It's still so COLD! As I type snow is whirling past the window, which is frankly ridiculous in April in the South East! We spent the Easter weekend up in Orkney as you know, and were fully expecting it to be even more bitterly chilly up there, but to our surprise it was glorious - Ben was walking around in short sleeves on one day and even I left my gloves off a fair amount of the time!
The ongoing cold weather down here has raised the slightly unusual scenario of us still having the heating switched on. Usually it would go off at the latest by mid-march, and often earlier. As things stand at the moment there is simply no way that we could turn it off altogether as the flat would simply get too cold and damp, and that wouldn't do us, OR it, any good at all. You often see folks out there in Blog-world asserting the fact that if you're serious about being frugal then you should just turn off your heating for good and "man up!" - and if that's what they want to do, then that's just grand for them, but in all honestly modern houses simply aren't designed not to be heated at all - they get damp, or in the case of many places, damp-er - which can cause health issues for you and problems in the future when you come to look at selling. The more sensible approach is probably to keep heating on at a very low level, and take advantage of any warmer, brighter days to air the place by opening doors and windows too. For those like us who already have problems with damp (1950's built properties simply weren't designed to have double-glazing!) then a dehumidifier can be a running-expense worth paying, also.
A conversation the other day with a pal on the subject of storage heaters started me thinking about the different ways we can use to manage both power-use and keeping warm. Half the battle if you are Economy 7 (or "Dual Rate") electric is to know the timings - in the winter (GMT) months ours clicks over to night-rate at midnight, and clicks off again at 7am, and once BST kicks in, it starts at 1am and finishes at 8am. As you might imagine for general use the summer is by far the better time - one of our biggest power-scoffers is our electric shower, and there being time for both of us to have a shower on the night rate makes a huge difference. The washing machine and dishwasher both run overnight - when our washing machine needed replacement a few years back we specifically looked for one with a "time-delay" function - so we set it up before we go to bed and then the machine starts running a few hours later. (Before anyone exclaims in horror we are in a ground floor flat with solid concrete walls, ceilings and floors!). The dishwasher is plugged in through a timeswitch and so also starts running at the same sort of time. At this time of year if there is a lot of washing to be done we throw a load in when we get up and that too runs through on the cheap rate.
I'm gently jealous of anyone who is able to have one of those lovely wood-burning stoves - we spent some time round one over the weekend, and the warmth it threw out was just fantastic. Sadly for a lot of us even if our homes were originally designed to be heated with any sort of real fire that facility has long since been removed, either by chimneys being capped off, chimney breasts being removed, or simply by the chimney falling into disrepair as a result of lack of maintenance. This last is our problem, and with three flats above us, getting the chimney re-lined would be prohibitively expensive. Thanks to the previously mentioned heavy-duty concrete floors, getting central heating installed would also be ridiculously difficult, so we're pretty much stuck with the storage heaters. The trick we have found is to keep them set at a "taking the chill off" level, and then augment with our little oil-filled radiator as needed. Although only small, it does an outstanding job of warming the place up, and once it's heated up, uses surprisingly little power. In the very coldest weather we use it on a time-switch to warm our unheated bathroom before we go in there in the mornings too. We also have several of those fleece blankets about the place - one goes over the duvet on the bed and for a seemingly light extra layer is astonishingly warm! While we're about it, here are some other crafty "keeping warm" tips:
- Close the curtains! Obviously we all want to make the most of our lovely lighter evenings, but as soon as the lights need to go on, get those curtains and blinds pulled. Yes, this even applies if you have double-glazing!
- The "Thermal Blinds" you can buy are wonderful - the one we fitted to our bathroom makes an incredible difference.
- Light a couple of candles in a safe place - they produce more heat than you would expect!
- Layers - I generally change to my pyjamas when I get in from work, and if it's cold I add a fleece - or sometimes two - and a pair of snuggly socks too! No bare arms or feet in our house in the cold weather!
- If you've been cooking using the oven, once you've finished with it, and if safe to do so (ie no small children about) leave the door open to let the heat out into the room.
- Consider lined curtains - or improvise by pinning lightweight fleece throws (in a pale colour) to the backs of your existing curtains.
- MOVE! No, not move house, move yourself! If you start feeling chilly rather than let yourself get really cold, get up and sort out some washing, do the washing up, run the vacuum cleaner round....
How about you? What little tricks do you employ for keeping warmer and keeping the bills down at the same time?
ps - the two photos attached to this were taken with my new iPhone - I'm extremely impressed with the camera on it!