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Money matters: Getting your home ready for winter

By Jill Smyth, Head of MoneySense, Ulster Bank

Published 04/08/2015

Jill Smyth, Ulster Bank
Jill Smyth, Ulster Bank

With the recent summer showers and inclement weather, many of us have resorted to turning on the heat and even lighting the fire in an attempt to keep warm. These unplanned costs may well have eaten into your budget, so why not take some time over the summer to implement some small lifestyle changes to help you have a warmer and more cost-effective winter.

Heating your Home

In a typical home, over half of money spent on fuel bills is spent on heating and hot water, so having an efficient and cost-effective heating system is vital.

Why not try some of the following to help reduce costs

  • Bleed your radiators regularly: if your radiators are cooler at the top and warmer at the bottom, you need to bleed them.
  • Check your oil tank: make sure pipes are intact and not leaking and supervise all oil deliveries so that you know you are getting what you ordered.
  • Fit thermostats in rooms to control temperatures. It's best to have as many controls as possible, so you can fully control the way you want your home to be heated.
  • Fit a timer. This will allow you to set your boiler to go on or off at set times and means you only have the heat on when you need it to be on
  • Don’t block the heat source in your rooms. Move sofas and tables away from radiators and avoid hanging washing over them.

Insulating and draught proofing

All properties lose heat through windows, doors and also through walls, so draught-proofing your home is one of the easiest ways of cutting costs on heating bills.

  • Doors: to prevent draughts, why not make a draught excluder.
  • Radiators: heat-reflective panels can be fitted behind radiators which help to reflect the heat back into the room. These can be bought online or in local DIY stores
  • Windows: if you don’t have double glazing, there are other ways of preventing heat escaping through windows. Insulating window film is available from hardware stores and supermarkets; you stick it onto the window and dry it with a hair dryer. This forms a protective layer and helps the room retain heat
  • Curtains: invest in some thermal linings and if you are changing your curtains go for the thickest ones you can get
  • Water tanks and pipes: a jacket for a hot water tank costs around £15 and pipes can be lagged with old towels
  • Bare floor boards: wooden and laminate floors are very on trend, but tend to be very cold. Invest in a rug, or if you can’t afford one, call into your local carpet showroom and see if they have any cheap off cuts for sale
  • Chimney balloon: if you have a fireplace which isn’t being used, you could be losing heat and letting in cold air. You can buy a chimney balloon for around £20 - it inflates inside the chimney and blocks the cavity
  • Key holes – if you have wooden doors in your home you will probably still have a key hole. You can buy covers for a couple of pounds to put over the hole when not in use.

Switching Suppliers

One of the easiest things to do is to make sure you are getting the best deal on your home energy bill. Switching to a different company could shave pounds off your monthly bills.  If you pay by direct debit or get both gas and electricity from the same supplier you can often bring your bills down even further.  It is really worth shopping around and checking comparison websites to see how much you can reduce your bills this winter.

MoneySense is a free, independent programme by Ulster Bank for schools and parents covering topics including banking, borrowing, budgeting and running a small business.

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