Thursday, 29 November 2012

Saving on Fuel Bills

You might not think there's much you can do to save money on your gas and electric.

After all, you need the heating during the winter, and most meals need cooking. Then there's the lights, hot water and the washing machine. There doesn't seem much scope for cutting back on these things and you would be right.

However, there's a few quite small things you can do that make a significant difference to your home's efficiency, and with the energy companies putting their prices up far more than inflation each and every year, it's definitely worth looking in to.

You've probably heard of ideas like getting your loft insulated, and most people should have little trouble doing this themselves. After all, you basically just unroll it between your joists and thats pretty much it, but if you look around your home you can often find plenty more points that still let the cold in and the heat out.

For example: Take the picture above. This is the top of the airing cupboard, which happens to be in my little boy's room. For some reason, this room loses heat quite quickly over night, once the heating goes off. The room above it is our bedroom which used to be the loft and we don't use the heating in there, so that room is always cold, especially as the window is always open a crack, even at this time of year.

Noseying around in there the other day, I noticed the pipes and the hole in the ceiling, and it struck me that here was probably the reason the room lost heat so quickly. The cold air from upstairs must be draining down into it. A quick check with the back of my hand confirmed it, I could feel the cold air.

Now it was only a very small draft, and if you had felt it yourself, you might not have thought much of it, but from experience of draft proofing several of my previous homes, and friends houses, you'd be amazed at the difference just a little bit of this sort of work brings.

Anyway, a quick trip down to the local hardware store, and I bought some of this <= expanding foam!

Quite cheap, (it was a fiver), and was just perfect for the job. Took me literally 2 minutes to do before work, so there was the rest of the day for any fumes to dissipate before putting a small boy to bed in there.

Looking at it later on, it had more than filled the gap, as you can see, and the difference was immediately noticeable. It also helps that the Mrs keeps a thermometer in there too as she worries about him getting cold in the night, so I can say for sure, it's definitely warmer in the mornings.

Thing is, it's also warmer in there in the evenings too, which means I can turn the room's radiator down, saving gas and money on my fuel bill. It's odd, but just a couple of degrees centigrade seems to make all the difference. 

Try it out for yourself. At my work, if I turn the air con down to 16'C all the girls start shivering and complain it's too cold, but at 20'C they're more than happy, although you then get the blokes complaining it's now too warm!

And there's plenty of scope all around your home for cutting down on heat loss.

Other examples include sealing external doors and windows. You can buy a ready made foam strip with adhesive on one side for just this purpose, which is also very cheap. Here's my front door frame =>

Many of my windows are wooden framed, so I've done this to them as well.

And then of course, there's the letter box.

Your letter box is basically a large hole in your door and it lets a lot of valuable heat escape. In our case, our front door opens immediately into our front room, so it made a world of difference draught proofing it.

What I've done with mine, is actually buy TWO, carefully selected, letter box flaps and fitted one on the front of the door, and one on the back, like so<=

It's not all that clear on the picture, but I'll explain why I bought this particular type.

  1. There are brushes which help cut down the air gap when there's a paper thrust part way through it.
  2. There's foam on the back to help seal it when it's shut
  3. It's spring loaded, so the flap is held shut against the foam backing. This also stops it rattling in high winds.
One last thing I did with the door is put a heavy curtain up across the back of it. It's long enough to reach the floor, and forms one further thermal barrier, so even in the coldest of weather, when the cold seeps in through the wood itself, the front room remains warm. 

The other thing I've done recently, is acquire a portable heater. This is ideal for heating just one room instead of turning on the central heating system, which heats the whole house. The best thing is, it's a really good one, and I got it for free, and you might be able to as well.

I've been having a clear out and taking stuff to the local council's recyling centre, (posh name for the rubbish tip), and I've noticed that there's often electric, oil filled radiators there that people no longer want. I spoke to one guy who was dumping his and he told me it still worked, so I went home with it. Looking the model up on the 'net it turns out new versions cost £100-£150, so we're quids in :)

And then there was light...

Recently, it fell to me to repair a faulty light at my workplace, so I went to the local electrical factors. Chatting to the sales guy, he asked me if I'd tried LED lights yet? He explained that because they are such low wattage devices, they are much cheaper to run than ordinary light bulbs.

I told him I had already replaced all our 60-100 watt bulbs with energy saving bulbs from the local supermarket, at which point he laughed! 

Those energy saving bulbs, or CFL (Compact Flourescent Lamp) bulbs claim to use about 1/3 of the energy of normal bulbs, because more energy is converted into light, and less into heat. They last longer too, so you can replace a 100W bulb with a 30-40 watt CFL, which obviously saves you electricity. However, the salesman told me that a 6W LED bulb could replace my CFL bulbs, giving a massive saving over the original bulbs, and these types last even longer. They are a bit more expensive, but I'm definitely going to check them out soon.

Whilst thinking about that, it occured to me that next time I buy anything electrical, I'm going to check it's wattage to see how much power it uses. I wonder how much power a brand new slimline telly uses, compared with my current one... ;-)

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