Everyone likes a warm, cosy home but how can you make your house warmer without paying a fortune for gas and electricity?
The good news is there are lots of low-cost energy conservation measures to stop heat loss at home. Many of them are quick and easy solutions. Energy efficiency - particularly through insulation - is a way of saving energy and improving your comfort at home whilst cutting your energy bills (find out how much you could save here).
Insulation helps to keep heat in during winter and can help to keep heat out during the summer. By insulating our homes, we also burn less fuel, which is better for the environment. Reducing the demand for energy is one of the best activities to combat climate change and protect the planet.
In home satisfaction surveys, cold, draughty rooms that are difficult to heat are raised as one of the biggest issues so read on for useful information about loft insulation and other energy saving measures. Also check our article about roof, wall and floor insulation for even more hints and ideas. It is sometimes easy not to bother with something you cannot see, (like loft and wall insulation) but you will definitely notice the difference both at home and in your bank balance from these energy conservation measures.
How Insulation Helps You Stay Warm in Winter and Cool in Summer
The more your home is insulated, the warmer it will be in winter and the cooler it will stay in the summer sun.
Up to half of the heat in a house can escape through the roof, walls, windows and floor if a building is not insulated. This 'leaky' house is not only very expensive to heat but it makes a home very hard to keep warm. Insulation is the equivalent of putting a big blanket around your house; the walls, roof, floor, windows and doors that helps to maintain the temperature inside at your desired level.
The best time of year to carry out insulation work is in the spring or summer before the heating season starts. With record breaking temperatures reached each summer due to global warming, insulation is an increasingly attractive way to maintain pleasant living conditions in doors. Insulation is low cost compared to expensive, power-hungry air-conditioning units so you can receive the benefits of an air-tight home all year round.
How to Save Hundreds of Pounds Each Year on Your Energy Bill
The average energy bill in the UK in 2020 was a whopping £1,138 a year. However, that now looks a bargain, because as gas prices rise the energy price cap has increased to £2,000 for an average home and it is expected to rise again in October to a staggering £3,000 a year. That is more than doubling in a year.
We can not control the price of gas and electricity but we can control how much energy we use at home. By taking small actions every day, you could see significant savings; following just three of the actions outlined below could help you save hundreds of pounds on you bills every year - find out just how much you could save here! Thanks to smart meters, these savings are easy to measure, so you could reward yourself with a treat for taking the time to be a planet saver. Insulating your home can also prevent thermostat wars in homes and therefore support greater domestic harmony!
Practical Tips to Reduce Energy Bills
Insulation has the biggest impact on energy conservation and these simple measures can make the greatest financial savings:
- Add or top up your loft insulation to 30cm depth.
- Draft proofing (foam strips, draft excluder brushes and chimney balloon).
- Smart thermostat (set at 19C).
- Home décor; using thermal curtains and blinds.
- Double glazing (or temporary secondary glazing film).
- New boiler or heat pump (if more than ten years old).
- Wall insulation (cavity or solid wall).
- Floor insulation (or carpet underlay with thermal properties).
Many of these home improvements can be carried out by home owners depending on their DIY skills. All the materials are widely available from DIY stores and do not require a huge investment. As with any home improvements, please check that all work complies with building regulations. For more tips keep reading and visit your energy supplier website.
If you wish to use professionals to save time and hassle then the National Insulation Association (NIA) has a list of approved installers. Use the NIA postcode locator tool is at the top of their website to find your local installers.
1. Roof Insulation
Insulating your loft to a standard depth of 30cm, which is the length of a school ruler, is probably the easiest and most effective way to keep heat in your home and stop it escaping into thin air. Boards on stilts can be added so you can still keep storage space in the roof if needed.
2. Draught Proofing
Foam strips, draft excluder brushes and chimney balloons all prevent cold air from rushing into your home from the gaps around windows, doors, letter boxes and other holes in the building fabric. These are easy to fit as they come with self-adhesive strips. They are cheap to buy and make a noticeable difference. Here are some DIY videos on draught-proofing windows and doors.
How to Draught-Proof Windows
How to Draught-Proof Doors
Read more about DIY draught-proofing here.
3. Thermostats and Smart Thermostats
Whereas thermometers tell us the temperature in a room, thermostats set the temperature in a room. Thermostats are a more efficient and easier way to control the temperature of your house in winter; opening windows to cool a house down wastes fuel and will result in higher energy bills.
Turning your thermostat down, even just by 1 degree, can save you £80 a year. The Energy Saving trust has a really useful guide to thermostats and smart meters.
In smart homes, electronic devices communicate with each other to activate gadgets, appliances and in this case smart thermostats. This is commonly referred to as the 'Internet of Things'. Smart technologies, such a smart thermostat, are a great energy efficiency and money saving initiative. They cost around £200 including installation and are available from all main household or DIY stores.
Smart thermostats such as the Hive or Nest can be controlled remotely via an app on your mobile phone or other device, so they save energy as they optimise your heating. For example, if you are away for the weekend, your heating and hot water can be easily switched off, yet you still return to a warm home. Similarly, your home can be zoned so if you work from home, the heating is only in areas of the house you are using during the day.
Millions of homes are reaping the benefit of having a smart thermostat installed.
How Hot Is Too Hot?
In 1970, the average home was heated to just 12 degrees Celsius in winter; now heating systems are designed to operate from 18 to 24 degrees Celsius.
Bedrooms upstairs or unused rooms don't need to be heated to the same temperature as living rooms, try adjusting the radiator controls to a lower setting in these rooms. If your home is zoned (different heating controls for upstairs and downstairs), it is worth adjusting these temperatures and the time of heating to reflect usage in different parts of the house. And wearing suitable warm clothes in winter saves money.
Heating Controls Using Thermostatic Radiator Valves
Thermostatic radiator valves (TRV) on the side of each radiator that can help regulate temperatures around the house. This control can reduce the flow of water through the radiator if they are turned down (from 1 to 5); simply turn to a lower number to prevent overheating in unoccupied rooms.
If you don't have TRVs, or if they have worn out, it is a simple job to replace them and the savings you make will pay for the call out fee for a heating engineer.
4. Home Décor Thermal Curtains and Blinds
Window dressing are a standard part of home décor design when renovating or decorating any room. Using thick, thermal curtains or wooden shutters is another excellent way to keep heat in the room. They are widely available in modern and contemporary designs, so there is no compromise on style. Drawing curtains and closing blinds at dusk is the best way to prevent heat escaping out the window at night.
Similarly, an easy way to improve floor insulation is to fit carpets with an underlay with excellent thermal properties.
But if you are going for a big renovation, then be sure to include thermal insulation. Typically, people start to make changes to the fabric of their home three to five years after moving in.
This is the ideal time to invest in insulation and energy saving solutions as part of your home décor upgrade.
More Energy Saving Home Improvements
5. Double Glazing
A lot of heat escapes through the glass in windows, which is why double, or better still, triple glazing is a recommended energy conservation measure. Double glazing is filled with an inert gas such as argon or has a vacuum between the glass panes to reduce heat transfer from your home. The glass and glazing federation provide a directory of members who have signed up to their consumer code.
Replacement windows for an entire house are expensive. If you home is a listed building or in conservation area there may be restrictions regarding double glazing, so it is worth discussing options with your local council planning officer.
A cheaper and temporary alternative to double glazing is secondary glazing. This is a pane of glass, plastic or even film fitted in parallel to the window. Whilst not as efficient, secondary glazing retains the original character of the windows and is considerably cheaper.
Secondary glazing film can be purchased from most DIY stores and fitted in a few minutes and only costs a few pounds. The only tool required is a hairdryer to remove any creases from the "cling film" type material.
This solution is ideal for people in rented properties as it offers a quick fix to draughty windows!
6. A New Boiler or heat pump
If you have an old boiler it could be time to replace it with a heat pump or if not a modern condensing boiler, especially if it is more than 12 to 15 years old. There are still 9 million inefficient boilers in UK homes that are wasting around half of the fuel that is consumed. A new system will save you lots of money if your current boiler can't be repaired.
A new boiler costs around £2,500 installed. There are plenty of finance options available but as always, the details of the repayment scheme are important. For low-income households and those in receipt of certain benefits, help is available (see grant funding below). Qualified Gas Safe installers are required for boiler and heating system upgrades. It's always best to shop around rather than to wait until the boiler breaks down. A panic purchase, due to a broken boiler in the middle of winter, is likely to end up being more expensive and there may be a limited choice.
Better still, you could invest in one of the renewabe energy options available such as an air-source heat pump. There is currently a grant of £5,000 towards an an air-source heat pump or £6,000 for a ground-source heat pump but having a well insulated home is essential for an efficient heating system.
7. Wall Insulation
Regardless of how old your house is, the structure or materials used, it is possible to insulate walls to prevent heat loss. Cavity wall insulation is quick and inexpensive to fit and comes with a 25 year guarantee. If you don't have a cavity (in much older homes), solid wall insulation can be fitted either inside your home using solid boards or outside using external cladding. Read more about wall insulation here.
8. Floor Insulation
If you have a particularly draughty floor then plugging the holes with filler and using rugs are quick fixes. However, if you plan to change the floor covers, such as lay new carpet, or renovate downstairs rooms, then floor insulation is ideal. Again, you can find lots of information on insulating your floors in our handy guide here.
Further Information on Grant Funding and Free Advice on Energy Efficiency Measures
Help, in the form of free grant funding under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, is available for many low-income households and those in receipt of certain types of benefits. You may be eligible to have your home insulated for free and receive money towards your bill through the Warm Home Discount. To read more about grants visit Simple Energy Advice website.
If you are based in Scotland, call Home Energy Scotland on: 0808 808 2282. If you are in Northern Ireland, call 0800 1422 865 for the Northern Ireland Energy Advice Line, or visit the Centre for Sustainable Energy or the Energy Saving Trust.
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