Energy bills are set to rise from January, leaving many wondering how they can save money while staying warm this winter.
Energy bills will increase by £94 for millions of households across the UK from next month, Ofgem announced in November.
The price cap will rise from £1,834 per year to £1,928 a year from the new year.
The increase has been driven almost entirely by rising costs in the international wholesale energy market due to market instability and global events, particularly the conflict in Ukraine.
The cap does not set the maximum a household will pay for their energy but limits the amount providers can charge them per unit of gas or electricity, so those who use more energy will pay more.
The £1,928 figure is based on Ofgem’s estimate of what an average household would use over a year.
With that in mind, Stephen Hankinson, energy efficiency expert at Electric Radiators Direct, has offered his advice on how best to save money this winter.
Should I leave the heating on all day?
Addressing the belief that it is more cost efficient to leave your heating on all day than turning it on when you need it, Stephen said: “Firing up your boiler and the initial stage of heating your home is the most energy-intense, and costly, period of the process. That has led some to speculate whether doing away with this and keeping the heating on all day – at lower temperatures – can reduce this cost.
“But – and there are a good few buts – it’s not recommended.
“Having your heating set to a low temperature – say 14o-16o – means it is not set to a level that you are likely to be comfortable in, so you’ll be turning it up at some point and spending more money.
“Plus having your heating on when you're not in the home is a complete waste of money. You don’t put the oven on when you’re not cooking food, so why would you turn on the appliance designed to keep you warm when you’re not there?”
He also looked at four other ways you could save money on your energy bills this winter.
How to save money on energy bills
Turn your thermostat down
Stephen explained the easiest way to cut money off your bill is to turn your thermostat down.
He said: “If your thermostat is attempting to reach a temperature of 22-23o each day, you’re unlikely to notice the effect of dropping it a degree or two. In the coldest depths of winter, it may not even be possible for temperatures to get that high if your home has large, airy rooms.
“You’ll save more for each degree you can withstand taking it down by. Going by the latest average usage figures, dropping from 21o to 18o could save over £300 a year.”
Never heat empty rooms
“In a home with central heating, this is very easy to overlook if you have rooms that are not used regularly, as switching the heating on will activate every radiator around the house,” Stephen explained.
He added: “Turning radiator valves down will stop them from producing heat – and this can lower your bill if you live in an older property with an older boiler. But for newer homes and systems, this is counterproductive as the inefficiencies it causes in the system can actually increase your bill.
“In these cases, you’re better off trying to make your system more efficient by reducing the flow temperature of your boiler – but this is a tricky balance to strike as going too low can cause big problems for your boiler.”
Schedule your heating
Stephen said: ““Those who don’t work from home at all during the week should pay close attention to this one as there will be large parts of the day where you simply do not need the heating on.
“An hour or so in the morning, starting shortly before you typically wake up, should have you in comfort as you go about getting ready for the day. And keeping the heating off while you’re out for the day means you can set it to have the house nice and warm for you when you get back.
“Similarly, if you’re going away for an evening or a few days, make sure to change your thermostat to reflect this and ensure you’re not wasting money.”
Heat the person, not the space
This isn’t as simple as sticking a jumper on, Stephen said. Instead, he recommends that rather than reaching for the thermostat when you start feeling chilly, you can instead reach for a hot water bottle.
Boiling the kettle for a hot water bottle will cost around 6p, and be significantly cheaper than turning up the heating.
Stephen added: “If temperatures have really plummeted, or you just want more of a technological option, then a heated blanket is also great. If you spend three hours of an evening relaxed under one, the electricity will set you back about 9p even at full blast.”