5 innovative ways to save money on your energy bills this winter

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In a normal home that has not been insulated, 40% of heat is lost through the windows and doors, around 35% is lost through the walls and 25% through the roof.

Energy bills are one of the biggest outlays we have each month – but there are ways you can drastically cut yours, simply by better insulating your home.

There are many ways of doing this – from smart new insulating blinds to heating gadgets, thick rugs and simpler DIY options.

Here is a selection of ways to cut your heating bills and keep your house warmer this winter.

1 Insulating blinds

Hive blinds are a super efficient way of keeping heat in your room – and they look stylish too (Picture: Stylestudio.co.uk)

The new wave of blinds is a gamechanger when it comes to insulation.

The white wooden slat blind has been the window covering of choice for years now – just look along your street for proof – but not only do wooden blinds not block out all light, they do nothing to keep the house warm.

A significant percentage of heat is lost through glass, particularly if it’s single glazing – and the areas around windows is always chilly during the winter.

Thick curtains help keep cold at bay – but if you prefer the look of blinds, it has historically meant suffering (and shivering) in silence.

New honeycomb blinds are here to change all that. Style Studio is one of a number of companies making heat-retaining blinds that dramatically prevent heat loss from rooms.

We tested their Hive blinds and they really do work: You can feel the cold air coming in when you open them.

The blinds’ design works as you’d expect – by trapping air in the little hexagonal compartments in the blinds.

The innovative honeycomb ‘cellular’ design of similar blinds (they are also made by Duette, BlocOut, Direct Blinds, to name a few) has been found to retain 46% more heat inside a room than standard window coverings.

They are available in translucent or black out – and the black outs really do block out almost every shred of light.

In situ, the blinds look very neat – they have a low profile, they sit close to the window and are slimmer than you might expect (the close-ups on the websites make them look twice as large as they are in real life), the pleats are crisp and neat and the fabric finish of the blinds (there are dozens to choose from) gives them a real visual warmth.

Unlike many blackout blinds which are quite unattractive and need to be paired with pretty curtains, the Hive blinds look good on their own.

A fitter will come to your house with brochures to help you choose your colours, then return to fit them when they are made.

Hive® blinds start at £122 for a 400mm x 600mm made-to-measure standard free-hanging blind.

Style Studio also do an insulated Venetian blind – regular Venetians but coated with Thermostop, a coating applied to the concave side of the blinds that makes it three times more effective at stopping heat passing through, compared to regular blinds.

You tilt the slats inwards to minimise heat loss, and outwards in summer to keep heat out.

The Thermostop blinds come in a choice of colours and slat sizes and start from £107. You can find them here.

VERDICT

Ease: 5/5 – once you’ve made your appointment and chosen your fabric, the rest is done for you.

Cost: 5/5 – excellent value for money – less than having wooden blinds fitted – but you will need to find the initial layout.

Effectiveness: 5/5 – one of the best solutions we’ve seen to prevent heat loss through windows and no need for heavy curtains.

Take a look at the fabrics on offer and order up to 5 free samples at stylestudio.co.uk.

 

2 Smart thermostat

Hive thermostat, unrelated to the HIVE blinds but just as useful in cutting your energy bills

Most thermostats have three settings: on, off and timer. But using a one-size-fits-all timer when your schedule is erratic means you’re frequently heating an empty house.

How many times have you gone away for the weekend and left the heating on because you haven’t had time to change the timings or you don’t want to come back to frozen pipes or a freezing house?

For something so expensive, it seems archaic that we are relying on little analogue dials and fiddly buttons to set timers that can’t flex with our needs.

The solution: Use a smart thermostat you can control from your phone to turn it on when you’re close by, and turn it off when you decide to stay out.

It also eliminates that feeling of horror when you realised you’ve turned it to ‘fully on’ on a cold day then forgotten you’ll be away for three days.

Turning the thermostat down by just 1c can save you as much as £60 a year – imagine how much you can save by keeping it off altogether when it’s not needed.

AO.com sell a few different options – Nest, £209, a fantastic-looking thermostat that allows you to control your heating from your phone, tablet, laptop as well as Google Home and Alexa. It has a feature that learns your heating habits too, so it can predict what you’ll need.

Hive, £249, is a similar set-up that also controls combi boilers and includes the price of installation. It has ‘active geofencing’ that detects when you go over the boundary set around your home and will message you to ask if you meant to leave the heating on. The same function can turn your heating on as you approach your door. Genius.

Netatmo, £149, is a less expensive – but less slick-looking – option that is also getting good reviews and can be installed by you.

For all of these, professional installation may be required, so factor that into the price.

VERDICT

Ease: 4/5 – would have scored 5 but the technophobes and the elderly may find the controls a bit high-tech.

Cost: 5/5 – excellent value for money – if you programme it cleverly, you could easily make back the initial outlay during the first two years of use.

Effectiveness: 5/5 – just drags central heating right into the now. ‘Alexa, please turn the heating up to 21c’. Thank you.

 

3 Draught excluders

Fox draught excluder, notonthehighstreet

These might remind you of your granny’s house – but there’s a reason your granny’s house was so cosy.

Draught-proofing your windows and doors could save £25 – £35 a year on your heating bills.

In the 80s, draught excluders took the shape of brown woolly snakes. Now you can get chic linen draft excluders filled with lavender and barley that will block breezes from entering under the doors and really cut back on heating bills.

We like these print versions, £35, notonthehightstreet.com – but if you’re feeling frisky you could make your own. Just get some sturdy fabric, fill with polyfibre and beans/barley (for weight and so that the draught excluder fits into the shape of the door) and get stitching.

VERDICT

Ease: 5/5 – buy. Sling on floor.

Cost: 5/5 – a very cheap option with instant effects. Problem is you have to deal with every window and door for optimum effects.

Effectiveness: 3/5 – great at cutting draughts in individual doors but you’d have to have an army of them to do the whole house.

 

4 Chimney caps, covers or balloons

Stop heat going straight up the chimney! Chimneys both suck heat out of your home and allow down draughts to blast icy air back in. An open fireplace that hasn’t been blocked up or capped can cost hundreds in heating every year.

Most of the solutions are quick and cheap – a Chimney Sheep, from £16 – a thick sheepskin mat that plugs up the chimney to reduce draughts, prevent heat loss -a nd stops debris and wind noise coming down the chimney.

A chimney balloon, from £17.50, is an instant, affordable and invisible fix – an inflatable balloon that blocks the chimney and can be deflated in summer until you need to use it again.

The Chimney Balloon has been tested by BSRIA, which found t blocks 87% of airflow up the chimney.

And the Fireplace Heatsaver, a perspex chimney cover – effectively a large clear plastic box that fits over the fireplace to seal it off. It is discreet, but not invisible – which means it won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it does the trick. You may need to tape it in place to stop it rattling with the down draughts. The cover costs £80, but Fireplace Heatsaver say bills can be cut by £144 per year.

Visit fireplaceheatsaver or call 01924 368 899 to order. 

VERDICT

Ease: 5/5 – couldn’t be easier.

Cost: 5/5 –  affordable and will earn their money back in the first winter.

Effectiveness: 4/5 – they do the trick well, but the chimney box loses points due to the fact that it’s not an invisible fix.

 

5 Draught-proof letter box

The Ecoflap letterbox draught excluder

Many of use have felt the chill caused by the gusts of wind that blow through a letter box. It can feel like the icy wind is penetrating right through the heart of the house. You can use insulation strips, hinged flaps or brushes to cut breeze, but we do like the simplicity of the Ecoflap.

The Ecoflap, £27.99 is fitted on the inside of your door so that your letter box works as normal, no obstructions from the brushes or a stiff flap.

The box on the inside should completely seal off the letter box, closing firmly behind any post that comes through.

The company also do a draught-proof pet door as well, called the Petflap. It’s £69 and you can find out more about it here.

VERDICT

Ease: 4/5 – you’ll need to fit it yourself, but it’s made very easy by the company’s instructions.

Cost: 4/5 –  not too pricey

Effectiveness: 4/5 – no more wind whistling down the hallway, but some may not be keen on the aesthetic





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