8 ways to reduce your heating bills

Keep away the winter chills with a warm house and low bills. Katie Hallett shares her top money-saving tips, from installing radiator valves to insulating your loft

A wood-burning stove and leather armchair

Fit thermostatic radiator valves

These are a great first step in making your home more energy efficient, allowing you to control the temperature of each room depending on which you’re using. If you’re a confident DIY-er, you may be able to install them yourself, otherwise a heating engineer will be able to convert an average house in about a day. Single valves can be bought for under £10 and could reduce your bills by 17 per cent.


Consider installing secondary glazing

Single-glazed sash or period windows may look the part but they won’t be helping your energy consumption. Fitting clear secondary glazing will improve insulation while avoiding the need for double glazing. It can be made from a sheet of plastic or glass and is attached to the existing window frame using magnetic strips, clips or tracking. To maximise insulation efficiency, and cost savings, ask an expert to fit it. Storm Windows specialises in designing and fitting glass secondary glazing in listed or historic buildings


Shop for a stove

Woodburning stoves generate twice the amount of heat that an open fire does – they’re over 80 per cent efficient. This means that if you fit a stove in your living room, you’ll be less reliant on your central heating. Another joy is the fact that you don’t need an existing chimney to have a stove installed: an insulated flue, passing either through your roof or an external wall, can be fitted. Prices start at £500 but installation could set you back between £300 and £1,000. For both modern and traditional models, try Stovax or Chesney’s The HETAS website includes a directory of registered installers.
We Love: Brintons’ ‘Sweet Pea Amethyst’ carpet from the RHS range, which costs £70 per sq m (right)


Look into switching energy suppliers

If you haven’t switched energy suppliers in recent years, you’re likely to be paying more for heating and electricity than you need to. Energy regulator Ofgem says consumers who haven’t ever switched suppliers pay on average £170 more per year – perhaps because suppliers tend to charge customers who live in their ‘home’ region more. Tariffs differ across the UK so check out an independent comparison site, such as Which? Switch to find the best rate in your area. Deciding between fixed and variable rates is a bit of a gamble. With a fixed rate you’ll be paying over the standard rate initially but if energy prices continue to rise you’ll pay less in the long run. Given the uncertainty of supplies and rates it’s advisable to seek a tariff that isn’t fixed for longer than 18 months. Suppliers’ online plans – where you pay by direct debit and receive bills via email rather than through the post – tend to be cheaper.


Update your boiler

Your boiler accounts for 60 per cent of your total energy costs so ensuring you have the most efficient model is crucial. If your boiler is over 15 years old then its likely to be G-rated (terribly inefficient). New boilers must now be A-rated (or 88 per cent efficient). Though it will feel like a huge investment, replacing a G-rated model could save you up to £225 per year. For the ultimate energy-saver, look for a condensing boiler as these maximise how much fuel can be turned into heat.


Apply for a grant

If you’re planning on making your home more energy efficient by installing insulation or replacing your boiler, it’s worth finding out whether you’re eligible for a grant. They vary across the country and can be age-related. Some are available via the government, while energy suppliers and local authorities also provide them. For more advice as to what might be available to you, visit the Energy Saving Trust.


Invest in a woollen carpet with underlay

In the same way as heavy curtains insulate single-glazed windows, good-quality flooring ensures a toastier room. It’s worth investing in a good-quality underlay (wool and hair felts are best) and make sure both underlay and carpet are fitted right to the edge of the skirting boards and under doors. Similar to duvets, the higher the tog, the more insulating the carpet. ‘Fifteen per cent of all household heat disappears through uninsulated floors – but not with carpet and underlay. Heat loss is significantly reduced with a wool-rich carpet,’ says Rupert Anton, spokesperson for The Carpet Foundation. As with all types of flooring, gaps in floorboards need to be properly filled prior to fitting a carpet.


Insulate your loft

It’s not groundbreaking news but ensuring that your loft is properly insulated is one of the most cost-effective ways of lowering your heating bills. Around 25 per cent of energy in the home disappears, literally, through the roof. This means that insulating the loft could save a typical home around £145 per year. The government recommends laying down a minimum thickness of 270mm of insulation. To check how much your home has got, measure the distance from the bottom of the joist to the top of any existing insulation through the loft hatch. Fitting or upgrading loft insulation usually doesn’t require the work of a specialist but for DIY advice, visit thinkinsulation.


Reducing the amount of heat you use doesn’t need to be complicated, so start the process with these easy tips

  • Make use of heavy curtains
    There was a reason Victorians loved thick curtains: fitting lined curtains, especially on windows that aren’t double-glazed, can make a big difference to the warmth of a room. Draw them in the evenings to keep heat in at night but ensure they don’t obstruct radiators that are in use.
  • Take time to draught proof
    The first place to look into improving draught proofing is external doors. Draught excluders should be fitted to the bottom, foam or brush strips applied to the edges and an internal
    letterbox flap or brush installed. Chic keyhole covers (or escutcheons) can be bought from Holloways of Ludlow. For internal letterbox flaps, try Nigel’s Eco Store.
  • Buy a balloon
    To keep valuable warm air from escaping up – and draughts coming down – your unused chimney, invest in a chimney balloon (also called a pillow), available from Nigel’s Eco Store.
  • Lower your thermostat
    Turning down your thermostat by just one degree could save you up to £50 per year. Programming your timer to come on at specific times – and setting multiple ‘zones’ – also helps.


  • Nigel’s Eco Store
    A must-visit if you’re looking into making quick and easy energy-saving home improvements. The Energy Saving Products section includes everything from radiator insulation panels to floorboard gap sealer.
  • Energy Saving Trust
    This is an exhaustive reference for all things ‘eco’ in the home. It includes an online home energy check as well as a grants and discounts database.
  • Centre for Sustainable Energy
    The website of this Bristol-based charitable company includes downloadable leaflets on subjects such as insulation, secondary glazing and gas meters.
  • Money Saving Expert
    It’s not the easiest site to navigate but don’t let this put you off. The Utilities section offers up-to-date advice on ways to cut your energy bills and in-depth information on switching energy providers.
  • My Tree Frog
    This energy tariff comparison site promises to improve your eco-conscience as well as your bills. It gives customers who switch ‘carbon credits’ (paid for by My Tree Frog) that go directly to green initiatives helpingcommunities find alternatives to deforestation.
  • National Insulation Association
    If you’re thinking about upping your insulation, this website should be your first port of call. Here you can find information on grants available in your area and a list of approved installers. There are also useful guides to draught proofing, loft insulation and solid and cavity wall insulation.