• Winter warmth: making the most of the heatingOn the heating goes, and though it's blissful warmth is everything you hoped it would be, it's hard to avoid thinking about the financial side of heating the home.

    Ultimately, though the winter energy bills will always trump the summer equivalent, there are several tried-and-tested ways to ensure that you're making the absolute most out of the heating once you do decide to turn it on. From larger home improvements that could save you money in the long term, to small additions that could make all the difference, we've got the low down on everything you could need to save yourself some money this season.

    Insulation

    There is no sense in heating your home if the warmth is just going to escape the building as soon as it can. Insulating your home is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the efficiency of your heating - and it's not just the roof space that you need to think about. Cavity walls can be insulated, as well as tanks and pipes.

    familyhandyman.com

    Though it's always worth seeking expert advice if you're looking at replacing or investing in new insulation for your roof or walls, there are a few small insulation tricks that you can do yourself. For instance, a British Standard Approved hot water tank jacket costs as little as £15, but could have a big impact on your heating bill. If you're happy to get into the DIY mind-set a little more, you could insulate your pipes at a very affordable price too.

    Reflective Panels

    Granted, at first glance, this might not feel like the most visually appealing addition to your living space, but the benefit of reflective panelling behind your radiator is water-tight in terms of logic.

    The idea is that by putting a reflective surface behind your radiator, you reflect the heat back into the room instead of letting it seep into the wall or windows behind and above. According to the Energy Saving Trust, this will have the biggest impact in homes that haven't got the benefit of insulated exterior walls, and could mean that you don't need your heating on for as high, or for as long.

    They aren't all eyesores either, as most options fit out-of-view behind the radiator unit.

    redflak.com

    Central heating

    If you've recently moved house, or you're just not up to speed with the system in your home, simply understanding the heating system you're living with could save you money.

    The main difference with how heating systems are to be best utilised depends on whether you use gas central heating, or electric immersion heaters. Ultimately, gas central heating will always be a favourable option because of the greater amount of control you can have over the heating system. Implementing gas central heating in your home can be a costly affair if you're changing from electric - the cost of boilers, new radiators and all the plumbing can add up, but the control you glean from them can save you hundreds over the year.

    ebay.co.uk

    With gas, you can control the heating through thermostatic radiator valves, a thermostat and a boiler timer. Not only can you control what time the heating is best to come on, you can control the overall temperature as well as the heat of individual radiators.

    Electrical heating systems do not accommodate that level of flexibility - but there are ways that you can make heating a hot water tank cheaper. If you're not already, see if your energy provider can put you on an Economy 7 tariff. With this, your water is heated overnight, making use of a cheaper rate of electricity, though you need to ensure your tank is well insulated for it to keep its heat during the day.

    Boiler efficiency

    If your home uses gas central heating, ensuring your heating is up to scratch could help you save each year too. The Energy Saving Trust cites that a boiler accounts for about 55% of what is spent yearly on energy bills, and that updating an old boiler unit to one that is able to be fully controlled by you, the homeowner, could save you £305 a year.

    mirror.co.uk

    It's important to talk to a professional if you're looking at updating your boiler - the boiler for you depends on what you most use it for, be it large family use, small homes or if there's the option for solar. An expert will be best placed to advise you whether a regular or combi boiler is most suited to you!

    Thermostat controls

    Having more control over your system means that you only have to pay for the level of heating that you want. Most homes already utilise both thermostat and adjustable temperature controls on the individual radiators (thermostatic radiator valves), but when it comes to thermostats, the more the better! If possible, installing a room thermostat could save you upwards of £60 a year, and even installing radiators with thermostatic valves could save you £10 a year - and avoid that horrible situation where the windows are open because it’s simply too hot in your home!

    homedepot.com

    Energy providers

    Believe it or not, there is a surprising amount of disparity between energy providers. Shopping around allows you to get the best deal for both your house and your pocket. Ensure that you compare your costs yearly to see the true benefit a new rate could be getting you, but ensure you know the ins-and-outs of a new rate and provider before signing up. Many offer fixed-rate plans, but ensure you clarify just how long this rate is fixed for. Don't forget to factor any cashback benefits into your calculations too - the amount you could find back in your account can be a real eye-opener.

    visitbritain.com

    Bill payment

    Simply paying your energy bills monthly by direct debit could earn you a discount between £60 and £100 a year. The amount you're charged will likely be estimated, so be sure to take frequent meter readings if you're reluctant to be in credit with your energy provider.

    ukpower.co.uk

    Scandinavian style

    When it comes to making your home as cosy as possible, few do it as well as our Scandinavian neighbours. Piles of soft cushions and the addition of plush rugs and fluffy blankets can make any home feel warmer in an instant - without having to turn the thermostat up. Battery-operated fairy lights and candles are sure to make your living environment feel that bit warmer too, and are especially fitting around the festive season.

    alex-closet.com

    Though typically Scandinavian minimalism isn't a trend that all of us will be willing to embrace, bringing in lots of lovely, neutral but warm wood tones into the space will be a sure way to add even more cosiness, and white or cream tones will add a dose of winter-reflective chic.

    The Scandinavians have long been aware of the warming benefits of animal hide, and in modern terms, this translates into a resounding appreciation of leather sofas. Though fabric sofas might feel like they would be the warmer option over winter, leather sofas, though cold at first, actually absorb your body heat and retain it. This creates the perfect, most cosy spot in which to hibernate the winter away!

    Ultimately, Scandinavian style is centred on defending yourself from the freezing cold winter blowing around outside, so who better to take inspiration from at this time of year than the Danes, Swedes and Norwegians?