Five ways to keep warm – and cut your bills

The North Wind doth blow, and we will have snow. And frost. And ice fogs. With many analysts forecasting the grimmest winter since 1963, the cold is tapping on the windows of every household in Britain.

But you don’t necessarily have to double your heating bills just to keep warm. There are tried and tested ways to fend off the winter weather without taking a hefty toll on your Christmas budget. Here are Country Life’s top five suggestions:

1: Cook. This may seem obvious, but your oven is an outstanding and cheap source of heat for your kitchen and the rooms around it. One of the best ways to get your money’s worth out of your cooker – and to spread some seasonal goodwill in the process – is to bake. Turning out a batch of mince pies or a cake will keep the warm air flowing, and make sure that your kitchen stays reasonably dry. Remember to leave the oven door ajar when you’re done, too, to take advantage of the heat left over.

2. Insulate. Make your home a castle. Seal the doors and windows with draft excluders or caulking , and close off any rooms that you don’t plan to use regularly. Lay down a rug or thick carpet on every wooden or tiled surface until your house resembles a caravanserai. You can also use transparent curtains to take in the sun’s warmth and light, or thick hangings to block out the cold after sundown.

3. Exercise. In all probability the last thing you want to do is grit your teeth and brave the blizzards outside your front door. But swimming, jogging and brisk walking will all help to keep your metabolism ticking over and help your circulation, as well as offsetting your backlog of Christmas calories.

4. Use electricity. With a little imagination, the mains can be far more efficient than gas. Keep a hot water bottle in bed, or, if you’d prefer, have an electric blanket purring away beneath the sheets. An electric space heater can also knock the spots off your central heating for efficiency.

5. Delegate. Perhaps the most leisurely way to slash your winter heating bills is to have a professional do it for you while you put your feet up. Most gas and electricity companies offer their customers a free energy audit, where an expert eye will be cast over your house to root out inefficiencies, bribed with nothing more than a cup of tea. Be warned, however: not all free audits are as rigorous as they might be, and the more information you can give the auditor, the more you will get out of the audit.