FIRSTLY, don’t panic. Liz Truss may have taken far too long to make her big announcement – only for it to be overshadowed by the Queen’s death – but things are not going to be as bad as the most alarming summer headlines warned. Rishi Sunak’s £400 energy bills discount will start to be applied next month, and the second of two £300-odd cost of living payments for those on Universal Credit is also coming soon.

Does this mean we can all crank up the heating with abandon? Definitely not. But too much “heating or eating” talk risks scaring some people into spending the next few months in misery – or making themselves ill – due to the belief that they can’t afford to have lights on, let alone a fire. So yes, unless you’re lucky enough to be on a fixed tariff, your energy costs will be higher this winter. But here are ways to cut your heating use that shouldn’t result in too much shivering.

Keep the heat in

Take steps to improve the insulation of your home and you’ll feel the benefits for years to come. Whether it’s your own home or that of a relative or friend who you can assist, there may be scope to cheaply replace window seals, fill gaps at floor level or insulate pipes.

As much as 20% of heat loss in older buildings is due to draughts, and there are lots of easy steps you can take to keep this to a minimum (see “step-by-step”, right). Keeping internal doors closed (and adding draught excluders where needed) also ensures the heat is contained in the rooms where it’s most needed.

Keep some heat off

There’s been much talk about the benefits of heating a single room – or a couple of rooms – rather than the whole property this winter, and this might lead some to believe that switching off the central heating in favour of portable electric heaters is the way forward. But the Centre for Sustainable Energy cautions that gas central heating is usually the cheapest option – especially if thermostatic valves are adjusted to control the heat in each room. It says “room heaters should only be used as a secondary or supplementary source of heat” and that their usage should be strictly controlled. If you have a smart meter, you can check just how much electricity your appliances are costing. If you don’t have one, you can find out with a bit of research – check the type and wattage of your heater then look it up online.

Keep yourself cosy

The next step towards maximum efficiency is to “heat the person, not the room”, but there is a balance to be struck here, and it may be unsafe for older, ill or disabled people to swap out too much room heating for thermals and blankets. It might be possible to make yourself a cosy nest from which to watch TV – complete with heated blanket and hot water bottle – but unless you’re wearing the right combination of leisurewear you’ll have to brave the chill any time you nip to the kitchen or bathroom. Layering up is the way to go – long-sleeved and long-legged base layers plus cuddly, fleecy pyjamas or jogging bottoms and top.


How to seal up a draughty hall

1) Check the surround of your front door (and back door if you have one) to see if there are gaps where heat can escape. These may be at the top, sides, bottom or even in the middle – for example, through the letter box. Screwfix sells a range of white, chrome and gold Stormguard brush letter plates ranging from £6.99 to £10.99.

2) If you have a seal around the door, check it is in good condition with no gaps or disintegrated rubber. If you don’t have one, budget options are available from Highland Industrial Supplies (Exitex FNS Flex N Seal Door Surround Set, £18.70) and ToolStation (Stormguard Heavy Duty Around Door Seal Aluminium, £17.98). The aluminium strip houses a rubber gasket that creates a weatherproof seal. YouTube has plenty of videos with instructions for fitting – you will need to cut it with a hacksaw to fit your door frame (or have someone do this for you).

3) If you don’t have a brush along the bottom of the door, add one  to stop heat escaping this way. Screwfix sells a sturdy metal one (Stormguard heavy duty brush seal aluminium 0.91m, £6.74), or if you’d prefer one that matches the inside of the door, Wickes has versions in white PVC (£14.35) or wood (£13). Be sure to check the width of your door before ordering. These will also need to be cut with  a hacksaw before being screwed into place.

4) As an alternative to a door brush (or in addition to one), a fabric draught excluder can be laid along the bottom of the door. To make a budget version, stuff one leg of a pair of leggings with old clothes (or indeed with summer clothes you won’t be wearing for a while, and can retrieve in the spring).

5) In addition to all of the above measures – or as an alternative – consider adding a curtain over the door that can be drawn over in the evenings for maximum cosiness. Charity shops are a great place to look for good-quality, long drapes (you could even split a pair with a friend). Then all you’ll need is a curtain track – just make sure it’s nice and sturdy, especially if your curtain is thick and heavy.

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Share your money-saving tips or ask for advice

Once a month, we’ll be bringing you advice on how to keep your bills as low as possible during the cost of living crisis – and hopefully beyond. We’ll cover everything from getting discounts on your groceries to negotiating cheaper broadband to finding the right bank accounts to suit your needs. Please let us know if there’s anything in particular you want advice about, or indeed any costly experiences you want to warn other readers about.

We’re also keen to hear from you if you have money-saving ideas to share. Have you successfully haggled with a supplier to get a discount, exploited a store loyalty scheme to the maximum, or found innovative ways to reduce your energy usage?

We’d love to hear from you so we can share as many tips as possible, helping National readers all over the country cut their costs together. Please drop us a line to