HOW TO CUT BILLS AND STAY WARM
Six in ten British homes are energy inefficient — and, with snow on the way, here’s . . .
mANY of us have been putting it off for as long as possible. But with darker, colder days marking the onset of winter — and some forecasters scheduling snow in the coming weeks — it seems we have little choice but to crank up the heating.
Yet with spiralling energy costs, are we getting value for money when we turn up the thermostat? It seems 60 per cent of British homes are not as energy-efficient as they could be. So how do we keep the heat up and cost down? We ask the experts.
SEAL OFF THOSE DRAUGHTS
UNWANTED draughts could be making it harder and more expensive to heat your home. to find the source, run your hand around windows, doors and skirting boards. Rattling and whistling, especially when it’s windy, are also a giveaway.
‘draught-proofing around your windows and doors can save around £60 per year,’ says Joanna Flowers, a British Gas engineer. ‘Self-adhesive foam strips are easy to fit on windows to prevent draughts, while draught excluders are perfect if there’s a gap between your door and the floor.’
Covers for keyholes and brush strips for letterboxes are easy to fit. It also makes sense to block unused chimneys using a chimney balloon, says Peter Clayton, from Colchester-based trade Plumbing. ‘this is a plastic inflatable oval that pushes against the walls of the chimney to prevent warm air from escaping and reduce draughts.’
PUT UP DARK CURTAINS
THICK curtains, along with draught excluders and rugs, will stop heat from being lost through windows and doors.
Leah Aspinall, interior designer with Blinds2Go, adds: ‘For east-facing windows, open blinds in the morning to capture the early sun then, throughout the day, keep them open on sun-facing windows to warm up your rooms. As evening approaches and temperatures drop, close the blinds to insulate your rooms and retain the warmth.’
Opt for dark colours for curtains, such as navy, as these absorb sunlight and so will make the room warmer after a sunny day.
RETHINK YOUR RADIATORS
IF YOU know a room isn’t going to be used, turn the radiator off to cut heating costs, but shut the door to stop cold air circulating through the rest of the house.
‘the one caveat to this is don’t turn the radiators off in the room where the thermostat is located, or it could cause issues with the temperature of the rest of the home,’ says Jess Steele, heating technology expert at radiator and heating specialists Best heating. don’t block radiators with sofas either. Vlatka Lake, storage expert at Space Station, says: ‘Blocking the heat from a radiator could add over £110 a year to your bills.’
Joanne Flowers suggests placing a thin sheet of card covered with tinfoil behind your radiators. ‘It’ll reflect the heat back into your rooms, meaning they warm up faster and retain more heat. You can also buy ready-made foil insulation. households can save about £25 a year doing this.’
DON’T BE LATE TO INSULATE
IN A typical British home, 25 per cent of heat escapes through the ceiling, into the loft and out through the roof. ‘Insulation acts like a woolly hat for your home, preventing this heat loss,’ says home heating and insulation expert dave Raval.
the energy Saving trust estimates that a professionally installed loft insulation in a typical semi-detached home would cost £480, but once it’s done you’d save £355 a year on your energy bills.
If you already have insulation, check it is intact. ‘If it’s got pulled around make sure at least that there aren’t gaps (except at the eaves for ventilation). If you can, add insulation to at least 270mm depth,’ says Phil Steele, future technologies evangelist at Octopus energy.
But dave Raval warns: ‘Placing boxes on insulation could double the heat loss. Fluffy loft insulation works by trapping air, and when you squash it, you eliminate those air bubbles, reducing its effectiveness.’
SMARTEN UP HEAT SETTINGS
It’S tempting to turn the thermostat all the way up when it’s freezing.
Jess Steele says: ‘the average thermostat setting in the Uk is 20.8c, but 18c should keep you comfortably warm throughout the colder months. this can save up to 10 per cent on a fuel bill or an estimated £80.’
And smart technology thermostats mean you can control your heating remotely.
James Clark, technical training manager at smart heating system company Wiser, says: ‘You could have the heating on in bedrooms and bathrooms for the first hour of the day, then simply swap it to the home office and lounge for the afternoon via your phone. In fact, by switching to a smart heating system, you can save up to 30 per cent on your annual energy bills.’
THEY’VE been around since 5000BC when caskets were used by men and women in ancient Egypt as they believed jewellery had a spiritual significance. upper- class Egyptians had intricate jewellery boxes inlaid with precious metals and silver gilding, and pharaohs were buried with their jewel chests. lower- class Egyptians used decorated boxes made of reeds to store their talismans.
Jewellery stands seem to have become the item of choice in recent decades, but now cabinets are making a comeback in our homes — with sales spiking in the run-up to Christmas. it’s easy to see why; there’s something very satisfying about hanging up necklaces, placing rings in little velvet slots and, more importantly, knowing where each piece is when you need it.
‘in previous decades, women had just a few pieces of jewellery and wore them only on special occasions, but now they seem to have bucketloads of the stuff,’ says celebrity jeweller theo Fennell, whose clients include Elton John and liz Hurley.
‘i would hate to think of any piece of mine not being looked after properly, just stuffed into a drawer next to the hairdryer.’
Fennell’s bespoke jewellery comes in its own specially made box so he prefers a glass cabinet, what the Germans call a wunderkammer or cabinet of curiosities. ‘ then you can leave the box open, look at the piece and enjoy it when you’re not wearing it,’ he says.
silver Mushroom’s Nkuku Bequai wall-hung mirrored jewellery box in brass would be just the ticket (£99, silvermushroom.com).
Fennell suggests keeping an eye on auction house sales and scouring antique shops. ‘Drive around a country town somewhere like Dorset and you’re bound to find a nice glass armoire for a reasonable price.’ the range of cabinets on offer online is impressive. Mine came from Wayfair, is 3ft tall and so sturdy that, with a lamp on top, it doubles as a nice piece of furniture. it has swing-out doors with 14 hooks for necklaces.
For homes where space is at a premium, try the lvsomt range. it has a cabinet ( amazon.co.uk, £99) that could be wall-mounted or screwed to the back of a door, transparent drawers and LED lights, but you’ll have to assemble it yourself. it’s worth laying all your stuff out on a table first to work out which items you need the most space for.
if you’re after a bit more bling, opt for the richly decorated gold leaf and floral Chinese armoire from asia Dragon, which costs £398 and comes with seven deep drawers ( asiadragon.co.uk).
The over-the-top lxn armoire from amazon would make a brilliant statement piece in a room with its hand- painted flowers in a scandi-rustic style. it has seven drawers, two swing-out doors for necklaces and comes in pink, blue and, of course, gold (£780, FENNELL amazon.co.uk).
also points out that whatever jewellery you have, it needs to be buffed and treasured. He recommends soaking items overnight in warm water mixed with ajax and then cleaning it gently with a soft toothbrush.
‘Your grandmother’s jewellery, if you have inherited any, has survived in good condition because she didn’t wear it to the gym, she didn’t drive and she didn’t have it on when she was gardening,’ he says.
‘Women come to me and say “Granny’s rings are wrecked!” and that’s because they’ve worn them on both hands and then clapped enthusiastically at the theatre, bashing those precious stones together. Don’t do it. You need to look after those jewels like your Granny did.’