Personal Finance

Affordable ways to keep your home warm this winter

As temperatures drop and energy costs rise, many people are looking for new ways to stay warm at home without breaking the bank. 

Typical household energy bills have reached around £2,500 a year, and UK households face paying an additional £500 after the government’s energy price guarantee ends in April.

As high inflation also bites, three in ten people surveyed by YouGov recently said they couldn’t afford to heat their homes as much as they would like.

Energy prices look unlikely to drop anytime soon, but while you may not be able to control the temperature outside, there are efficient ways to stay warm inside.

Invest in insulation  

Around 25% of the heat in a typical property escapes through the roof, so loft insulation can go a long way towards keeping you warm.

The cost of loft insulation depends on the size of your home and the materials used, but can range from £200 to £2,750, according to HouseholdQuotes.co.uk. 

A typical semi-detached house could save £355 per year on energy bills by adding loft insulation, according to the Energy Saving Trust, so if you plan to stay in your home for a while, loft insulation may be worth the investment. 

Insulation expert Jo Callow told Express.co.uk that people may be able to install loft insulation themselves with materials from a DIY store. She added that it was “one of the most cost-effective ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency, reduce your energy bills, make your home more comfortable, and do your bit for the planet”.

Draught-proof your home 

Heat also leaks out through windows, doors and floors. You can help to prevent this by draught-proofing, or sealing gaps that let cold air in or warm air out. 

Some of this can be done on the cheap using everyday furnishings like rugs and mats on the floor, and curtains or blinds on windows.

In an article for The Conversation, Sharon George, a lecturer in environmental science at Keele University, said that to tackle gaps around doors, “brush strips can be installed to close gaps at their base, brush covers can prevent heat from escaping through the letterbox, and a disc flap can cover the keyhole”. Brush strips retail for about £10 online, while keyhole covers cost about £6.

Leaky windows can be covered with plastic film, which according to George can help a home retain around 24% more heat.

These small improvements will make your home “more comfortable to live in”, Which? said. Plus, by keeping heat in for longer using draught-proofing, you may be able to turn your thermostat down. This could raise more savings as “turning down the thermostat by just one degree in a typical home could save you between £85 and £90 a year”, the consumer advice site added. 

But be mindful of good ventilation, warned Brean Horne of NerdWallet. “As tempting as it can be to block any and all gaps, your property does need a certain level of ventilation to ensure it doesn’t get damp, so make sure you don’t block up vents or airbricks designed to allow air to flow through,” Horne told Metro.

Install heating controls 

The most energy-efficient way to heat your home is to “programme your heating system so that it comes on when you need it most”, said uSwitch. 

This can be done using a boiler timer, room thermostats and radiator temperature controls that can set various levels of heating in different rooms across your home. 

The Energy Saving Trust has estimated that installing heating controls such as boiler timers or smart thermostats can cost about £580, but can save around £180 each year. 

A thermostatic radiator valve alone can save you up to 40% on your energy consumption, according to TheGreenAge. It fits on to your existing radiator and has a sensor that expands once a set temperature has been reached to prevent any more hot water from flowing to your radiator. They are priced at around £10 to £30 so “outfitting every radiator in your home could cost a pretty penny”, added IdealHome.

Turn down the boiler flow rate

If you have a combi (or combination) boiler, there is a chance it isn’t operating to its maximum efficiency due to the boiler flow temperature, which is how hot the system gets before water is sent to the central heating around your home. 

These types of boilers should be set to a boiler flow temperature of 60C but many are installed at between 70C to 80C, “burning more gas, generating more emissions, and costing households more than they need to”, warned innovation agency Nesta.

If these boilers were optimised with a lower flow temperature, households could reduce their gas use, costs and emissions by 6% to 8%, the charity said.

Electric heaters vs. radiators 

With prices starting at around £50, an electric heater can be a cheap and convenient way of keeping warm, as “they can be taken from one room to another if required and you’ll only be using what you need”, said MoneyWeek.

However, electricity tends to be more expensive than gas, and radiators retain heat better. Heating an entire home with an electric heater by having one in each room will be far more expensive, MoneyWeek added. “You’d be better off using the central heating and turning radiators in empty rooms off at the valve.”

Marc Shoffman is an award-winning freelance journalist, specialising in business, property and personal finance. He has a master’s degree in financial journalism from City University and has previously worked for the FT’s Financial Adviser, the financial podcast In For a Penny and MoneyWeek

Recommended

Personal Finance

Cost of living squeeze may be ‘overblown’

Personal Finance

Pot stocks: is it worth investing in cannabis?

Personal Finance

Your 2017/2018 Isa options after the Budget

Personal Finance

How to make money in 2023: top tips for keeping financial resolutions