How to winter-proof your home to cut energy bill costs
In October, sky-high energy bills coincided with the temperature dropping, causing many across the UK to worry about the cost of keeping their homes warm this winter.
Since the government's "energy price guarantee" came into effect on October 1 - the same date Ofgem was set to lift the price cap by 80% - the typical household will spend around £2,500 on its energy bills.
But those using a lot of gas and electricity will pay more - and experts including Martin Lewis have warned the £2,500 is not a 'cap' on your bill - but the price per kilowatt on a standard tariff.
Use more than the typical household - and you will face paying more when you get your bill.
Although it might feel too early to winter-proof your home, British Gas points out that it's a lot more difficult to clear your gutters and check your roof during a cold spell, so it's best to tick those boxes before the frost sets in.
Here are some tips to help homeowners and tenants save on bills in the colder months.
Invest in insulation
Up to a quarter of your home's heat escapes through the roof, according to British Gas.
Loft insulation - if fitted properly - can last up for four decades, and typically costs between £285 and £395 to install. If your loft is easy to access, and does not have damp problems and is not under a flat roof, you may be able to do the insulation yourself.
For England, Scotland and Wales residents who current have an uninsulated loft, by investing in 270mm loft insulation the Energy Saving Trust estimates that those living in detached households could be £590 better off.
Analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit has found homes rated band F on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) system, a measure of the home’s efficiency, could have a gas bill £968 higher than a home rated EPC band C, the government’s target for 2035. The average home in the UK is rated band D and these homes will pay £420 more for their gas this winter, compared to an EPC band C home.
If you don't own your own home, you will likely be unable to make major adjustments to a rented property.
But for rental homes, the Domestic Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) Regulations sets a minimum energy efficiency level landlords must follow.
For homes that are legally required to have an EPC and are let on an assured tenancy, a regulated tenancy or a domestic agricultural tenancy, landlords will need to improve the property’s rating to E.
Insulate your pipes
By fitting insulated tubing around the pipes that carry hot water from your boiler, or from your cylinder to your hot water pipes, you could prevent freezing and heat loss.
Insulated tubing can be purchased from most DIY stores and you can fit them yourself.
Clean your gutters
Despite not being the most glamorous chore, clearing your gutters of debris left behind by high winds and rain could prevent water-related damage to your properly, such as damp and leaks.
Check your boiler
A report by the Heating and Hot Water Council found that households can save around 6% to 8% on their gas bill just by turning down the heating flow temperature on their condensing combi boiler. Doing this will allow the boiler to run more efficiently and could save around £200 off an average energy bill. You need to go to the controls on front of your boiler to change this. To be clear, this is not turning down your thermostat. There is a handy online guide on how to do this on different types of boilers on The Heating Hub's website. Another easy saving is to turn off the pre-heat mode on the boiler, which could mean hot water taps taking longer to heat up, but could save hundreds of pounds a year.
The Heating Hub says that although you can adjust your hot water temperature, it's important to be mindful of legionella risks. Legionella is a bacteria that can occur in domestic water systems. The Heating Hub's website outlines the temperatures you should set your hot water to on different types of boilers to kill legionella bacteria.
During the warmer months British Gas encourages people to switch their boilers on once a week, for around 15 minutes. This prevents it from seizing up when winter arrives.
The firm also advises checking your boiler's pressure before the cold weather sets in. Boilers run best at around 1 to 1.5 bar, and you should be able to read this on the gauge on the front of your boiler. If you need to correct your boiler's pressure, British Gas has a useful online guide.
It's also a good idea to ensure your boiler is serviced annually to avoid any minor problems becoming more serious.
Check your roof
Unkempt roof tiles can lead to leaks and flooding, and its best to get such issues resolved before the cold snap. Some issues can be spotted from street level, and if you need a closer look, it's best to call a professional if you don't feel comfortable climbing a ladder.
Bleed your radiators
Without bleeding your radiators every now and then, they could take longer to heat up and may not give out as much heat as they should.
If you're not sure if you need to bleed your radiators, turn on your heating for five to ten minutes and check the temperature. British Gas advises that if the radiator is hot at the top and cold at the bottom, it is fine. But if it's hot at the bottom and cold at the top, it's a good idea to bleed it.
By draught-proofing your doors and windows, you can avoid losing heat.
Draught excluders around your doorways work a treat, and for your windows, British Gas advises sealing the gaps around them using caulk or DIY insulation kits.
Locate your home's stopcock
In case your pipes freeze, British Gas advises locating your home's stopcock to prevent a build-up of pressure forming behind the blockage as this can lead to a burst pipe.
It looks like a tap or lever on your copper pipes and is typically found under your sink.
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