Beating the big chill

Average gas and electricity prices will rise by 17.4% and 10.8% respectively this winter according to Housing Energy Advisor. So it’s not surprising that many homeowners are seeking cheaper ways to stay warm.

It’s all too easy to whack the heating on the moment the air starts to feel chilly. But with the big six utilities companies all making hefty price increases this year lots of us are starting to think twice about the energy we use.

A poll by MoneySupermarket.com showed that 6% of people were refusing to use their heating at all this winter, and 17% were waiting until it got really cold before turning it on.

Being cold is miserable at best, a serious health risk at worst. So, apart from following mum’s advice and putting another jumper on, what can we do to reduce heating bills this year? Housing Energy Advisor has these tips:

    • Install cavity wall insulation and/or loft insulation. As the majority of heat escapes through your roof and walls, this will dramatically reduce your bills. If you’re on benefits, over 70 or have an income of less than £16,190 a year you can get it installed for free through the government’s CERT scheme.
    • If you haven’t already, invest in double glazing. It helps prevent heat escaping and makes rooms warm up quicker.
    • Use an energy comparison site like uSwitch.com to compare prices. According to MoneySupermarket.com you could save an average £237 a year just by shopping around.
    • Invest in a home energy monitor to help you see which appliances use the most energy. It’s great for motivating everyone to switch things off when they’re not in use.
    • Generate your own energy by installing a solar PV system. If you have the money to invest in a system, it will cut your bills for the next 25 years, as well as protect your home against future price increases.

Following on from the last point, our solar experts estimate that, for an average-sized house in a good location, a solar PV system would give bill savings of £219 a year. And that’s based on 13p per unit, before you take the price increases into account.

What you can do now, for free

While the tips above are great, they all involve spending money to save money. Good for your long-term energy future, but not so practical if you don’t have the money to invest. So here’s our own list of energy-saving tips – and they’re all measures you can put in place tonight.

  • Cook energy-efficient meals. A warming stew made in one pot is really satisfying and will save on gas or electricity. Lentils and pulses are a cheap and filling alternative to meat.
  • Don’t dither when you open the fridge. Leaving the door open means the fridge will use more electricity cooling itself down again.
  • When making hot drinks, only boil the amount of water you need. And when you’re cooking on the hob, use the smallest ring you can for the size of the pan.
  • Fill the washing machine or dishwasher before putting it on, and wash clothes at 30º instead of 40º.
  • Put kitchen foil behind your radiators to reflect heat back into the room.
  • Say no to leaving the TV on standby. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that by switching off the lights and appliances you’re not using you could save £43 a year.
  • Turn the thermostat down by 1ºC to save 10% on your heating bills. If you’re feeling the chill, cosy up under a blanket or dig out your trusty hot-water bottle.
  • Only heat one room in the evenings, and spend some time together as a family.

Do you have any other tips to share? Feel free to add them to the comments section below, or tweet @evoenergy using the hashtag #myenergytips.