As the days get shorter and colder, your home energy use will start to creep higher. Now the clocks have gone back but before winter descends, take the time to ensure your home is as energy efficient as possible. Not only will it save you money and reduce your impact on the environment, but you’ll create a cosier bolthole to escape the worst of the weather.
Here are some simple, but effective measures to start with.
Be smart with your lighting
Darker days mean higher lighting costs - lighting accounts for around 15% of a typical household's energy bills, so there are some big savings to be made, with LEDs up to 10 times more efficient than a conventional or halogen bulb. Now's a good time to look at replacing your inefficient lighting with super-efficient LEDs so you can enjoy the savings all winter long. We'll be writing a piece about LEDs very soon, but in the meantime, visit the consumer experts at Which? for some excellent advice on LEDs.
Check the boiler
If you have an old boiler, you may approach the cold months with a lingering fear that it will give up the ghost at any moment. So be sure to plan ahead and have your boiler serviced by a qualified engineer.
Or you might consider an upgrade. If you live in a detached house and have an old G rated gas boiler, you could save £315 a year by upgrading to a new A-rated condensing boiler with a programmer, room thermostat and thermostatic radiator controls. You’ll need to spend around £2,300 initially, so it’s a long-term investment.
You may have never given your hot water pipes much thought. But it’s important - and easy - to keep them insulated to reduce heat loss. You just need to buy some foam lagging to wrap around pipes, which you can easily fit yourself.
Depending on the size of your house, you’ll probably only need to spend £20 or so on lagging, which you’ll soon make back as you could save as much as £7 a year on your energy bills. Lagging also reduces the chances of pipes getting too cold and bursting.
Draught-proof your house
You want to keep hold of that precious warmth in your home and block its escape. That means draught-proofing windows, doors, floorboards, loft hatches and any other gaps. The exceptions are rooms like bathrooms that need ventilation.
If you’re a bit behind on your draught-proofing, then you’re not alone. Energy Saving Trust research has found that 46% of people still need to draught-proof their windows and doors.
You’re likely to need to spend between £85 and £275 for materials and professional installation, but it’s worth the effort as it could save you £10 to £30 a year on heating bills. You’ll also create a cosier, more comfortable home.
Alternatively, if you’ve got most parts of your house draught-proofed, consider any gaps you might have missed. How about fitting keyhole or letterbox covers?
Lovely as it is to sit in front of an open fire, they’re not very energy efficient, as most of the heat just goes straight up the chimney.
If you’re after a more energy efficient home that has less of an impact on the environment, then stick to the central heating.
And if that leaves you with an open fireplace that you’re not using, then consider insulating it to prevent too much cold air coming into your home. It varies by home, but the University of Liverpool has calculated that around 4% of household heat can be lost up the chimney.
This one is more about forming good habits than making large changes to your home.
Simply open your curtains when the sun is shining - yes, even in winter - to allow in as much warming sunlight as possible. Then close them in the evening. It will help if you keep your windows sparkly clean.
Your radiators need a bit of annual TLC. Bleed them to ensure that hot water can circulate effectively. You’ll know a radiator needs bleeding if it feels hot at the bottom but cold at the top, takes a long time to warm up or if it’s making gurgling noises.
Also, pull any sofas away from radiators as otherwise your sofa will absorb the heat rather than letting it circulate properly.
Control your heat
As it gets colder, you’ll want the heating on more often. But don’t just whack the thermostat up into the mid-20s. Instead, aim for between 18 and 21 degrees.
If you turn your central heating thermostat down by just 1 degree, you’ll cut your home carbon dioxide emissions by 320kg each year and make an annual financial saving of £80.
To better manage the temperature of your home, and control it remotely using your smartphone, consider buying a smart thermostat.
Reduce your phantom load
With all the other demands on your home energy in the colder months of the year, you certainly don’t want to waste energy on things you’re not using.
So, tackle your ‘Phantom Load’, the energy used by devices and appliances that are always on. While appliances like fridges and freezers must stay on all the time, other appliances and devices drain power because they are left on standby. So have a quick dash around turning things off at the plug - you'll be amazed at home much you could save.
Switch energy suppliers
One of the best ways to save money on your home energy use is simply to switch suppliers - get in there before the energy-intensive winter months set in. You could save up to £300 and it really isn’t as much hard work or hassle as you might think...especially if you let us help!