When the temperatures dip, we crank up our central heating and think longingly of balmy summer weather. But even radiators aren’t a match for draughty and energy-inefficient homes, and running your boiler at full blast can drive up your utility bills and increase your carbon footprint. Chilly rooms can leave you vulnerable to infectious diseases and exacerbate existing respiratory and cardiac problems. Fortunately, there are tried and tested ways to keep you and your home toasty, from September to March.
Here’s how to stay comfortable and healthy in winter and not break the bank with your energy bills. Remember, if anyone in your home is elderly, young or unwell, you should keep your home heated to at least 21°C.
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Not to sound like your mother, but wearing a jumper in the house – and socks on your feet – is the easiest way to stay comfortable when the mercury dips, without blowing your budget running your central heating.
Long winter nights are made for snuggling up on the couch with a blanket and a TV boxset. For extra warmth, make yourself a hot drink and get your partner, children or pets to cuddle up with you on the couch. Turn down the thermostat and get cosy – or as the Danes say, hygge.
But don’t stay on the couch all evening. Getting moving boosts your circulation, keeping your warmer. So stand up and move around at least once an hour. If you can, do some light exercise or even go for a brisk walk. It might be chilly outdoors, but walking will warm you right up.
Making meals at home – especially warming stews and soups – can heat up your entire downstairs. When you’ve finished cooking, open up your oven door so the residual heat warms up the kitchen and adjacent rooms.
You can also wait to pull the plug when you’re done taking a bath and let the water act as a radiator to keep your bathroom snug. Try to bathe right before bed so you’re toasty warm as you get under the covers.
A good way to save money on your heating is to keep temperatures lower in your bedrooms, especially overnight. To keep yourself warm in bed, pile on the blankets. Hot water bottles are a retro way to warm your toes, but many will find microwavable heat pads and packs, especially those made of eco-friendly rice and wheat, easier to use.
Open your curtains during the day so sunlight warms your rooms. Then draw them at night to keep that heat inside as temperatures fall.
Inefficient and malfunctioning radiators not only leave your rooms like iceboxes, but they also take a lot of energy to run, driving up your utility bills. To make sure they’re operating properly, grab a radiator key and bleed them, ensuring no air is trapped in the system. You’ll also stop them clanging.
Tucking reflector sheets – or even just aluminium foil – behind your radiators reflects into your rooms the heat that they’d otherwise send straight into the walls, so your house can stay warmer with less effort from your boiler.
A poorly insulated house can be like a sieve for heat – and a drain on your bank account. Typically, 25% of a home’s heat is lost through the roof, so insulating your roof or the loft below is the best way to keep warm air indoors where it belongs. With proper insulation, your rooms will feel warmer at a lower thermostat point and your boiler won’t have to work as feverishly.
In your loft, use insulation with at least 270mm thickness. Professional installation can cost around £400, but if you’re handy you can install it yourself, with rolls of insulation starting at £20. A fully insulated loft can slash up to £225 from your annual energy bills and 990kg of CO2 from your yearly emissions.
You don’t have to climb into the loft, hire a professional or break the bank to stop your home from leaking precious heat. Up to 20% of the heat lost from our homes is heading straight out the doors and windows, without even a wave goodbye.
To seal up your windows, place draught-proofing strips, either self-adhesive or metal or plastic with brushes, between the glass and the frame.
For doors, place foam, wiper or brush strips around the edge. Install a draught excluder at the bottom and a flap or brush over the letterbox. Heat can even seep out through the keyhole, so make sure to cover that too.
And don’t forget the chimney. A draught excluder can stop warm air from going straight up the flue, but only install one if you don’t use the fireplace.
Around 11% of homes in England experience fuel poverty, which means they struggle to afford to heat their homes to an adequate standard. Fortunately, there’s relief available for struggling households and elderly people who are more vulnerable to cold weather.