Anne Hailes: Save money this winter by air frying, wearing socks and a hat in bed and using salt in your freezer
As the song says, Baby, It's Cold Outside. Winter comes every year but still we shiver and complain about the temperature – inside as well as out. However, it's not too late to stop the draughts and warm the house and next week the Housing Executive with the Energy Saving Trust will help you when they dedicate a week of advice for every one of us.
They title the week, Wee Changes, Big Differences! and it addresses the cost of living crisis we're experiencing. It's divided into five days, covering energy, wastage, saving money and simple changes to improve the winter experience, and an important schools competition.
I've made my own efforts, including cutting down on clothes washing to twice a week on average, and as I've no tumble dryer I hang them on an old pulley in the warm kitchen until they are dry enough to iron.
But there again, I've cut down on ironing – just fold neatly and stack. It works for most things, although shirts still need smoothed, as my granny used to say.
My freezer was getting overwhelmed with a build up of ice and it was impossible to empty it to allow it to thaw so I poured a little salt on the worst places and bingo, the ice slid off easily with a little coaxing using a wooden spatula – but being careful not to puncture the skin of the freezer. It took about 20 minutes.
WHAT ABOUT AIR FRYERS?
A recent television programme researched their efficiency compared to other cooking methods and air fryers came out on top by a long way. Shorter cooking times mean less energy used – some findings say a 1,750 Watt, 5.2-litre air fryer costs about 24p per use on average, while a 2,100W electric oven costs around 28p for the same 30 minute period. It all adds up.
You can buy pretty draught excluders but if you've an old pillow or a few cushions put them along the bottom of the door; wearing socks in bed is an essential for keeping warm – if your feet and head are warm, a night cap works well, and then you'll sleep better.
Filling a hot water bottle can be done in the evening – leave enough for a cup of tea and put the rest into a flask for later. Draw the curtains in the late afternoon and keep the heat in – though this is a pity in a way as the early evenings can be very beautiful at this time of year.
During next week we'll get all the usual guidance about turning down thermostats and adding insulation and these are contained in the links at the end of this article.
But you need to be planning months ago if you want to protect yourself against the cold.
Robert Clements, head of sustainable development with the Housing Executive, tells me he believes a lot of these changes are about behaviour and being aware of the things in our lives we can change for the better.
These can be very simple changes, such as unplugging appliances when not in use to studying temperature controls in rooms and the using the 'eco' settings on the washing machine and dishwasher. We don't have a dishwasher – just a big window overlooking the garden – so hand washing, is a joy...
"NI Energy Advice service is freely available for all NI householders, not just executive property, roughly 800,000 plus homes in public and private housing," says Robert.
"As the one-stop shop for energy advice across Northern Ireland, we offer information including help with information on available grants, renewable energy, how to switch energy provider, debt assistance and fuel poverty advice."
ENERGY SAVING WEEK
This is run by the Energy Saving Trust in conjunction with the Housing Executive. Programme manager Kevin McGarry explains one aspect of the week, beginning on November 27, which is encouraging primary schools across Northern Ireland to take part in a schools challenge in partnership with the Housing Executive and Eco Schools project by completing a range of energy saving tasks daily.
Through this challenge, children will continue to consider their actions now and in the future regarding energy consumption and the impact this has on the environment. Each school that participates will be issued with a certificate to illustrate the amount of carbon saved by completing the challenge.
"The school which saves the highest amount of CO2 (pro rata according to the size of the school population) during the energy saving challenge will be awarded £1,000 to contribute to a sustainability project to benefit the school," says Kevin.
"This prize has been kindly sponsored by Power NI. Schools need to complete the challenge and tell us they have taken part by December 15 2023."
For more details, Google 'Energy Saving Trust Schools Challenge 2023' and 'Energy Saving Week 2023'. You can also telephone 0800 1114455