45 a year)
Households in the UK use an average of 330 litres of water every day and 15% of an average home’s heating bill comes from heating the water needed for showers, baths and hot taps.
If a family of four replaces one bath a week with a five-minute shower, it could reduce an annual gas bill by £20 and a water bill, if there is a water meter, by £25, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
8 Change the way you cook
(Saving: £36 a year)
A few simple changes in the kitchen can cut an average of £36 off your annual bills, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
These include only boiling the kettle with the water you need, heating water in a kettle before transferring it to a pot if you are heating water on your hob, and always covering pots and pans with lids.
Turning off the oven for the last few minutes while your food is cooking can also save money. If you keep the door closed, it will continue to cook but will save on costs.
“Using a smart meter has cut our electricity bill by £20 a month”
Elspeth Kerr (pictured above), 46, from Glasgow, used to struggle accessing and topping up her pre-payment energy meter, so she decided to have a free smart meter installed.
“Before, I would have to get down on my hands and knees to read or to top up the meter – this was particularly difficult as I suffer from a frozen shoulder, and our electricity meter is buried in a cupboard under mountains of things,” she says.
“Now I can easily see how much energy we’re using in pounds and pence. I can also top up the credit online, so we never have to access the actual meters anymore,” she adds.
The smart meter alerts Elspeth when the meter is close to running out of credit, and she says it has saved her household £20 a month by being more aware of the electricity they are using.
9 Cut water and heating bills with a washing-up bowl
(Saving: £55 a year)
Using a washing-up bowl to wash plates or cutlery twice a day rather than having the hot tap running could save around £25 a year on your gas bill and about £30 on your water bill (if you have a water meter).
If you need to rinse utensils or wash vegetables, use cold water and don’t leave the tap running.
10 Keep warm with a DIY draught excluder
(Saving: £20 a year)
If cold air can get in around doors and windows, then warm air, which you’re paying for, can also escape. By draught-proofing your home, you can save around £20 a year and it is easy to make your own excluder.
Measure the width of the door and cut out two pieces of fabric that are a little larger. These can be sewed together and then filled with foam or filler. Alternatively, you could recycle some old clothes and use the leg of a pair of trousers or even a pair of tights.
Electric car charging
It isn't necessary to fast charge a car at home. Most people with electric cars will be more than happy with the standard 7 KwH charger which charges a Nissan Leaf in around 6 hours. Most domestic electrical systems would not be able to cope with fast charging without substantial rewiring anyway. In addition it is easy to schedule electric car charging to take advantage of lower rates / demand at night. Also having solar panels will help to charge during the day. The overall cost of having an electric car, bearing in mind much lower running costs, is not that different from an ICE vehicle and will get better as electric cars come down in price.