Expert’s guide to saving energy this winter as bills rise again

Tuesday 20th September 2022 5:00 pm
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Green Life columnist Trevor Clark - (Dave Kneale/Isle of Man Newspapers )

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Columnist Trevor Clark’s special guide to reducing your energy bills this winter.

This guide is not about spending thousands on a new heating system, windows, doors or cavity wall insulation. It’s practical, fast and mostly a free list of things to do.

Keep warmth inside

Keep all your windows and doors closed, all of them, inside and out. Stop warm air leaving the room you’re in, you’ve paid for it so keep it with you.

Stop draughts with replace weather sealing on your external doors and windows and draught seal the letter box and keyhole – £20 for the whole house.

Try to find any holes that are allowing cold air into your house via gaps. Once found, seal them with foam and sound deadening caulking.

If your external doors are old, hang a heavy curtain just inside to improve its insulation – £10.

Put reflective foil behind your radiators to make more of the heat come into the room – £8 for all of them – wide cooking foil with the dullest side stuck to the wall works too.

Close curtains and fold the bottoms onto the window sill, move furniture away from the radiators, and remove any coverings to maximise the heat that gets into the room. This allows convection of the warm air from radiators.

If you still have single glazing, using cling film or purpose made glazing film (£8 per window) to reduce heat loss through the glass.

If you have vertical sash windows, they will allow cold air in and warm air out, use secondary glazing to stop this air movement.

Clean or replace the seals on your oven, fridge, freezer doors.

Check, clean or replace the seals on external window openings and doors.

Turn it down and increase efficiency

Turn the thermostat down and get use to 19C or as low as you can; then put more clothes on. Also set it to ‘freeze protection only’ while you’re out.

Reduce your boiler’s hot water to 60C or even 50C hot water and turn pre-heat off.

Reduce your boiler’s heating flow temperature to 75C or less. But search what’s recommended for your specific boiler, condensing boilers could be best at 60C or less!

Hot water tank? Make sure it’s well insulated (£15 jacket) and the hot water pipes (£1 per metre). Lowering the temperature is questionable as there’s risk of Legionnaires if the water doesn’t hit 60C once per week for two hours at least.

Turn your radiator valves down or off in rooms you don’t use and consider doing this routinely if you use different rooms in the home each day. If you can, take the thermostat with you into the room your using.

If you still have old filament or halogen lightbulbs replace them! LEDs are much cheaper to run.

Set your washing machine to the lowest temperature it can go, and use cold water detergent.

If you’ve got anything with an eco mode, use it.

Bleed the radiators and make sure there’s no air trapped in the system.

DIY insulate your loft – one layer is good but two is better. £50 to £200 recommended minimum is 270mm.

You’ll improve energy retention when installing insulation if you stop air flowing under the insulation a the wall plate. When fitting insulation don’t leave any gaps, and prevent air flow as much as possible.

This means lifting any existing insulation, finding gaps and holes and filling them. Use sound deadening caulking around cables (foam can attack the PVC cable insulation) depending on gap size, use foam to fill, trim excess and seal tightly with the caulk.

Ventilate. Regularly open windows when it’s dry and sunny during the daytime but close them before dusk.

Turn it off

Turn off all electrical devices at the wall when not in use. The older it is the more expensive leaving it on standby will be.

Switching just 10 things off at the wall overnight and while you’re at work could save you more than £50 a year!

Use it less

An electric shower costs £1 for every 10 minutes it’s on.

Consider a water saving head to your shower, it will reduce water consumption and the amount of energy required to heat it, which is £10 to £30.

Boil only the water you need when making teas and coffee. If you drink a lot fill a thermos flask with what’s left for your next cuppa.

One pot cooking uses less energy than several utensils for each meal.

Also, don’t run the dishwasher on a schedule, run it when it’s full.

Tumble dryers can cost £2.50+ per load, which is £260 a year if its on twice a week. Use a clothes line as often as you can.

If you’re thinking of replacing your old dryer, buy one with an internal heat pump. It may take 30 minutes longer to dry clothes but compare two-and-a-half hours at 800watts with two hours at 2000watts.

Gaming PCs and Consoles cost 25p or more an hour – that’s hundreds of pounds per year for heavy gamers.

Ovens and hobs can vary wildly with anything between 25p to £5 per hour depending on what you use – check them with your smart meter.

Microwaves are by far the cheapest way to cook, followed by air fryers and slow cookers – induction hobs save energy too.

Keep the lids on pans, they will boil/heat up quicker, and open the kitchen window (or turn fan on) when cooking. If you have a smart meter, use it.

Try to get your electricity consumption down to 100–200 watts (per hour) when you’re not at home or asleep and your gas down to zero.

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