The best ways to make winter fuel savings

With the nights closing in and temperatures going down, the price we pay for fuel inevitably starts to rise. However its not all doom and gloom – follow these simple tips to find the best ways to make winter fuel savings.

GO FOR DOUBLE-GLAZING 

“Approximately 20% of heat in your home is lost through windows and doors,” says property developer and television presenter Sarah Beeny. “Not only do double-glazed windows provide extra security and added value to your property, they can cut heat loss by half. A rough guide for pricing sets doubleglazed windows at about £300- 400 per window, but it’s always worth getting multiple quotes.” Keep thick curtains over windows to reduce heat loss at night, but make sure these are pulled back in the daytime to warm the house through natural light. Radiators should remain uncovered when the heating is switched on.

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BE SMART TO SAVE MONEY

It should go without saying that you only need to heat the rooms in your home that you use. If you have a box room or guest room that is empty, make sure you turn off any radiators to avoid wasting gas and electricity. However if you go away for a few days over the Christmas break, don’t forget to leave your heating on a low setting, or set it to come on a couple of times a day, to prevent your pipes from freezing and then bursting.

DRY OUT AND DEHUMIDIFY

If condensation is a problem in your home, it could be worth investing in a dehumidifi er. Wet air is more expensive to heat than dry air, and a dehumidifi er is a cheap way to radically reduce the amount
of moisture. It is best to buy one that removes at least ten litres of moisture a day.

REFLECT THOSE RADIATORS

Use a metal radiator refl ector or place laminated foil behind radiators on external walls. This will refl ect heat normally lost through the wall back into your home. It’s also worth fi tting thermostatic radiator valves to control the temperature in each room. Both items cost little, are easy to fi t, will improve comfort and help cut your bills over the winter. £30 – 40 should give you enough laminated foil to fi t up to ten radiators. Bleeding your radiators will also make them more effi cient, as they work better when any air has been removed. This
can be done by using a radiator key, however if you are unfamiliar with DIY, a qualified tradesman can always provide help.

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DON’T LET THE DRAUGHT IN

Draught excluders around doors, windows and openings such as letterboxes will eliminate cold draughts and help to insulate the house avoiding heat loss and saving warm air. This means that less energy is needed to heat the home, which could save households up to £55 per year (Energy Saving Trust). Draught excluders should be placed around doors, windows, loft hatches, letterboxes and even keyholes. They can be bought from DIY and hardware stores and make for a satisfying and easy DIY job. If you have a disused fi replace you may also want to consider a device such as a chimney balloon ¬– a cheap and effective solution to stop warm air escaping, and draughts coming back down your chimney. “Fitting one will make an immediate and noticeable improvement to the warmth of that room and can easily be removed by defl ating the balloon if you want to use the fi replace,” says Oliver Heath, energy saving and renewables expert.

CLEVER PAYMENT

How do you pay for your fuel? Did you know that paying your bills by direct debit or moving to an online or duel tariff can save you up to £100 a year? Remember to always submit actual meter readings as opposed to relying on estimated bills. It’s also worth
having a shop around the main energy suppliers, as there are still good deals to be had for gas and electricity. Reassess your bills, and consider how much energy you typically use. This will enable you to see whether it would be benefi cial to fix your energy prices for a year, or see if there are cheaper deals altogether. Most suppliers will offer combined rates for gas and electricity. Use sites such as Which? and Moneysupermarket for good utility comparison and advice.

GET THE TEMPERATURE RIGHT

The optimum temperature to keep your home warm is between 18°C and 21°C. By turning your thermostat down by even 1°C you could actually reduce your heating bill by around 10%. “If your home is well insulated
it would be worth considering setting your thermostat to around 17°C so that when you return home your system won’t have to work too hard to reach your desired comfortable temperature,” explains Martyn Bridges, director of marketing and technical support at Worcester, Bosch Group. “Alternatively a programmable room thermostat will do the job for you.”

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WORK OUT YOUR WATER

How do you pay for your fuel? Did you know installing a water meter will enable you to keep an eye on your own usage, and provides peace of mind that you are not paying above the odds for your water. “If you don’t have a water meter installed by your
supplier then your bills are most likely estimated according to the size of your house,” explains Sarah. “While this may be on point in many cases, you may be overpaying.” If you live in a hard water area, you could be also paying higher fuel and maintenance costs as a result of limescale build-up in your pipes. In fact, just 2mm of encrusting limescale adds approximately 20% to your heating bills! The good news is that there are many ways to prevent limescale from forming, including water softeners, chemical descalers and electronic water conditioners.

INSULATE, INSULATE, INSULATE!

Make sure your water tank, pipes and house are all fully insulated. You could be losing a lot of heat through walls and through the attic or roof, so make sure cavities are properly insulated. The same goes for your pipes – burst pipes are a huge problem throughout the winter period, and are all too frequent during a sudden cold snap. To help prevent this from happening, ensure all pipes are properly insulated using lagging, which can be bought cheaply from most DIY shops. On the other hand, hot water tanks are prone to
heat loss. “Hot water tank insulation should be 75mm thick for optimum energy,” says Sarah. “Fitting a British Standard jacket around your cylinder will cost you a mere £15 and will cut heat loss by over 75%, saving you around £45 a year.” The good news is that there is Government subsidised insulation available under the Government’s Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) – eligibility is based on postcode, household benefi ts and the type of house – but if it’s approved, you could save up to £140 a year on heating bills.

BIG UP YOUR BOILER

It is important to take good care of your boiler, make sure it’s serviced regularly, keeping it safer and more efficient. This will prevent breakdowns and reduce your energy bills. If your boiler is really old – usually around 15 years or more – it will only be 60% efficient, meaning that for every pound spent on fuel, 40p is wasted. “Older boilers are also likely to have a standing pilot light, which could cost in the region of £50-60 per year just to keep it going,” says Martyn. “In money saving terms, upgrading to a high-energy condensing boiler along with appropriate controls, could see you cutting energy bills by around £235 (source EST) and saving over one tonne of CO2 each year.” As temperatures are dropping, now is a great time to double-check everything is working fine before you get caught out by a sudden freeze.

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