Keeping Warm This Winter for Less
Britain is facing up to one of its harshest winters in decades, with temperatures predicted to plunge nationwide for the start of 2020. With falling temperatures inevitably come rising energy bills. Read on for our advice on the steps you can take to staying warm without your costs spiraling out of control during this winter’s cold snap.
How cold will it be this winter?
The UK is bracing for another freezing winter, one of its coldest in decades. Researchers from University College London are predicting that the mercury could drop lower than 2018’s so-called ‘Beast from the East’, which saw temperatures fall to -14 degrees celsius in some parts of the country and led to the deaths of seventeen people nationwide.
The team, led by Mark Saunders, professor of climate prediction, has based its research on changes in sea temperatures and sunlight over the north Atlantic, predicting an average temperature of just 3.9 degrees for central England, a drop of 0.5 degrees below the UK winter average for 1981-2010 over the same period.
With falling temperatures come increased risks, particularly for the young and elderly, and those with a weak immune system. Seasonal viruses such as colds, flu, chest infections and pneumonia are all much more common in the winter, with the winter weather putting more pressure on our hearts and circulatory systems as the body temperature drops.
For elderly people, exposure to a cold environment for a long time can lead to blood thickening and a rise in blood pressure, increasing the likelihood of hypothermia, heart attack or stroke during the winter months.
How can I stay warm in winter?
It may seem obvious, but wrapping up well is key to keeping warm when you’re on the move. Bundle up in layers with a hat, gloves, a scarf and wool socks will help you keep out the chill. Thermal clothing made of materials such as cotton or fleece will keep you warmest when it’s cold outside.
Doing the same when you’re at home can also help more than just ramping up the heating. In fact, experts say that the ideal room temperature you should aim for is between 18 and 21 degrees. We recommend layering up with lightweight materials and using blankets, thicker bedding and duvets to stay toasty indoors. Hot drinks and hearty foods such as porridge, soups and stews can help you stay warm too.
What help can I get to keep my home warm?
One reason for your home being so cold could be lack of insulation, particularly in older properties. You can make your home more energy efficient to help beat the chill. Keep out the cold by installing loft and wall insulation, thicker curtains and using draft excluders.
An easy way to save money on your energy bills is to turn off radiators in rooms that are not being used and installing radiator foil. If you have a chimney funnel that is not in use, it pays to get a chimney draft excluder installed by an expert. Remember, the better insulated your house is, the less you’ll end up spending on heating bills. In fact, turning down your thermostat by just 1 ̊C can cut your costs by up to 10%.
Energy Company Obligation
With more than one in ten households now estimated to be living in fuel poverty, there are a host of different government-backed schemes which aim to give financial assistance to those who require it most during the winter. Among these is the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), which looks to reduce fuel poverty and cut carbon emissions.
The latest iteration of this programme, ECO3, was introduced in December 2018. It will run until March 2022 and focuses exclusively on low-income customers of larger energy suppliers. The scheme helps cover the cost of energy conservation measures, such as adding insulation to houses to avoid heat loss and repairing or replacing older boilers.
Eligibility for ECO is based on a number of different factors, such as where you live, what improvements your home requires and if you already receive certain benefits. Those who qualify for the Warm Home Discount are usually also eligible for ECO, as long as their energy supplier is participating in the initiative.Under ECO3, energy providers can also deliver up to 25% of their obligation under new ‘Flexible Eligibility’ set by local authorities. Check with your local council to see if you qualify this way.
Another government scheme you could benefit from is the Warm Home Discount. This initiative was first introduced in 2011 and aims to provide financial assistance towards energy bills throughout the UK winter months. The Warm Home Discount offers a one-off heating allowance of £140 and is run in cooperation with a number of different energy providers.
Those eligible for the Warm Home Discount are classified in two groups:
- Core Group: Primarily those who qualify for the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, this core group receives the Warm Home Discount automatically.
- Broader Group: Other energy consumers on low income or means-tested benefits can apply for the Warm Home Discount through their energy supplier. This group must submit their application on a yearly basis.
Of course, you will have to check that your energy provider participates in the scheme, as many smaller suppliers do not.
Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment is an annual government payout of between £100 and £300 for those over Pension Credit Age who require help with their heating costs during the cold winter months.
You can qualify for the Winter Fuel Payment if you are still in work or claiming a benefit as, unlike some of these other schemes, it is not means-tested. You should be eligible if you were born on or before 5 April 1954 and have lived in the UK for at least one day of the qualifying week, which for this year has been set as 16-22 September. For more information on who qualifies and how to apply, see our Winter Fuel Payment page.
One source of financial aid that many don’t realise they’re eligible for is Pension Credit. This is a tax-free, means-tested top-up for those over state pension age. Pension Credit can help with heating bills, as those who claim it will automatically receive the Cold Weather Payment.
Depending on your personal circumstances, you could boost your monthly income by up to £180 if you are single and £270 if you are married or in a civil partnership.
Cold Weather Payment
The Cold Weather Payment is a government initiative that offers financial support during a cold snap. To qualify you must already be claiming certain types of benefits, such as Pension Credit, Income Support or Jobseeker’s allowance. For the full list of eligibility criteria and how to apply, see our dedicated Cold Weather Payment page.
What other help can I get?
Even if you don’t qualify for the above schemes, there is more financial aid available for those who need it throughout the winter, particularly the retired. Though eligibility criteria varies from one scheme to another, you may also be able to apply for other local government subsidies, as well as certain grants or loans. For more information, get in touch with your local authority or Jobcentre Plus to see what other help you may qualify for.