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8 DIY tips to keep your home warm for less as energy bills rise

Here are some energy-saving tweaks you can make to your home so that it leaks less heat this winter.

How do you keep your house warm? With energy bills set to hit £2,500 a year from October and the cost of living crisis already worrying bank balances, more people than ever are going to need help to get through the winter.

Government support will be vital for helping millions pay their bills and protect them from fuel poverty. And in the long run, we will need huge government investment to insulate all of our homes.

But in the absence of meaningful support for the foreseeable, we asked experts for some energy-saving tips for keeping your home warm for less this winter.

These DIY adjustments, which can be made before the weather turns, will also save energy and reduce your home’s carbon footprint, meaning you will be doing your bit for the planet too.

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Lower your combi boiler’s flow temperature 

The flow temperature is the temperature your boiler heats water to before sending it to your radiators. Most gas boilers are set up to heat the water to 80C.

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“One of the biggest DIY energy-saving tweaks is to reduce the flow temperature from 80C to 60C or lower if possible,” Jo Alsop of The Heating Hub told the Big Issue. “A report by the Heating and Hot Water Council found that this could save 6 to 8 per cent on fuel bills.”

However you should only turn down the flow temperature if you have a combi boiler.

“If you’ve got a boiler with a separate hot water tank we don’t recommend it because this could allow bacteria to grow,” said Madeleine Gabriel, director of sustainable future at the innovation foundation Nesta. “But if you’ve got a combination boiler that provides heating and hot water on demand, which 15 million people do, then this is worth trying.”

The Heating Hub and NESTA have online resources showing you how to change your boiler’s flow temperature.

Turn off your boiler’s preheat setting

Some boilers have a hot water preheat function. This keeps a little hot water prepared in the boiler at all times and therefore cuts down the time it takes for hot water to come out of the taps. 

To do this the boiler will fire about every 90 minutes, which requires a lot of gas. You might not need your boiler pre-heat setting switched on all the time, like at night or in the day when you’re at work.

“If you have a Worcester, Vaillant or Ideal combi boiler, you could save another 5 to 10 per cent on your energy bills by turning off your preheat,” Alsop says.

The Heating Hub has an online resource to show you how to turn the preheat setting off.

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Draught-proof your doors, windows and chimney

Around 15 per cent of the heat loss from a typical house is due to draughts. The Energy Saving Trust says that draught-proofing around windows and doors alone could save a typical gas-fuelled, semi-detached home around £30 a year. 

Filling the chimney with a chimney balloon, available from most DIY stores, when you’re not using it could save an extra £20 a year in the same property type.

While professional draught-proofing could cost around £225 for your whole house, you can do it yourself. 

For windows that open, buy draught-proofing strips to stick around the window frame and fill the gap between the window and the frame. Self-adhesive foam strips are cheap and easy to install, or you can get metal or plastic strips with brushes or wipers attached. You just need to make sure the strips are the right size for your window. 

Older homes with single glazing might be more difficult to draught-proof and may need professional advice.

The Energy Saving Trust has more info on draught-proofing your windows and doors, and tailored advice for if you live in an old building.

Fit low-cost secondary glazing

About 10 per cent of the heat loss from a typical house is through the windows. 

Secondary glazing can be a cost-effective way of reducing this heat loss and making your home more comfortable.

But if installing double glazing is too costly or you’re not allowed because you live in a listed building or conservation area, you can add perspex or cling film which are both cheap and easy to install.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy provides a range of options for fitting secondary glazing ranging in cost, complexity and permanence.

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Turn your thermostat down by one degree

The Centre for Sustainable Energy says turning your thermostat down by one degree could save 10 per cent on your bills.

If your heating system has a main heating thermostat, or a programmer where you can set the temperature, then this is the most important part of your heating system to get to grips with. 

Try turning the temperature down by one degree, wait for a day and see how it feels, the website Simple Energy Advice suggests. 

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Uswitch also says that upgrading to a smart thermostat could also save you as much as £164 a year. 

This is because it will connect your heating system to the internet meaning you can remotely control your home’s temperature from your phone. So you can save energy and money by turning temperatures down when you’re out of the house. Different smart thermostats range from about £150 to £300.

Use thermostatic valves on radiators (TRVs)

TRVs can save you money because they allow you to heat individual rooms, according to the website Plumbcare

For example, you may want to keep your living room toasty and keep your bedroom cool. With TRVs you can do that accurately. 

“In these situations, you could reduce the valve low enough to prevent any damp or condensation problems occurring and turn it back up when needed,” National Energy’s Action Project development manager Maureen Fildes said. 

It costs around £500 to install TRVs in a whole house so it would take a while to recoup these costs though you would find it saves you money in the long term.

Insulate your hot water tank

If you have a hot water boiler, insulating the water tank is a quick and easy win when it comes to saving money on your bills.

The Energy Saving Trust recommends your boiler’s jacket be 80mm thick. A hot water cylinder jacket costs about £17, fitting it is straightforward if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and it could save you around £35 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Move furniture away from radiators

Large pieces of furniture next to radiators soak up huge amounts of heat, so move them away to enable hot air to circulate around your room.

Moving your sofa six inches away from the radiator could save you up to 10 per cent on your bills.

Check in with your neighbours

It’s also important to check in with elderly or vulnerable neighbours to see if you can help implement the above measures.

“Check in with neighbours and see if there’s any way you can help them,” Rachel Moffat from Bristol Energy Network told the Big Issue. “This winter’s going to require a team effort.”

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