The Ideal Day vs The Real Day

Many of us wake up each morning with a vision of our “ideal” day. We mean to eat healthy food (just not too much of it). We plan to get at least half an hour’s exercise.  We intend to fill our evening catching up with friends or family or doing something to “expand our mind”, like reading a book, or binge-watching documentaries.

In reality our good intentions tend to fall by the wayside from the moment we start pressing the snooze button and get up half an hour later than intended. The salad we planned to prepare for lunch gets swapped for a supermarket meal deal and our nutritional powerhouse breakfast of eggs and avocado, or porridge and fruit, gets passed up for the donut we grab as we’re dashing out the door. And don’t get us started on the cake we chomped on at 3pm – it was a colleague’s birthday/someone baked it /it was 50% off (delete as appropriate) – it’d be rude not to.

Of course this doesn’t matter since we’ll work it off later jogging or in the gym, right? Well, that’s the plan, until 5 o’clock rolls around and the sofa seems so much more appealing that sweating it out on a treadmill. But it’s okay, we’ll make the most of our downtime. We’ll call a friend we’ve not spoken to for a while for a catch up and then we’ll get stuck into that book we’ve been meaning to get started on. Or we will, just as soon as we’ve watched this cat video, it looks like a good one…

…feel familiar?

IDEAL DAY vs REAL DAY optimised

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Movie Buildings in the Real World

Movie Buildings in the Real World

If iconic movie buildings were real, where would they be? See if you can guess both the movie and the real-world location.

Cinderella’s Castle 

Cinderella’s Castle was inspired by old Bavarian and eastern European architecture like Neuschwanstein, a fairytale-esque castle that sits on a hill above the Bavarian village of Hohenschwangau, and the Church of Mother of God before Týn, in Prague’s old town. It makes sense then that the real Cinderella’s Castle would sit in one of these locations, and we think it looks right at home at the end of the medieval Charles Bridge, in Prague.

(Tap the image to discover more!)

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Mos Eisely

The Mos Eisely scenes in Star Wars were filmed in Tunisia, a desert location that clearly influenced the set design. Here, however, we’ve placed the structures in Giza, to contrast the humble Tatooine huts against the spectacular Egyptian pyramids.

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Look at London’s skyline and you might assume the city’s architecture had been inspired by Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and you wouldn’t be the only one. The similarities between The Shard and the black land of Mordor haven’t gone unnoticed, so where else would a real-world Barad-dûr (Sauron’s tower) reside but there?

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Yavin 4 Rebel Base 

Did you know that Central Park has 31 cameras covering its grounds? Yet the whole of the Bronx (at more than 40x its size) only has only 43? Neither did we. In what feels like a little bit of security mismanagement, the relatively peaceful Central Park is more closely guarded than the crime ridden Bronx. What better way to comment on this but with the inclusion of the guards that oversaw the protection of Yavin 4?

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Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry

JK Rowling made Edinburgh her home while writing the Harry Potter series, and as a result many of her wizarding world’s most iconic landmarks and locations were inspired by the city. What better place for a real-life Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry then, than amongst the cobbled streets of this ancient city, with its great castle looming over it from Castle Rock?

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Emerald City

The vast expanse of Russia’s Red Square with its colourful Cathedral is ideal as the backdrop for the bright lights of Oz’s Emerald City.

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Jedi Temple

Manhattan is often described as the “cultural, financial, media and entertainment capital of the world”, so where else would the central hub for all Jedi activities, the Jedi Temple, be located than amongst the high-rise architecture of the Big Apple?

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In The Spy Who Loved Me James bond investigated the hijacking of British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads, and featured the now iconic Atlantic Citadel. Echoing the Battle of Sydney Harbour of 1942 in which the Japanese attacked using submarines, we decided to merge the fact and the fiction. The wave like curves of the Sydney Opera House and sea creature like structure of the citadel made for an aesthetically pleasing combination that supported similarity of fact and fiction.

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Derelict Alien Ship

With its rich history of ships, pirates, and the location of the world’s busiest container port, Shanghai seemed like a great place for the derelict commercial ship from the original Alien film. Weave into that some of the futuristic architecture that is dotted around the city – from the flying saucer like structure of the Shanghai Museum, to the glowing orb of the Oriental Art Centre – and you have a city that is both futuristic and connected to the past; the perfect complement to the design and feel of the original Alien film.

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Bates Motel

There is a camera shot in Hitchcock’s Psycho in which the viewer looks up at the foreboding structure of the Bates family home. Knowing the story and the fate that befell Norman’s mother gives what is a beautiful (fake) house its symbolic eeriness. The steps that lead up to that house reminded us of the immense structure of El Castillo at Chichen Itza, and the steps that are integral to the pyramid.  When you add in the Mayan culture of human sacrifice for the nourishment of the gods, you have a connection between the two that cannot be denied. Maybe that’s what Hitchcock was hinting at all along?

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Timber, Aluminium or PVC bifold doors?

Timber, Aluminium or PVC Bifolds

What material bifolding doors should you choose?

If you’re buying a set of bifolding patio doors for the first time, knowing how to decide which material to go for can seem like a bit of a mystery. The three options of timber, aluminium and PVC are all very different from each other, but no material ticks every single box so it’s a case of weighing up the pros and cons to find the best fit for your home. Luckily, we’re here to talk you through each potential material for your bifolds to help you make the right decision.


PVC Bifold Doors

PVC – or polyvinyl chloride if you’re feeling fancy – is a widely produced plastic that’s used to make a broad range of products from waste pipes to window frames. PVC is very cheap to manufacture and highly versatile, allowing it to be shaped into cross-sectional profiles with large air chambers that improve the insulation of your doors. Although most commonly supplied in white, it is possible to source PVC bifolds in almost any colour. While PVC is very easy to maintain, the plastic can unavoidably make the doors look like a budget option. It’s not a particularly strong material either, resulting in bifolding doors that can feel flimsy, which isn’t ideal in situations where structural stability is highly important.

PVC Pros:

  • Very cost effective
  • Decent thermal insulator
  • Low maintenance

PVC Cons:

  • Budget appearance
  • Low structural strength


Timber Bifold Doors

Wooden bifolds are the classic option amongst the three, and for good reason. Timber bifolds will look beautiful on any property, whether they’re finished with a stain to display the natural grain or painted a feature colour to compliment the rest of the house. Wood is also a fantastic natural insulator, while also being inherently strong. There are also options on the specific species used – Oak and Pine for example – to accommodate pretty much any budget. Old manufacturing methods used to leave the doors vulnerable to warping or bowing, but modern constructions are designed to resist these problems providing the doors are looked after. Maintenance is the main downside of timber bifolds, requiring a check over every 6 months or so and a quick touch up in the event of any finish deterioration.

Timber Pros:

  • Versatile appearance, premium feel
  • Options for all budgets
  • Good thermal insulator

Timber Cons:

  • Finish maintenance required
  • Failing to maintain the finish can result in problems such as bowing and splitting


Aluminium Bifold Doors

While aluminium bifolds are the newest option for homeowners, they’ve quickly established themselves and their presence continues to grow. Aluminium is both incredibly strong and relatively lightweight, making it a superb material for constructing bifolding doors out of. Its characteristic strength allows the framing around each pane of glass to be very slim, creating a sleek minimalist effect that had, up until recently, been reserved for bespoke architectural projects. It is also highly durable, requiring no maintenance of the finish and minimal upkeep needed for the rest of set. Aluminium bifolds tend to be supplied power coated in your choice of finish from RAL colour charts, giving you almost endless options. This all comes at a cost though; aluminium is by far the most expensive material out of the three due to the high costs involved in producing the metal itself. Also, being a metal, aluminium is a very poor insulator. Manufacturers limit the effects of this by incorporating thermal breaks – sections of a better insulating material – into the structure, but aluminium sets still depend heavily on the glass used to achieve acceptable insulation performance.

Aluminium Pros:

  • Structural strength
  • Slim sightlines
  • Wide range of finish options
  • Low maintenance

Aluminium Cons:

  • Most expensive option
  • Poor insulator



As you can see from our breakdown, each option definitely has its place. Although the positives and negatives of each material vary quite widely, this does mean that you should be able to find an ideal match, whatever your budget or the style of your project. Head over to our external bifold doors page to view the ranges we’ve currently got for sale, or give our office a call on 020 3744 0704 if you’d like any further advice.

Superheroes’ Super-Useful Washing Tips

What do washing symbols mean?

Unmasking the Illusive Washing Symbols

Fighting crime, saving the day and just generally being around to do some good is what being a superhero is all about, and of course, having an awesome costume to keep their top-secret identity hidden is essential.

So who better to save us from those pesky washing advice labels that are impossible to understand and tell you what washing symbols mean than our favourite ‘grime’ fighting superheroes?! Apart from our mums…

Do not iron washing symbol label

colour mixing washing symbol

wash at low temperatures washing label

Dry clean only washing symbol

Washing symbol meaning: check pockets before washing

Wash clothes inside-out washing symbol

hand-wash washing label symbol  mesh bag wash symbol

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What Do Washing Symbols Mean?

This is a question that has gone unanswered since the start of time. Although it probably hasn’t been that long and we’re sure it might’ve been answered several times before, but we’ve all been there when we’re looking at the washing label and wondering to ourselves what they actually mean!

So we thought we’d pull in some help from our superhero friends to tell us what washing symbols mean… After all, that’s what superheroes are all about, right? Helping people out.

Aside from the ‘do not iron’ symbol, the rest of the laundry symbol meanings are pretty hard to figure out without a bit of help from a more experienced and better informed washer.

We hope that our superhero translations have helped you figure out what your washing symbols mean and next time you come to facing your arch-nemesis, the dreaded laundry pile, that you’ll have everything you need to save the day.


The Craziest Things You Can Eat Around the Home

Have you ever been sat at home, STARVING, but not really sure what you fancy to eat?

Well, thanks to this guide, you can find a whole range of things you’d never known you can consume!

…and potentially a whole range of things you’d never want to consume, even though you can:

Things you can eat around the house

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There are some weird and wonderful things inside and outside your home that you can eat and still remain perfectly healthy – some of which are downright bizarre. Whilst you can technically eat a lot of this stuff, we probably wouldn’t recommend doing so unless your life depended on it. Remember, if you’re not sure whether you can eat something, DON’T!


Tree Bark

The inner layer of bark from many trees including aspen, birch, willow, maple and pine is actually completely edible. This nutritious layer of bark known as the ‘cambium’ can be eaten raw (shredded), boiled to make rustic pasta or even dried and ground to make flour to make bread, soup or a breakfast gruel. Any resin that oozes out whilst preparing can also be eaten uncooked and is full of energy.



Mmmm! Purge snails – removing their toxins – by feeding them on carrots for several days before eating them. You can easily find snails outside after it has rained, and you can fry them in butter, garlic and white wine.



Every single part of a dandelion is edible – from its roots to its flowers! Dandelion tea is also proven to help with digestion. Ensure you harvest your dandelions early in order to avoid bitterness of older plants.



You’d have to be as tough as old boots to eat this, but leather is actually edible; despite the fact it holds little-to-no nutritional value. Ensure it has not been tanned with toxic chemicals. You should probably avoid trying to eat this.



Cute, furry, delicious…wait, what?! Please remember, squirrels – and all rodents – have the high potential to carry disease. Red squirrels are also endangered – please don’t hurt them.



Capable of giving you approximately 0 calories per 100g, chalk isn’t exactly the most energy-packed food you can resort to. You also must be careful – as with all foods in this post – that it doesn’t contain anything toxic before taking a bite.



Tasting similar to spinach, with hints of cucumber, nettles are a surprisingly tasty – albeit painful – choice of food. Use gloves, avoid places pooppopular with dog walkers.


House Plants

Don’t just eat any old houseplant. However, it’s entirely possible to grow many edible plants within the home – herbs, peppers, salad leaves and more.



Shrimp-like in flavour (apparently), woodlice can be found in abundance in most gardens. Just like with snails, woodlice should be purged of their toxins a few days prior to eating these calcium-packed insects.


Pine Needles

Pine needles can be diced and brewed into pine needle tea; probably not the hot drink your friend wants when they come to visit, unless they’re looking to prevent scurvy – which this is great for!

TripIlladvisor: The Movie Properties You’re Dying to Stay At

Are you looking to get away to somewhere a little different this summer, but want to avoid investing your hard-earned cash in something that turns out to be a total nightmare?

If completely make-believe holidays are for you, then you’ll absolutely love this. We’ve managed to round up the most killer homes from the movie world, and all are available for you to imagine stopping at.


We are altering the deal, pray we do not alter it any further. New price: 2,300,000 Galactic Credits.

We find your lack of interest disturbing.




This beautiful property in the heart of Gotham will have you smiling with joy – no joke. Absolutely no sign of luxury external bi-fold doors here.




Professionals only – no CSS accepted, sorry.




This delightful detached property will leave you with no orc-ward neighbour conflicts.




Perfect if you’re looking to exterminate all but the dalek race, this is the one home that you’ll love every moment of hating.




This Gryffindorable property will have you Hogwanting more, with plenty of activities to get your Ravenclaws into and first-class customer service if you ever get yourself into a Hufflepuff. Ergh, sorry.




Magneto’s property has an electric atmosphere and a cosy, retirement feel to it – you’ll want to stick around for years to come.


Understanding Insulation in the Home

inside of an apartment

As utility bills are increasing, more and more homeowners are coming to appreciate the value of home insulation. Insulating your property is a good way to cut energy bills, reduce drafts, and also make your home more energy efficient.

What is Insulation and How Does It Work?

Insulation is the term used to describe a layer of foam or other materials that serves to trap heat inside your home. Heat can be lost from an object or a space by several methods – radiation, convection and conduction. Insulation works to prevent that heat loss by stopping air from leaving the space, and y slowing conduction. Heat transfers very quickly along highly conductive metal objects (which is why if you put a spoon in boiling water the handle gets hot quite quickly), but it does not transfer quickly across plastics that are also filled with little pockets of air.

Some forms of insulation help to stop radiation based heat loss as well. Your boiler, for example, may be coated in a metallic wrapping – the metallic coating will reflect infrared energy back into the boiler, keeping the water inside warm.

Why Do You Need Insulation?

Insulation is important for several reasons. It helps to reduce drafts, it serves as a noise-reduction aid, and it keeps the temperature in your home stable. This means that you don’t need to run your heating as often, saving you money and reducing your carbon footprint.

Any form of insulation will help with your heating bill. Double glazing is a significant improvement over single-pane windows, for example, but fibreglass insulation offers even bigger heat savings, and polyurethane, polyisocyanurate and aerogel insulating products over even-more potential heat savings per inch. Reflective insulation can cut down on the heat loss in your property by up to 97 percent.

Investing in insulation won’t just make your heating bills cheaper, it also means that if you come to sell your home you should be able to attract a higher price, since prospective buyers will appreciate that the property is energy-efficient.

How Much Money Could You Save?

Installing loft insulation for an average-sized 3-bedroom semi will cost around £300 if you pay a professional to do it for you. Opting for a DIY installation will not save you very much money, so unless you actively enjoy DIY you may as well pay a professional. Installing loft insulation will save you up to £175 per year on your heating bill.

Cavity wall insulation starts at £350 for the cheapest blown mineral wool insulation. Other forms of insulation may cost more. The savings can be as much as £135 per year on your heating bill.

Under floor insulation can cost up to £770 if you pay a professional, but the savings are substantial if you do the job yourself. In terms of reducing your energy bills, under-floor insulation is a relatively low-impact improvement, offering savings of between £60 and £85 per year. However, it will improve your comfort and do a lot to reduce drafts.

Easy Ways to Improve Your Insulation

There are several different kinds of insulation, and some are easier to install than others. If you live in a new build, then there is a good chance that you already have cavity wall and loft insulation, as well as insulation on all of your pipes. However, if your home is a few decades old this may not be the case, and you could save a lot of money by adding insulation to your home.

For loft insulation, you will need a bare minimum of 270mm thickness of mineral wool insulation, whoever most people opt to have far more – between 300mm and 450mm thick, installed as a retrofit.

Loft insulation is the best starting point, since it is quick and easy to install and offers large savings. Cavity wall insulation is worth installing too, though, since around 35 percent of the heat lost from a house is lost through your walls. If you can get 50mm of foam insulation inserted into your walls, then that will cut the heat loss by up to 75%.

As you can see, most insulation options will pay for themselves quite quickly; within two or three years in many cases. However, finding the up-front cash can be difficult. The government’s Green Deal can be invaluable for homeowners who want to make their properties more energy-efficient without having to face the up-front cost.

You can get the green deal for cavity wall insulation, loft insulation, roof insulation and also under-floor insulation, as long as the financial savings for the insulation can reasonably be expected to be equal to, or greater than, the cost of installing the improvement. The Green Deal is not a grant, but a loan, and you will repay it over a period of between ten or twenty five years, as a premium that is added to your electricity bill. To find out if you qualify for the Green Deal, you will need to have your property assessed, and an Energy Performance Certificate drawn up.

Potential Insulation Problems

If you live in an older property, you should have the property looked at before you invest in insulation. Some houses that were built before 1940 do not have a Vertical Damp Proof Course surrounding the windows. This means that they rely on the ventilation of the cavity to stop rainwater damaging the inner wall. If you want to insulate such a property, then you will need to get a VDPC inserted.

Getting cavity wall insulation will make ventilation more difficult even in modern homes, so you will either need trickle vents or extractor fans to prevent moisture build-up and damp related problems.

Investing in insulation is a great way to cut your energy bills. If you are planning on staying in your home for a long time, then the Green Deal is a great option. If you expect to sell the house within a few years, then it may make more financial sense to pay for the improvements outright.

Maximising Energy Efficiency with Windows & Doors

The cost of gas and electricity seems to be constantly increasing, and at the same time we are becoming more aware of the impact that our energy use is having on the environment. The government has put a lot of rules in place regarding how newly-built homes should be as energy efficient as possible. Sadly, those of us who live in homes that were built a few decades ago may have some work to do to bring our properties up to modern standards.

making your home more energy efficient

How Your Home Loses Heat

Heat escapes our houses by several means – convection, radiation and conduction. The main areas where the average house loses heat are the walls, windows, roof and doors. Heat rises, and if you do not have good loft insulation then a large portion of the heat that your home loses will be passed out through the roof. After that, draughty windows and doors are a major contributor to heat loss.

If you still have single glazing, then you will be losing a lot of heat through your windows. If your doors have single-glazed panes, are hollow-core doors, or do not fit in the frame properly, then they will be letting a lot of heat out too, and there is also a high chance that the door is not as secure as it could be. A good external door should be solid-cored, fit snugly in the frame so that it locks securely, and be at least 44mm thick.

Understanding Energy Ratings

Doors and windows are rated according to their U-Value. The U-value is he rate at which heat is able to escape through the window or door. It is expressed in the form of Watts per square metre, and lower numbers are considered to be more energy-efficient.

Some companies will use the alphabetical energy efficiency scale to rate windows, with A+ being the most energy efficient, and G being the least energy efficient. Standard quality double glazing is usually rated as a B on that scale, and is a massive improvement over single-glazed windows. In fact, it can cut the heat lost through windows in half.

External doors can be a major source of heat loss, especially if they are not draught-proofed. The best doors, in terms of U-Value, are uPVC doors. These doors require more energy to manufacture, and are less environmentally friendly to dispose of, but they have a U-Value of 1.8, compared to a solid hardwood door which has a U-Value of 3.0. It is up to each individual home owner whether the improved energy efficiency is worth the pollution and increased energy expenditure involved with making uPVC doors.

Metal doors and insulated solid wood doors are available. They tend to be more expensive, and will require more maintenance over their lifetime. If you opt for a metal door, make sure that it is at least 44mm thick, and that it is reinforced, as lower quality metal doors can often be forced open using a crowbar. If your doors have glass panes in them, make sure that the glass is toughened, and at least double-glazed. This will prevent heat escaping, and make the windows harder to break as well. Consider getting some decorative metal piping over the panes, for added security.

Tips for Cutting Your Heating Bill

Around ten percent of the heat that is lost from your home passes through the windows. If you have single-glazed windows, then you will see massive benefits from installing double glazing, and even more benefits if the double-glazed windows you choose are coated with a Low-E coating and have argon or a similar gas in between the panes. If you already have double glazing, however, then you will see diminishing returns for investing in triple glazing. It may be more cost-effective to improve or add insulation in other parts of your home.

Whatever type of door you decide to opt for, you can make it more energy efficient by fitting a draught-proof letterbox and using a draught excluder at the bottom of the door. When the door is fitted, make sure that it is weatherproofed and that the frame is completely snug in the opening, and the door itself fits the frame perfectly. With pre-hung doors this is usually a non-issue, but if the door is not hung properly there can be some sizeable gaps which can let heat out as well as pose problems from a security point of view.

Affordable Home Improvements

In a bid to encourage homeowners to make energy-efficiency improvements for their homes, the government has launched a scheme that will give households up to £7,600 back when they invest in home improvements such as double glazing, new energy-efficient boilers and double glazing.

The scheme, called the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is being offered to homeowners who are aiming to make eligible home improvements that will provide clear energy-related savings over the lifespan of the improvement. People who have moved into a new home within the last 12 months can claim up to £500 towards such projects.

In addition to this Green Deal, there are other funds available via the Energy Companies Obligation. These funds are aimed at low-income households and those that are classed as vulnerable, but anyone may apply for consideration. Each energy company has its own rules and policies, so it is a good idea to get in touch with your supplier and see what they are able to offer

If you live in Scotland, then instead of the Green Deal you will fall under something called the Green Homes Cashback Scheme. While the name is different, the way the scheme works is quite similar to the Green Deal.

Before you can get any new insulation, windows or doors, you will need to have your property assessed. It costs £120 to apply for a Green Deal Assessment, but if you implement any of the recommendations that you are given following the assessment you will get a £100 rebate, so it is well worth doing.

Improving Home Energy Efficiency on a Budget

Energy bills are always increasing, and the average household is under a lot of financial pressure these days, so it makes sense to try to find ways to cut your expenditure. Investing in double glazing, insulation and a new boiler could save you a lot of money in the long term, but if you don’t have the funds for such an up-front cost today, there are other ways that you can make your home more energy efficient, without spending any money. Here are eight simple things that will help you to cut your energy useage.

Saving energy in the home

1 – Turn Down the Thermostat By One Degree

If you turn your thermostat down by just one degree, you are unlikely to notice a difference in how warm the room feels, but you will be running your heating less during the winter. Get in the habit of wearing long-sleeved tops, and you will be able to turn the heating down even further.

2 – Shut Your Doors and Windows

Get into the habit of closing your doors each time you leave a room. This will keep frequently used rooms at the temperature you want them, rather than letting heat escape, wasting energy heating rooms that are almost never used. Don’t forget to adjust the radiator settings for each room, too, so that you aren’t using energy to heat the spare bedroom every day!

3 – Unplug Appliances Instead of Leaving Them on Standby

While it is true that most modern appliances are quite energy efficient, it still doesn’t make sense to keep something plugged in and on standby if you know you won’t be using it for a long time. Get into the habit of either unplugging appliances that you aren’t using, or turning them off at the wall.  The energy savings will be minimal, but even a few pence here and there will add up. Many energy suppliers now offer smart meters that will show you how much energy each socket or room is using, so you can see for yourself what the savings will be.

4 – Fix Leaking Taps

Leaking taps waste a lot of water over the course of the year, and if you are paying for water on a meter then you will save a lot of money if you fix the leak. If the leaking tap is the hot water tap, and your boiler prepares hot water in advance, then you will save money there too. Every year, UK households waste a total of 989 million gallons of water because of unfixed leaking taps and pipes. A leaking hot water tap, depending on how severe the leak is, could cost up to £900 per year in wasted gas and water. Considering the fix is usually a two minute job, it makes sense to take care of the problem as soon as it is noticed. Leaking pipes should be examined by a qualified plumber as quickly as possible, to determine the cause and prevent damp taking hold.

5 – Keep Your Freezer Well Stocked

Freezers and fridges are more efficient when they are decently well stocked. Take advantage of this and save energy while saving money on your groceries too by buying in bulk and freezing food whenever possible. Of course, this works only if you buy foods that you were planning on eating anyway, and don’t waste the extras or just ‘eat more’ because you bought more. For those who like to meal plan, however, this is a good energy saving strategy.

6 – Only Do Laundry With a Full Load

Try to schedule your laundry day so that you wash full loads each time, instead of running several half-load washing cycles. If you need to use a tumble-drier instead of air drying your clothes, take the clothes out of the drier a little earlier than you normally would and then iron them while they are still very damp. This will save you time, since damp clothing is much easier to get the creases out of, and it will save you energy too. Opt for a cool wash unless the clothing is heavily soiled.

You can employ a similar strategy with your dishwasher. There is usually no need to pre-wash your dishes with hot water. Simply scrape solids off the plate and into the compost bin, and then load the dishwasher and let that do the work.

7 – Use the Right Part of the Oven or Stove When Cooking

Use small rings to heat small pans, and big rings to heat big pans. If you have a twin grill and are only cooking one thing, just turn one side of the grill on. If you have a small oven and a larger oven, use the right size and section for the job. There is no need to heat up the full-sized oven compartment to cook one small piece of pizza.

Get into the habit of selecting the right tool for the job and you will find that your cooking costs decrease significantly.

8 – Take Advantage of Government Funding

If you own your home, you may be able to get solar panels at no cost to yourself, and you may qualify for either long-term loans (attached to your energy bill) or cash back up to £7,600 on home improvements that will offer significant energy savings. Double glazing, new boilers, cavity wall insulation and loft insulation are all eligible for some form of funding. Many energy companies offer financial aid to low income families that are looking to make their homes more energy efficient too.

It’s important to note that most of these schemes are for home owners only, however, many landlords are willing to consider the installation of solar panels. As a tenant you will most likely not be eligible for any payments from the feed in tariffs that energy companies offer, but you will still get the benefit of the reduction in your energy bill, so it is worth talking to your landlord.

As you can see, there are a lot of ways that you can save money on your energy bills.

How to Improve Security at Home

Close up of keys to a house

A good home should be one which not only shelters its occupants and their possessions from the weather, but which also provides protection against intruders. There are a few techniques through which a home can be made more secure. Some of them involve expensive technology; others involve simple changes in behaviour. Let’s look at some of the ways in which the home can be protected.

Advertise Your Security

Burglars, vandals and other would-be trespassers are not stupid. Like any predator, they prefer easy targets to high-risk ones. If one house has a sign outside warning that CCTV is in operation, and another does not, then a burglar will, in all likelihood, target the apparently weaker property.

When scouting for potential targets, a burglar might look for is a point of entry. This means that substantial-looking doors and windows will dissuade, while flimsy ones will invite. Suffice to say that doors and windows should be kept close where possible – particularly if they are on the ground floor. If security cameras are conspicuously placed, they too can act as a deterrent.   Moreover, you can even invest in cameras which aren’t even real, thereby making your property seem more secure than it actually is.

As well as emphasising the strengths of your security arrangements, it’s also wise to downplay any weaknesses. If you should happen to be leaving the house empty for a while, it’s perhaps best not to advertise the fact over social media. Potential burglars may also look for more subtle indications that a property is empty. A slowly-building pile of post, for example, might give the game away. For this reason it’s often advisable to ask a neighbour, or some other trusted person, to collect your post and milk in order to prevent such a pile from building.

Another strategy employed by many holidaymakers is to leave a light switched on all night in order to give the impression that someone is in. The efficacy of this strategy is somewhat dubious; its ubiquity is such that almost every potential intruder will be familiar with it, and so is less likely to be fooled. A far better strategy is to introduce some automation into your lighting. Automated light switches can be purchased cheaply, and will introduce some rhythm to your lighting which will help to deter intruders.

A Guard Dog

The right breed of dog, given the right training, can make an excellent security system. They hold a number of advantages over technological solutions. Unlike a security camera, they are capable of detecting intruders via sight, smell and hearing, and of moving anywhere on your property. Unlike an alarm system, they can make a tremendous racket without requiring a code to remember or batteries to replace.

Burglars, as we have seen, prefer low-hanging fruit. Anything which might increase the likelihood of being apprehended will likely cause the burglar to turn tail and flee. A barking dog is therefore akin to kryptonite as far as burglars are concerned. Can you imagine trying to sneak around at night when such a racket it going on? Dogs are also uniquely capable of biting an intruder, should it come to it – though most will get the message and flee before it does.

That said, there are a few downsides to investing in a guard dog. The first and most obvious is that you have to care and look after it.  A dog which is large enough to be intimidating will also demand a considerable supply of food, along with regular exercise. The second downside is that guard dogs have to be trained in order to discriminate between strangers, and understand who is an intruder and who isn’t based on the time of day and other circumstances. Teaching a dog to blithely attack anyone other than yourself on sight is obviously not a sensible thing to do. The third barrier to entry is that you have to like dogs in order to own one. For these reasons, a guard dog is a sensible solution only for those who had planned on getting a dog anyway.

Like any security solution, a guard dog will more effective if its presence is advertised. This means that you might invest in a classic ‘beware of the dog’ sign, to proudly affix to your front gate. Of course, you might invest in such a sign even if you don’t yet have a dog!

Sheds and Outbuildings

Securing your home is a difficult task at the best of times. But this is especially in the case of sheds and other outbuildings. Such things are often targeted by burglars, since they combine low risk with potentially high reward.

A shed’s security is invariably less substantial that that of a house or apartment. In most cases, the door is flimsier and can be removed with brute force. In many cases, screws are exposed, allowing an enterprising thief a means of removing the door entirely. A shed is also attractive to burglars as it is removed from the building where people might be – and the risk of detection is therefore lower.

Another thing that makes outbuildings so attractive to intruders is that they often contain high-value goods, like bicycles and lawnmowers. If you’re using a shed to store such items, then it’s best to make sure that they’re hidden from view – drape a blanket over the top of them, and chain them to an anchor. This way, even if someone should gain entry, they will be unable to make off with their ill-gotten gains.

If absolutely must keep particularly high-value equipment in a shed, then it’s wise to check whether your insurance will cover any theft. After all, you certainly wouldn’t want to discover that it doesn’t after the fact! You might also consider investing in a battery-operated intruder alarm. These will emit a loud siren when triggered, and thereby alert you (and the neighbourhood) that an intrusion has occurred.