AS Storm Darcy batters Britain with blizzards and plummeting temperatures, you might be wondering what’s the cheapest way to warm your home.
The storm, dubbed the ‘Beast from the East II’, is so bad that the Met Office has told Brits not to travel, with 12ft snowdrifts blocking major roads.
So is it cheaper to keep your heating on low all day, or turn it on when you need it? We explain all you need to know.
Is it cheaper to put your heating on low all day?
According to experts at the Energy Savings Trust and Uswitch, the idea that putting your heating on low all day will save you cash is a myth.
How to get help paying your energy bills
IF you’re worried about reaching for the thermostat as Britain braces itself against a deluge of snow, there’s help available to help with costs.
Here are four schemes that can help you cover your energy bill:
Cold weather payments – up to £25 a week
- You could be entitled to £25 a week if the temperature drops below zero in your area between November 1 and March 31, to help you pay for the increased energy costs.
- The temperature will have to stay that low for seven consecutive days before the cold weather payment is handed out.
Winter fuel payments – up to £300
- Pensioners can receive annual one-off winter fuel payments from the government of between £100 and £300.
- To qualify for the payout, you’ll need to have been born before April 5 1954 – the date changes every year.
- You must also have lived in the UK for at least one day during the “qualifying week”. This year, it fell between September 21 and 27 2020
- The money is tax-free and won’t affect any other benefits that you get, such as Universal Credit.
Warm home discount – up to £140 a year
- The warm home discount is a one-off £140 payment which is designed to help with the cost of your electricity bill through winter.
- Not all energy suppliers participate in the scheme so you should bear this in mind if and when you’re considering switching.
- You may be able to get a budgeting loan from the Social Fund to help with intermittent expenses.
- You’re more likely to be eligible if you receive pension credit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance or income-related employment and support allowance.
That’s because no matter how good your insulation is, a certain amount of energy is constantly leaking from your home.
If you have the heating on all day, you’re constantly using energy trying to replace that lost heat, which leads to higher bills.
So while it might be more expensive in the short term to heat your home up from scratch every time you’re in the house, in the long run you’ll save money.
What should I turn my thermostat to?
To keep warm without breaking the bank, Energy Saving Trust says to set your thermostat to the lowest comfortable temperature, which is usually between 18C and 21C.
Your home will heat up to the set temperature whatever the weather – even if it’s colder outside, the organisation says.
And you should look to set a programmer or time control that switches your heating off when you don’t need it as much, such as around bedtime.
Sometimes it’s tempting to whack the heating up high, especially during snowy weather.
But dropping your thermostat by just one degree could save you around £60 every year, according to USwitch.
Is it worth forking out for insulation?
Uswitch energy expert Sarah Broomfield says that insulating your home properly is key to saving on your energy bill.
She says that the greater the heat loss from your home, the more energy you will need to maintain the inside temperature.
That means for those living in properties that aren’t as well insulated, the cost of leaving your heating on all the time will be especially expensive.
“Taking steps to improve insulation is a good way to save on your energy bills – this can include insulated cavity walls, a well-insulated loft, double-glazing and draught proofed doors,” she says.
“Many homeowners can even apply for the newly launched Green Homes Grant. “
The Green Homes Grant scheme, run by the Government, lets homeowners apply for help to help make their home more energy efficient.
Homeowners could be entitled to a voucher worth £5,000 to put toward green improvements, going up to £10,000 for families on low income.
The government will cover at least two thirds of the cost that homeowners in England spend on green upgrades, up to these amounts.
This means a householder would pay £1,320 of a £4,000 bill for cavity wall and floor insulation for a semi-detached or end-terrace house, while the government would pay the rest of the bill costing £2,680.
You can check on the Gov.uk website to see if you’re eligible for a grant.
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Here’s a list of the postcodes that can claim £25 a week through the cold weather payment scheme.
We also round up other ways to get help paying your energy bills this winter – and it can save you over £1,000.
Plus, here’s how claim back up to £63 in tax on energy bills if you’ve been working from home during the coronavirus crisis.