How to beat winter and the high costs that come with it…

  • 1 December 2017
  • 6 replies

Userlevel 7
Now it’s cold. Proper cold. And dark too. That means you’ll naturally start using more energy. You’re putting your heating on, your lights are on longer, your hot water is using more energy to get hot etc.

This can't really be avoided, but steps can be taken to keep the cost increase down to a minimum.

Below are a few useful guides, which are a great place to start. We’d also like this to be a place to share some of your own tips and tricks to beat winter!

6 replies

Last month our heating bill came to £279. We live in a four bed town house and have the heating on for four hours a day, one in the morning and three in the evening. We have the thermostat set to 18 degrees. In the Spring/ Summer months when we only use the gas to heat the hot water, our bill averages £8 a month. We've had our boiler serviced, all checks were done and also had an independent consultant come round who said they couldn't find anything wrong. When the heating is on, our meter spins round REALLY quickly. Can anyone help? We are absolutely stumped and OVO keep suggesting a Smart Meter but I don't see how this is going to help when we can't get to the bottom of why so much energy is being used to heat the house.
Userlevel 3
All a smart meter will do is to make it easier to see why where your money is going hour-by-hour. IMO, you can do this just as easily by taking two sets of readings 2 hrs apart when your heating is on. Ultimately you are losing heat all of the time out of your walls, your ceiling/rook, your windows, your floor and through air losses. You are pumping heat into your house through your gas boiler. The more insulated your house or the colder you keep it, the less you have to pump in; it's as simple as that. It sounds like your house is poorly insulated and you've got a lot of heat losses. There's lots of advice online on how to improve the general performance of your house and some of it quite cheap to implement:
  • You should have 200mm insulation in the roof space. Check and top-up. Be deeply suspicious of sloping ceiling. Builders are notorious for not bothering to insulate these.
  • You should have TRVs on all rads and keep them turned down to say 12-15°C in non-used rooms.
  • Have you got decent airtight double or triple glazing. If not consider adding secondary glazing / film to windows. At this level of heating, your house is probably so leaky that you don't need to worry about tickle venting.
Creating a cost-benefit case for improving an existing house is hard and there are no simple solutions, I'm sorry to say.
Userlevel 4
I agree with Terry's assessment - a smart meter will tell you about usage rates but as he says, it seems to suggest that you are having to use a lot of energy to maintain comfort levels. However, although I don't know in which part of the country you live, I don't see that last month was particularly cold, necessitating excess heating - although obviously this last week or so has been particularly cold. All Terry's suggestions are spot-on, in our 3 bed house we have the bedroom TVRs set to the frost setting, where the radiator heats for half an hour when the boiler fires up in the morning, then switches off, as we don't need (or want) hot bedrooms. I'd also look at your radiators and make sure they don't need bleeding. Additionally, as it's a town house, I assume it's 3 storey, so depending on the layout, you may be heating a lot of stairways.
Userlevel 3
@Amanda Neales , to give you an idea of how critical insulation, window class and air tightness is, I have a reasonable large new detached 4 bedroom house in Northants has been designed and built to a spec that is far above current building standards. We keep the entire house at between 22-23°C all the time. At the current 3°C daily average outside temperature, we are currently using 7hrs×4kW over night electricity to do this, so my monthly bill is half of yours even though I am using off-peak electricity which is roughly three times the price of gas per kWh (so my overall heat losses are a sixth of yours).

I am not suggesting that it is cost effective or practical to attempt to retrofit an older town-house to this standard, but it might be worth address the major heat losses to improve your overall comfort and running costs.
Userlevel 4
Thinking about the £279 for one month, it does seem a lot.
My annual gas bill for a 3 bed semi is around £500 so this figure seems excessive. Do you have readings from the same time last year?
@Steve587 and @TerryE thank you very much for your input. We've been doing some checking and have noticed that the meter is spinning extremely quickly, even when it's just for the hot water.

We checked a few of the radiators, a couple needed bleeding, but all radiators already have TRV's on them so in the rooms we don't need heating, we've turned them down to the frost setting.

We're going to get a third opinion, as now loathe to put the heating on at all, plus now knowing so much energy is being used just to heat the water (we only have it on once in the morning and once in the evening).