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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!