Plan ahead now for next winter’s heating bills

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How cosy were you this winter? How shocking were your heating bills?

As the evenings get longer and gardens come back to life, next winter is probably the last thing on your mind, but now is a good time to think about making improvements which will keep you warmer and reduce your heating bills at the end of the year.

The Government has introduced its Green Deal, a scheme which can help to make your home easier and cheaper to heat without having to pay all the costs upfront.

From smaller projects like draught-proofing and loft insulation to new heating systems and double glazing, it lets you pay off the costs of work through your electricity bill.

The Home Energy Scotland Hotline can give you the impartial independent advice you need to get you started or have a look at www.gov.uk/greendeal.

The scheme can provide up to £500 towards the cost of energy efficiency improvements.

The Green Deal arranges for one of its assessors to visit your home and assess it alongside your energy needs and current usage.

The assessor will produce an advice report for you which will include recommendations for improvements you could make and how much you can expect to pay.

The work must be carried out by Green Deal authorised providers and installers. What you pay for your improvements is based on how much you might expect to save. You will pay back the money through your electricity bill.

If you would rather go it alone there are a whole range of things you can do to make your home warmer and more energy efficient.

If your boiler is more than 15 years old, it’s probably time to replace it.

By law, new boilers must now be of the high-efficiency type which can help save you up to a third of your heating bills.

More than 40 per cent of all heat lost in the average home is through loft space and walls. As much as 20 per cent of your energy bill can be saved by good loft insulation.

Lofts should be insulated to a minimum depth of 150mm (six inches). Typically this will cost around £300 but should save you around £60-£70 a year.

When replacing appliances, consider their energy efficiency rating.

Replacing an old fridge freezer or dishwasher just to save on energy is not sensible, but if you need to replace a domestic appliance it is worth spending a little extra to get the most energy-efficient model you can afford. They are rated by law, from A to G so you can tell how efficient they are, but within these bands there is variation and it is possible to find grades A+++, A++ and A+.

Draught proofing windows and doors can be done with minimal DIY skills.

This will cost around £45 - £60 and should save between £10 and £20 a year.

Fit a good insulating jacket to your hot water tank.

The cost is around £10 and will soon be met through savings of £10 to £15. A jacket can reduce heat loss by around 75 per cent.

By putting aluminium foil behind any radiations fitted to outside walls you should save around £5-£10 a year. Ordinary kitchen foil will do, or you can buy specially designed panels from DIY stores for around £10.