Cheap ways to cut the cost of keeping warm

Picture of the front of our house with the garden covered in snow

Snow. So beautiful. Also: cold


Guess which one of us was out first thing when the snow hit, with wellies and a coat over their pyjamas?

(Yes, that would be me)

Snow makes everything so beautiful, covered in a crisp white blanket. The snow tactfully hides the moss in the lawn, while picking out every branch and twig. Surrounded by whiteness, I reckon our house looks even more like a doll’s house or tea caddy.


Picture of our front garden with the hornbeams, lawn and lavender covered in a blanket of snow

Hornbeams, lawn and lavender under the snow

This week, the snow was incredibly deep – up over the top of the toes of my boot, weighing down the mahonia and heavy on the yew hedges by the Gig House.


Picture of lots of snow on the yew hedge by the Gig House

Deep snow: an action shot


I really love looking at the snow – when wrapped up warm inside. Because being cold is the part I don’t like about snow.

When we moved to the country, we braced ourselves for more expensive heating bills. Living in a old house isn’t ideal if you’d like to stay warm without blowing the budget.

Previous post on how to cut the cost of heating oil

Part of the reason we love our home is all the period features, in estate-agent speak.
But in winter, the gaps between the wooden floor boards, rattling sash windows and open fireplaces create huge draughts. The Georgians didn’t go big on cavity wall insulation either.

In London, we lived in a terraced house, huddled between our neighbours for warmth. Moving to a detached house brings extra external walls for the wind to whistle round.

In addition, our house is like a doll’s house – it’s only one room thick. This means most rooms have two or three external walls plus windows on opposite sides. It’s fabulous when the light streams in during the summer, moving round the house from one side to another. It’s also pretty damn chilly when snow descends.

We could just whack up the central heating and skip around in shorts. But quite aside from the financial impact, it’s terrifying reading about environmental damage from burning fossil fuels, with polar ice caps melting, sea levels rising and global warming playing havoc with our climate.

So all in all, using less energy is good for both saving cash and making a tiny contribution to saving the planet too.

Here are some of the tactics we’ve been using to cut the cost of keeping warm.


Picture of a pink fun fur Ermintrude hot water bottle cover.

Ermintrude the hot water bottle pressed into action

Free ways to keep warm

Put a jumper on (or vest, socks, extra fleece, warm trousers – you get the picture). Start by adding extra clothes, before you turn up the thermostat on the central heating. Yes, I have been known to wear a scarf indoors. Piling on layers until your arms stick out at the sides works wonders.

Put a blanket on the sofa. Call it a throw, pretend it’s an interior design statement, I don’t mind. We keep blankets and a patchwork cover handy to wrap ourselves in while watching TV or browsing the internet. I turn a blind eye on the children dragging their duvets down from upstairs. If you’re feeling generous, consider sharing your cover with other family members.

Shut doors. Anyone who lives in a draughty house is used to shouting “shut that door” whenever a child goes in or out of a room.

Shut the curtains. Soon as it starts getting dark, shut the curtains. Privacy AND draught proofing – it’s a win/win situation.

Double up on duvets. We have spare bedding knocking around ready for visitors. When the temperature really drops we drag in the duvet from the spare room and sleep under a double layer.

Use hot water bottles. Oh the joy of a hot water bottle in a chilly bed. Saves money by preventing divorce too, as I don’t try to warm up my cold feet on my husband. Recently even Ermintrude, a particularly elderly hot water bottle from my childhood, has been pressed into action.

Eat warming meals. Recipes like soups, stews and jacket potatoes are called winter warmers for a reason. When the temperature drops, I leave the salads till spring time, tuck into steaming plates of deliciousness and stick the kettle on for endless cups of tea.


Picture of a sash window with view of tree in the snow outside

Spot the draughts round the edges


Cheap ways to cut the cost of keeping warm

Use draught excluders. Remember those funny snake or sausage dog things that your grandma shoved at the bottom of doors? They work. Get some.

Fit a strip of draught excluder. One of those ones with bristles, that you nail to the bottom of the front door.

Add rugs and carpets. Draughts happily whistle up through our floorboards. While fitted carpets are expensive, acquiring some cheap and cheerful rugs cost less and can still help.

Curtains, ideally thick curtains with linings. Sure, blinds may be stylish but they don’t keep anywhere near so many draughts out. Made-to-measure curtains can cost an arm and leg, but we’ve lucked out by being lent a two sets of thick velvet lined curtains for our bedroom. I’ve also bought some great curtains really cheaply from charity shops. If they only have thin curtains, buy two pairs and hang them on the same curtain hooks. You could also try hanging light fleece blankets behind your normal curtains.

Sticky furry sellotape stuff. Aka self-adhesive draught excluder*, which you buy in flat coils from hardware shops. Peel off the plastic tape on one side, then stick the strip round sash windows, pushing it into the gaps between the window frames and the sashes. Hold your hand up to the gap before and afterwards, and you’ll feel the difference. You can even buy it in different widths to plug different gaps.

Film over your windows. Double glazing is a major investment, and anyway it’s often prohibited by the heritage officer if you live in a listed building. As a child, I remember my mother sticking plastic film over my sister’s sash window, and heating it with a hairdryer to make a draught proof seal. Turns out my mind didn’t just make this up and here’s an example of ‘seasonal secondary glazing film*‘. You’ll note the word seasonal – you can’t open windows with film in place, so you’ll need to take it down come warmer weather.

Cut draughts up fireplaces. See that picturesque fireplace? Major draught alert. For an open fire to work, you need the air sweeping out of the room and straight up the chimney. Not so great if the fireplace is just ornamental and hasn’t seen a fire in decades. You can buy different sizes of chimney sheeps* (I am so not joking) to shove up the chimney. We did try the low cost method of pushing a bin bag stuffed with newspaper up one chimney – it just fell down. In the end got a piece of wood cut to fit the chimney opening, which rests of a couple of metal runners either side of the opening. Note: don’t block up the chimney completely, but leave some ventilation, so it doesn’t get damp.

Fit radiator reflectors. Stick silver panels down the back of radiators, so they reflect heat back into the room.

Get your boiler serviced. If you want your boiler to work efficiently, and avoid the nightmare of it conking out on the coldest night of the year, budget for an annual service


Picture of the wood burner after it was fitted in our blue room

Warmth from the wood burner

Major investments in keeping warm

Other ways to keep your house warm require more major expenditure:

  • loft insulation
  • cavity wall insulation
  • double glazing
  • fitting a new efficient boiler
  • replacing radiators
  • adding thermostatic radiator valves
  • fitted carpets over draughty floorboards
  • installing a woodburner

Previous post about fitting a wood burner

These cost a lot and aren’t quick fixes in a cold snap. If you are making major plans, it’s worth checking if you might be eligible for help with your energy bills or grants to make your house more energy efficient at GOV.UK here.


Now – over to you. What are your top tips for keeping warm without breaking the bank? Do let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear!

*indicates an affiliate link, so anything you buy through it will help support the blog, as I will get a small commission at no cost to you. Many thanks!


Pin for later:

Pinterest size picture of our house in the snow to illustrate a post about cheap ways to cut the cost of keeping warm


  1. Eloise (
    March 2, 2018 / 12:09 pm

    Your house is so beautiful. Absolutely the style of home I would love to have but I appreciate what you say about it being draughty.
    Years ago I lived in a lovely tall Victorian house with sash windows – they looked delightful but a closer look meant that one would notice the ‘furry sellotape’!
    I use a hot water bottle and have two duvets on the bed and, as I type, I have a blanket over my legs.

    • Faith
      March 2, 2018 / 2:01 pm

      Thanks Eloise. Glad to hear from another hot water bottle fan. That furry sellotape really does make a difference, doesn’t it?

      • Eloise (
        March 3, 2018 / 12:02 pm

        Brilliant stuff!
        Just thought of something else I do – despite the radiator, our kitchen is the coldest room in the house (north facing) so after I’ve used the oven, I leave the door open to help heat the kitchen. It seems such a waste to close it in. It says warm for long enough for us to eat our meal without having to put on the extra heater. Not much, but it all helps.

  2. March 2, 2018 / 1:55 pm

    Ah draughty sash windows! Yesterday I found not only draughts but actual snow blowing in through gaps in my window frames… It’s frustrating to warm a home when all the heat immediately gets sucked outside (not that I switch the heating on much!), so until I’ve saved for replacement windows I’m definitely going to gt some sticky draught excluder tape.

    And oh yes, I’m clutching a hot water bottle and a never have a warm drink far from my hands!

    My tip? Get moving! A brisk walk (wearing the proper gear) always warms me up. Or just run up and down the stairs, or do the hoovering (motivation required!)

    • Faith
      March 2, 2018 / 2:03 pm

      Oh wow snow through gaps in window frames really is no fun at all. When there was a storm recently, I really noticed the blind behind our curtains getting sucked towards the windows, so I really need to get going with the draught excluder.
      Great tip about moving more. Maybe this weather will finally get me hoovering…

  3. Diane
    March 2, 2018 / 4:29 pm

    I wouldn’t be without my NT recycled wool blanket – a bit itchy but sooo warm on the sofa. I even bought a second one at half term so I don’t need to share! East facing house means even our draught excluded front door was no match for the Beast – snow found its way through the bristly draught excluder – brrr.

  4. March 3, 2018 / 12:18 am

    You are a woman after my own heart. We live in an old cottage with innumerable draughts via doors. We’ve actually sealed up the front door (north facing) with duck tape for the time being. We have oil fired central heating, but don’t use it, choosing to use our log burner which heats most of the house. We have an Aga which also keeps the house at an ambient temperature when the fire is out. I agree, extra layers, blankets and good food all help. I now have Ermintrude envy, she’s adorable and my home crocheted hottie cover no longer cuts the mustard.

  5. Mari Järve
    March 5, 2018 / 10:29 am

    Posting this from Estonia, where, you might be relieved to hear, it’s even colder 🙂 It’s -13°C outside right now around noon, and recently we had -27°C at night. So we’re having a proper Estonian winter this year, which is good since nearly everyone here loves to ski, and the last few winters have been disappointingly warm and wet.
    I’ve lived in Cambridge for a few months in wintertime, and one thing that struck me (similarly to friends who have lived in the UK for a time) was how cold your houses are. I realise that you don’t get the weather you have right now every year, but aren’t you cold even in regular winters? We Estonians up here don’t like being cold at all, despite – or more likely because of – our climate.
    Is it really prohibited to properly insulate period houses in the UK? On the other hand, from what I’ve seen, it is allowed to install central heating, build modern bathrooms, etc. – all these things are also major changes in an old house. I live in a 130-year-old wooden house that my family has been renovating bit by bit for the past 40 years (it was practically derelict in the 1970s ‘thanks’ to some interesting people the Soviet officials put up there), and I’m glad to say that it is finally almost entirely warm and comfortable even in our winter. We’ve insulated not only the walls and the roof, but also the floors on the ground floor (draughty floorboards? brrr). Wouldn’t it be possible to take up the old floorboards in your home, install insulation and then put the boards back? Or would the heritage officer ban that? That’d just be mean 🙁
    Of course it costs rather a lot to properly insulate a house – that’s the main reason it’s taken us so long to finish the renovation of our house (to be fair, the Soviet era of no money and no proper building materials ending just 25 years ago also had a lot to do with it, but I won’t bother you with that). But compared to decades of more expensive heating bills and feeling chilly for a considerable part of the year, I still think insulating is the better option. I also very much recommend heating with wood if possible (it’s prohibited in the London area, right?) – cheap (at least here in Estonia – how is it in the UK?) and a renewable resource 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *