Ten things you should do before you switch the heating on this winter!

By James Fritz Friday 13 September 2013

Remember the summer? Remember how hot it was, how happy we all were? No, us neither. After last week’s sudden temperature drop the heatwave feels like a long-forgotten dream. To make matters worse it looks like we’re in for a long, extended winter, prompting households up and down the country to start the inevitable ‘best time to turn the central heating on’ argument several weeks ahead of schedule.

But before you bring your boiler back from its truncated summer holiday, remember this: A longer winter means bigger heating bills, so it’s worth doing everything in your power to up the energy efficiency of your household before you flick the switch. Below are ten simple things you can do to cut your energy bills before you crank the heating into overdrive.

1. Go draught hunting

Draughts are the enemy of the energy saving household. Unwanted gaps leak all your lovely warm air through doors, windows and walls while ushering in an arctic gale from the great outdoors, meaning it’s well worth spending time exploring your house to locate and block up any breezy weak-spots. Full draught-proofing is a relatively inexpensive job that pays for itself before you can say ‘Ooh isn’t this house warm’ - it can save you an average £55 per year in terms of lost heat, and because a draught-free house is more comfortable at lower temperatures, it allows you to turn down your thermostat, potentially saving another £65 a year. For windows, draught-proofing strips can fill the gap between window and frame, while doors are even easier - simple steps like adding a keyhole cover or a letterbox flap can make a huge difference.

2. Get your boiler serviced

Boilers account for around 55% of what we spend per year on energy, so it’s well worth making sure yours is ship-shape and ready for battle before you hit the colder months.  Not only does a full service help your boiler run as efficiently as possible, saving on heating costs, it also future-proofs your system for the winter ahead. There’s nothing quite as stressful as your heating going kaput in the middle of a big freeze, and many full blown boilertastrophes often develop from minor, fixable faults. Getting a service increases the chances that small problems are noticed before major damage is done, potentially saving you thousands of pounds and a hell of a lot of shivering.

3. Get your timing right.

Once you’ve had your trusty boiler serviced, it’s worth taking a moment to set your timer. Heating a house when nobody is at home is like gold-plating a toothbrush: pointless and expensive. Set the timer to come on twenty minutes before you get up and before you get home, keeping the heating switched off when there’s no-one to benefit. You’ll never notice the difference and it can save you buckets over the course of a winter.

4. Insulate your loft

Like gas and electricity prices, heat has a habit of rising. Up and up it goes and where it stops - well, that’s up to you. If you’re living in a house with an uninsulated loft a quarter of your heat is lost through your roof: that’s one in four of your hard earned pounds evaporating into thin air, with you left shivering downstairs wondering why you can still see your breath. Even if you’ve already got minimal insulation, upping from 100mm to the recommended 270mm can dramatically slash your heating bills. It’s a sound investment that also helps do your bit for the environment - if everyone in the UK installed 270mm loft insulation, we could save 2.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, which is equivalent to taking almost 100,000 cars off the road. Like giving your house a money-saving, environmentally-friendly woolly hat.

5. Get The Most Out Of Your Radiators: Install Reflector Panels

Your radiators are the frontline soldiers in the battle to keep your house warm, so it’s wise to make sure you’re getting the most out them. Alongside doing obvious things like making sure they’ve been bled and ensuring that there are no large items of furniture in their way, installing radiator reflector panels can be a great, inexpensive way to maximise their efficiency. These shiny metal panels are installed behind your radiator, stopping heat escaping through external walls and reflecting it back into the room, where it can get on with its job of keeping you snug during Corrie.

5. Install Thermostatic Radiator Valves

Do you really need that spare bedroom that you never go in to be as warm as your living room or kitchen? Heating the whole house to the same temperature is a huge waste of energy. Installing thermostatic radiator valves in each room allows you to control the flow of water to individual radiators dependant on a target temperature, ensuring that you’re not wasting heat where it’s not needed by keeping unoccupied rooms unnecessarily toasty.

7. Draw the curtains.

Simple, but effective. A good thick set of curtains, when drawn, can do wonders when you’re feeling the chill, trapping heat and insulating windows from the cold outside. It might make the room a bit gloomy, but you’ll more than make up for it with your sunny outlook once you see the cost of your heating plummet.

8. Buy a rug

It has long been the trend to have hardwood floors instead of carpet, and far be it from us to argue with the gods of home decor. Problem is, wooden floors can be as leaky as a damaged sieve when it comes to heat. If you don’t want to compromise your taste values and go full-carpet (and why should you?) a classy rug helps stop heat escaping, keeping your toes nice and warm on a frosty morning. And hey, it can really tie the room together.

9. Turn down your room thermostat

Ok. You can’t hold it any longer. You’ve done everything you can to stay warm and to maximise your home’s energy efficiency levels. The time has come to accept the inevitable, to turn on the heating and settle in for a long, expensive winter. But just before you do, do one thing for us: take a long hard look at that dial on your thermostat. Does it really need to be set to 25°C? Be honest with yourself, how hot do you actually need to be? Just because it’s a bit nippy outside doesn’t mean inside needs to be sweatier than a Turkish bathhouse. Be a trooper and set the dial for the minimum you need to stay comfortable - we recommend around 18°C. And if you need any incentive, think on this: every degree lowered saves around £65 per year. Cha-ching.

10. Put a jumper on.

Oh yeah. Should probably have mentioned this one first. It’s an oldie, but a goodie. A light jumper can be worth about 2°Cin added warmth, while a full blown heavy-duty number can give you a whopping 4°C. Remember what we said about degrees on your thermostat being worth £65 a year? Do the maths, save some time and money, and dig out your warmest, Argyle-iest sweater. Christmas reindeer optional, but recommended.

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