Heating Your Home
There's growing concern about price rises from British energy companies. Apart from regulary switching energy suppliers to help reduce your bills here are cheap ways to save money when heating your house.
Householders are regularly being advised to install double glazing, thorough insulation and overhaul their inefficient heating system. But apart from those more complex tactics, what can be done cheaply and quickly to keep your house warm?
1. Use tin foil. One way to prevent unnecessary heat loss from radiators, particularly on those attached to external walls, is to use heat reflective aluminium foil behind the radiator. This prevents heat disappearing through the wall by reflecting it back into the room. Foil specially designed for the purpose can be bought for under £10. You can even use good quality kitchen foil, although it's generally not as effective.
2. Thick curtains are one of the main ways to protect your house from losing heat through the windows. Curtains with a thermal lining are a relatively cheap option, the thicker the better. If you don't want to splash out on new curtains you can line them yourself with materials like cheap fleece. You can even use PVC shower curtains. It's not just windows that can have curtains. Placing a curtain in front of doors to the outside adds another layer of protection. And it doesn't even need to be a curtain. An old rug pinned up over the back of the front door can be just as effective.
3. let the sunlight in during the day. It's important to try to use as much natural - and free - heat (in the form of sunlight) as possible. Window shades and curtains should be kept open during the day, advise Age UK. Closing your curtains as soon as dusk falls will maximise your house's potential to retain that heat.
4. Double glazing is heat-efficient but it's relatively costly. If you haven't got it, why not fake it? "There's a special film that you can put across [single-glazed] windows" that can imitate the same effect, albeit to a lesser degree. You can attach the film to the window frame using double-sided tape and then fix it using a hairdryer, she says. There's a downside. You won't be able to open your windows without breaking the seal. But a pack to cover a medium-sized house would be about £15, so it could just be redone from time to time.
Alternatively, self-adhesive foam strips can help seal any gaps in the edges of windows. Metal or plastic strips with brushes or wipers attached cost a bit more but will last longer as a result, according to the Energy Saving Trust. These can also be used as draught excluders around the hinges and frames of doors.
5. Stop heat being lost up the chimney. It's now fairly common to have fireplaces that are merely decorative. If you're not using yours then you should consider a chimney balloon. A chimney balloon, made from a special laminate, can be bought for about £20 and works by being placed inside the chimney hole, just out of sight. It's then inflated until it completely shuts out any incoming cold air or escaping heat. Just be sure not to start a fire without removing it. There are also woollen chimney insulators on the market. But again, make sure you remove them before starting any fires.
6. Watch out for mini-draughts. Alot of draughts can come through the letterbox. It's worthwhile putting an extra barrier there in the form of a "brush". They may be a nightmare for junk-mailers trying to force through that 15th pizza takeaway offer, but they could prevent a chill breezing through the house. The same goes for keyholes, which can be protected with "simple circular (keyhole covers) that slip over the top", especially with the older, wider keyholes. Cat or dog flaps can also be filled with some sheep's wool insulation or pieces of blanket.
It's amazing how even a small draught can make a room a lot colder, so if you can cut that bit of air out it immediately makes a difference.
7. DIY draught excluders are one lesson people can learn from previous generations. Old-fashioned draught excluders work well. Draught excluders typically rest at the bottom of doors, stopping heat escaping through the gap between door and floor. Anybody who's ever been smoking inside a room that they shouldn't will probably be aware that almost any material or piece of clothing can be used to wedge the space. And simple draught excluders can be made from cutting an old pair of tights and stuffing them with socks. The stuffing can be almost anything from rice and lentils to gravel, suggests the website OvoEnergy, which also provides a relatively simple guide.
8. Clear your radiators. Try and avoid placing large pieces of furniture in front of them. At least in the short-term, the sofa you love by the radiator is absorbing heat.
9. Putting a shelf above the radiator, especially if you have high ceilings, can also help channel the warmth. But it's important not to place things on the radiator itself, you can put a shelf above it to stop the hot air rising directly above it. This is particularly the case if the radiator is below a window with curtains, where warm air would be trapped between the window and the curtain.
10. Shut up unused rooms. Keeping doors closed will prevent cold air moving into the rest of the house and contain the heat you've generated in a smaller area.