If you’re fed up with paying over the odds to heat your house, or find it hard to meet the cost of staying warm in winter, you’re not alone. According to government figures, one in ten households in England struggle to meet their fuel costs during the colder months.
But there are ways to cut your expenses and stay warm. Here are nine tips to reduce fuel bills and still beat the winter chill.
There’s no need to heat your home to the point where you need to strip to your y-fronts and lounge in front of the open window. According to the government, 21°C is the optimum temperature for indoors, but if that’s too stuffy for you – the World Health Organisation says 18ºC.
If you let the temperature drop below 16ºC, the WHO says you’re placing children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing respiratory problems at increased risk of illness.
Britain’s housing stock is varied to say the least, with many of us occupying old houses with very poor heat retention. But just because your castle didn’t come with cavity walls, double glazing and copious loft insulation doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to ameliorate the situation.
There are grants available to help you make your home more energy efficient, including help to pay for big ticket items like a new boiler, cavity wall insulation, solid wall insulation, double glazing, and more. Check out the government’s energy grants calculator for more info.
Put a jumper on
If you’re of a certain vintage, you’ll no doubt remember your parents’ standard rebuke in response to your request to crank up the heating. But it turns out they were right when they told you to go and put a jumper on. According to the Energy Saving Trust, turning the heating down by just one degree saves you an average of about £75 per year on your heating bills.
Our ancestors knew a thing or two about keeping warm, which was one reason they managed to survive without modern central heating. In fact during the mid 19th century, people worked so hard they had to eat about twice as much as we do now just to maintain their body weight.
How active you are has a direct impact on your body’s ability to keep itself warm. Exercise boosts circulation in the short term, and improved muscle tone helps keep your blood moving even when you’re sat watching Emmerdale. Book yourself into the gym, walk the dog, vacuum the house or go and dig the garden. Just keep moving.
The best way to stay warm without external heating is to pile on layers which, by trapping the air between them, help insulate you from the winter cold. Begin with a breathable baselike cotton, or if you’re likely to get sweaty, go for silk or merino wool which won’t chill you to the bone by holding moisture next to your skin.
Now build up your layers, adding a shirt, a light pullover, a gilet, a rustic tweed jacket – whatever it takes to keep you snug. Remember you can always remove layers if you get too hot. Going outside? Bung on an overcoat and always wear a hat or cap.
Your body has to work harder to stay warm during the winter, especially during cold snaps. Make sure you keep warm by fuelling your internal boiler. Forget cheap carbs like white bread and refined sugars, you need something that sticks to your ribs. Think piping hot stews, roasted veggies and thick buttery mash.
Don’t have time to prepare a proper meal? Slow cookers are cheap, effective and a great way to make sure you and the family have a delicious dinner waiting for you when you get home from work.
Use your curtains
Unless you’ve been bereaved, not only does leaving your curtains drawn during the day make you look slothful, it also wastes the cheapest heat source of all – the sun. The same goes for people who fail to keep their windows sparkling clean – you’re filtering out light and warmth.
Similarly, should you fail to draw your curtains of an evening, not only are you a blatant exhibitionist, you’re also letting the heat escape. Lined velvet curtains work best – especially if you add a layer of heat reflective foil between the fabric and lining…release your inner goth and stay toasty.
Having trouble keeping your ‘keep’ warm? English Heritage reminds us to spare a thought for the Norman invaders whose castles would have made your single skinned bungalow in Hastings look like a sauna. Think thick stones walls, tiny windows and no glass, and the result must have been chilblains and chesty coughs galore.
Stealing tips from our ancestors is a good tactical move. As well as keeping you that little bit warmer, draft-proofing your windows and doors saves you money. According to Which?, that sausage dog you wedge under the lounge door contributes to an annual saving of £35 by banishing drafts.
Really can’t stand the cold? It’s time to head for warmer climes. Across the pond in the US they’re known as ‘snow birds’ – inhabitants of the colder northern states who move south for the worst of the winter.
Even better, why not make your property pay for itself while you go in search of the Marigold Hotel, by renting it out on Airbnb.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share for keeping your house warm or cutting your fuel bills this winter? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or head to our Facebook page and drop us a line.