With freezing temperatures hitting the UK and the Met Office issuing a cold weather alert for large parts of the country, it is time for people to start winter-proofing their homes - but this can prove expensive unless you use a little common sense.
As millions turn up the thermostats, ensuring properties are running as efficiently as possible can help prevent energy bills from soaring.
Price comparison and switching service, uSwitch, has revealed that some households could be set to overspend by up to £536 a year on their power bills due to lack of ‘winter proofing’.
The firm shares their combination of long-term solutions as well as practical quick fixes that could help lower costs.
Tip one: Bleed your radiators
"Bleeding" your radiators is a simple task anyone can do to improve their central heating system's efficiency without turning the thermostat up. When you bleed a radiator, you release any air that has become trapped inside and ensures hot water fills the space instead, meaning your heating system should use less gas to warm up your home – and it should knock a few pounds off your gas bill too!
Tip two: Compare and switch your energy supplier
Quite possibly the easiest and most effective tip of all: compare energy deals to ensure you're on the cheapest gas and electricity plan before winter arrives.
The big energy suppliers are enticing customers with some of their lowest prices since 2016. Make sure you're not caught out in the cold - grab your energy bill and spend 10 minutes comparing energy deals to find the best one for you.
Saving*: Switching your gas and electric could save you up to £321* on your annual energy bill
*Based difference between current price cap on SVTs of £1179 per annum compared to current cheapest deal on the market at £858 per annum (Outfox the Market “FIX’D 19 5.0”). Data correct as at 19/11/19.
Tip three: Don't get caught out with a bum boiler
There's nothing worse than an icy shower during this time of year. Winter can be a demanding for your condensing boiler, with figures showing that last year saw a fifth of UK households hit by boiler breakdown.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, heating accounts for about 55 per cent of what you spend in a year on energy bills, so an efficient boiler makes a big difference. The more efficient the boiler, the more money you could save on your energy bill.
Annual boiler services can help ensure your boiler is working more efficiently. With a new boiler costing upwards of £2,000, for those who don’t have the money to replace it if it breaks down, having boiler insurance cover can give you that piece of mind that you will have some form of protection.
You can get an annual boiler service and cover from as little as £13.50 per month via British Gas.
If you go down this route, be sure you understand what is covered as part of your insurance. Some boiler breakdown cover plans offer unlimited cover and claims each year. Others have an upper financial limit and set a maximum number of call-outs each year.
Long-term investment: Is it time for a new boiler?
Replacing a boiler is expensive - usually upwards of £2000. While no boiler will carry on forever, newer boilers are more efficient, reducing the amount of gas needed to heat the water and radiators in your home.
According to boiler manufacturer Viessmann, a boiler which is over 10 years could be 30% less efficient than a brand new boiler. This means it will burn more gas, which will increase your energy bill. How much this will cost you depends on how much extra gas it burns and what your energy tariff is. A more efficient boiler would certainly help bring your gas bill down. However, you would also need to consider whether you can afford several thousand pounds - either in one go or over the course of a repayment plan - to buy a new boiler in the first place.
Saving*: A household on a poor value standard variable tariff could be paying a whopping £200 per year extra for their gas use if their boiler is old and inefficient.
*Based on household on SVT with medium annual consumption (12,000kWh), with modern boiler operating at 95% efficiency paying £539 per year for gas. A boiler working 30% less efficiently than a modern boiler (operating at 65% efficiency) would burn through 46% more gas to heat the home to the same level as a modern 95% efficient boiler. This would increase usage to 17,538 kWh per year, which would put a standard variable gas bill up by £203.85 per year.
Tip four: Get smart with a smart thermostat
Smart thermostats cost anywhere from £70 to £250 and can give users the ability to remotely control a home's temperature, which appeals to those with hectic schedules.
However, they should not be confused with smart meters, which digitally send meter readings to your energy supplier.
Smart thermostats don't directly save you money the way switching energy supplier can, but you should be able to control when you have the heating on more efficiently, which should save you in the long run.
You will also receive reports about your usage, which can help you better understand your heating usage, and adjust your behaviour and preferences accordingly to save money.
Saving: According to Tado, its smart thermostats will help customers save an average of 27% on their heating costs – about £180 a year. Scottish Power on the other hand, claim that they could save you around £337 a year if you spend about around £200 a month on your heating.
Tip five: Draught proof your house
Draught-proofing is not only a quick and cheap way to warm up your home, the improved ventilation and air flow control will reduce damp and condensation.
Older homes in particular can be very draughty, and even more heat is lost during windy weather, both through the increase in draughts and because of the cooling effect of wind blowing past walls and roofs. The most common areas that can get draughty are between floorboards, doors, windows, letter boxes and chimneys.
Many people may also be eligible for grants to help with the cost of making your UK home more energy efficient. And once the work has been done, your home should be easier and cheaper to keep warm for many years to come.
Saving: Draught-proofing around windows and doors could save you around £20 per year*. If you have an open chimney, draught-proofing your chimney when you’re not using it could save around £15 per year*.
* Source: Energy Saving Trust Savings based on a typical gas-fuelled semi-detached property in England, Scotland or Wales
Rik Smith, at uSwitch said: “Following a long stint of mild weather, the sudden temperature drop over the past week has sent many of us scurrying to crank up the central heating.Thankfully, there are a few simple steps we can take that won’t break the bank to keep our homes as toasty as possible, as well as longer-term options - which require a bit more investment - which will help keep costs down over many years.”