TeaUK households are expected to find their winters particularly challenging due to the steep rise in energy bills and other essential costs. The average household can expect to pay £2,500 a year for its energy, following the government’s cap on unit prices, and potentially far more depending on the size of its household and usage. Many may struggle to cover basic costs such as food and heating in the coming months.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to plan in advance to make your home warmer and more energy-efficient. Here’s what you can do now – from simple DIY changes to more expensive remedies.
1. Find out where the heat comes from
You need to find out where the hot air is coming out of your house and the cold air coming in. Places where drafts can occur include windows, doors, floorboards, chimneys and loft hatches.
Hold a candle near windows, doors, and other areas to see if the flame dances around, suggesting a leak. Alternatively, try a thermal leak detector like the Black & Decker TLD100. You can buy it for £48.95 or rent it for just £5 a day on the Fat Llama Marketplace. It glows blue for cold, green for normal, and red for hot, so you know where the air leak is.
2. Draft proof your door
It’s worth draft-proofing your interior and exterior doors. For gaps at the bottom of the front and rear doors, the most durable option is a “brushed” draft-excluder. You can make your own draft-excluders for interior doors using rolled-up towels, or tights filled with old clothes, or buy cheap or second-hand draft-exclusionaries on sites like eBay.
You can buy rubber draft seals from DIY stores and fit these around your exterior doors. Install metal keyhole-covers to retain heat in your home, and fit a letterbox brush.
3. Plug Unused Chimneys
If there’s a chimney you’re not using, clog the hole with an inflatable chimney balloon, available online for £20 or more – or make a DIY plug with newspaper or old pillow balls. The Energy Saving Trust (EST) estimates that installing a chimney draft-excluder can save you around £65 a year on your energy bills.
4. Seal Your Windows
Members of the Facebook group Energy Support & Advice UK use clingfilm to fix inside window frames to keep their homes warm. You can also buy purpose-made “secondary-glazing film” online for about £10, and use a hairdryer to shrink it to fit your frame.
Alternatively, fit a layer of glass or plastic on the inside of your window frame as a cheap alternative to ready-made double-glazing. If you are unable to replace your windows, for example, you live in a conservation area, this may be a solution. You can also fit self-adhesive foam strips to seal around windows and prevent air leaks.
5. Install Double-Glazing
A more expensive option is purpose-built double-glazing, which will improve your home’s energy efficiency and may increase its value. Depending on where you live, you can expect to pay between £750 and £1,500 to replace each sash window, and on average £660 each for casement windows.
You may be able to keep existing frames, and fit double-glazed panes, to reduce costs. EST recommends double-glazed glass with an energy rating of B or above. Find a registered installer on Fensa.
6. Install Thermal Curtains
Closing your curtains when it’s dark stops the heat from escaping through your windows. Ideally, you want heavy-duty thermal lined curtains. You can find ready made options online from £14.99. Heat loss can be significantly reduced by installing a thermal curtain on the inside of the front and rear doors. You can also sew thermal linings to existing curtains—or attach them using Velcro.
7. Insulate Your Scaffolding
According to EST, an insulated loft can save up to £355 per year on energy bills in a semi-detached house, rising to £590 for a detached home. If your scaffolding is easily accessible, you can do the job yourself using a roll of mineral wool placed between the joists. There are videos online that show how to fit it. According to EST, it costs £630 to insulate a loft in a detached house, £480 for a semi, and £455 for a terraced house.
Some energy suppliers provide free loft insulation under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme to reduce carbon emissions and help families in fuel poverty. You usually need to receive benefits such as the Universal Credit or the Child Tax Credit to qualify.
8. Insulate the Walls
According to EST, one-third of all heat lost in homes is through unheated walls. If your home was built after the 1920s, it probably has cavity walls, which lose less heat than concrete walls. You will need an installer to drill the holes and inject the insulating material into the cavity walls. According to EST, the cost ranges from around £395 to £1,800 depending on the size of your property.
Eligible families may qualify for free cavity-wall insulation under the ECO scheme (see above). Keep in mind that cavity walls in homes built since the 1990s are usually pre-insulated.
Older, concrete walls lose the most heat, and homes are less likely to be insulated with these—and are difficult and expensive to work with. If you fit interior wall insulation, it’s cheaper, but you’ll reduce your floor space. Exterior wall insulation includes fitting insulation boards to the outside of your home. Either way, the cost can add up – around £8,500 for interior concrete wall insulation for a semi-detached house, rising to £12,000 for exterior wall insulation.
9. Install the Radiator Reflector Panel
Make sure that the heat from your radiators is reflected back into the room, rather than lost in the wall, by placing reflector panels behind them, especially if they return to exterior walls. A pack of three sheets from Radflake will fit three to six radiators, including fixing clips and strips, for £21.99 – or make your own using cardboard and kitchen foil.
10. Bleed Your Radiators
Making sure no air is trapped in your radiators will keep your central heating system running efficiently.
Simon Oram, category manager at Toolstation, says: “You can check if there is bleeding by turning on the radiator and running your hand over it. Is it cold at the top? This shows that there is air trapped in the radiator This can affect its efficiency, which means it may take longer to heat your room.” You can find guides on how to make your radiators bleed on YouTube. You’ll need some old towels, a small bowl and a radiator valve to soak up the water, which costs around £1.
11. Deal with Floorboard Gaps and Insulation
Even small gaps between floorboards can lead to cold draft, but there are plenty of inexpensive ways to fill them, such as silicone sealant from the DIY store. If you don’t have the time or inclination to deal with gaps, placing a rug on top of the floor will warm your home.
If you are able and willing to spend more, you can insulate the ground floor. This includes laying insulation over a concrete floor, or mineral wool between the joists under suspended wood floors. According to ChecketTrade, it costs £1,400 to insulate the average floor – but this depends on the type you have and the size of your home.
12. Check Your Room Layout
Make sure that sofas or beds are not placed directly in front of radiators, so that hot air cannot circulate. If possible, also keep them away from windows and doors, so you don’t feel any drafts when you’re using them.
13. Get Your Boiler Serviced – Or Upgrade It
You should ideally have your boiler serviced every 12 months, costing between £60 and £120, and preferably before winter arrives, to make sure it is running efficiently and safely . If your boiler is sluggish, it will need to work harder to bring your home up to the desired temperature.
Switching to a new boiler is a big upfront cost, but the most efficient A-rated condensing models will reduce your energy bills. If you live in a semi and you’re replacing an F-rated boiler, you can save up to £380 per year, EST estimates. The cost of replacing a boiler varies, but you can expect to pay around £4,000 to have a new energy-efficient model fitted.
14. Manage Your Thermostat
Think about when you really need your heating. You can set it to turn on, for example, for an hour in the evening, and shortly before getting up. You can invest in a programmable thermostat that you control with your smartphone, such as the Nest (£190). This enables you to turn off the heating when you are not at home, and before you return.
Consider lowering your thermostat by 1 degree Celsius compared to the previous winter. You may not notice the difference, but it can reduce energy bills by up to 10%, according to EST.
15. Insulate Your Water Tanks and Pipes
Check that your hot water tank has a lagging jacket to retain heat. If you need to insulate it, you can pick up a cylinder jacket for around £15. The pipes to and from the tank also need to be insulated using foam tubes. They can also prevent your pipes from freezing in extreme temperatures.