Recent government statistics have shown that almost one in four Fylde Coast residents are living in fuel poverty and can’t afford to heat their homes, with local figures for Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde all higher than the national average.
Fuel bills seem to be going up faster than the speed of light these days, and no matter how well off you are you can’t help but feel like you are burning twenty pound notes with little to show for your cash – and without anything to protect us from the full on westerly winds it’s even colder at the coast than inland. It set us off thinking about how you could save some money and make sure that you don’t freeze any more than you have to.
The first and most obvious things are the insulation in your house. Cavity wall insulation can be installed either for free or at a very small cost with the high numbers of grants that are available along with offers from energy companies and local authorities. It really does make a difference, because it keeps the heat inside your house and therefore you need less heat to keep warm. Ditto loft insulation – it’s like putting a hat on your house – and since hot air rises it stops your precious heating escaping through the roof (with your gas bill!). Double glazing, draft excluders on doors and windows, thermostats on radiators – these are all things with an initial cost outlay but they pay you back in time.
Then of course there are the issues of the age and efficiency of your boiler. Again, there are sometimes grants available to replace these things, but if you don’t qualify you might just be stuck with smoking billy. (All joking apart, make sure it is serviced and safe, Carbon Monoxide can be a killer).
If you are on benefit you may find that you are eligible for many of these improvements to be made to your home with a grant, so that it doesn’t actually cost you anything. You should contact HelpDirect or Age Concern and ask about any support that’s available.
So, you’ve done all that, what next. There’s a whole raft of energy saving ideas that you can put into practise next, like closing the curtains at night which makes a surprising difference, and putting them behind the radiator so the heat comes into the room. Use low energy light bulbs – your lights are on from 4pm until maybe 11pm – every night. That’s 7 hours a day x 7 days a week, x several months = a lot of money. Turn the thermostat down by 1 degree, turn the lights off when you leave a room, turn the radiators off, or down, in rooms you don’t use, don’t leave the hot tap running unnecessarily, put less water in your bath, share the bath water! When you make a brew only boil the water that you need – how many times a day does your kettle go on?
While you are saving money it’s also important that you keep warm, especially for elderly people or those who have restricted movement, as they feel the cold more easily. It might be better to buy a small heated appliance rather than have the whole house baking at huge cost – especially if other members of the family don’t feel the cold. At Mike Sanderson Electricals you can find a whole host of things to help you to keep warm. If you feel the cold while watching tv, what about buying a heated throw that you can snuggle up in for extra warmth. Or a heat pad if you have aches and pains which will soothe them while keeping you warm at the same time. Maybe a freestanding heater would be more suitable for some all over direct heat, or a fan heater for a quick blast in a cold room. At bedtime an electric blanket is fantastic for a toasty warm bed, put it on a timer so that it’s just on long enough to warm you through and goes off when you go to bed. It also means you don’t need the heating on in the bedroom, which is much better for your airways too!
In Mikes shop there are some nifty cooking gadgets too that are ideal for meals for single people and couples, and would avoid putting a huge oven on to warm up a small meal. For example the Frigidaire counter top hotplate and oven, which would use much less energy and heat up more quickly than a normal kitchen oven – ideal for someone on their own (and safer for someone elderly to use). Instead of luxury gifts that you don’t want for Christmas, why don’t you ask your family to buy you something like this which is practical? If you are replacing your kitchen appliances look out for the energy efficiency rating and buy one with the best rating that you can. It will make a surprising difference to the running cost. At Sanderson Electricals they’ll give you plenty of advice about what to look for.
When you get into the kitchen there are all kinds of things you can do to save energy. If you are cooking something that takes a while in the oven, accompany it with roasted potatoes and veg which avoids putting an extra ring on to boil a pan. If you eat a lot of quick food, think about buying a steamer so that you can cook potatoes, rice and vegetables all in one lot of heat on your counter top. Pressure cookers are a fantastic way to make cheap and warming food at this time of year – you can knock up a casserole in 20 minutes instead of 3 hours and homemade soup from a few bits of root veg only takes 10 minutes – it’s cheaper than buying tins if there are a few of you!
So have a think about where you could save money this winter. You know what they say, look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves! Also, have a think about your neighbours and whether they are vulnerable – keep an eye on them and make sure they are warm enough and safe this winter.