The curse of the storage heaters and facing the cold

electricity bill
Our first electricity bill – 2 months’ worth!

We knew there was “no central heating” when we bought the house, so it was only a matter of time before we faced the chill of that reality. It was just a shame that we were lulled into a false sense of security (and warmth, although it was only a tickle of heat that those darned storage heaters put out) for the first few months. We hoped that we’d get the electricity bill fairly quickly, having never heated a house before, especially with storage heaters (although they’re a cheap way to heat a house – right?… ).

By the time they finally got round to sending us the bill, it was just over 2 months later, and here came the first blow. £670. For two months of electricity. Holy cr*p.

That took some time to come to terms with. And several calls, Chris tried the aggressive/assertive approach, I tried the pleading poverty, close to tears approach. Neither worked. We used that electricity. The storage heaters ticked through the night, devouring electricity, and those dials on our meter span like dervishes.

storage heater
Storage heaters, they look innocent, they devour electricity

So we turned off the heaters, those evil storage heaters. (Lesson learnt: if you have storage heaters make sure you know how they work, that they DO work, and that you are on the appropriate Economy 7 tariff, and even then make sure it is still going to be economical!!). The temperature plummeted. The snow came. We could see our breath indoors. We started not taking our hats and coats and scarves off when we came in in the evenings.

This accelerated our need to spec the central heating, and trying to work out whether we can brave the winter, or need to fast track it ahead of any building work. And then we discovered that this is a bad time of year to ask for someone to fit central heating. They’re busy and it’s going to cost..

So for now we’re buckling down and planning to get through the English winter and we have established a routine to preserve our heat, we:

  • Heat two rooms with oil radiators (borrowed from a kind neighbour), for about 3 hours (downstairs) and 1 hour (upstairs) a night.
  • Where possible, at weekends, have an open fire to heat the living room
  • Microwave our plates and cups before serving food or pouring tea, otherwise our food/drink goes cold before leaving the kitchen
  • Take a hot water bottle and 2 heat pads to bed with us
  • Blankets and slippers are our friends
  • When it’s really cold we wear bobble hats in bed (always wear bed socks) – warm the extremities!
  • And regularly check the spinning of our electricity meter dials – no shocks on bills allowed again!
Inside temperature, 5 degrees!
Inside temperature, 5 degrees!

Being cold sucks, it really does. I thought that it would be a challenge but nothing we couldn’t face by putting more clothes on and snuggling under blankets. But what you don’t realize is that it rapidly demotivates you in all areas of your day to day. Cooking in a cold kitchen where food loses heat instantly and pottering about is generally unpleasant. Washing up, (although having just enough water for one bath and one sink of washing up a day) is even worse. All you really want to do when you get home from work is curl up on the sofa. In fact, the reality is that if you keep moving you stay warm, but the end of the day is for relaxing, and that is difficult at 5 degrees Celsius!

We are now adjusting to this temporary way of life, establishing our routine for maximizing warmth and minimizing electricity consumption. Our bodies are calibrating to temperature and we’re much more aware of the amount of electricity we’re using and were wasting before, so interesting lessons learnt. But boy, we are looking forward to Spring and the rise of temperatures. And dreaming of that magical day that we hear the whoosh of a boiler pilot light roaring to life….


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