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Monday, March 3, 2014

Want to save money but still keep warm? Follow our tips!

Household energy efficiency
Home energy efficiency is detectable with a thermal audit
When it comes to the weather, 2014 has not got off to a very encouraging start. The wettest and windiest December since 1993 bled into an equally appalling January, with the wind and rain picking up apace, and the temperature steadily fluctuating around the 0 mark.

We can of course hide from the wind and the rain in our homes, but the cold, the cold is a far more difficult beast to conquer, at least without spending a lot of money on the gas and electric or extra insulation, money that we can ill afford to spend after a no doubt expensive Christmas and New Year (in retrospect, the fact that they both arrive so close together seems like some ancient, cosmic joke).

It's not impossible to heat your home without spending a fortune on your amenity bills though and we're not just talking about wearing 4 pairs of underwear and a couple of jumpers to bed. Below we've compiled a list of tips that should keep you warm this (and any) Winter, without lightening your wallet.

Foil that cold

Now, bear with us for a moment because this might sound a little ridiculous but tin foil can be used to help prevent heat escaping from your radiators. If you attach a sheet of reflective foil to the wall behind a radiator, the heat that would have been lost through that wall is instead reflected back into the room. Kitchen foil can be used but there is more effective foil available that is designed with just this purpose in mind. It's a little more expensive but a LOT more effective.

Time your heat

Optimise exactly when you'll be getting the most out of your boiler by setting the timer so that it is higher in the early mornings and evenings and lower in the mid-mornings and afternoons when the house will probably be empty. To counter-act the fact that the heating won't be on (or will at least be on lower) during the day, open the curtains in your home and let the sunlight in. Admittedly the sunlight won't be as effective as your boiler, but it's free, natural heat that you really shouldn't be missing out on.

Fake double glazing

Reduce heat loss from windows using film
Window film is affordable and effective
If your windows are not already double-glazed then actually getting double-glazed windows installed is going to cost a small fortune. There is a far cheaper alternative though in the form of a film you can lay across single-glazed windows that imitates the effects of double-glazing and self-adhesive foam strips can be used to seal gaps that the film won't cover. Of course it won't be as effective as real double-glazing but it will be a fraction of a fraction of the price!

Cover those floorboards

Whilst bare floorboards are an aesthetic decision for some (and a lazy decision for others) it can't be denied that not only are wooden floorboards cold underfoot but that a significant amount of your home's heat will be escaping through them. Even if it's just for the winter months, consider covering your floorboards with carpeting or even a rug or if you just can't bear the thought of losing the 'rustic' charm of your floorboards, at least squirt some filler into the cracks.

Radiator efficiency
Radiator efficiency saves money

Optimise your radiators

Make sure that your radiators are as clear as possible. This means you should avoid placing furniture in front of them and leave them as exposed as possible so that the heat they generate has the best chance of escaping into the room and not back into the walls. You could also try putting a shelf above your radiators, which will help channel the warmth.

Make your own draught excluders

This is especially handy if you want to trap your heat in one specific room. You can create your own make-shift draught excluders out of any spare clothing you might have lying around, but the most efficient DIY draught excluder can be made from a pair of tights stuffed with socks. Simply take a few pairs of old tights and stuff them with as many socks as you can muster then place them in the gaps underneath your doors. It might not look like a particularly elegant solution, but you'll be surprised just how efficient it can be.

There are of course many other 'little things' you could be doing to conserve heat. Leaving the oven door open once you've finished cooking the evening meal for example, or turning off the radiators in your vacant rooms and closing them off. You could even take up jogging so your internal body temperature and circulation is improved and acquire a taste for hot chocolate. There is really no end to the things you could be doing to keep warm and the best thing is that very few of them will leave you feeling like you're throwing money away.

So it is possible to keep warm this winter without spending money, even in this winter. You just might have to use your head (and this guide) to help you get through it.

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Image licenses: Passivhaus Institut, GFDL, CC BY-S.A. 3.0; Merelake, US-PD;  Bios, GFDL, CC BY-SA 3.0