Stay Warm This Winter Without Burning Cash

warm cosy home

It’s dark when I wake up, my slippers have come out of their summer hibernation and a nice warm bowl of soup seems a lot more tempting to me now than it did a month ago…yes, that’s right…winter is coming.

Last year saw the coldest winter in 100 years and should that happen again I want to stay as warm as possible inside my little flat. But times are also tough and it’s not like I can install loft insulation, new double glazing or underfloor heating so I have tried to find some of the most affordable ways to keep that cosy feeling even if the mercury is dropping like a stone outside. After much investigation I thought I’d share my findings with you:

Keeping Your Hot Water Hot

While I have to live without central heating because my flat runs on electric heaters, I know that hot water is the key to keeping many homes nice and toasty but, with energy prices on the rise, it is getting more expensive to run central heating as often as you’d probably like. Add boiler breakdowns into the mix and it leaves us homeowners with several options:

  1. Get your boiler serviced before the cold weather hits – this is not a 100% guarantee that your boiler won’t break but if there are any potential problems then a heating engineer will spot them. It should also keep your boiler running at peak efficiency. Npower offer a one-off boiler service from just £99 which should do the job.

    Alternatively, you can get cover from the AA starting from £16.49/month for emergency boiler cover or £19.49/month for boiler and central heating cover – both of these include a boiler inspection and service.

    Should you suffer a boiler breakdown this winter and you haven’t got the insurance to cover it, British Gas have a one-off boiler repair service starting at £79.

  2. My first action is to install a hot water tank jacket to keep the hot water in my tank hot. They normally cost around £10 – £15 such as this one on sale at Amazon – given that they can save us up to £40 in energy bills each year, possibly more if your hot water is heated electrically (which mine is), this is a real must for every household.

    Not only can we save money and keep our homes warm but we will also reduce our carbon footprint by around 170kg per home per year.

  3. Installing pipe insulation offers an energy bill saving of around £15 per year because water in a well insulated pipe will lose far less heat as it travels around your home. This helps keep radiators hotter for longer and as the water returning to the boiler is still hot, there is less need for it to switch itself back on.

    While I don’t really have any exposed pipes in my flat, my Dad is a stickler for insulation around my family home – as many pipes as possible are wrapped up.

    Your local DIY store will have a couple of different sizes to choose from depending on the diameter of your pipes and the cost is fairly minimal. Another 60kg of carbon dioxide emissions will be saved with properly insulated pipes.

  4. Bleed your radiators so that hot water can fill right to the top. This is not an issue in my current flat but in my last year of university, the radiators in my shared house suffered constantly from trapped air. If you can comfortably touch the top of your radiator when the heating is on then there is probably an air gap which is reducing its efficiency.

    A small radiator key works by venting the air from the radiator so that more hot water can enter. You can even get automatic radiator bleeders that you can fit and forget allowing you to enjoy the full benefit from your radiators without the hassle of regular bleeding.

Keeping Warm Air In For Longer

If, like me, you have done all you can to make your heating system as efficient as possible then the next step is to avoid heat loss from your home. While things such as double glazing and loft insulation are extremely effective, they may not always be practical or affordable (I live in a rented flat so there is certainly no way I can use these options). But my research has turned up some more actionable tips, some of which I’m going to try out:

  1. Identify the problem areas – heat loss will often mean a draught and the easiest way to see where these occur in your house is to buy an incense stick, light it and watch where the smoke goes (you can also get smoke pens that do the same job without the smell and with a bit more control – click here to see what I mean). If you see the smoke move away from a doorway then you know the seal is not particularly good while the movement of smoke from a window will show you where cold air is getting in.

    My flat is very old and it’s on multiple levels so draughts are a real thorn in my side – I’m going to try and find as many as possible with this trick.

    Sometimes drafts are not present but heat still leaks out so for those who want to investigate a bit more accurately, you can get infra red thermometers for measuring the temperature of surfaces so you can see if there are any gaps in wall insulation or around windows – this one gets very good reviews.

  2. I’m normally one for leaving most of the doors around my flat open to let air circulate but it seems the easiest way to keep your home hotter for longer is to close off any rooms that you are not using to prevent heat loss from the rest of the house. I think I’ll have to give this a try come winter because my electricity bills soared at this time last year.

    There is also no point in heating up parts of the house that are not in use so, for those of you with central heating, you should also turn the radiator settings down to minimum in these rooms.

  3. Buy thicker curtains or thermal curtain linings to keep heat in around windows – much of the heat loss in your home occurs through windows especially if they are single glazed so a nice thick barrier between the room and the window will keep lots more heat in. If you don’t want to buy new curtains entirely, for just a small outlay you can buy curtain linings that have a thermal coating which helps to keep heat in.

    I invested in some blackout linings (which are basically the same thing) for my bedroom a long time ago and noticed an immediate difference in the heat loss through the windows – now my electric heater comes on far less at night.

  4. Draughts under doors and through letterboxes are easily eradicated using cheap but effective draught excluders. These can be easily attached by anyone with a screwdriver and a little bit of DIY knowledge and are well worth the small investment needed.

    I have one of these under my living room door and it really helps keep the temperature just above floor level up which means warmer feet for me!

  5. Stop draughts around windows – if you live without double glazing or if it was installed a very long time ago, it might be worth seeing if you can reduce the air flow around the panes of glass by replacing or touching up the window caulk to provide better insulation.

    My flat has single glazing so I am going to ask my landlords if they might consider replacing the caulk on my windows which has all but disappeared.

  6. With some excellent reviews on Amazon, you might also want to consider Tesa Insulating Film which acts as an extra barrier to heat loss from your windows. It looks simple enough to fit and, if the reviews are to be believed, can make a noticeable difference – again I might be trying these out in the near future so watch this space.

More Ways To Heat Your Home

While you may have central heating, electric heaters or a fireplace, there are other options which may or may not be better suited to your living arrangements:

  1. Convection heaters – if you find yourself spending most of your time in one room and don’t feel the need for central heating or if you have rooms without central heating (such as conservatories) then a convection heater is the best possible alternative.

    This one is available for less than £30 and should do the trick and running costs are not as high as you’d think. If you do not have a fireplace in your living room but spend a lot of time in there, get yourself a convection heater instead.

  2. Electric blankets – if you just want to stay warm while sitting down in the evening then an electric blanket can allow you to set your thermostat at a much lower level than without one. Using an electric blanket can cost as little as a 1p per hour which is much cheaper than turning the central heating on all around the house.

    To be honest I just bring my duvet downstairs on really cold evenings and it works perfectly.

  3. Heated mattress cover – when sleeping it is important to have a thick duvet to keep warm but did you know that a large amount of heat is lost through the mattress itself?

    A mattress protector can stop some of that heat loss while an electric such as the Dreamland Intelliheat one can allow you to turn down the heating in your bedroom. You’ll still want your heating to come on briefly in the morning to warm the room up but you should be alright throughout the night with just the mattress cover.

So there you have it people; all the heat saving, energy saving, comfort bringing tips that I could find. If you know of any other ways that I can keep my home nice and toasty without spending a fortune then please post a comment below and share them – my readers and I will thank you for it when snow is falling and the wind is blowing.

Steve (156 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

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