Published: 21:53 BST, 7 April 2018 | Updated: 08:20 BST, 9 April 2018
Cut price fuel: Woodman Vincent Thurkettle says wood can be foraged for free
Energy firms are hitting us with huge bills this spring that are as beastly as the recent bad weather.
The Mail on Sunday helps you fight back with some brilliant ideas to cut your bills by hundreds of pounds a year.
Insulate the home
The most cost effective way you can cut your energy bill is to ensure the home is properly insulated.
Up to two-thirds of energy used on heating disappears through walls or out through the roof.
The average annual household energy bill is £1,400 – with more than half of this spent on heating and hot water.
As much as £500 a year is wasted due to poor insulation.
Nick Miles is director of energy advice firm The Green Age.
He says: 'The best practical measure is to insulate the fabric of your property. Up to a third of all heating can be lost through your roof space while another third seeps through walls.
'Start by going into the loft. Even if you already have it insulated, now may be time to put down an extra layer or fill holes. It should be fluffed up and cover all corners.'
Quality fibreglass fleece costing £100 can be enough to line attic space but if you wish to demonstrate your eco-credentials consider £1,000 worth of sheep wool from suppliers such as Thermafleece.
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HOW THIS IS MONEY CAN HELP
Miles says: 'The added expense of wool might seem unnecessary but it can pay for itself in three years. Tests have shown sheep wool even purifies the air.'
Loft insulation should be at least 10 inches thick to provide maximum effect according to the independent body Energy Saving Trust.
You should also look to install insulation boards on the underside of the roof.
Wall cavity insulation can also knock hundreds of pounds off the annual heating bill. Costs start from £300 and can involve spraying a plastic foam into the gap behind a brick outside wall.
Occasionally, grants are available to help pay for the measure.
Contact your local council to see if they might be willing to help foot the bill –although it is unlikely in such straitened times for councils.
Double glazing is another consideration but it may cost more than £5,000, and will only stop about 10 per cent of heat loss from your home.
Miles says: 'It is easy to be lured into getting new double glazing through slick adverts but often there is nothing wrong with what you already have – and the difference it can make is marginal.'
COST: From £100 SAVE: £300 a year
Fill the gap: Expert Nick Miles advises fitting an extra layer of loft insulation
Light a fire
There is no substitute for a natural fire if you wish to bring warmth to the home. It also offers an attractive focal point for the family.
But if fuel efficiency is what you are seeking then it is worth investing in a modern wood burner. It has the potential to knock a third off heating bills.
You can expect to pay between £500 and £2,000 for a modern stove. You might also spend a further £1,000 on lining an old chimney and providing a flue so that it complies with modern safety requirements.
With new particle emissions rules coming into force in 2022 you need to be careful when buying. Look for a Stove Industry Alliance Eco Design logo.
A cubic metre of wood will cost at least £60 and you might need at least three loads a year to keep the fire going so that it radiates warmth throughout the rest of the home.
Woodman Vincent Thurkettle says much wood can be found for free – and the challenge of hunting and chopping up logs adds to the pleasure.
He says: 'With spring in the air and the daffodils out this is the ideal time to go foraging for wood to stock up for winter.'
He adds: 'Wood has supplied heat since the dawn of mankind – it can be relied upon even if there is a power cut, an energy crisis or your utility firm wants more money.'
It is important to ask permission from a landowner before cutting up a fallen tree on private land. A £200 petrol-driven chainsaw used responsibly can make short work of felled wood.
The wood can then be cut into logs, using a long-handled splitting axe or maul. Freshly cut tree wood will not burn. It needs to season before being thrown on a fire to allow the sap to dry out.
COST: £1,500 SAVE: £200 a year
Extract heat from the air
You can improve your home heating system by using a device that takes any heat from the air outside, boosts its temperature using a pump and then turns it into home central heating.
Even when temperatures are below zero there is warmth in the atmosphere that can be extracted to create some heat.
The pumps are powered by electricity but they use less energy than is required for traditionally heating a home –– though you need larger radiators or under-floor heating in the house as the energy produced is cooler than from a traditional boiler.
Cosy: There is no substitute for a natural fire if you wish to bring warmth to the home
The system also requires a fan to be placed on the side of your house – a bit like an air conditioning unit – that takes any heat it can find from the atmosphere.
You can expect to pay from £8,000 for an air source heat pump for a four-bedroom home. In return it may knock £400 off your yearly heating bill.
You may also be eligible for a renewable heat incentive grant. This is from the Government and paid for seven years after installation – worth more than £600 a year. The grant is paid at a rate of 10.49p per kilowatt-hour produced by the air source heat pump.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy offers a renewable heat incentive calculator to help work out savings for an air source heat pump through a link at gov.uk.
COST: £8,000 SAVE: £400 a year
Reap warmth from the soil
Drilling a hole in the garden and sinking a pipe into it allows you to take advantage of warmth in the soil – which can then be pumped around the house.
As with the air source pump, it does not need much heat to work as it includes a compressor that raises it to a higher temperature, usually powered by your electricity supply.
Water and anti-freeze is warmed up by the underground soil, then pumped through a heat exchanger. The temperature is then high enough to heat the home through floor pipes or large radiators.
The process involves laying trenches around the home so it is not a job for those unwilling to see major excavation work or anyone without much of a garden.
Another option is a vertical loop, drilled deep into the ground that goes down a depth of 160 feet or more.
A spokesman for the Energy Saving Trust says: 'Although such heating pipes are usually harder to install than air source heat pumps, they can be more efficient.
'Heat provided to radiators is usually lower than a traditional system so in the winter they are often kept on all the time.'
Installing ground heat can be an expensive project and may cost you between £10,000 and £18,000 depending on location and size of the job.
But a renewable heat incentive grant might also be available that can defray costs by more than £1,500 a year for the first seven years.
A savings calculator is available by visiting gov.uk and typing in renewable heat incentive. The payment is calculated at a rate of 20.46p per kilowatt-hour of heat produced.
COST: £12,000 SAVE: £500 a year
Plan ahead with oil and gas
About four million homes in Britain are not plugged into the mains gas supply grid for heating – so rely on oil or liquefied petroleum gas delivered by lorry.
The suppliers often exploit customers by charging them more for fuel during the cold winter months when demand is high.
For example, last June when temperatures were high, prices fell as low as 35p a litre. In March this year following an unexpected cold snap you may have paid double.
It therefore makes sense to plan and fill up your tank when you least need the oil – during the summer. Bulk purchases are cheapest and setting up a local oil group of customers can increase your bargaining power.>
Check comparison websites such as BoilerJuice and Fueltool to get the best rates – then call to see if you can get cheaper.
Those needing oil in a hurry can pay a premium of 10p a litre if they need it immediately rather than waiting a few weeks. An average household might use 2,000 litres of oil in a year – so not being in a rush saves you £200.
Be wary of allowing the oil tank to run dry as it can cost £100 to call out an engineer and clean the system so that it can then be used again.
Liquefied petroleum gas is another option that fluctuates in price depending on demand – and is cheaper if you are able to buy it in bulk.
Comparison websites that help you find the best prices include LPG UK and Compare My LPG.
The type of boiler you have has a big impact on how thirsty your system will be for oil or gas. Prices start from £1,000 and modern condensing boilers offer better value as they use hot flue gases within the heating system that were previously lost as waste.
COST: £1,000 SAVE: £200 a year
Off grid: Brian and Suzanne Eveleigh fitted solar panels and a wind turbine
OUR COUNTRY HOME RELIES ON POWER OF NATURE
YOU do not just need glorious clear blue skies to capture the energy of the sun. Solar panels also work on cold cloudy days.
The panels contain photovoltaic cells that are able to convert any daylight into electricity.
They are a long-term investment. Expect to spend at least £6,000 on a four kilowatt system that requires eight panels taking up 28 square metres of a roof, ideally facing south.
The panels should create enough electricity to cut your energy bills in half. There is also the bonus of the Government 'feed-in tariff' (FIT) where you are subsidised for the electricity generated and for unused solar power you feed back into the grid.
The generation tariff is currently 3.93p per kilowatt-hour for new installations while the export tariff is 5.03p per kilowatt-hour. Over a year this might result in £200 of subsidy payments. Suzanne and Brian Eveleigh rely heavily on the power of the sun and wind. Their delightful rural cottage in Devon is not even on the National Grid.
Wedding photographer Suzanne, 67, says: 'We were forced to rely on natural power for our energy because of where we live – but it has turned out to be quite liberating knowing we are not held to ransom by profit-crazy energy companies.'
The couple have invested £8,000 in 12 solar panels. A further £1,000 has been spent on a couple of dozen batteries to store energy so it can be used during the night.
Wind turbines are usually only suitable for homes with large plots of land in exposed areas. But the Eveleighs had enough space in their garden for a £1,500 one-kilowatt turbine provided by Futurenergy, set on a 20-foot-high pole.
As with solar panels, the Government offers a feed-in tariff for energy that is generated using the wind or exported into the National Grid.
COST: From £6,000 SAVE: £400 a yearEDITOR'S DEALS OF THE WEEK >Broadband
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Source : http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-5588983/From-loft-insulation-log-fire-save-hundreds-pounds.html