With the cost of living crisis sweeping across the UK, in particular, with our energy bills, we’re all bracing ourselves for this winter. There can be a strong temptation to avoid putting the heating on, but it can be really bad for your health! Here’s how to save money on heating so you can put it on and take care of your needs properly in this current climate we find ourselves in.
What Does The Cold Do To Your Body?
Have you put your heating on yet? We finally cracked last night and put it on, but it was mostly only after reading an alarming report from a BBC journalist who went through an experiment to see what happened to his body when the temperature dropped to just 10C.
As a doctor, I hadn’t quite grasped the severity of the effect even minor cold temperatures have on our bodies. Whenever I thought of the cold being a problem, I had in mind being out in the snow and developing frostbite or hypothermia, but certainly not 10C.
So what happened in this experiment? The reporter’s body had to work hard to keep core temperature at 37C. To do this, he had a rise in his blood pressure and his heart rate. His cognitive function also reduced as well.
He comments on how this would be a lot worse for someone trying to do homework or for a vulnerable person with dementia.
And it’s worse for women too – the oestrogen in our blood makes the blood vessels in our hands and feet constrict more, so that makes us feel colder.
It’s no wonder then that more deaths happen in winter. So the cost of energy crisis is really, really worrying me now.
But what do you do if you have worries about putting on the heating or know someone who is worried?
Tips To Save Money On Heating and Stay Warm
Here’s how to save money on heating your home:
The obvious things are to layer up your tops, wear thermal undies and leggings, socks, slippers and if needed put on gloves and a wool hat. These kinds of items make great gifts too, like my personal favourite, the “oodie”. It’s basically a fluffy oversized hoodie that feels like you’re wearing a duvet all day… highly recommended, but you might want to take it off for zoom meetings and use it as a blanket for your legs instead!
Hot Water Bottles
Use hand warmers and hot water bottles too, but be careful not to scald yourself, so make sure it has a good cover. There are some pretty ones on amazon, and some come with pockets for your hands to keep them warm. I also have some slippers that can be heated up in the microwave for 30 seconds to keep your tootsies toasty!
Heated quilts and blankets would be good, particularly for those who can’t move about much. It has been estimated that it would cost around 3p an hour to run one.
Eat More Carbs
Being cold uses up more energy, so aim for comfort foods over the winter to keep your energy levels high. A slow cooker is cheap to run and apparently can cost just 4.5p per hour and is perfect for many comforting winter meals! If you’re someone who needs to watch your carbs (such as those with diabetes), look for healthy carbohydrate swaps like brown rice, brown pasta and veggies high iin fibre. If you’re not sure, have a chat with your diabetes nurse specialist for advice.
Regular Hot Drinks (but not alcohol!)
In the winter, there’s nothing better than drinking a nice hot cup of tea or hot chocolate. Adding ginger to your beverage has a delicious warming effect on your body. I love mulled wine and hot toddies this time of year too, but drinking alcohol is not great for keeping us warm. It might make you feel flushed and warm to begin with but alcohol causes blood vessels just under the skin to dilate which takes heat away from our body’s vital organs.
Use a Thermos Flask
If you’re going to be drinking a lot of warm drinks and heating up those water bottles, a large thermos flask might be exactly what you need to reduce the number of times the kettle needs to be put on. I found a 2.5L one on amazon which will help to keep me topped up with hot cups of tea all day!
Watch Fire On Your TV
This is a weird one, but apparently, through the power of suggestion, having running videos of crackling fires on your TV can make you feel warmer! I mean, even if it doesn’t *actually* work, it has been shown to have a calming affect on the mind and body. I’ve tried it, and although it was likely the blankets and candles that warmed me up, there was something really relaxing and cozy about having it on in the background.
Bundle Up In The Same Room Together
Like penguins, use your friends and family for body heat by bundling up in the same room together (if you can stand it!). A cosy movie night in can help you to save energy in the rest of the house by not needing to use every room, and not to mention the chance to catch up with the special people in your life.
Concentrate Your Heating
You could also keep the heat concentrated into one or two rooms of the house and reduce the heat in unused rooms/hallways etc. Go around to every room and look at the settings on your radiators. Reduce the heat in rooms you hardly go in, and crank it up in the rooms you spend the most time in. Heat rises as well, so heating the lower rooms in the house will help the rooms above.
Whenever I complained I was cold to my dad, he would always tell me to jump up and down on the spot or do star jumps causing me to roll my eyes in teenage fashion, but it did work! So if you’re able to, try not to sit in one place for too long, get up and walk around to increase your body temperature. The NHS has created some chair-based exercises that can also help.
Book A Boiler Service
Before it gets too cold, book in for a boiler service. There are apparently around 3 millions households who have never had a boiler service, so make sure yours is up to the job! A broken boiler is no fun, trust me. Cold showers get old very fast, and we had to use expensive electric heaters when ouurs broke down a few years ago. Thankfully it was an electrical fault, and not a boiler one, but being without heat when it was cold was horrible, even if it was for just a few days!
If your radiators don’t feel warm, it might be that they need bleeding. If air is trapped inside them, the radiator will take ages to heat up a room, or may not work at all, so it’s worth checking this. This is the equivalent of the “turning it off, then on again” when it comes to tech faults. Energy providers will want you to have checked this first before doing anything else.
My grandad used to do this and I never understood why, but now I do! To stop heat from escaping from the room, use foil reflectors that can help to reflect heat back into the room.
Time Your Heating
You don’t need to have the heating on all the time. By only using the heating when you need it, you save money on reducing the maximum amount of heat being lost from your home. Using a smart thermostat can allow you to control your heating remotely, so you can warm the house up just before you all get home.
Reduce Your Thermostat Temperature
How high is your thermostat set? The energy saving trust recommends an optimum temperature of 18-20C, but this is for generally fit, warm-clothed households. For elderly and unwell individuals, a temperature of 21C where they spend most of their time is best, but over 24C or less than 9C can increase the risk heart attacks and strokes. The optimum temperature for a newborn baby is 16-20C.
Another one of my grandad’s tips, use a draught excluder to reduce cold air getting into the house from closed doors and windows. He used to have a long bean-bag dog that kept the room nice and warm!
Rearrange Your Furniture
If you have lots of furniture against radiators, it’s probably blocking the heat from circulating around your room efficiently. Bring furniture away from the radiators and consider moving bookcases and other bulky items to external walls to help reduce heat loss.
Try a Candle Heater
This is a contraversial one because of the risk of using candles, but a terracotta or metal candle heater could be a cheap way to heat your room. If you’re going to use something like this, please be careful not to leave the candles unattended or near anything that can catch fire (like christmas trees and decorations!). I love candles in the winter anyway, so this wasn’t. a hard one to add into my routine.
Add Rugs To Wooden Floors
If you have wooden floors, you might want to invest in some rugs which not only help to reduce heat loss, they feel nice underfoot too.
Double Up On Your Curtains
Adding an additional lining to your curtains can help to reduce heat loss from your house. Apparently we can lose a staggering 18% of heat in our homes through windows alone! Using clingfilm on the windows may also help, but really, making sure you have double glazing at least is the best way to keep your house warm.
Thicker Sheets and Duvets
This is another obvious one, but switching out your usual duvet for a higher tog duvet can help to keep you toastie in bed at night. If you have a partner that runs at a different temperature to you, buy a dual tog duvet so you’re both happy!
So there you go, some tips on how to save money on heating. If you have any other suggestions, please add them in to the comments below! No one should suffer from the cold this winter, so please make sure you look out for vulnerable neighbours and loved ones and make sure they stay warm and cosy when it gets cold.
Lots of Love,
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