Energy efficient home tips to lower bills, from swapping lights to bleeding radiators
In a normal year, the crisp cold November air might make you think about hot chocolate, present shopping and the chances of a white Christmas.
This year, it’s more likely to make you think about your bank balance and how to make your home more energy efficient – a knock-on effect from the cost-of-living crisis that's good for the planet.
Energy bills may be limited by government’s energy price guarantee but they are still double what they were last winter amid the cost of living crisis. Couple that with inflation running at 11.1% and we’re all looking to cut our energy costs this year.
So here’s how to make your home greener and reduce those bills.
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Change your habits
A lot of these tips will be things you can physically change in your home to cut your bill but remember that the way you use your home is key to cutting your energy bills this winter.
That might mean washing clothes at a lower temperature, turning off lights when not using a room, not turning the heating up high enough that you don’t need a jumper – and lots more.
Check out websites like the Energy Saving Trust to find out what habit changes mean serious savings.
Take a look at your EPC
As long as your home has been bought or rented since the year 2008, it will most likely have an energy performance certificate and this is a great way to see how you can improve its efficiency.
Check out the EPC register in the UK (although you’ll need the Scottish EPC Register north of the border) and it will show how efficient your home was when the certificate was issued – and how efficient it could be with some changes. It will also lay out some of the changes you can make to cut your running costs.
If you don’t have one, they cost anywhere between £35 - £120 to get done, according to CheckaTrade.
Turn your boiler down
You probably already know that turning your thermostat down will save you money but doing so will mean your home isn’t as warm (obvs). However, many (possibly most) UK households could save money by turning their boiler’s flow temperature down, without affecting the temperature of the home at all.
As a general rule, boilers are built to put 55C water into our radiators, yet often they are heating water much higher than that. Lowering the flow temperature to its designed heat will cut your bills by as much as 8%, according to the energy app Loop.
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Insulate, insulate, insulate
The less heat can escape from your home, the less it will cost to heat it. Most modern homes are built with a lot more insulation than in the past but you should check that your property has the recommended 270mm of loft insulation.
But it’s not just the roof space, you can insulate pipes as well with cheap foam lagging, saving money heating water and stopping the risk of burst pipes.
According to the website Which?, insulating your hot water tank with a jacket pays for itself within a year – future proofing your home for next winter.
Those can often be fitted yourself but you may need to get an expert in to go further. If you have a cavity wall then adding wall insulation can increase the efficiency of your homes, and it can even be possible to add insulation to the floor. The DIY retailer B&Q says that the average uninsulated house loses around 35% of its heat through the walls.
Direct your heat where you want it to go
You want your radiators’ full efforts to go into heating the room, so it’s a good idea not to block them off with sofas and other furniture.
Another tip is to line the wall behind them with reflective radiator foil, which can be bought in most DIY shops and directs heat back into the room, rather than your home losing it through the walls.
Draught proof your windows and doors
This is the easiest way to save money on heating but also to make your home feel instantly cosier – and it’s cheap to do too. You can buy cheap draught excluding foam strips to fit around your doors and windows, to keep the cold air out.
Inside your home, it’s worth draught-proofing the doors in between rooms as this helps you warm the room you’re in and avoid feeling a draught around your feet. Again, there are brush strips you can buy or you can even make your own if you’re feeling crafty.
Swap out your lights
LED bulbs are more expensive to buy but they last much longer and use a tenth of the energy of old bulbs. So swapping old for LED can really cut your costs.
Bleed your radiators
This is DIY that genuinely anyone can do. If parts of your radiators don’t warm up, or if they are very gurgly (technical term there), then bleeding them helps them run more efficiently. You will need a radiator key or a flat-headed screwdriver and there are loads of guides online
Use your curtains
It’s tempting to leave curtains open in the winter to show off Christmas tree lights and that is pretty, but thick curtains do help insulate your rooms against the cold night air.
Thick curtains can also help keep your home cool in the summer so if you happen to be replacing yours this winter then look for lined fabric.
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Buy with efficiency in mind
If you have a working fridge or dishwasher or washing machine then you’re not going to save money by replacing it unnecessarily.
But as your appliances come to the ends of their lives, it is worth paying a little more to buy a more efficient replacement. When you’re looking for a new machine, you will see they are rated on a scale of A to G, or sometimes A+++ to G. The better the score, the more efficient the machine.
And the savings can be huge. According to the Energy Saving Trust, choosing an A-rated fridge freezer over an F-rated one will save you around £800 over the 17-year lifetime of the appliance. Choosing an A-rated washing machine over a D-rated one ramps up savings of around £130 over a typical 11-year lifetime.
Don’t sweat the Christmas lights
If you want to light the darkness and cheer yourself up this December then go ahead. The energy saving app Loop reviewed the cost of running a number of popular festive decorations and found that leaving a set of LED Christmas lights on for eight hours a day over the whole Christmas period (1st December to 6th January) would be about £2.96.
A Christmas light projector would be around £1.20 total, while a slightly pricier 120cm inflatable snowman clocks up a typical bill of £8.88 overall. So maybe cut back on the inflatables but not on your fairy lights.