With energy prices going through the roof right now and cold weather well and truly upon us, it is important to think about how we can keep warm in winter. No one wants to choose between putting food on the table or putting the heater on. We all deserve adequate comfort in our homes when the temperature drops.
Whilst I cannot lower energy prices for you or magically pay your bill, there are some simple things you can do to keep your house warmer and your usage within check. When you’re at home in winter, try to keep warm using good old fashioned methods before turning on the heater.
A wood fire is a wonderful way to feel cozy and keep warm in winter. The fireplace clip on the TV just isn’t the same. For those of you with a wood fire in your home, try to source firewood out of season. There may be more available and you might be able to get it at a better price. Turn on alerts for Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree for free firewood as some people just want to get rid of excess on their property (be careful of white ants when you bring wood home).
Some will be free because it needs to dry out for a year or so, which is fine if you have place to store it out of the weather. If you need to buy some, a trailer load is often cheaper than buying a bag. Do your research because some companies and individuals charge a lot more than others.
Maintain your fireplace well by employing a chimney sweep to clean it out or buy the necessary tools yourself. This can reduce ash and charcoal build up inside as well as excess smoke, and helps it to run more economically.
Choose a heater wisely
One of the most important ways to keep energy costs down in winter is by choosing an energy smart heater. Electric heaters can be cheaper to buy but more expensive to run. Column heaters take a while to heat up but are energy efficient. Gas heaters can be more expensive to buy but cheaper to run. Ensure that gas heaters have appropriate ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Both Choice and Finder have done some testing around the best types of heaters to buy and calculations about their usage costs. Decide if you need to heat the whole house or just your main living area. This can help you choose which heater will best suit your needs.
Seal off any draughts
The last thing you want to do is pay for heating, only for it to escape out of your house. Close the air conditioner vents in winter, and better still, cut wood blocks to size to put in their place for extra warmth. Seal any gaps that let the cold air in. Curtains or blinds help to keep in the heat away from windows, and rugs provide warmth and cosiness to hard floors.
Get fit, stay warm
One way to get warm in winter is to get moving. When it’s too dark and cold to venture outside, try an exercise bike, cross trainer or treadmill. Lift some weights while watching TV. Do some push ups on your kitchen bench. Chromecast a YouTube workout, dance class or yoga session. All of these will help to burn some calories and warm you up in the process.
Have a few blankets within reach of the couch to snuggle up under. Opt for nice thick ones that keep the heat in. You can even buy heated blankets nowadays. Personally I’m not a fan but it is good to warm up your legs without needing to heat the whole house. Onesies can be super warm and a bit of fun.
Straight to bed
We often go to bed after dinner and cozy up under our quilt with a wheat bag or two. It saves putting on the heater and it’s the warmest place to be. We like our decaf coffee, tea and hot chocolates. We enjoy working on our side hustles or watching a TV series together on the iPad, and when it’s time to go to sleep, we don’t have to get up from the warm couch to go into a cold bedroom. Lazy? Probably. But in winter it works for us.
Head and feet
Heat often escapes from your head and feet so make sure these are warm enough. For those without hair or much of it, a beanie can keep in precious heat. My hubby sleeps with a beanie on his shaved head because otherwise he ends up too cold. Keep your feet warm with thick socks or ugg boots. Use wheat bags in bed to keep toasty warm.
I have a friend who keeps a microwave in her bedroom for the sole purpose (no pun intended) of reheating wheat bags overnight when they go cold. Yes. She owns two microwaves. Crazy woman or genius? I’ll let you decide.
Under the sheets
This is where the magic happens. Do what you can to keep warm in your bed. Consider buying a woollen underlay. We were given one for an engagement present and didn’t use it to start with. When we finally did, wow. What a difference it made. Instant warmth and softness.
Flannelette sheets are another brilliant invention. Instead of that brisk coolness when you first get into bed, you’re met with a warm fuzziness. A bed with an electric blanket on, is a delight to climb into. We’ve now opted for the warm underlay instead but it can be a nice indulgence, provided you remember to turn it off before falling asleep.
Switching your summer quilt for a thicker, winter one helps keep the chills out overnight. It’s another thing to store off season but I personally think it’s worth it. Wheat bags or hot water bottles are the final piece to the puzzle. Mind you, I used to have both an electric blanket and a hot water bottle until someone pointed out how incredibly dangerous that was.
Could you imagine if it burst and you had hot water mixed with an electric current? I rest my case. Don’t forget a nice dressing gown so when you have to venture out of your cozy bed eleven hundred times to help your crying baby or upset child or busting dog, you can keep warm.
Be a savvy saver
Consider doing an energy audit. We’ve just borrowed a kit from our local library and could figure out which appliances were using the most money, and how much a year they are costing. Check if you could add more insulation to your ceiling. Turn off PowerPoints at the wall to stop items using energy on standby, and seal up any gaps to prevent the warmth from escaping.
Lowering the thermostat by a few degrees (if it is adjustable), can make a difference to your heating bills too. Cooking with the oven on warms the house. It also makes sense to cook a few things at once so you won’t need to use your oven everyday.
Find a better deal
With the growing pressures on energy reserves, there is less wriggle room to negotiate a better deal on your gas and electricity. However it’s still worth giving them a call and asking. Remind them that you have been a reliable customer of theirs for years and always paid your bills on time.
Say that you would prefer to stay with them but in the end, you are on a budget and need to find the best price for your money. If they can’t offer you a better deal, switch to a different provider who can.
What needs to go
Keeping warm in winter is important. Look at your bank statements and see if there is any way to reduce your expenditure. Doing without some luxuries might help with paying heating bills. Things like gym memberships, streaming subscriptions, takeaway, alcohol and generous gifts can often be put on hold. These can be reassessed at a later date when money isn’t so tight and the cost of living not so high. There is no point trying to keep up with the Joneses if you are freezing every night.
Keeping warm in winter can be a challenge for many, especially those watching every last dollar. I really feel for pensioners who are reluctant to turn on the heater and have it so tough. Take some time to look around your home and see if the heat is escaping from anywhere.
Check to see that your current heater is working ok or if it would save you money in the long run to buy a different type. Make sure you’re not getting ripped off from your current provider. Don’t be afraid to go a little old school and do what our grandparents did to keep costs down. Sometimes though, no matter what we do to save on usage in winter, we can’t avoid paying for heating costs.
That’s when reducing our expenditure in other areas, working a little more or starting a side hustle, or a combination of the two can have a powerful effect. It can make us feel like we have more control over our situation.
Can I make a suggestion? Look around you and think about who might be struggling right now. It might be a neighbour on your street. If appropriate, reach out and see if there’s a way you can help. You could drop them over a batch of soup and some crusty bread or have them over for a meal.
See if they need some help sourcing a more economical heater for their home. Buy them a new wheat bag, a dressing gown or slippers, a soft blanket or a warm quilt. What we do for someone might not feel like much, but it might mean a lot to them. Just showing that we care can be enough sometimes.