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Everyone goes on about changing your light bulbs, but the fact is that heating your home is the single largest part of your energy use, and probably your bills as well. There are lots of things you can do to make your home more efficient, and plenty of grants available to reduce the cost.
  • Draught proofing: Probably the simplest place to start. If you have draughts, your house will feel cold and you'll lose heat by the ton. Seal up around doors, windows, letterboxes, anywhere you can feel air coming through. Don't worry, you won't be able to seal your house up so tight that you suffocate!
  • Cavity wall insulation: If you have an unfilled cavity wall, this is the single best investment you can make. Anyone can get insulation fitted for under £200, and if you're over 65, you can get it free. Even if you have to pay, it'll pay for itself in under 2 years. Call the Energy Saving Trust to book it in.
  • Loft insulation: You can have up to a foot of insulation on your loft before it isn't worth putting in more, so get up there and put in some more. It's easy and cheap to install by yourself; DIY stores have plenty of options. There are some grants available as well; just call the EST.
  • Solid wall and floor insulation: Older properties with solid walls and air gaps under the floor are harder to insulate, but it can be done, and will still pay for itself quickly. The EST have lots of advice in this area, so give them a call.
  • Check your controls: Install a decent boiler programmer and a wall thermostat, as well as thermostatic radiator valves on your radiators. If you've already got these things, check them. You might find you're heating water when you don't need it, for instance.
  • Insulate your hot water tank: While a toasty warm airing cupboard is nice, it's inefficient. Heating water then letting it cool down is just wasteful.
  • Double glazing: Once your walls and roof are insulated, make sure you're not losing heat through your windows. Double glazed windows come in all styles these days, so can even be fitted in older properties without changing the look of the house. Again, call the EST for a recommended installer.
  • Upgrade your boiler: Old boilers (oil or gas) are very inefficient; modern condensing ones produce much more heat for the same amount of fuel. Even factoring in the admittedly shorter lifespan of modern boilers, you will still save plenty of money by upgrading. There are grants of up to £400 available for pensioners to help with the cost of upgrading. Once again, the EST have all the details.
  • Generate your own heat: With the new Renewable Heat Incentive, if you install more efficient heat generation such as a Heat Pump or Solar Water Heating, you can get a loan for the initial outlay and pay it off based on the money you save on your bills.
So, in summary, there is lots you can do, and you WILL save money, often pretty quickly. The Energy Saving Trust are impartial experts, so give them a call on 0800 512 012.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to leave the heating on while I'm out?

People often think that it's more efficient to leave the heating (or hot water) on when it's not being used, as it takes more energy to heat things back up again than to keep them warm. Unfortunately, this isn't true, but it takes a tiny bit of physics to explain.

The amount of energy you put in doesn't really matter, it's more about the amount of energy that is lost. In the case of your house, this is the amount of heat that leaks through the walls; that's what will actually cost you money. Now, the rate at which that heat leaks depends on the difference in temperature. As your house gets warmer compared to outside, the rate of heat loss increases. If you're constantly keeping the house warm, then this heat loss is always high, so costs you money all the time. If you let the house cool down, the heat loss reduces, so it costs less.

Obviously, the house will get colder while the heating is off, but as long as you set your heat to come back on a little while before you get back home, you will never notice the difference, apart from on your bill!

Exactly the same goes for hot water, but because the heat loss there goes into heating your house, it's not quite so big an impact.