/ Home & Energy

Jumpers instead of heating – how you’re cutting back this winter

Have you been forced to slash your Christmas spending? We found that most Brits are cutting back to pay for rising energy bills. Energy should be more affordable and we’re delivering this message to MP Chris Huhne.

Christmas. A time of jolly merrymaking, giving, sharing and tradition. However, this year’s Christmas may be very different for households up and down the country.

Our research found that six in ten people are worried about the cost of energy this festive season, with the vast majority (83%) making cutbacks to keep energy costs down. We also found that over half are putting on extra clothes indoors, and more than four in ten are turning the heating down.

Energy prices have risen by almost 20% in the last six months and, with the average annual energy bill standing at £1,345, it isn’t surprising that this Christmas will be one of hardship and cutbacks for many Brits up and down the country.

Your Christmas cutback stories

Last week we hit the streets and the web to ask people what they were cutting back on to help pay for their energy bills. We received a staggering response and the majority agreed that their Christmas was going to be one of cutting back as bills rise.

We received a broad range of comments, including people who share bathwater, families who have no heating on at all and others who have sold their cars or even downsized their property to help pay for energy.

Carol shared the wide range of ways that she’s had to resort to use less energy:

‘Stopped Christmas lights outside the house. Only have the TV on for a couple of hours and no radio or music. Limit the use of the kettle by making a flask of coffee or tea. Have the heating set to 16˚C. Wrap up in several layers of clothing and if I’m very cold, put on my coat.’

And then there was Lorraine who is really feeling the pinch this Christmas:

‘We won’t be having turkey for Christmas lunch as it is too costly, but have bought a cheaper joint of meat that was on offer earlier in the year to freeze. Have looked for bargains, vouchers and reduced the amount spent on gifts and cards overall. Generally making cuts in all areas this year.’

And Which? Conversation commenter Liz told us about her efforts to cut energy bills:

‘I put the heating on for the first time on December 4th. Until then I didn’t even have hot water on tap, I just heated a small amount in my kettle when I needed it, as I found that my gas boiler uses quite a lot of energy when it’s just left on.’

In light of this, we want the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne to make affordable energy his number one priority for the New Year. Today we’ll be delivering your comments (as well as a festive jumper) to remind him that this Christmas will be one of cutbacks, cold houses and fewer presents. Are you with us?


I’m absolutely 100% with Which?’s campaign, BUT, I’d like it to go further and embrace other Which? campaigns and others items that as far as I know Which? are not currently campaigning for.

Examples include:

A return to the “Public Heating Seasons” for all public buildings, most especially those operated by Government funded organisations such as schools, council offices, etc. This will reduce the overall energy use phenomenally which should, if the government and the energy companies are telling the truth, allow for a decrease in prices for everyone.

A far more honest system for energy rating of all appliances, but especially Gas Boilers, so that those most in need of making savings do not find themselves spending thousands on a new appliance that turns out to be equally or more energy-hungry as the one they replace (see many recent conversations for examples of this including of British Gas telling a customer that his new boiler won’t use any less gas than his old one so he won’t see any financial savings).

An end to winter fuel payments being made to ex-patriots who permanently live off-shore (as recently highlighted in the news)- this would allow net saving by the treasury which could be spent on other items currently ‘on ice’ due to the financial situation or the savings could be redistributed to the most needy in the form of extra payments for fuel, insulation or winter health care.

The above are just 3 examples if related issues that I think Which? and others should be vigourously campaigning on. There’s many more and you only have to look at the convo’s on here to find dozens.

I’d also like to see a much better example set by the fashion industry with winter fashions that actually serve to kep the body warm. THis would have a huge effect since at present there seems to be a vast number of people, predominantly women I am sorry to say, but men are not at all far behind, who expect to swan around all winter wearing flimsy summer wear more suited to a tropical beach holiday and expect the heating to keep them warm.

Hi Dave D – I really like some of these ideas, especially the ‘public heating seasons’ – I wasn’t aware that we’d ever had these guidelines, but it sounds extremely sensible. Should also help, I think, with the final point on your list about appropriate clothing – if people knew they’d be going to work in an energy efficient building then they’d probably be more likely to bring a jumper!

I’m not sure that all of these issues would fall within the scope of Which? Campaigns, as some aren’t consumer issues directly, but our policy and campaigns teams do look at Which?Convo regularly so I’m sure they’ll prompt a lot of discussion.

Your second point (on energy ratings) is probably the one we’d be most keen to look into, and in fact we are currently looking at building a tool that measures the actual running costs of appliances. This means that rather than just looking for an eco label on something, you could put in the name of the appliance and find out exactly how much energy it uses, and how much it costs to run each year. In our research we’ve found that consumers generally want to know the cost – as in your example with the boiler. We already do add this to reviews, but it’s hard to compare unless the info is all in one place. Labels are useful for seeing things at a glance, so it’d be nice if you could also see running costs at a glance. I think we should be able to give an update on this early-ish next year, but I’m hoping that we can take this forward as I for one would find it extremely useful! I moved into my flat two years ago and spent ages agonising over freezers, washing machines, and fridges – if I’d been able to find out exactly how much they cost to run it would have made my decisions much much easier.

@ Nikki,

I’m a bit worried that you didn’t know about public heating seasons: I’m only 43 and they were still very much in use certainly up to 1997 at the very least (in Sheffield schools at any rate), so I’m not recalling something from ancient history.

My worry isn’t that you are suggesting I’m delving deep in the past: I know you are NOT saying this, but something so recently used should surely be well known to all at an organisation such as Which?, if for no other reason than to facilitate well informed campaigning?

As for the energy label issue, whilst difficult to accomplish, what is really needed most of all is a reliable way for people with working but old appliances (boilers being a very significant example) to know exactly how much fuel (in kWh or cubic feet or cubic metres or any other standard and easily understood measure) new alternatives will use. This would prevent the terrible experiences of people who take out a perfectly good, working, effective appliance, spend £thousands on a replacement that is advertised as “energy efficient”, and then find that eh new appliance uses as much or more fuel as the old one, leaving them very much out of pocket (and in the case of boilers I understand in a position where they can never ever recoup the installation cost in savings over the life of the boiler).

A secondary issue with energy ratings, not directly related to this convo, is the need to display energy ratings and use for a wide range of uses of the appliance, and here Which? I’m afraid are as bad as anyone else: the official ratings for appliances are based on a particular setting or programme (take for example washing machines and the 60 degree cotton wash) and Which? sometimes test the rating claims for accuracy or sometimes say “we test on a different setting because most people use that” (e.g. washing machines that Which? test on the 40 degree easy care programme). That’s great if the consumer in the dilemma about what to buy happens to use the tested setting all the time (e.g. either the 60 or 40 degree washes), but no help when the purchaser uses something quite different (for example always the 95 degree ‘boil’ wash for babies’ nappies or for health care reasons in a house hold with a long term ill person).

Anyway, I digress at length! Sorry.

I’m pleased that there appears to be quite a bit of support for my musings so far anyway.

Good luck with Chris Huhne.

Sorry – I just wanted to pick up on it because I found it interesting, and I was glad you’d brought it up. I’m not an expert in energy issues (although I am learning a huge amount about energy working for Which?) – I work on the digital team, but I work really closely with our energy campaigns and policy teams which is why I found this really interesting. I’m sure some of my more informed colleagues would know much more, but sad to say there are some things that do pass me by!

Rather worryingly, I’ve just realised that in 1997 I was only 13. I say ‘worrying’ as it doesn’t seem that long ago at all. Time, as they say, flies =)

Malcolm Fry says:
22 December 2011

With regard to comments about fitting things like higher efficiency boilers, and then finding that they are just as expensive to run. A higher efficiency normally means that it will have the ability to improve the standard of heating, OR reduce running costs. It can’t, necessarily, be expected to do both. One often hears people say something to the effect “It’s much cosier since we had the new boiler, but it’s no cheaper to run”!!!!!

Can I add to Dave D’s list of areas of wasted energy that Which? may take up with Chris Hulne.When I enter the frozen food areas of various supermarkets I tend to freeze too because the freezers are freezing not only the food but the whole shop! Can Chis bring in appropriate legislation to stop this waste of energy eg by forcing supermarkets to have double glazed doors on their freezer units.Some already do.I suspect this could save a lot of gas particularly as the freezers are on all year round.

We are trying to keep the house CH thermostat at 19degC – any lower is uncomfortable. We have also reduced the operating period and wear extra layers of clothing. We try to use the upstairs rooms more in the Winter because they are warmer [e.g we watch TV in the bedroom]. As part of the digital TV switchover we chose to upgrade the bedroom set and it seems to give off a lot more heat than the old one – this might be useful in the Winter although the pro rata energy cost will be higher than the central heating of course. We tend to shut doors more nowadays to keep the heat in occupied rooms. We have drastically cut back on car mileage and we walk to the shops now and have more deliveries [the Coop system is good – you go round and fill your trolley yourself with exactly what you want, and so long as you have spent over £25 they will deliver it free of charge]. We are also exercising more control over lighting, not just low energy lamps but not switching on unnecessarily and switching off when not required. Our festive illuminations have been reduced this year but we do need a bit of Christmas cheer so we have four light-sets going for about eight hours each per day.
I agree entirely with Dave D above. With regards to Nikki’s response, I was wondering how “actual running costs” can be calculated because these will depend on the particular tariff applying in the house. Some standardisation of the running costs will be necessary – so that at least comparisons against a norm can be made by potential purchasers. Perhaps this is what Which? has in mind.

hi John
You’ve raised an interesting point about standardising running costs. You’re right – there are so many different tariffs about that real costs could vary quite a bit depending on your individual contract. We’ve recently reset our unit rate to 14.5p per kWh for all the running costs info you see in our reviews. It’s the average calculated from all tariffs offered by the big 6 after this summer’s price rises and we’ll adjust it again if there’s another wave of significant increases. So all the annual running (energy) costs we publish for appliances are based on a consistent and -what we believe to be realistic – average unit rate. Hope this helps!

To me this seems eminently sensible. Why would you want to spend money you don’t have to, regardless of increases in fuel costs? Similar argument in respect of climate change – why not just economise on fossil fuels or energy based on them, for the sake of retaining the limited stocks that are available, even if you don’t “believe in” the science? We’ve just become too slapdash about wasting energy.

Please can someone tell me why everywhere around us these days we find supposed “running costs” quoted, rather than simply stating the number of units of energy the item will consume?

Are we really a nation of such ill-educated people that it is beyond the wit of Joe Public to say “Ah ha, this uses x units of energy and my supplier charges me y pence per unit so x times y tells me the running cost”?

Surely if we focus on the number of units used then the quoted figures would be of so much more use to consumers?

I don’t think this is deliberate obfuscation Dave. Maybe most people who post messages on Which? Conversation can do simple calculations, but browse some other forums and you will see how little some people do know.

Even those who can cope with calculations could be deceived by the rather misleading power consumption figures quoted on many electrical appliances. Let’s make our own measurements, only to find that the instructions for the meter mention watts and VA, and everything except heating appliances give different readings. Which one is relevant to what the big bill company will charge?

Then we have gas charges shown in pence per kWh, but no-one has mentioned the fact that even the most efficient boilers lose a lot of heat through the flue.

Finally, complicate matters with standing charges and different prices depending on how much fuel the consumer uses. No wonder many people are confused and worried about their forthcoming fuel bills.

I think estimated running costs are probably the most helpful information, but in these days of rising costs they need to be up-to-date.

Malcolm Fry says:
23 December 2011

What is needed, almost more than some standard running cost, is information on how to acheive those running costs. Most user’s manuals, for all types of appliance, tell one how to operate it, even how to operate it SAFELY. I have yet to see ANY manual, which tells one how to operate the appliance, EFFICIENTLY, or how, say, different programs, or different ways of use, will effect running costs. Take a condensing boiler. Most will give, what is, in effect, a gross thermal efficiency of around 90%. That figure doesn’t vary much, from boiler to boiler. However, the OVERALL efficiency, can vary by as much as 20%, depending the design of the boiler, and the way it is used. It is extremely difficult to arrive at a reasonable estimate, of running cost, from just the thermal efficiency, or some standard cycle consumption. Manufacturers (and Which) should be trying to give guidance on how the WAY an appliance is used, effects its running cost.

The fuel consumption of cars is now measured under various standard conditions and the figures are more realistic than what manufacturers used to tell us. The same could apply for washing machines, gas boilers, fridges and so on. We need a simple test system that manufacturers can use and one that allows organisations such as Which? to reproduce and test the accuracy of the information.

Malcolm Fry says:
25 December 2011

Cars are a useful example. They often give two consumption standards. The first is for a steady speed of 56 mph. That can be a fairly useful standard, if one does a lot of open road driving, but how does one need to adjust the figure for motorway driving at 70 mph, or, even two different models, with the same 56 mph consumption, will they still have the same, relative consumption at 70 mph. They normally give a second standard, of consumption, called an “urban cycle”. I have some IDEA what that means, but as to using that to estimate MY consumtion, given MY driving style, I wouldn’t, honestly, have a clue how to use it to calculate MY likely consumption. The same, basic, point applies to a boiler, or a washer/drier etc.

Ann T says:
22 December 2011

Wouldn’t I just love it if our bills were under £1500! We live in the country and do not have mains gas. We have to use oil and it cost us over £2500 last year – and bear in mind that does not include electricity. We looked at calor gas (even more expensive) and wood pellet ( too expensive to install for us pensioners) so we are pretty well stuck. There are lots of us outside the main systems and it would be great if some way could be found to help us out.

Malcolm Fry says:
22 December 2011

I certainly agree that more efficiency advice should be made available for oil-fired heating users. Much is, of course, the same as for gas-fired heating, but not all. Whilst regular maintenance is vital for gas boilers, from a safety point of view, it normally only has a relatively small effect on efficiency. However, the efficiency of an oil-fired boiler tends to be heavilly dependant on regular, quality, servicing. Effective, efficient controls are important for both gas and oil fired systems, but, because of the higher running costs, some of the more sophisticated controllers can be even more viable for oil-fired systems. An article on the relative benefits of the various methods of heating control, would be useful.

Alasdair says:
22 December 2011

My generation was quite used to wearing woollen jerseys etc. indoors, post war, when there were often “Jack Frost” patterns on the inside of window panes! Over the years, we have become soft and used to sitting in front of a TV, instead of a fireplace, in shirts or even less!
It is probably simpler to make the winter fuel allowance universal, rather than means tested, but it should be included in taxable income, so that the richer thereby pay some of it back.

Great idea to make the WFA taxable – hadn’t thought of that.

I saw a TV programme a year or two ago that made me realise how profligate so many people all are now. It was a household with 2 or 3 young children and their mum and dad. The mother had her washing machine running all day every day with endless loads of laundry because the children were forever running upstairs and changing into yet another (fashion) outfit and flinging what they had just taken off on to the floor. The mother refused to let them wear anything again once they had taken it off.

Worse still the mother never pegged washing outside but had the tumble dryer running all day every day as well.

I thought the most shocking part of the programme came when the father was shown watching TV wearing only his pants and he said that the house was so hot because his wife insisted on having the heating on all day long 365 days of the year “because they paid for it in the rent so they were using what they’d paid for”, but the man could not cope with the heat so as soon as he came in from work he stripped to his pants and wore nothing else all the time he was in the house.

However, I realised that the most shocking point was not that after all when, at the end of the programme, some figures were shown on the screen to illustrate the fact that the family were not particularly unusual in today’s society.

It cannot be right that a sizeable number of households live like the one in that programme whilst elderly, infirm, unwell or simply less well off people are frightened to keep their homes warm enough to be healthy or even to keep the building itself in good condition.

big al says:
22 December 2011

Hi: I am somewhat peeved that, although I suffer from diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, hypertension, asthma, etc etc (I have lost count of the diseases), and am currently threatened with my electricity and gas being cut off, whenever after dusk and until 4am I look out of my kitchen window, the parish church (Bowdon, Cheshire) is floodlit. Something is wrong, somewhere.

Cherry says:
22 December 2011

I work from home and try not to use the heating during the day. Not only am I wearing thermal underwear but my spaniel wears a jacket too. We are on Gas but really want to cut back on the bills

Graham Lane says:
22 December 2011

I think this society has become incredibly wasteful and it is causing huge damage to the environment. Of course I think that everyone should have a decent standard of living, including sufficient heating and hot water to live a normal, comfortable life.

On the other hand, it was not at all unusual for our parents’ generation to put on an extra jumper during the winter. That’s a fact of life about where the UK is situated in the northern hemisphere. Today some people expect to put the heating up full and walk around indoors in a t-shirt in the winter. That is just creating greenhouse gases and damaging the environment.

My message to Chris Humne would be that there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting on an extra jumper in the winter!

I agree. Some people seem to expect to be able to wear just a t shirt and one cardigan in the Winter. We have always tried to use the minimum heating and consider it quite normal to wear thermals and lots of layers when the weather is cold. Perhaps it’s because I was brought up in the North East, in a house with no central heating and just one coal fire downstairs. Bedrooms were heated solely with hot water bottles. I find a lot of people’s homes, and my place of work, uncomfortably hot at times.

I have my heating and hot water set to come on for half an hour in the morning, 1hour at lunchtime and 4 hours in the evening. If I get cold I put on a jumper or fleece or gilet, or even do some housework! I don’t have heating in my bedroom.
I use a microwave instead of the cooker and rarely watch TV videos or DVDs
I have a monitor from my fuel supplier and when it goes up I look to see what I can turn off- it’s amazing how soon you realise where the power gobblers are – like halogen lights and tumble dryers(now just used in emergency). I am pleased when I check the graphs online to see that my useage is low and well below average.
I now use low wattage table lamps to light rooms with brighter lights just where I am working. My new kitchen has energy saving downlighters- 9 lights for a total 63 watts and perfectly adequate.However it’s not just the cost of fuel but also food has risen quite significantly this year and insurance. Unfortunately any rise in pension means less pension credit so I am no better off.

Bev Bruce says:
22 December 2011

We also have a monitor and our fuel consumption is 12% lower than it was this time last year as a result. You can really see which appliances use a lot of electricity so can make decisions to cut down as you see fit. Despite this our bills are still higher than they were a year ago so I work in 2 jumpers and heat the room I am in rather than the whole house. We are using the coal fire more this year and burn a lot of wood which we find lying in the local woods. I painted the walls with a paint containing an additive that is supposed to keep heat in the room and it really does seem to have made a big difference for a little effort and not a huge cost. Thick curtains also make a huge difference. Sadly we can’t afford to replace our windows to get double glazing and our walls are only one brick thick so we waste a lot of heat but there’s nothing we can do about that at the moment as we wouldn’t be eligible for any help financially.
I don’t actually mind living like this though. I think we have got a little soft lately. I remember when I was a student I got used to living at a lower temperature and feeling far too hot when I visited my parents.Saying this, we have to make sure older or less mobile people and people with babies can afford to heat their homes adequately as I did used to get ill quite a lot when I was a student and it might have been because I lived in cold, damp conditions!
I would like society generally to consume/waste less energy to help meet climate change targets but I feel very angry that the energy companies are making enormous profits while people shiver. I will certainly back any campaign to get a fair price for energy because it certainly doesn’t feel like we are at the moment.

Hi there, I am a 72year old disabled pensioner and been on my own I thought the use of my electric bill is always so high I do not understand why. The electric I use is in the following, T.V. On all day computer approx 30 minutes a day, a 3 watt kettle for tea approx 8times per day 3 rooms all have low usage bulbs inand that’s it but my bill is around the £100 every quarter, 8.3 kilowatts per day, estimated electric bill for 2012 is £384.28 for 3,137 kwh used.to me this is exsessivly high. I have contacted E.D.F. And the assure me there is nothing wrong. My neibougher is with the same supplier and they are 2 O.A.P. they are in a 2 bedroom terrace house she uses the washer and spin dryer at least twice a week plus all the ironing. They have 3 tv on most of the day, electric kettle 20 times a day average and there hot water is by electric but there electric bill is always lower than mine. I told all this to E.D.F. But they told me that would make no difference to my electric bill. Now I am very confused how this works and wether to look at changing suppliers. Bu according to the money site on the Internet on price structures from other suppliers and would not make much difference to my bill
So I think I will have to just pay up and keep my eye on elecric consumption because there might be a problem with my friends electric meter and they could finish up paying more for there electric.

Brian says:
22 December 2011

Hello…..I had similar concerns a year or so ago and to give myself peace of mind, I bought (for just a few quid) a little device which clips onto the wire by the electricity meter.
This shows how much electricity is being used at that moment, so, for example, if you turn a light off, or the TV, the number on the meter goes down….if you put the kettle on, it goes up.
It is VERY revealing how some appliances use far more electricity than you think. You might get a friend to help you with it, flicking switches on and off. I’m not sure whta they are called….it’s like a efficiency meter….I know Which have done tests on them.

This little device also keeps a running score of your costs so helps you understand when your usage is high.

I see you have a computer and presumably a landline. I switched to Utility Warehouse several years ago and have been VERY happy with them. I have gas, electricity, landline, broadband, mobile all with them. I get to speak to a person and they are always helpful. and….Which magazine score them a Best Buy for value for money. I recommend them without hesitation.

A final thought….I wonder if by accident or design someone else is tapping into your electricity. Might be worth checking out. Your bill does look colossal for what you use.

Anyway, good luck.

John Sutcliffe says:
22 December 2011

Use a comparison website as EDF is unlikely to be the cheapest supplier and also make sure that you are on the cheapest tariff. Use a website that pays you to switch, not Which who apparently also rip you off by not giving you any reward. I complained to the ombudsman about E.on and got a good, fast result, entirely in my favour. You may have to tie yourself in for 12 months. Save money with online billing.

Hi John, I’m sorry to hear that you think Which? Switch is a rip-off, that’s certainly not the aim of the service! Which? is a not for profit organisation, and all of the money we raise through the switching site goes towards funding Which? research and campaigns. The money raised helps fund campaigns to ensure consumers are not getting ripped off and are as powerful as the businesses they have to deal with on a day to day basis.

Malcolm Fry says:
22 December 2011

Something is wrong with your figures, somewhere. The amount you are paying, for the electricity you are using, is reasonable. That’s not to say you couldn’t possibly get it cheaper, by shopping around. It does appear, though, that your consumption is very high, for what you say you are using. Either something you are using is horribly inefficient, or you are using something else, even if you are not aware of it. Getting an electricity monitor is a good idea. Some energy suppliers will even give you a free one. They’re easy to fit, you just clip a sensor on the cable, by the meter, which is wi-fi. Then just plug the monitor in, anywhere convenient. By switching things on and off, you can soon work out where your energy is going. I’ve reduced mine by 15% with one. I do think you have a problem somewhere. If you had said your consumption was 5Kwh per day, I would have said that was reasonable, based on what you say you are using.

I think it is time that the “utilities” are taken back from private and forgeign companies and placed into the ownership of the people. Reasonable prices can be charged taking into account; investment and maintenance etc but not profits and shareholder payments.


Simon says:
22 December 2011

I’ve cut back my energy useage by 30% so far and welcome the environmental benefit that comes from it. I am stunned by the fact that mean annual temp of welsh upland streams has risen by 1.7 degrees in last twenty years and we are alreday seeing serious reductions in biodiversity.

I apprecaite fuel poverty is a real issue for many but your headline begs the question.. Wear a jumper in the winter…whats the problem with that?    I want to leave something for my children.

Susie says:
22 December 2011

I agree with the above – it’s ridiculous how many people moan about being cold but are wearing a thin blouse/shirt. It’s winter for heaven’s sake – dress appropriately. That’s what jumpers were made for! As for stifling hot shops blasting us with stifling hot air as soon as we enter through open doors… Grrh!

Anyway, here are some of my basic tips that I thought people might like to follow for their homes: (1) Draw your curtains as soon as it starts getting dark. We don’t all want to see inside your home & you’re wasting energy by letting us.

(2) It (usually) warms up a bit as it gets lighter, so don’t draw your curtains back until it’s light &/or, when it’s really cold, keep them either completely or partially closed if you have enough light in the room. It’ll help keep rooms warm.

(3) Keep all doors closed if you possibly can.

(4) Hang an extra pair of curtains onto your regular ones for more insulation. Hang door curtains, doubling up if needed.

(5) Check your windows/doors/keyholes – are they draught-free? Our double glazing was bought on the cheap by our previous owners & it’s now got gaps. Secondary glazing is expensive, even DIY, so seal gaps with something, sellotape or even parcel tape if necessary, anything to cut draughts & keep heat in. You can worry about cosmetics later.

(6) If you’re not in a room, turn the lights off. Don’t forget hall & landing lights too, but only if it’s safe ie children are in bed.

(7) Unplug mobile phone/mp3/etc chargers if they’re not being used, electricity trickles out & costs mount up.

(8) If you open an outside door, close it quickly. It doesn’t matter if you’ll be ‘back in a moment’ – heat escapes quickly.

(9) Where safe, use candles or oil lamps instead of electric lights. We managed in the ’70s strikes, we can do it now. It was rather fun for the littler ones, too, so make a game of it if you can.

(10) Finally, if you’ve got an open fire – use it. If your home had one & it’s been sealed up, get it opened up. Apart from helping to heat the entire house, it’s SO cosy. Very romantic, gives you loads of light (so you can turn yours off), plus there’s truly nothing like toast or crumpets cooked on an open fire. Marshmallows are delicious too.

Candles cheaper than electric light? Are you serious???

Would not touch candles.
But Millets have been selling a little round multi-LED camping light that takes AAA batteries.
This is incredibly bright, totally unlike the rectangular inspection lights you see in car shops.
I can easily read by it, using my weak glasses that usually only work in sunlight.
Millets charge £3 in their sale.
On Ebay, there are sellers in HongKong that ask £1-60p. including carriage, but it will take about 1 month to arrive. Never been let down once by HongKong, over 4 purchases from different suppliers. Might as well let globalisation work for us, not against us as the multinationals use it to make us redundant.

Longley Shopper says:
23 December 2011

Well, with the dreadful light output of most CFL’s, plus their purchase cost, plus their high premature failure rate, and THEN plus the running cost, if I wasn’t scared of the fire hazard I would be very tempted to use candles rather than electric light to save money. Granted not all the savings would be on the electricity but overall I reckon I’d have a net saving of quite a few quid. I can get a box of a dozen household candles with a burn time of 8 hours form my local corner shop for just £1.09. Compared to modern energy saving light bulbs, it’s a no-brainer!

Susan Lincolnshire says:
22 December 2011

Please can someone tell me what impact the lack of heat will have on our properties with regard to mould and damp? I am very concerned as my husband has Emphysema.

Malcolm Fry says:
22 December 2011

Condensation, and hence damp, is as much down to ventilation, as heating effects. Damp is most commonly caused by a combination of a lack of ventilation, and variations in temperature. For instance, a warm bathroom will tend to put a lot of water vapour into the atmosphere. Unless some of this moisture is leaving the building (ventilation), it will condense back to water, on the first cold surface it finds. VARIATIONS in heating will tend to make the problem worse (either particularly cold areas, compared to the rest of the building, or by overheating for part of the day and letting everything go stone cold at other times). Of course, increasing ventilation will increase heating costs, but if damp is a serious problem, particularly with health issues, some compromise is unavoidable (unless one has the money for air conditioning)

big al says:
22 December 2011

The central heating has not been on this year. I now live in one room and depend on one gas fire. I sleep fully clothed and for as long as possible. 14 hours a day is not unusual. The fire is only on when I wake up owing to the cold. I also economize on food – sleeping longer and doing nothing reduces one’s calorie requirements. The past four days I have lived on vegetables only cooked long in the slow cooker. It costs £4 to go to the nearest town and back by bus, which is fast becoming a luxury. T’internet is now my main means of communicating with the outside world. Frankly this is not much of a life and I am fast becoming sick of it. Warmth is my main consolation and that and my rent consumes the vast majority of my income in the winter. God help us.

Doing something completely different this year by not turning on my gas central heating.
I live alone and realised I was heating the whole house, when spending the majority of my time in one room. I bought a small oil fired heater and use that during the day, if I am in and out and later use logs on my fire. I don’t light the fire unless I am in the room for safety reasons – the logs do tend to ‘spit’. I also bought an electric throw which is wonderfully warm and I would heartily recommend these.
In the kitchen, instead of using a kettle, I treated myself to a One Cup water heater with a variable switch, which produced a small cup, or a mugful of water, very quickly. Also use a slow cooker, or individual induction hob for most of my hot meals – or the combination microwave.
I got a very good deal at the local sports club, and go there to have a shower so I don’t need to use my hot water.
If this conversation runs on for a year, I’ll report back as to whether I’ve saved money, or not!

Snowdin says:
22 December 2011

I wouldn’t say we’ve cut back on energy as we live on the South Coast and camellias are out in the garden for the first time ever in December. However this is a frost pocket so the gas heating is on for 2 hours in a morning and 4 hours at night, 6 hours for the family over Christmas!
Our boiler failed on Monday and the British Gas Homecare website gave the first available engineer visit to mend the boiler as 4 days later. When I phoned next day to query this, I was able to agree a visit for that afternoon, just as well as additional parts had to be sent for. Lesson – if it is urgent (but not life threatening like a leak) negotiate on the phone, don’t trust the website. We survived 2 days without heat by wrapping up well and were grateful for the Which recommendations on electric blankets recently which had triggered a purchase, just in time!

Malcolm Fry says:
23 December 2011

I quite agree. Getting someone out quickly, for a problem, is one of the few things the web is rubbish for. Always worth a phone call, even if one does have to listen to “press one for…”, and my favourite, after spending 10 mins listening to instructions & pressing ‘one’ … “all our operators are busy….”. Still, it usually is worth the effort.

We have made no cutbacks – but then we have always been a “careful” family. Now we are retired and the various insurances and other things have come to fruition we have invested in solar water heating and solar-voltaic panels so our utiliy bills – especially gas now that the sun heats all our water for most of the year – are now much lower. My elctricity bill, though, is higher than I would like and one reason for this is outlined in the following paragraph.

The one thing REALLY annoys me (and costs me money) is that is the washing machine and dishwasher, which use lots of full-price electricity. Because for years the UK manufacturers have not supplied dual fill machines, which means that we have to use electricity to heat the water – even though we have masses of completely free water, with the taps delivering it right next to the machines. There has been a longstanding debate here – http://www.whitegoodshelp.co.uk/wordpress/whats-happened-to-the-hot-water-valve-in-washing-machines/ – and it is clear from comments there that most manufacturers DO make dual-fill machines – but, athough they supply them in countries as diverse as Germany, Italy and Australia, they do not supply them to the UK market. And they won’t say why they won’t.

If anyone has any idea why Germany (not really a sun-soaked country) should have a choice of dual-fill machines and the UK none at all, I would be glad to learn of it.

I would be very surprised if the hot & cold fill washing machines available in other countries take in any hot water when used at 30 or 40 degree programmes that we are recommended to use for most purposes.

Hopefully commonsense will prevail or some company will take the opportunity to provide washing machines that are modified to allow hot & cold fill.

100% behind Richard (as I also contribute to the board he mentions).

@Wavechange: Richard, I, and many other contributors to the board he mentions have done a lot of research over a number of years now and it seems that many hot and cold fill washers, just like my 1983 Hoover and probably like your 1982 Phillips, DO take in hot water on ALL cycles. The Miele AllWater, for example, takes in hot only on cycles 60 degrees and hotter and hot and cold mixed on all other cycles.

What we have never managed to get any manufacturer to explain to us is why they only sell the hot and cold fill models overseas.

We have managed to discover that some countries, including Australia and Germany, have building regulations which dictate that hot water supplies MUST be fitted to all appliance positions and many countries, again including Germany, offer significant incentives to consumers to buy appliances that use hot water supplies.

As Richard says, the puzzle is why the manufacturers refuse point blank to explain their refusal to supply in the UK.

If Which? could help us to find out, several hundred contributors to the other board would be very very pleased to hear the answer.

My washing machine only uses cold water for the 40 and 50 degree cycles and a mixture of hot & cold on the 60 degree wash. That really annoyed me when I bought the machine nearly 30 years ago, but I found other machines of that era that operated in the same way. When I have to replace it I will be looking for a hot & cold fill machine.

Yours wins for intelligent design, Dave.

Well, Hoover used to be the creme de la creme of domestic appliances, or so my parents and grandparents always taught me, so I’m pleased that their 1983 design seems to be outstanding amongst it’s competitors, but I must say I’m very surprised and more than slightly disappointed to find that other brands of the era were so very different.

That said, there won’t be many people with machines as old as ours so the really important question is still why the likes of Miele, Electrolux, Zanussi, et al make and sell hot and cold fill machines the world over EXCEPT the UK.

Am I alone in not understanding this thread? Surely you only save energy by using hot fill when you use solar hot water. I have converted our washing machine to cold fill only because my combination boiler was heating water to send through cold pipes, wasting a lot of energy in the process. When the water is heated in the machine there is no such waste.

Malcolm Fry says:
22 December 2011

I think part of the reason for cold fill, in this country, is that we, almost invariably, have single pipe hot water supplies. This means that a considerable amount of, actually cold, water has to be drawn, from a tap, or outlet, before any hot water arrives, by which time a low water washing machine is “full”. All that one would be doing is heating up water, to have it lie in the pipe, to go cold again. In some countries, two pipe hot water systems, are more common, where hot water is continuously circulated (through insulated pipes), so hot water is always close to a tap, or outlet.

The other board to which Richard and I have referred has argues and debated greatly over the heat wasted in pipes argument, which was used extensively by manufacturers at one time to justify cold fill only.
We have also debated whether, as both boiler and washer manufacturers USED to claim, combi boilers are unsuitable for use with washing machines.
The majority of evidence seems to confirm that unless you have exceptionally and excessively lengthy pipe runs between your hot water cylinder or combi boiler and your washer it is significantly cheaper to heat the water OUT of the machine than to use the heater in the machine. This is supported by, in particular, the German building regulations and the German government guidance, but also by Australian, Swedish, Norwegian and Spanish information. In America we have discovered that most washers don’t even have heaters in them and that it is prohibited to sell a washer that will not accept hot water coming in.
And over on that board there has been loads of proof that it was a complete lie on the part of manufacturers to say that Combi boilers and washers don’t work together.
Richard and I do have solar hot water, that’s true, but the only real difference to the argument that makes is that people with solar hot water are not only having to pay EXTRA to heat the cold water in a cold fill washer, but for many months of the year insult is added to injury by having to pay excessive electricity costs compared to absolutely FREE hot water.
I do believe, though, that older combi boilers generally don’t heat the water fast enough to do much good when the flow rate is as high as a washer. I think I’m right in saying that older combi’s only really got the water hot when the flow rate was very slow. So if your combi is an older model you may actually not get much benefit from supping the washer from it.
My partner has a new Main combi boiler connected to his Dishwasher and Washing machines. (The washer is a 15 year old Zanussi hot and cold fill) and his electricity consumption is less than 3 units per day on average, even though he runs the dishwasher about 3 times a week and does 3 or 4 boil wash loads plus another 2 or 3 cooler cycles per week in the washing machine. We think this proves that it’s cheaper to heat the water by the combi than in the washer and dishwasher and Miele certainly recommend hot fill for their dishwashers to save electricity.
I briefly had an LG washer that was cold fill and saw my electricity bill soar as it gobbled 4 or more units of electricity to do a 40 degree wash. I soon ditched that (it was A+++ rated by the way) in favour of a nearly 30 year old second hand hot and cold fill which uses well under 1 unit of electricity for a 40 degree wash and less than 1.5 units for a boil wash.
Hope that doesn’t confuse you even more – apologies if it does.

Malcolm Fry says:
22 December 2011

Back in the days, when we had a hot and cold fill washing, there was always the question of how much COLD water it took from the HOT outlet, before hot water actually arrived. Used to overcome this by running an adjacent hot tap, for a few seconds, til it started running hot, BEFORE switching the washing machine on. I take it that washing machine manufacturers have to assume we are all too thick to do something that complicated, these days!

@ Dave D

As part of my role at Which? I speak often with manufacturers of domestic appliances and can, hopefully, answer you question about the lack of hot-fill washing machines on the UK market.

The reason I was given is that heating elements in the machines have improved from how they used to be. This means it’s more energy efficient for a washing machine to heat the correct amount of water to the selected temperature, then it is for a boiler to heat a large amount of water and only send a certain amount of it to the washer.

Water temperature control is now part of the wash cycle too and this can benefit detergents that are activated at lower temperatures as the water heats up. It also removes the restriction many people may have of only being able to do their laundry when the boiler is on and producing hot water.


@ Richard.
Thanks for your response.
I’m afraid I find it hard to believe what the manufacturers are telling you for two reasons:
1) (As another contributor has posted elsewhere) if this is true, why is the UK the only place to benefit form this supposed improvement
2) I know for a fact (from personal experience in repairing washers) that the elements fitted into most machines, including the latest and most highly energy efficiently rated ones, are identical elements made in the same factories as those fitted in machines 20, 30 and more years ago. For example the element in my Hoover from 1983 is the identical part with the same branding stamped into it as the element from the useless A+++ rated LG bought in 2007. I have both to prove this as I stripped the LG to scrap it and saved parts like the element in case they could be used as spares later.

Thanks for taking the trouble to add the info, but I’m afraid I’m very sceptical.

We’ve turned our room stat down by 3 degrees, we are wearing jumpers in the house and put blankets on the beds. I don’t necessarily think, in our case, this is such a bad thing – we had become too reliant on the central heating. BUT I really fear for people who are at risk if they get too cold and it is disgusting that people have to worry about the cost of keeping themselves warm. I heard Chris Huhne urging people to be constantly looking for better energy tariffs and changing supplier. Irrespective of the time involved in doing this I understand that, across all the energy suppliers, there are over 200 tariffs! It’s pointless – competition has not worked. Chris Huhne needs to stop putting fuel poverty down to our inactivity and do something to give the UK a sustainable affordable energy industry. I hope the Which campaign has the desired affect.

Three years ago I was made redundant and had to live off savings before my professional pension kicked in 18 months ago.
I wear a fleece sweater (£5 Millets in August) and Thinsulate hat (£3), plus fleece or lined trousers (£25 craghoppers).
I rarely use my storage heaters overnight any more, but use 1 or 2 bars (400W or 800W) from a quartz bar fire (£11 from markets, Lidl etc.), aimed at the legs.
I bought very nice curtains on Ebay, and put them over the outside door, and both sides of the door from the lounge.
Many windows now have a blind half-way in the depth of the recess, as well as curtains.

As a result, electric bill including all heating, is about £650 to £700 per annum.
Just moved from British Gas to Npower, with a big saving, but all the switching websites gave me bad advice and I had to do extensive arithmetic to identify the saving.