Time to think about winter...

Nikki Jones, October 2019

Image from Wikipedia

A third of our heating in the UK is wasted – we heat buildings and rooms we don’t use, and our buildings leak. One degree down is estimated to save you 8% of your bill, so worth doing on all fronts – most of us won’t even notice one degree…

‘Insulation before installation’ is the mantra – get the cheap and easy wins done first. Here are a few thoughts, old and new. Any companies linked in to this are as examples, not direct recommendations.

  1. Get out your bills from the last year and sit your house-mates down (however young) to discuss; aim to cut 10% at least; take monthly readings and compare to a year before;

  2. Identify accurately where you are losing heat, such as with a CHEESE survey! Many small, low-cost changes can combine to make a big impact;

  3. The Centre for Sustainable Energy has many insulation fact sheets and an advice site;

  4. Period homes are a particular challenge but specialist companies exist, such as Mitchell and Dickinson. See their retrofit newsletter here (PDF).

  5. Make sure you and your house-mates understand your heating controls; two thirds of us don’t, apparently...;

  6. When did you last have your radiators flushed out? Plumbers tell me that most are gunked up – even when owners get new, efficient gas boilers...

  7. Put reflective liner down the back of your radiators particularly if on outside walls;

  8. Adding Endotherm makes radiators work more efficiently;

  9. Keep a duvet on the sofa, draw curtains at dusk, invest in thermal socks and big jumpers!

  10. Much of your heating will be hot water. Invest in a water-saving shower head (you can just unscrew old one and screw in the new); keep clothes washing temperatures down to 30 degrees unless really dirty;

  11. Try to shift your electricity and gas consumption away from winter peak hours – 4pm to 8pm December to March. Dishwashers and washing machines can be programmed for the middle of the night;

  12. Solar thermal (rather than PV) is a great option if you have a hot water tank. The Renewable Heat Incentive is still available, I gather.

  13. When deciding whether to replace a gas boiler please do the whole cost accounting – which includes servicing, maintenance and the fuel. I’m told that most of us don’t do this… There are some very cheap night time electricity rates at the moment (aimed mainly at EV drivers – eg. 5p/kWh from Octopus) but it will depend on how you consume as to whether this change benefits your pocket.

  14. GEUK offers 100% biomethane and Bristol Energy Company offers a percentage. Others may do so too.

  15. If you are going electric, then ground source or air source heat pumps are available – or efficient night storage. There are some very cheap night time rates at the moment (aimed mainly at EV drivers) but it will depend on how you consume as to whether this change benefits your pocket.

  16. Transfer what you learn to your working environment and the community buildings you use. Complain when it is too hot.

  17. People attending my talks tell me that they can save 50% or more on their bills by using ‘smart thermostats’. Honeywell isn’t the only one – other systems are on the market.

  18. I keep coming across ‘heat batteries’ and Sunamp seems to be the leading company. If anyone has experience of these, please do let me know.