home efficiency

How to make your home more efficient during the winter months

It’s time to wrap up warm, but let’s be smart about it. Don’t let energy costs spiral out of control with our top tips

Keeping on top of home efficiency can mean money in the bank!

We’ve been enjoying the warmth of summer for months but winter is coming. Any Game of Thrones fans will understand that this is no joke! But, while we don’t expect to be knee-deep in snow like the inhabitants of Westeros (or have to deal with any white walkers, thankfully), we do have to make a few changes around the home to stay smart and efficient.

Most of us are resided to the fact that our energy bills will sky rocket from October to February. The more energy we use, the bigger our bills, and when the cold weather sets in, is it even possible to save money on our heating bills? But it might not have to be as big a shock as we think – if we take a few simple steps to make our homes smarter, when winter does arrive, we can relax a little, safe in the knowledge that we have done everything we can to be more efficient.

“The first thing to check is that you are not sat on a standard variable tariff and that if you can, you are paying by monthly direct debit as this is likely to dramatically reduce your spend,” says Victoria Warren, Co-founder of Staffordshire based, The Energy Deal.

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“Having the money to go and buy new appliances isn’t always realistic. Simple things you can do are to be strict and educate the household to switch off and unplug things after use, consoles, TV, WiFi, lights, chargers etc. For your gas, get a smart meter if your energy supplier will fit one so you can monitor your spend as you go.”

A smart meter in your home will digitally send meter readings to your energy supplier and provide much more accurate bills, as well as giving you the chance to monitor your energy usage in pounds and pence.

Think smart

But, home efficiency is not just a case of how much energy we use and how long we last before we absolutely have to have the heating on in winter! There’s no doubt that a smart meter will give us a better understanding of our bills, but it won’t fix any maintenance problems around the home – taking responsibility for areas in the home where we might be losing heat and sucking energy is also a big factor.

The Energy Saving Trust states that we could save upwards of a hundred pounds on our energy bill every year by just ensuring a few simple measures are undertaken around the home.

  • Most homes lose heat via draughts around windows, doors, gaps in the floor and through the chimney, so carrying out appropriate draught proofing around the home could save you between £15 and £25 a year on energy bills.
  • Be vigilant with switching off light bulbs, even if it is just for a few minutes at a time as this can save around £14 a year on energy. Swapping LED spotlights around the home can save a further £35 a year on energy.
  • Turning off appliances at the plug when they are not in use, and not leaving in standby mode, could save around £30 a year.
  • And for every one minute less you spend in the shower, you’re cutting energy bills by £7.
functional spare room
Home and Garden
How to create a functional spare room
Time to get cosy. Photo Credit: Duette.co.uk

But, energy efficiency is not just about saving the pennies either; we can also make our homes more appealing on the property market too, great news if you are considering selling or even renting out your home. “Boosting your home’s Energy Performance Certificate from a band G to E or D to B, for example, can increase a property’s value by 14 percent on average, and by a whopping 38 percent in some areas of England (DECC),”  says Melanie McDonald from Anglian Home Improvements.

Most homes in the UK are required by law to hold an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Each certificate lasts 10 years and gives each property a rating from the highest, A, to the lowest, G, based on how energy efficient a home is.

It looks at things like the walls, roof, floor, boilers and windows to decide how efficient a home actually is, for example if there is cavity wall insulation, double glazing and the state of radiators. The certificate will also provide a number between one and 100, the higher the number, the less money it will cost to run, and will also provide recommendations on how to improve efficiency.

It’s important to make sure your cavity wall and roof insulation is carefully maintained, update any old windows and doors and invest in blinds – these are all ways to make your home more efficient, but there are other easier and less drastic ways too.

Hotting up

According to The Energy Saving Trust, more than half the money spent on fuel bills goes towards providing heating and hot water.

“Fuel costs are rising…so, as winter approaches, it’s important to make sure your heating system is as efficient as possible,” says Jayson Branch, Creative Director at radiator specialist, Castrads.

He has these tips to keep costs down:

  1. Bleed radiators: If your radiators feel cooler at the top than at the bottom it is likely that air has entered the system and your radiators need bleeding.
  2. Add valves: You can make your heating system function more efficiently by making it smarter. Installing thermostatic radiator valves will help to eliminate wasteful heating and regulate the temperature throughout a house.
  3. Placement: Putting a radiator in the coldest part of a room both heats the cool air and encourages the radiator to work harder by giving off more heat.
  4. Knowing your heat requirement: Having too many or not enough radiators in your home can lead to increased heating bills. The right choice depends on the size of the room it is intended to heat, how well insulated the space is and what the room is used for. Living rooms and bathrooms should be warmer than hallways and kitchens, for example.

Read more on home efficiency in our Smart Mind = Smart Home feature in the September /October edition of Staffordshire Living, out now.

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