The ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ has been dominating the headlines. Often, it seems to be about gas bills–which, for those of us with an ostrich’s approach to life seems irrelevant right now; it’s summer. But colder days are an inevitability (take it from someone who, radiator-less and living in a wreck wore a fetching camouflage and bright pink dry robe indoors for the duration of last winter) and also, without wishing to be a harbinger of doom, the price of everything is rising. But there are ways to evade the fact, whether that’s using our appliances more efficiently, or decorating in a manner that will cut household costs. Herewith our top tips.
Pre-central heating, staying warm was predominantly a matter of excluding drafts, to the extent that it informed the design of furniture. The 1600s saw the genesis of wing back chairs, which are high-backed armchairs with side pieces projecting from the back, while four-poster beds, which arrived with the Norman invasion, offered warmth as well as privacy (servants often slept in the same room as their masters.) If you live in a large, ancient and listed country house, both are worth employing to their full potential, i.e. position the chair so that it blocks the incoming wind, and close the curtains around the bed at night.
But those of us in more modest abodes still suffer. Mostly though, we’re in the fortunate position of being able to affect small changes that can make a significant difference. If you haven’t yet insulated your attic, know that with the help of a Youtube video, it’s a genuinely easy DIY job. Look at your doors and windows; you may not be able to afford new double-glazed sashes, but many companies offer a refurbishment service, which can act as a buffer to the incoming breeze. Consider your curtains–is there a gap between the fabric and the pole? If so, you might want either to add a pelmet, or have the curtains remade with what is known as an upstand. Then, ensure that they’re lined with a decent fabric, and close them as soon as it starts getting dark. (There are some who suggest never opening them, but that’s a little depressing.) Floors–and stripped floorboards in particular–are also a gateway for gusts and have been compared to the equivalent of an open window. There’s another Youtube video, alternatively (or as well) invest in many thick large rugs.
There’s one thing you shouldn’t try to seal though, and that is your air bricks. You want your house warm and dry, not warm and damp, besides which a damp house costs more to heat.
The Queen recycles newspapers into bedding for her horses, saves and reuses parcel string, and has never been known to needlessly replace anything. Until recently, this was a tricky approach for items made of plastic, but we now have FORMcard that you simply drop into hot water to melt, and then mould into any shape you want. Further excellent ideas in this vein can be read here.
Bad news if you’re locked in a co-dependent relationship with an ancient example; an old boiler can be up to 50% less efficient than a newer model. While the ideal would be to switch to a heat pump, which is an electric boiler, even with the government grant there’s still relatively high financial outlay, and your house might not be suitable (yet). But there are other means of bringing down your heating costs.