WITH temperatures set to tumble, the squeeze on energy bills is about to get very real.
After months of warnings about massive heating bills, the big switch-on has finally arrived.
Katey Bell, an energy adviser at the Centre For Sustainable Energy (CSE), says: “It can feel a bit hopeless, but there really are things you can do around your home to make changes to your energy bills, and now is the time to do it.”
Mel Hunter takes you through our winter energy bill challenge to help you save more than £1,000 in a few easy steps.
BE A DRAUGHT DETECTIVE
YOU could be wasting £100 a year by letting heat escape through gaps inside your house, the CSE estimates.
To find draughts, see if there’s any light visible under all your doors and around windows.
Listen out for rattling or whistling during high winds and see if the curtains ripple.
Spiders’ webs can also be a giveaway as they like to position themselves where the air flows in the hope of catching a meal.
Tackle the gaps around windows and doors with draught-proof tape and strips, which costs from £4.79 for 6m at B&Q.
Tape clingfilm to the insides of your window frames for an extra layer of insulation, or use window insulation film, which is less than £10 on Amazon.
Block gaps at the bottom of doorways with a draught excluder.
“A pair of old tights filled with socks works as a makeshift excluder,” says Richard Neudegg of Uswitch.
You can buy covers for keyholes and letterboxes very cheaply. Lay down rugs to cover gaps in floorboards.
HEAT THE ROOM YOU’RE IN
PRIORITISE heating the room you’re going to spend the most time in.
The smaller it is, the cheaper it will be to keep warm.
Move the furniture away from the external walls where it will be colder.
Close the doors to stop the heat escaping.
“First of all, turn your thermostat down,” says Katey.
For every degree you go down you could save as much as £160.
“Turn down your radiators too. Set them at number one or two in rooms you aren’t using, and three for the room you’re in.”
Also, changing the flow temperature on your boiler to around 60C could reduce your gas use, saving the average household £100 a year, according to the Heating & Hotwater Industry Council.
CHECK OFF-PEAK SAVINGS
IF you use electricity rather than gas for heating, there are other ways to save.
The most cost-effective method of using storage heaters is with a tariff that offers cheaper off-peak electricity such as Economy 7.
Katey estimates that people could save £240 a year by making the most of off-peak rates.
Insulating pipes could save £18 a year, according to environmental scientist Angela Terry of onehome.org.uk.
You’ll pay around £10 for five metres of insulating foam.
RAMP UP YOUR RADIATORS
CSE says sticking reflective panels behind radiators on external walls could save you £40.
You can buy them for around £7.99 for four metres from Screwfix but tin foil taped at each corner does a similar job.
Leave a gap of six inches or more between furniture and radiators.
And don’t dry clothes on them.
This will block heat and increase humidity, causing the damp and mould that make a house feel colder.
HEAT YOURSELF, NOT YOUR HOUSE
PLUG in heated throws and blankets instead of turning up the heating.
Katey says: “They will soon pay for themselves.”
If you’re using a heated throw costing a maximum of 4p an hour, it will add up to 24p a day if you use it for six hours.
That’s compared with Octopus Energy’s estimate of £4.70 to heat the whole of an average home.
According to its customers who used an electric blanket in the winter months last year, it knocked nearly 20 per cent off their energy bills, saving them £300 a year.
‘My bills are giving me headaches’
Her dual-fuel bill went up from £48 to £75 when her fixed deal ended earlier this year, while her tracker mortgage is now costing her an extra £100 a month.
She says: “Both of them together are causing me a headache.
“I’m not yet in real hardship, but it is a worry. I’m having to keep an eye on my spending and cut back on other things.”
Last month an Energy Helper from Octopus visited Amy’s house.
She is putting the measures he suggested in place, including reducing the flow temperature of her boiler, putting reflective sheets behind her radiators and she’s stopped drying her clothes on them.
She has started closing the curtains at night to keep heat in, even in the rooms she doesn’t use very much.
She is also turning down the radiator thermostats in those rooms so she can concentrate on heating her bedroom and living room, where she spends the most time.
Amy, 32, has signed up with Octopus Energy’s Saving Sessions scheme, where she can save money if she avoids using energy at peak times.
She adds: “Anything I can do to keep my costs in check can only be a good thing.”
‘We dare not put heating on as we can’t afford it’
THE Coltro family are facing a tough winter in their poorly insulated chalet bungalow.
After taking part in a Winter Workout challenge with their energy supplier, Octopus, they are doing everything they can to keep their bills down at the property near Sleaford, Lincs.
Factory workers Michele Coltro, 59, and husband Max, 57, live with children Shannon, 19, and Nyle, 14, in their rented home.
Michele says: “I wanted to know what I could do to make things more comfortable for us, especially for the children. We have thin walls and large windows.
“Our house is boiling in summer and freezing in winter. We dare not put the heating on because we just can’t afford it.”
Following advice from the experts, the Coltros turned down the flow temperature on their boiler and put reflective foil behind the radiators.
Michele also bought a second-hand fridge freezer so that she could batch cook and freeze the extra portions to beat rising food prices.
She’s also diligent about checking their energy smart meter.
She said: “I log a reading every day on my calendar. If it is more than usual, I find out why.”
They have moved the children’s beds away from the house’s cold outer walls, and used a £140 voucher from Octopus to buy thermal linings for their curtains.
Unable to install insulation as tenants, they have lined some of the coldest walls with flat-pack boxes. They have also moved more furniture to make their radiators more efficient.
But for now the heating is staying off.
Instead, the family covers up in blankets, using free electric throws from Octopus when watching TV in the evening.
In June, worried about rising energy prices, they took out a fixed tariff and now pay £237 a month.
It’s not cheap, but Michele says they are better able to budget knowing that their costs won’t rise further.
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