It's Energy Saving Week - and as fuel prices are set to spiral upwards alarmingly, throwing household budgets into chaos, many are worried about keeping warm in the next cold snap.
More than ever, we need tips on how to keep cosy without going into debt.
Personal Finance expert Paul Wilson, of cashlady.com, says, "it looks like energy prices are likely to rise higher than ever before in 2022.
"Making sure you’re getting the best deal has never been more important, and taking steps to cut back your fuel usage should be on everyone’s agenda.
"Even small changes can help put some money back in your pocket and big tasks, like moving to a new tariff, are worth looking into."
Try some of these useful ways to reduce your fuel usage, and help keep your finances on track.
1 Draught excluders
"Make sure your doors aren’t letting out valuable heat and welcoming in the cold. You can buy permanent draught excluder strips that attach to the bottom of your door, or decorative excluders that are a quick and easy option.
"Draught excluders are an inexpensive and effective way to quickly tackle any lost heat from your home and keep the warmth where it should be."
2 Seal your windows
"In the same vein as draught excluders, making sure your windows are sealed against the cold is a quick win," says Wilson.
"Older houses especially can have less efficient windows. Window sealing strips can be bought from most DIY stores and are available in various styles to also complement home decor.
"Additionally, if you have curtains, use them! Lined curtains will keep your room warm in winter and cooler in summer, meaning less need to rely on your heating or cooling systems."
3 Use LED bulbs
"The initial outlay may be a little steeper when it comes to LED bulbs," says Paul Wilson.
"However, they use 75% less energy than their incandescent counterparts, so it’s a switch worth making. They also last longer and so you won’t need to buy them as often which results in long-term savings and less waste."
Watch: Energy crisis: Ministers set to announce help for soaring bills within month
4 Plan and prepare
"Simply being mindful of how and when you use energy can lead to some simple savings," says Wilson. "Many of us have our heating on a timer; regularly reassess if the times you use the heating still make sense.
"Perhaps you still have the same settings you had over the Christmas break, but now you’re home less during the day. There may also be evenings when you’re out and don’t need the heating at all. Turn it off before you leave so you aren’t wasting unnecessary energy."
5 Be mindful
Paul Wilson advises, "just as you can plan and prepare when to have your heating on, you can also consider where in the house you actually need the heating. If the spare room is used for the rare times you have guests, then you can turn that radiator off and shut the door.
"Radiator valves are also there to be used. Smaller box rooms may be fine with a lower setting. Not everyone you live with will like the same level of heat; children’s rooms may need a lower temperature if they tend to get hot in the night. Think carefully about how you are using your heating, not just when you use it."
6 Other appliances
"There are a whole host of things we use daily in our homes that burn fuel," he says. "Make sure lights are switched off when rooms are not in use, put post-it notes on the switches as a reminder if needs be.
"Try not to use the dryer as this is a huge energy burner, instead put clothes on radiators that are being used anyway. Washing your laundry in large loads rather than little and often is another way to be more efficient. Consider batch cooking some of your weekly meals and freezing them. That way, you’re having to cook less which means using the oven less."
7 Credit where it’s due
"Find out from your energy company if you’re in credit," recommends Wilson.
"If you have regular meter readings and pay by direct debit, you may have been paying too much. This can result in you being in credit. You can choose to carry this credit over, which may reduce your monthly bills, or you can ask for a refund.
"Energy companies have to issue a refund if you are in credit and you could save this towards future bills or just put it aside for a rainy day."
8 Your tariff
"Traditionally, moving onto a company's default tariff has been the most expensive option," he explains. "As soon as your fixed tariff is coming to an end, you should speak to your energy company about a new deal.
"However, with energy prices now so high, the capped default price may actually be cheaper than the fixed option. Do your homework and find out if you may now be better off staying with the default tariff until prices (hopefully) decrease, or if your specific usage means you would be better off with a new fixed deal."
9. Change providers
"As with moving to a different tariff, switching providers is now not as cut and dried as it used to be," Wilson says. "As many as 20 energy firms have gone bust recently, so you need to make sure you choose a provider that is stable.
"Use price comparison sites to see if moving companies could be a good thing, but be sure to do your sums first and don’t assume it will lead to savings. You should also only switch at the end of your contract as, quite often, firms charge an exit fee if you still have several months left on your deal."
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