Rising energy bills are a hot topic right now in the UK — if only the same could be said for much of the shivering population struggling to pay them.
Winters seem to be getting colder — nice one global warming — so it’s time to get savvy to lower your energy costs. Here are your top ten tips!
1. Change providers
There is an ongoing price war happening between the energy providers, which is good news as it means they will be offering reduced prices to attract new customers. Keep an eye on any deals you could benefit from if you switch to another company (and read the small print). And don’t be afraid to keep on switching and chasing the discounts.
2. Wear more clothes indoors
An easy one really, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t wear enough clothes when indoors. If you’re relaxing on the sofa and not moving, then you’re not generating heat, so wrap up a little.
You don’t need to wear a fur coat, but bring out the woolies and make sure that you’re preventing your body heat from escaping.
3. Improve insulation
Would you keep pouring water in a jug if it had a leak? No. So why throw away money heating a house with bad insulation? It’s madness. Locate and destroy any draughts by insulating them in whatever way you can afford.
Windows and doors are the chief suspects so if you can’t afford to buy new ones, then insulate them better. Any cracks can be fixed with draught excluder sealant, invest in a good pair of thick thermal curtains which can improve energy efficiency by as much as 25% and use draft excluders for the bottoms of doors.
4. Move and keep active
Movement equals energy and energy equals heat. Move and your body will generate it’s own heat and also get everything firing up and flowing — a bit like starting up the boiler.
Buy a fitness video and take up home aerobics, get into a bit of festive DIY or increase your quota of rumpy pumpy sessions — guaranteed to provide enough heat for two.
5. Wood fuelled heating
Plan ahead and take into account the savings over a few winters. With that in mind, invest in a wood burner or get your fireplace and chimney back in working order.
And avoid all the axe work on Christmas morning with your very own hydraulic log splitter, which will get through the big stuff quicker than it takes the youngsters to open their presents.
6. Meal preparation
Eat. Your body needs food to generate heat, so don’t skimp on meals and make sure you’re well fed. Stuff like jacket potatoes, soups and comforting dishes like cottage pie are reasonably cheap and will warm you up too.
And save money by preparing stuff in the microwave (which is far more energy efficient than a gas cooker). Or how about throwing a foil-wrapped potato in your new wood burner?
7. Choose your room
When the freeze kicks in and the heating needs to be on — then it’s time to get tactical. Ideally you want to be using a south-facing room as your winter hideout as it will trap some of the heat from the sun, which can go a long way to keeping the room warm all day if it’s insulated well.
If you don’t have a south-facing room, then choose the smallest room, as it will be much easier to insulate and keep warm and put some foil behind the radiators to reflect the heat back into the room. And you don’t need the heating on in all the rooms — just your living space and sleeping abode will do the trick, so turn some of those radiators off and save money.
8. Invest in a super quilt
Ask a granny to knit you a toasty blanket or invest in a super winter-spec quilt, which can be picked up cheap enough. And use it! Have it with you on the sofa and then snuggle up in bed. It may be frosty in your room, but under that quilt it’s summertime.
9. Energy efficient products
Using energy-saving light bulbs will save you money in the long term as will opting for the more economical white goods like washing machines and freezers.
And upgrading an uneconomical boiler is also an excellent investment that could save up to £300 per year. The initial outlay for more efficient products is likely to be costly, but if you were to work out the total costs over a few years, then savings would be made.
10. Spend more time around friend’s houses
Bit of a cheeky one, but hey, what are friends for? Pop around their houses and hang out in their sub tropical lounges (for as long as you can manage without appearing to be unofficially couch-surfing).
A massive slice of the UK population seems to be obsessed with the Great British Bake Off television series.
The show, which sees passionate amateur bakers competing to be the best at baking stuff, has inspired every viewing Tom, Dick and Mary to try their luck with a bread mix and a rolling pin.
But how about adding something special to the mix and using a halogen oven to bake your bread? Anything you can cook in a conventional oven you can cook in a halogen oven — and below are seven reasons why halogen means better British Bake Off bread.
Space saving and flexible
Halogen ovens are about the size of a large food blender, so much smaller than traditional ovens, which is great news if space is at a premium in your kitchen. So move it around to suit your (ahem) kneads.
It’s also easy to transport the halogen oven to a place where it’s more convenient for you to bake. You could even take it on holiday or on a camping trip if you have a power supply. Surely Mary Berry would be impressed!
Save your back
Apparently it’s a bit of an in-joke that contestants spend most of their time crouched over staring at oven doors. This isn’t doing their backs any good and a stiff back isn’t conducive to a productive session of baking.
Baking shouldn’t be a physical strain, so use a halogen oven instead. Being small and easily manoeuvrable, halogen ovens can be located in back-friendly locations like worktops and kitchen tables. Meaning your back should feel just as light and relaxed as the dough.
Rise is such a good word in so many contexts and it is the holy grail of utterances when it comes to baking bread. The not-so secret method for helping your bread to rise is making sure the dough rises first.
You’ll need a warm and draught-free place to let your dough expand (as you don’t want your dough to dry out) and an excellent candidate is of course the halogen oven. Adjust the setting halfway between off and thaw (which is just enough to warm the bowl) and the dough mix should roughly double in size in around 30 minutes.
This is the fun bit, so grab a pew and turn on the HOT channel (Halogen Oven TV). As halogen ovens are made from glass, when it comes to baking your bread, you can actually watch as your lump of squidgy dough is magically transformed into a golden brown loaf of fluffy goodness.
There will be no more bending over to peer into darkened oven doors, or opening those same doors to receive a scorching blast of hot air in your face. All rise for the fabulously helpful halogen oven.
Halogen ovens rely on halogen bulb heating elements to convert electrical energy into intense heat, which is then circulated by a high performance fan. This efficient and highly effective system results in halogen ovens generally being much quicker than traditional ovens — as much as three times faster in fact for particular dishes.
When it comes to baking a loaf of bread, you’ll only see a small increase in actual cooking times, but it will still be quicker as halogen ovens take hardly any time to preheat.
There’s lots of money to be saved by opting for a halogen oven. Not only are they up to eight times cheaper than their conventional rivals, halogen ovens are also far more efficient.
Due to their high performance, they will cook the food faster and so require less electricity. It all adds up, so eventually the trusty halogen will pay for itself in reduced fuel bills.
So it’s smaller, cheaper and quicker — it also looks like it belongs on a space exploration vessel, so using a halogen oven to create your loaves is a pretty cool way to do get busy with your bake off.
And if all that wasn’t enough to convince you, then here’s the best part of all: many halogen ovens have a wash setting, so when it’s time to clean the flour and crumbs from within, your trusty bake off friend will do it all for you.
Now you can approach this from the Ray Mears survivalist angle, or it could be that you’re simply curious or adventurous — but how about trying some unconventional cooking?
Yes — cause a scene, raise an eyebrow or simply try something new for dinner. Let’s face it, one day you might be forced to get unconventional with your cooking anyway. Best get ahead of the game then …
Car bonnet omelette
For this dish you’ll need one car bonnet — preferably very hot from a long drive, a pan and the usual eggs, oil and mushrooms. Simply place the ingredients in the pan and place on the bonnet.
Be careful not to take the paint off your bonnet and watch out for seagulls if you’re near the coast. Give it a while and hey presto — omelette de la voiture!
Wood burner spuds
Rooms with wood burners are usually so comfortable that they breed laziness. Laziness that results in walks to the kitchen seeming like a trek through the Himalayas — so good job you had a sack of spuds to hand.
Simply throw some big spuds into the wood burner and carry on with your lazy afternoon — give it an hour and you’ll have some wood smoked crispy-skinned jacket potatoes. Beat that Heston!
Halogen oven Sunday roast
If Star Trek endorsed ovens … they would be something like halogen ovens. Converting electrical energy into intense heat, halogen ovens are not only small enough to sit on your table top, but about ten times cheaper when compared to conventional ovens.
Made of glass and resembling food mixers, they don’t mess about when it’s time for lunch. You’ll be able to cook a tasty roast dinner in about 30 minutes. And watch it too.
Laser grilled popcorn
Lasers are long, narrow concentrated beams of light that get so hot they could cut through steel — impressive. But can you cook with a laser? Of course you can!
The trick is to choose food items that are small, as the laser beam cannot cover a large area. Popcorn is the perfect candidate for laser cuisine and has already proved a success in past experiments. Although this isn’t one you should try at home just yet. Keep an eye on the future though as lasers could well be in the kitchen soon.
Skyscraper frazzled bacon and eggs
London’s skyline has a new 37-storey addition known infamously as the death ray or fryscraper. These names are due to its mirrored walls creating astonishingly hot solar flares that have been reported hot enough to burn the paint off parked cars and also the hair off some heads!
So it’s a good place to go if your cooker has retired. Simply place your breakfast in a pan making sure it’s under the heat of a reflected solar beam and you’ll be enjoying sun-kissed delights in no time. Just find somewhere safe to eat it!
Slippers have been keeping our feet warm and comfy for centuries, but have you ever felt that they could do more? Well you’re not alone…
In this age of modification, even gentlemen’s slippers haven’t escaped the ingenious and sometimes bizarre pimping skills of footwear designers. Take a look at some of the actual patents pending for men’s slippers.
Puppet / slipper combo
There’s a patent pending for a slipper that also functions as a puppet — yes you heard it correctly. If the conversation is boring you or you’re feeling mildly insane, simply put your slippers on your hands and hey presto — you’re the next Rod Hull.
Made with a flexible sole the slipper easily becomes a puppet with a moving mouth. Gimmicks — don’t you just love/hate ‘em!
Do you keep bumping into your furniture at night? Do you have problems seeing around your own house when it’s dark? Well just turn on the lights or a lamp — right?
That’s probably why a patent filed in 2001 for a lighted slipper — that’s a slipper with small ambient lights attached — has expired. An invention needs to solve a problem, but in this case light switches and normal slippers are much better than dark rooms and lighted slippers. Doh!
This patent has already been granted so expect to see this design on sale in underground slipper stores around Halloween. The design is simple and consists of the slipper looking like a skull — the mouth of the skull being the place where you insert your feet.
These skull slippers are sure to steal the show at the Mexican Day of the Dead Festival, but could be a bone of contention in most respectable households.
Shoe / slipper combo
This patent was aimed at women, but the concept of the idea isn’t gender specific, so we’ve included it. It’s basically a slipper inside a shoe.
So you’ve been on a long walk around the city in your shoes and now you want to relax beside a roaring fire. Only you forgot your slippers. No you didn’t! They’re inside your shoes. Wow — this is surely a must-have item for those people that transport their car inside their camper van when they’re on holiday.
Heated vibrating slipper
The proposer of a patent for a heated, vibrating slipper has been left hanging since 2007. If we were to speculate why then it would probably be because there isn’t really enough room in a slipper to house an electric motor and a heat-emitting wire and battery pack.
We’re pretty sure there would also be some serious health and safety issues with a fur-lined slipper housing a heating mechanism. Though what a flaming great training tool for Olympic sprinters — Water!
What could be a better addition to this uneventful world than a musical animal slipper? You’d be the talk of the party with these bad boys on your feet. What’s that noise? Well, it’s my musical slippers that are shaped like puppies.
Actually the 2001 application for a patent hasn’t been granted yet and doesn’t look like it will be either. We’re really sorry about that one, chaps.
So, you’ve got some jeans and some smart trousers and maybe a pair of jogging bottoms or two — but it feels like there’s room for something new in your wardrobe.
Somebody might have inspired you to go for something a bit alternative and daring, but this is where you need to pull back and go easy. There are some men’s trousers you should never wear.
Clint Eastwood and John Wayne are two of the toughest, meanest cowboys to grace our screens and it’s hard not to be inspired by the gun-swirling, horse-riding outlaws in their chaps.
But hold it right there, Mister!
Step down from the horse, which you don’t own, get back in your house, which isn’t in the Western Frontier and take off those chaps unless you’re a cowboy.
If you walk around 21st Century Britain in chaps, people will simply think you’re on a gay fancy dress outing (which you might be, in which case: enjoy!).
Bare-chested and clad in tight and transparent PVC trousers, Iggy Pop is the Peter Pan of the rock world. With his trademark Lust for Life, he continues to fire out the hits and moves.
But before you listen to his CD and recall how good he looks (in a man to man kind of way) in those transparent PVC trousers: just don’t go there.
Iggy Pop is not a man who can be imitated. You would probably turn heads, but not in a good way.
After the 2012 London Olympics, once-fringe sports like cycling and gymnastics have suddenly become mainstream. Armchair fans have been inspired to have a go — their first stop being to buy some sporty men’s trousers.
But slow down there.
Lycra trousers may look good on toned athletes like Louis Smith and Mark Cavendish, but they’re the professionals. Just beware of how tight you go with your trousers — tightness may protect you against physical injury, but not massive embarrassment.
Imagine if your boss or your dad saw you doing squat thrusts in the park…
Skin-tight red jeans
Since One Direction first appeared on the X Factor, a boy band renaissance has been sweeping the UK music scene. These young men own quite an impressive range of men’s trousers.
Their skin-tight jeans in shades of bright red are proving very popular with fans.
But before you go raiding your sister’s wardrobe for tiny jeans and start to cut off the blood supply to your legs, you’ll need to know something:
If you’re a teenager and in a boy band, you can get away with wearing most things. If you’re not, you will end up looking stupid and struggling to walk.
Men of the desert, bounty hunters and eccentric poker players are the type of men that wear snakeskin trousers.
These men could track a guinea pig through the bush faster than it takes you to make a microwave dinner.
Cork-dangling headwear and snakeskin trousers is not a good look in the middle of Wigan. You’re much better off playing it safe when shopping for new men’s trousers.
Most ladies know, the shoes you choose reveal your personality and purpose.
So it’s important not to be caught off guard. Like when you’re relaxed at home and not dressing to impress — so ask yourself, are your ladies slippers a little too revealing?
It may be that your inner wild animal is screaming to be released, but some men may see things differently. Floppy-eared bunny slippers will have some men running faster than … well, bunnies being chased by cougars. Just keep an eye on that inner child.
Cosy, feminine and pleasing on the eye, the Helen slipper is a popular choice for ladies and a hard one for men to determine any personality traits. It’s a steady, balanced choice that won’t disappoint with any unexpected breakdowns.
Mules glide and loaf around the house and are recognised as the cool cat of the slipper world. If you’re relaxed and easy going and prefer to effortlessly slip in and out of situations, then mules will send out the right messages to special guests.
It doesn’t take a PHD in slipper mechanics to determine that wearers of these beauties love those little comforts like feeling snug! Fleece lined from little toe to ankle, bootees are for ladies that give off a welcoming warmth and don’t mind getting
Ballerina style slippers
Delicately feminine, petite and elegant, ballerina style slippers are perfect for all those English roses out there. They have even been known to reduce big, burly men to soft, adoring puppies (not literally of course).
Equally at ease whether indoors or outdoors, moccasins are flexible enough to deal with most of life’s trials and tribulations. Secure and confident with their own bohemian style, their good looks will impress both men and women.
From a health and safety perspective, glass slippers are a risky choice for relaxation. It’s also time to step out of the fairytale as a pumpkin carriage isn’t going to rescue you from your delusional state even if it is the pantomime season.
Summer may be at an end, but you don’t have to pack away your romance with the beachwear.
With the colder weather there’s ample opportunity to get cosy with somebody special in front of an open fire. And with the swift onset of winter now’s the perfect time to get chopping wood.
Beware though, as the ‘lumberjack with bad back’ image is not so attractive. Here’s how to do it proper.
Forget working up a sweat playing the lumberjack, cool guys bring out their power tools and go large on the firewood. If the brutal efficiency and speed of a log splitter doesn´t impress your lover, then surely the time saved for extra loving will.
Rekindling the atmosphere
There’s nothing worse than not being able to get the fire started. So rather than huffing and puffing while your lover nods off, make sure you take precautions and have some kindling and firelighters at the ready.
Crank up the heat
You’ll obviously need a place to start a fire and the king of sizzle has to be the traditional open fireplace. Or how about the flexible wood burner, which can be fitted to all manner of places from motorhomes to cosy cabins. Just don’t forget to clean your chimney.
Guaranteed to raise the cosy stakes is a soft sheepskin rug sprawled out in front of the fireplace. Nobody can resist relaxation when a sheepskin meets a fire (including dogs and cats).
Don’t forget to stock up the fridge with a little food and drink. No need to go mad, just a bottle of wine and some finger food. And whatever you do, do not forget a sweet dessert for afters.
With all of the above taken care of, it’s time to work your romantic magic and crank up the heat.