Winter can be an expensive time. It is a task to keep the house warm, children fed and entertained and to keep yourself healthy, safe and happy.
Go outside or volunteer – Going out of the house means you don’t have to pay to heat it! Going outside is known to be good for guarding off depression and of course the winter sun on our skin is necessary for vitamin D absorption. Going for walks helps us to connect with people, it is great for keeping depression at bay too. Isolation is a real problem as the weather turns inclement. Could you give up an hour a week to chat to an elderly neighbour? Volunteering helps keeping you outward, energised and in touch with people! See the local papers or try local charities and ask us about volunteering with CCS and Somerset Carers Service. Garden for the National Trust and you have managed to do both! Taking the children to the playground keeps everyone happy and the energy you use will keep you warm!
Work that economy 7 – Night Storage heaters have got more efficient over the last few years but they can be difficult to run effectively. Make sure that you know at what time your economy 7 starts so you charge at the cheapest tariff. There are videos and publications available to maximise your efficiency and it is worth taking the time to do this because lots of people don’t run them correctly. Order a leaflet from the Centre for Sustainable Energy Home Energy Advice Line 0800 0822 234.
Keep safe – Have you swept your chimney or serviced the boiler? Have you got a carbon monoxide monitor? Do you open your windows to change the air? Plants will draw out the carbon dioxide and give you fresh oxygen too. Fire safety checks are available from www.dsfire.gov.uk. Don’t forget to have your free NHS flu vaccination from your surgery if you are eligible. You can also buy one from pharmacies if you do not qualify.
Boiler and Insulation grants – The government-led Affordable Warmth Obligation provides help with boiler installation and insulation for your home if you are on benefits or live in social housing. Look at www.eachhomecountsadvice.org.uk for up to date information. A phone number is promised to follow. E.on affordable warmth www.eonenergy.com/for-your-home/saving-energy/need-little-extra-help/home-improvements have similar information and they have a range or phone numbers too. Start with this one 0330 400 1083. www.npower.com/home-and-heating/oil-boilers/ . Don’t forget, an unexpected telephone sales call to you is likely to be a scam.
Help with bills – Phone your energy company to see if you are eligible for warmer homes discount (benefits and those with ill health) and install a free SMART meter so you can see exactly how much energy you are using. Ask me about our Surviving Winter fund if you are over 60. Buy oil in a group such as Somerset Community Oil Scheme or set up a village scheme and use a comparison site such as boilerjuice.
Heat where you need it – Use the thermometer setting on your individual radiators to heat each room as much as is needed. Use a room thermometer (free from me or the library and talking cafe) to see if the air is really cold or do you need to move around a bit to fire up your body. If you are the only person in the house, you can heat yourself with a hot water bottle in your jumper rather than paying to heat the whole house. Drink warm drinks and wear slippers – cold feet make you miserable! Just take care not to put boiling water in a hot water bottle as it can perish the rubber and lead to scalds. Call the CSE advice line 0800 0822 234 for energy saving tips.
Children – School holidays stretch many family’s food budgets. Can you help by popping something in the food bank donation box? Ask at your local church, or me, to find out about accessing your local foodbank. Get the children out of the house so you can turn off the heating and keep them entertained all in one go! Children under 12 can go to the cinema cheaply with mini morning tickets. Ask at your Cineworld or Odeon for information. Look for events at the local museum or library for a few hours or teach a card game to keep them occupied. Using the imagination to go monster spotting will keep them entertained on a walk, or join the geocaching website. Perhaps you could borrow a neighbour’s dog or borrowmydoggy.com 02038268628. Join forces with friends and share child duties and reduce the heating bill by staying at one house!