BRITS are facing high energy bills again this winter, but one savvy woman has found an easy way to keep costs down.
Suzanne Elsworth, who lives in Cumbria with husband David, has invested in a handful of "Chimney Sheep" to help block her unused chimneys.
The 50-year-old copywriter told the Sun: “When we bought our house, it was a major renovation project.
"Every fireplace had been bricked up. There was no ventilation and the place was streaming with damp.
"We wanted to reinstate the fireplaces, but didn’t want the place to become draughty and freezing cold."
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To begin with, Suzanne began by purchasing one Chimney Sheep for £30.
“I bought one of these woollen gizmos around 12 years ago,” she said.
“I didn’t want to see all our heat heading up the chimney. I tested it in one room and liked the results.
"It fitted really snugly, and made such a difference in terms of the amount of heat escaping.”
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After the success of the first "sheep", Suzanne went on to buy two more for their remaining chimneys.
“We now have them in all our chimneys,” she said.
“We only use one of our fireplaces for heating, and the rest are purely decorative.”
An open chimney flue can be one of the biggest sources of heat loss in our homes.
If you don’t use an excluder, your chimney is essentially acting as an open window all year long.
Suzanne didn’t want to end up overpaying on her bills.
“By plugging the passage and saving warm air, we now use less energy to heat our home,” she said.
“Not only is this saving us money on our energy bills, it’s making our property warmer and cosier, too.”
According to the Energy Saving Trust, if you have an open chimney, fitting a draught excluder could save you £65 a year.
Suzanne said: “We reckon the three Chimney Sheep have saved us more than £600 on our energy bills over the past 10 years.
"That’s a really decent saving for a relatively cheap upfront cost.”
The Chimney Sheep is made out of coarse Herdwick wool and is breathable. This is important for ventilation.
Suzanne said: “The great thing about this product is the fact it allows air to pass through, but keeps the heat in.”
Prices for a Chimney Sheep start from £18 for a small version, from £30 for a medium, and from £45 for a large.
With the Chimney Sheep, you will need to buy the right model based on the size of your chimney.
Alternative "plugs" include the inflatable Chimney Balloon, available on Amazon from £12.50.
Elsewhere, there’s also the Chimella, the chimney umbrella, but this is a little more costly, with prices starting from £85.
With any of these products, you will have to make an initial investment, but the payoff is a reduction in bills.
It should mean you’re not tempted to turn up the thermostat.
As a guide, most households should be comfortable at a temperature of between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius.
Equally, if you’re looking for a quick way to make savings, turning your thermostat down by just one degree could save you £100 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Some people may be tempted to try DIY options in their chimney, such as stuffing old pillows or newspaper up the flue.
But you need to tread very carefully, as this solution is not very durable and can also lead to damp issues.
At the same time, it’s absolutely crucial you always remember to remove any form of draught-proofing if you do decide to light a fire.
Suzanne said: “The Chimney Sheep is really easy to take in and out – plus the handle means you don’t forget it’s there.”
Other areas of your home where heat escapes
While you’re thinking about blocking your chimney, it’s worth giving some attention to other areas of your home where heat may be escaping.
The reality is, even though the energy price cap fell from £2,074 to £1,923 on October 1, many people are still struggling to cope with the cost of keeping their homes warm.
If you’re worried about energy loss, improving insulation can save you money in the long run.
Having wall, floor and roof insulation installed can reduce the amount of energy lost from your home – and reduce the time it takes for your boiler to heat and maintain the temperature in your house.
But as some of these measures can require a big investment upfront, it’s also worth thinking about smaller steps to boost insulation which can be done on a small budget.
For example, you can add draught excluders to your home without spending a penny.
Simply place old towels at the bottom of doors, or stuff an old pair of tights full of rags.
You could also stop draughts creeping in through your windows and doors by picking up some self-adhesive draught-proofing tape.
You can find this on sale for as little as £5 on Amazon.
This is a relatively quick and easy DIY job, but take care not to block up any intentional vents, as these allow essential fresh air into your house.
Heavier curtains can work as a great barrier too. Or, for a cheaper alternative, think about buying curtain linings.
These can help keep the heat in your rooms for longer. Dunelm is a great place to purchase linings, with lots of options for less than £30.
Obvious as it may sound, remember to close curtains and blinds.
These will help limit your home’s heat loss, meaning you might not have to spend as much on heating.
Lots of heat can be lost through your floor, too, so consider buying rugs to cover up gaps and prevent some warm air from escaping.
You can get some nice rugs from Matalan for around £20.
Don’t forget that keyholes and letterboxes can also let cold air in.
Invest in metal keyhole covers and a letterbox brush to keep the heat in and the cold air out.
Suzanne has taken a number of steps to enhance her home’s insulation.
She said: “We can’t insulate our walls because they’re over a foot thick and made of stone, but we’ve done everything we can to keep the house as warm and efficient as possible.
"There’s a huge amount of insulation in the loft and good quality underlay under the carpets and flooring.”
The property also has double glazing throughout.
Suzanne added: “We’ve got decent draught excluder strips around the big original wooden front door.
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"But aside from keeping the cold out, I know how important it is to let air in for ventilation.
"So, if the weather is good, you’ll always find my windows open.”
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