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Column Rads Winter
Home Heating Guide

Heating bills can be expensive, and it can be tempting to turn down the thermostat in the British winter or just pop on an extra jumper in the cold weather. Although this may be better for the environment, it might not always be practical as most people don't like a cold home.

Whilst heating your home is perhaps always going to be an unwelcome expense, there are ways to save money on your bill. This guide will walk you through some of the energy saving steps you can do to reduce your heating expense and to keep your home warm.

Ensure That Your Boiler / Heating System is Working Correctly

One area that is often overlooked is the regular servicing of your boiler and heating system, which in the long run could save you hundreds. Whilst it is tempting to forget about the maintenance of your boiler until it is too late – it’s much more economical and safer for your family to get it serviced regularly. Over time a boiler can lose efficiency which potentially could be costing you extra money on your heating bills. Although you will have to pay for your boiler to be serviced by a professional you can rest assured that it’s in good condition, so it is worth checking. By servicing your boiler you should get many more years use out of it and it should reduce the risk of any nasty surprises.

If you have cold radiators or problems with your heating system, it might be time to bleed your radiators or call in a plumber or heating engineer to look at the problem. Whilst some heating issues can be dealt with by the homeowners themselves (as seen in our previous guides), this is not always practical. When the weather starts to turn cooler it is a good idea to test your central heating, since it may not have been used for months, and in this dormant state - faults can occur. Don’t wait until it’s chilly to test, otherwise you could be left with no heating when you need it the most.

The Right Temperature for Your Home

Generally, the advice is to heat your home to at least 18C, and to try to ensure that your living space is around 21C. A combination of adequate heating and warm clothing is best to create the most comfortable atmosphere. You shouldn’t be setting your heating to max, as it’s not only environmentally damaging but also economically as the average well insulated household wouldn’t require that much heat. Ensuring you are setting the temperature to at least the minimum recommended settings means that you will operate your heating as efficiently as possible. Obviously everyone has their preferences, and it may take a tweak of a couple of degrees to get to what works for you.

You should also ensure that your thermostat is working correctly, as this is often taken for granted. This can be done by using a cheap household thermometer to check the temperature of the room and to ensure that it matches what you have set your thermostat to. If there is a big variance, then you may have a problem with your heating system or the thermostat.

Some of us have spare rooms or offices that may not be used every day, and the temptation can be to completely turn off the radiator. In these cases, it might be worth investing in thermostatic heating valves for your radiators. These work by assessing the temperature in a specific room and heating it to what you need. Therefore, keeping your living and sleeping areas warm and those areas that go unused, a little cooler.

Reduce Your Energy Costs

Once you’re happy that your central heating system is running effectively, then it may be time to consider how it could be used more efficiently. Heat loss can happen all over the home, especially those with poor insulation. Ensure that doors remain closed to avoid heat-loss, and if there are gaps underneath the door, then perhaps consider a draught excluder. You might remember the sausage dog draught excluders that people used to use but you might be surprised to find out that they are very good at keeping cold air from entering under the door frame, and are a simple, DIY draught proofing solution.

Sometimes space can be at a premium in your home and the radiator may be blocked by sofas or chairs. This can result in a lack of heat flow around the room, as the objects block or absorb it. Maybe consider pulling your furniture out, or having a reshuffle as small changes can have a big impact of the performance of the heating and the overall costs.

Windows are an obvious source of heat loss, but not everyone can afford to pay for double glazing or triple glazed windows. If you can, replace old single- or double-glazed windows with triple glazing. However, there are a few tips you can use to save money and improve the heating efficiency of the windows in your home in the winter. Firstly, you can put plastic sheeting across the window, to add a secondary layer to the panes. You should also ensure that your curtains and blinds are drawn in the evenings to minimise heat loss. Remember to check that the window frames fit correctly, and use filler to fill in any gaps.

If you live in an older home, you may not have adequate insulation in the walls. If you feel your home is losing a lot of heat, you should check this. Foam insulation is available and can be installed relatively cheaply. In some cases, such as for those people who are over 70, a government grant is available to install cavity wall insulation for free. This might be an option to consider, and this will help improve your energy efficiency. The same goes for the loft space in your home if you have one. A lot of heat can dissipate through the roof of your home, and it’s well worth investing in decent loft insulation if yours is old or lacking.

Whilst newer boilers will by law be insulated, older boilers may not be and will benefit from being lagged properly. Additionally, if the lagging is old and tired it might be worth replacing, since this is a relatively low-cost solution. Check the pipe lagging on your hot water pipes as heat escapes faster from pipes that are exposed. You can stop heat loss to some degree by ensuring they are correctly lagged. This is a simple home improvement task that doesn't add too much extra cost.

Another way to save some money on your heating is to use the timer on the heating system. If you know you have regular schedules outside of the house, then you can set the timer to switch off the heating system when you are not there. Smart Thermostat’s such as the Nest Learning Thermostat learns your schedule automatically, so there is no need to create a timer. Remember that it does take a little while for the heating system to warm the home back up again, so it is a good idea to time your heating so that it switches back on in good time or control it from an app.

One thing that people tend to overlook is the energy tariff that they are on. Many people get comfortable with the energy supplier they’ve been using for a long time and don’t shop around for savings. In some cases you could be saving hundreds with more competitive deal, especially if you’re a new customer. For those on low incomes fixed priced tariffs can be a good idea and help you budget for your heating costs. There are also good deals available when you combine both your electricity and gas tariffs together. The thing to do is to shop around for the best deal. You might be surprised how much money you can save, and it is quite easy to switch. Price comparison sites are a great place to look for deals and suggestions on where to save. It can be a daunting task but often only takes a few minutes and can save you a lot of money.

Whilst heating your home is always going to be an investment, by following the tips above you can save money on your heating and energy bills whilst maintaining a warm home that will keep you well in the winter.

View other Column Rads guides to heating your home.
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