Photo of a woman holding a red hot water bottle to her chest whilst wearing hand kniitted woolen gloves trying to keep warm, good image for winter illness or warmth related themes.

Heat the human not the home

Save energy and stay warm with thermals, electric blankets & more

We're heading into winter and – even with the Government's energy price cap guarantee keeping bills lower than they otherwise would have been – many are likely to have to drastically cut usage. In this guide, MoneySavers have shared their tips to 'heat the human, not the home' – and we've researched the cheapest ways to do that.

First, a note from Martin Lewis...

This is a guide I really wish we needn't be publishing. The reason I asked Sarah and the team to put this together is due to my overflowing email bag of desperation from people who can't afford their energy bills. So don't see this as an 'MSE or Martin says you should do this'. It's more that we're trying to help provide some options and information for those that may need to drastically cut down on energy usage due to financial desperation and some help for others who may want to do it out of a commitment to green issues.

Key energy saving guides

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We run through the big energy saving tips, plus some thrifty crowd-sourced tips...

We debunk 20 energy saving conundrums.


Heat the human, not the home

MoneySavers  shared their tips to 'heat the human' – here are the cheapest ways to do it.

  1. Important. Keep yourself (and your home) healthy

    This guide's all about how to keep warm if you're at the point of cutting back on heating. But before you do, there are a few important things to consider:

    • It may be dangerous for older people, or those with asthma and other health conditions. If in doubt, consult your GP and follow their advice. Age UK told us it's important older people do all they can to stay as warm as possible.

    • Will it impact your mental health? Some say a cold home affects their mental health and motivation.

    • Rent your home? Check what your contract says about heating. Some landlords stipulate you must turn the heating on regularly, or keep the home at a minimum temperature.

    • Check fire and safety advice before using any of the electrical appliances and gadgets below. For example, the London Fire Brigade has advice on using electric blankets, such as not turning them on when wet and not buying second-hand.

      Even hot water bottles can be dangerous if not used correctly. Safety advice includes not filling with boiling water, and storing bottles empty to prevent damage to the rubber.

    Warning. Turning off central heating can cause its own issues

    Not heating your home properly can contribute to damp issues and frozen pipes if the weather's cold, which can result in hundreds of pounds of damage.

     

    The Energy Saving Trust recommends ventilating rooms and having the heating on to some degree during winter. It has full help on fixing damp and condensation, as well as other ways to save on energy at home.

  2. From hot water bottles to electric footwarmers... what's the cheapest way to warm up?

    Wearing the right clothes can make a huge difference when living in a cooler house – we've full help on this below. But many MoneySavers also recommend getting extra warmth from electric blankets, heat pads, footwarmers and so on.

    There are lots of options out there – we can't vouch for which will keep you warmest, but we have tried to work out which is cheapest to run. Generally we found it was those which could be charged via USB, but these items tend to be smaller, and may only warm part of your body (such as hands or feet).

    It's also worth factoring in the initial cost, if you don't already own one of the items below. We've given a rough price of the cheapest options we found (at Amazon, Dunelm, Superdrug, Wilko and so on).

    Of course, the cheapest option may not be the best quality. Do your own research, read reviews before buying and check safety advice before using any of the options below.

    Ways of heating the human, not the home

    TABLE_CELL_STYLE HEATING METHOD INITIAL COST COST PER HOUR (1) COST PER WEEK (2)
    USB gloves Plug into USB £5 Less than 1p 5p (3)
    Heated insoles Plug into USB £8 Less than 1p
    5p (3)
    USB hand warmers Plug into USB
    £9 Less than 1p
    5p (3)
    Electric gilet Charge via USB £50 (including battery pack) Less than 1p
    5p (3)
    Microwaveable wheat bag Microwave for 60 seconds (4) £4 Less than 1p
    22p
    Hot water bottle (1.5L) Boil water in kettle (5) £5.50 7p (6) £1 (7)
    Reusable hand warmers Boil in water on hob £5 for a pair Less than 1p
    £1.38 (gas hob)
    £4.43 (electric)
    Electric heat pad Plug into mains £15 3p £1.47
    Electric footwarmer Plug into mains £25 3p £1.47
    Electric blanket (single) Plug into mains £18 3p £1.47

    (1) Based on the price guarantee rate from 1 Oct (34p) for each kwh on the energy price cap. (2) Based on seven hours use per day. (3) Based on charging five hours per day. (4) Stays warm for approximately 20-40 minutes. (5) Leave to cool slightly to avoid damaging rubber. (6) Using a 3000W kettle, 1.7L capacity, taking four minutes to boil. (7) Based on filling twice a day. Correct as of October 2022.

    How did we work out the cost?

    To get the prices above we looked at the wattage of the item – or the wattage of kettles, microwaves or hobs – then multiplied that by the average price of a single unit of electricity (a kilowatt hour) under the new energy price cap rate guarantee, and divided by 1,000. This gives us the cost of running the item for an hour.

    This is our own methodology, though we've run it past independent energy industry experts. If you want to try it yourself, here's how to work out the rough energy cost of an appliance:

    So a 100W (a tenth of a kW) appliance on for two hours is a maximum 3.4p an hour x 2 = 6.8p

    The reason we say 'is a maximum' is many appliances, especially heating appliances, don't run at full power the whole time. But this can help give a general idea of the cost. 

    What do MoneySavers say?

    A number of MoneySavers have found the options above have helped them reduce the amount of time they have the heating on:

    I swear by heated throws! I use mine all the time for whenever I'm sat down for any period of time. I rarely use my central heating, and find I can do without when I'm under one of these.
    - NoraNoir
    I have a heated gilet which I bought for lockdown when sitting outside. You use it with a charging pack which charges like a mobile phone. I now wear it in the house during the day and just turn it on as I feel chilly. Keeps my core really warm. Much cheaper to charge the pack than run the heating I feel!
    - Louise
    A heating pad makes a great hot water bottle in bed. When I wake up with cold feet I just switch it on and then can got back to sleep with warm feet. Much better than getting up into an unheated house in the middle of the night to fill a hot water bottle
    - littlemoney
  3. Layer clothes to keep in the heat

    If you want to stay warm indoors, it's worth looking at advice given to those spending time in cold conditions outdoors. We've looked at clothing tips given by big outdoor retailers such as The North Face and Cotswold Outdoors. They're aimed at people hiking, skiing and so on, but many of the principles remain the same.

    Don't think you have to splash out on pricey gear though. You may be warm enough layering clothes you already own – for example, some MoneySavers simply wear old tights under their clothes. But if this doesn't work for you, we've listed some of the cheapest thermals and outdoor wear we could find.

    While we've listed clothes as men's or women's to match how they're listed by retailers, there's no reason a woman can't wear a man's jacket/jumper, or vice versa. It simply needs to fit, keep you warm, and be affordable.

    Layer 1: The baselayer, £7-£8

    This is the first layer, which sits directly against your skin. It should be close-fitting, and will lock in heat and 'wick away' sweat. Avoid cotton if possible, as it traps moisture and will cool you down over time. The cheaper alternative options tend to be synthetic fabrics, such as polyester or nylon.

    A number of Forumites recommend heatgen thermals from M&S (around £12-£15). But there are cheaper options out there:

    Layer 2: The midlayer, £5-£6

    Like the baselayer, this should lock in warmth and wick away sweat. But wearing a second layer will help trap warmth your baselayer hasn't managed to keep in. Outdoor experts say a lightweight fleece can be a good option. Alternatively, you could opt for a second T-shirt, and wear a fleece or jumper as your third layer.

    Layer 3: The outerlayer, £15-£20

    For those doing outdoor activities, this is usually a waterproof layer to protect against the elements. You won't need a waterproof indoors (hopefully), but if you're not warm enough in your base and midlayer, you could add an extra jumper or jacket over the top.

    For extra warmth, a padded/insulated jacket could be a good option here:

    A number of MSE Forumites have reported success with layering clothes:

    I wear several layers of clothes including insulated trousers in a larger size to wear over another pair of trousers.
    - littlemoney
    The days of me throwing tights away once they've had it is over, I chop the feet off and wear them under trousers and it is amazing what a difference it makes!
    - Rosa_Damascena
    Invested in an oversized hoodie blanket to snuggle up in, not used heating since!
    - Teresa
  4. Eat regularly and have at least one hot meal a day

    The NHS says eating regularly will help keep you warm, and says you should have one hot meal a day. It also recommends drinking hot drinks regularly.

    Forumites recommend homemade soup and porridge, and these can be good MoneySaving options too. For example, 1kg of porridge oats is 70p at Tesco.

    Getting warm food inside me helps. I make porridge in the microwave for breakfast and have soup for lunch. I make a big pot of soup and then rewarm portions in the microwave at lunchtime.
    - Prudent

    If you're not able to cook, or want something a bit quicker, a cheap alternative is 'Cup a Soup' style sachets. For example, Asda sells four sachets of its own brand version for 60p.

    Struggling to afford food?

    Sadly, many are struggling to afford both food and energy right now. But there is help out there:

    • Speak to your local council. Councils have a tranche of £500m for the Household Support Fund – to prioritise money to meet essential costs – you DON'T need to be on benefits. Contact your local authority to see if you're eligible (they may also be able to point you to other help).

    • Check if you live near a social supermarket or community shop. These are social enterprises that are generally, but not always, aimed at those on low incomes, selling surplus from major supermarkets at heavily discounted prices. While not widespread, they're growing in number - see where to find social supermarkets.
    • Try your local foodbank. Foodbanks give out free parcels that should provide at least three days' worth of in-date, non-perishable food. The Trussell Trust is one of the biggest foodbank charities in the UK – use its website to check if it operates near you.
    • Who can get help from a foodbank?

      To get help from most foodbanks, you need to be referred (though this isn't the case with some independent foodbanks). You can typically get referred by a doctor, health visitor, school or social worker. If you're not sure who to talk to, try asking Citizens Advice.

      You'll likely be asked some questions about your income and why you need to use the foodbank. This ensures the food goes to people who need it most. Common reasons for referrals include redundancy, receiving an unexpected bill or a delay in benefit payments.

  5. Keep your feet warm with rugs & slippers

    It's said that if your feet are cold, the rest of you will feel cold too. So wearing slippers can be essential to staying warm inside, particularly if you have hard floors.

    Slippers that enclose your feet will keep warmth in better, so we've stuck to these options below. It's also worth opting for slippers with hard, waterproof soles, as kitchen and bathroom floors get splashed easily (and wet socks cause cold feet).

    If your feet are warm enough in socks, an alternative way to keep them dry is to wear a pair of sandals or 'sliders'.

    Consider putting down rugs and bathmats

    The Energy Saving Trust also recommends putting down rugs or carpets to help your feet stay warm. These can be pricey, but it's possible to get a small rug for as little as £2. We also spotted larger ones for £15 at Dunelm. The key is to place them where you stand often, such as next to the bed. A bathmat can also be handy, to avoid bare feet on a cold bathroom floor.

    Make sure any new rugs aren't a trip hazard – you can buy separate 'anti-slip' mats or underlay to go underneath and prevent accidents.

  6. Choose the right socks, and consider changing them during the day

    If ordinary socks and slippers won't cut it, you could consider thermal socks or ski socks, designed to keep people warm outdoors:

    If your feet start to feel cold later in the day (even though you've kept them dry with slippers), it could be because your socks have been absorbing sweat. Swap them for a fresh, dry pair, and your feet should start warming up again.

  7. Put your feet up... literally

    The floor is usually the coldest part of the house. Putting your feet up on a stool or similar can help them stay that little bit warmer while you're sitting down.

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  8. Try the 'hot water bottle in a sleeping bag' trick

    A number of Forumites have reported success combining a hot water bottle and sleeping bag:

    When sitting down, sit in a sleeping bag, at least your bottom half. Even better if you put a hot water bottle in the bottom. Warm with no draughts.
    - mumtoomany
  9. Warm up by moving around

    Gentle exercise can help you stay warm, so try and move around once an hour. Be aware that more strenuous exercise will make your body sweat to try and cool you down, so it's not an ideal solution if you just want to warm up.

    I am sat at my desk most of the day, so try and move at least once an hour! And go out for a walk at lunchtime.
    - Pixiekazza
  10. Consider the cost to your mental health before cutting back

    Cutting back on heating to save money can have a significant impact on your mental health and wellbeing. So if you do have the choice between cutting back on heating, or reducing spending in other areas, it's worth considering the impact a cooler house will have on your mental health and motivation.

    Forumite Topher explains how it has affected them in the past:

    I really have to weigh up saving money on fuel by sitting in thermal clothing, extra jumpers and under quilts, and feeling low and less like getting up and doing chores, or having a few degrees warmer by using the central heating and feeing motivated to get things done, cooking from scratch in the slightly cooler kitchen for example.
    I've had years of zero choice, but once my family was moved past survival mode economically, I swore I'd indulge on warmth first and foremost. The feeling of wellbeing goes a long way to helping tackle all the other aspects of life.
    - Topher

    Sadly, we know many don't have any choice over whether to spend money on heating. If this is you, see our full Cost of living help. It includes a 10-minute benefits check, plus how to save on petrol, childcare costs and more.

    If financial struggles are taking a toll on your mental health, speak to your GP or contact a charity such as Samaritans.

  11. Get up to £1,500 to help with rising energy prices

    Many households in England, Wales and Scotland can get up to £1,500 of Government support this year, designed to help a little with energy bills – though most households won't be eligible for the full amount.

    Help available includes:

    • A non-repayable £400 energy grant from October to all households. All households in England, Scotland and Wales connected to the electricity mains (about 28 million) will get a non-repayable grant to help towards the cost of energy bills from October. This £400 payment will be spread over six months – it won't be paid as a lump sum. Most will have got their first instalment of £66 by now, and you should get your second payment soon. See £400 energy grant for more info.

    • A one-off payment of £650 for those on means-tested benefits. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is making the payment in two lump sums – the first has already been paid, while the second payment started from 8 November. This will go directly into the account you receive your benefits into. Find out more about the £650 one-off payment.

    • A £300 winter fuel payment top-up. A top-up will be paid in November or December to the UK's eight million pensioners who get the winter fuel payment. You'll qualify for this payment if you were over state pension age (aged 66 or above) between 19 and 25 September 2022, and as long as you meet certain other requirements – see Gov.uk for full details.

    • A £150 top-up for those on certain disability benefits. About six million people across the UK on certain disability benefits are eligible. The payment was due to start on 20 September, but many are still waiting to be paid. See what to do if you haven't got yours

    • A £150 council tax rebate to all households in England, Scotland and Wales for those in bands A to D. The payments should now have been paid automatically if you pay your council tax by direct debit. For those who don't, you need to apply to your local council for the rebate. The scheme closes 30 November 2022. See our Council tax rebate MSE News story for more info.

    And if you're really struggling, contact your council as you may be eligible to receive financial support under the Household Support Fund scheme. The scheme is designed to help those in need with payments towards the rising cost of food, energy and water bills. It's up to local authorities in England, and to the devolved governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to decide how to spend the cash.

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