6 easy ways to keep your home warm this winter, according to an energy expert

Keep the heat you generate inside your home with these top tips from our energy expert

Two children on sofa looking at ipad while snuggled under a blanket
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Temperatures are dropping and snow is forecast in the UK for the coming weeks – but just because it’s cold outside it doesn’t mean you can’t stay warm inside your home. 

There are many reasons why energy prices are going up, and we're paying more than ever before for the energy we use, even though the Energy Price Guarantee is in effect and the £400 energy rebate is being paid. This means that keeping the heat we generate inside our homes is more important than ever.

Consultant in public health medicine at UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Dr Agostinho Sousa, says: “If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you should heat your home to a temperature that is comfortable for you. In rooms you mostly use such as the living room or bedroom, try to heat them to at least 18°C if you can. Keep your bedroom windows closed at night. Wearing several layers of clothing will keep you warmer than one thicker layer.”

Homeowners can reduce their energy bills by installing cavity wall or loft insulation or buying a new energy efficient boiler – but these measures can be expensive. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple and inexpensive ways to keep your home warm this winter.

1.  Install thermal blinds or curtains 

Windows can be a large source of heat loss with up to 30% of a home’s heating energy lost through windows. Experts say that correctly installed blinds can reduce heat loss through windows by 40% in winter.

Thermal blinds are designed to keep the heat in during winter. Some are made from specially constructed fabric that help retain warmth and block out cool air, while others feature special coatings that help improve insulation.

Oliver Hudson, managing director at BlindsbyPost, says: "Thermal blinds offer a cost-effective solution for reducing heat loss from windows, which means reducing your energy bills. You can save up to 14% of your energy by installing blinds, which means if the average household is paying £2,500 in energy bills per year, there is a potential saving of £350 per household – nearly £1 a day."  

2.  Warm up your bed 

Most people turn their central heating off at night. But if you do this, you’ll need to make sure you are tucked up in a nice warm bed. A mattress topper can help insulate your body from the cold surface of the mattress and retain natural warmth throughout the night. Layering your bed with sheets, a duvet and blankets can also help you keep warm.

Lucy Ackroyd, head of design at bedding retailer Christy England, says: “Add some extra warmth to cold nights by switching to a high tog duvet. The higher the tog number on your duvet the better the insulation. If you tend to be cooler than most in autumn and winter time, go for a 13.5 tog to ensure that you get a good night's rest. 

“If you want to add a little bit of extra warmth, a throw is a great way to keep your bed nice and toasty.” 

3.  Invest in an electric blanket 

If your bed still isn’t warm enough, an electric blanket is an efficient way to heat it up. But better still, you can use an electric blanket to keep you and your family warm while sitting in the living room or working from home, without having to put the heating on for longer than necessary. 

Electric blankets are made from a heavy, sturdy material with an internal integrated wiring system that provides warmth and heat through coil wires when plugged into an electrical socket.

The cheapest electric blankets cost as little as £30. When it comes to how much it costs to run an electric blanket, if you use a 100W electric blanket for two hours every night, it would cost about 39p a week.

We've also compared electric blankets and hot water bottles to see which is cheaper to run.

4.  Maximise heat from your radiators 

If your radiators are making a bubbling or ticking noise, or there are cold spots on a radiator, there could be air trapped in the pipes. When radiators have trapped air inside them, it stops the warm water from circulating and heating. Bleeding your radiators will allow the air to escape, so the radiators can work more efficiently. 

Moving furniture away from radiators can also help the heat circulate more easily. In addition, this radiator hack will help to reflect heat back into a room rather than letting it escape through the walls.   

5. Don’t heat rooms you’re not using 

If you spend all day in mostly one room – your living room or home office, for example – you’ll be wasting energy if you heat your whole house.

The cheapest way to heat a room is by using an efficient gas central heating system, thermostatic radiator valves, a room thermostat and a timer. Turn off the radiators in other rooms and just leave the one in the room you’re using on.

Turning off your central heating and using an electric heater to heat one room will usually work out more expensive. We crunched the numbers in our guide to how much it costs to run an indoor heater

We've also compared the running costs of a gas fire versus central heating to see which is cheaper. The answer may surprise you, but could significantly lower your energy bills.

6. Do some DIY draught-proofing 

Draught-proofing your property can help maintain comfortable temperatures inside. Unwanted gaps in any area means that too much cold air is let in, and too much warm air is let out. This means your heating system needs to work harder to warm your home, which will cost you more money on your energy bills.

Windows, doors, chimneys, wall cracks, floorboards and loft hatches are all likely to have draughts. But you don’t always need professional help or to spend lots of money to block draughts in these areas – you can do it yourself using sealant, self-adhesive foam strips and draught excluders.

Sonnaz Nooranvary, upholsterer on the BBC’s The Repair Shop, says: “Draughty doors let heat out and cold air in. Adding draught excluder tape to the inside of the door frame and putting up an over-door curtain can make a huge difference. These curtains work best on kitchen and front doors or a particularly draughty interior door. Try to opt for an interlined curtain for best results. 

“Draught excluders are quick and easy to make and can be made with remnant fabrics or by upcycling old clothing or throws. Be sure to make them slightly bigger than the doorway so that they sit snugly into the space.” 

How to get financial help to insulate your home 

Insulating your walls, loft, pipes and water tank can help to reduce heat loss from your property – but these measures can be expensive. Fortunately, there are several schemes available to help you with the cost if you need it. 

Help to heat

The government is investing £12billion in Help to Heat schemes to make sure homes are warmer and cheaper to heat. 

This scheme includes the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, Home Upgrade Grant and Energy Company Obligation (ECO). The funding is delivered through installers, local authorities, energy companies and other bodies.

Boiler Upgrade Scheme

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme offers upfront help to cover the cost of changing from a gas boiler to lower-carbon heating.  Under the scheme, homeowners can get £5,000 off the cost of new air source heat pumps and £6,000 off ground source heat pumps. 

Home Upgrade Grant

Under this scheme the government is giving £700m to local authorities to help them provide energy efficiency upgrades and clean heating systems to low-income households. The scheme is aimed at energy inefficient homes in England that don’t have mains gas central heating.

Energy Company Obligation

Grants given out under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) by energy suppliers typically pay for loft and cavity wall insulation and boiler upgrades. 

Different energy suppliers have different amounts of support and offer different types of improvements. So, you need to check with your energy company regarding what’s on offer. 

Not everyone will be eligible for help. Eligibility criteria varies between local authorities and will depend on your income, any benefits you claim, and your home’s energy efficiency rating.

Emma Lunn
Personal finance expert

Emma Lunn is a multi-award-winning journalist who specialises in personal finance and consumer issues. With more than 18 years of experience in personal finance, Emma has covered topics including all aspects of energy - from the energy price cap to prepayment meter tricks, as well as mortgages, banking, debt, budgeting, broadband, pensions and investments. Emma’s one of the most prolific freelance personal finance journalists with a back catalogue of work in newspapers such as The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday and the Mirror.