Wednesday 25 April 2018

How can I cut back on my heating and electricity bills?

We have a large family and live in a four- bedroom semi-detached house which is about 30 years old. I've noticed that our heating and electricity bills have been increasing steadily over the winter and would like to rein them in if at all possible. Do you have any suggestions on how to do this for next year?

It is understandable that this column is experiencing a significant increase in the number of queries relating to energy efficiencies/heat loss.

Undoubtedly the main driver for these comes at the start of winter. But they are probably accelerated further in springtime by recent advertising campaigns seeking to improve our awareness of energy usage and making it stretch further within our homes.

While one can get lost in the increasing array of technology offerings such as solar panels, wood chip boilers and geothermal pumps among others which can reduce your electricity bills, it is probably as beneficial for existing property owners to simply review their existing energy usage patterns and make small changes to them as a first step.

For the most part home heating is one of the home's largest energy consumers during the winter months. Whether you use a central heating system or another source it is essential that you make sure that it works efficiently for you.

As a rule you should fit thermostat controls in your home and timers on heaters where possible – this will ensure that your heaters are only active when you need them.

It is recommended that you only use electric heaters where you want to heat a small space in your home – they are among the most expensive type of heater to run unless you have a storage heater fitted, so you should use them sparingly. Ditto with open fires – while great to look at, it is claimed that more than 70pc of their heat disappears up the chimney.

For many 20°c is the ideal temperature for a living room – and going down to 18°c in bedrooms can prove just as comfortable. A telling statistic is that by reducing the temperature in a heated room by just 1°c you can take up to 10pc off your heating bills.

This underlines the need for thermostats in your home – through controlling your energy usage, you control your energy bills. For this reason it is also essential that you regularly service your central heating, whether it be gas or oil fuelled, as in doing so you make sure that it is working as efficiently as possible.

You can source a qualified service agent for this on but be warned – October and November tend to be busier times of the year for them! As a last point on home heating it is essential that you have good insulation throughout the home.

You can produce all the heat that you want but if your home is not insulated properly then it all goes to waste. Make sure to address all the draughts in your home and you could even look at getting an energy rating assessor to come in to evaluate it if it still feels cold. You can read a previously published article on 'Insulation in the home' on for more details.

Hot water is an essential for getting through the winter months. Indeed heating hot water – either through the central heating or electric showers – can account for over 60pc of the energy consumption in your home. It is widely known that showers are much more efficient than baths, using just 20pc of the energy – although I strongly suspect that this figure varies based upon who is using the shower!

In all cases it is recommended that any hot water cylinders in your home should be fitted with energy approved lagging jacket. Not only do they keep your water warmer for longer but they will provide you with real costs savings.

Irish Independent

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