The weather can be unforgiving and when you arrive late back from work you want to come home to a warm and cosy house. This could happen if you leave the heating on all day, waiting for your arrival. The downside to this is the potential strain it has on your wallet.
After all, heating, whether it be by gas, an electric or coal fire, is necessary for this country but expensive! Heating accounts for over 70% of household energy consumption . So, while heating is a great way to go from a cold house to a hot one, there are much more effective and efficient ways of preventing escaping heat in the first place.
As well as helping your wallet, insulating your home can reduce your carbon footprint and non-renewable energy consumption. The following tips can help you play your part in achieving the carbon reduction targets of the UK by lowering your energy consumption.
Insulation is the act of protecting an object (your house) by using material that prevents the loss of heat. This is the best method when it comes to reducing that heating cost! But how can you do it? How can you maximise the process of heating your home whilst being efficient?
Tip 1: Invest in double glazing
This is the number one tip because of its ability to reduce heat escaping, stops draughts of cold air coming in through the window and the frame, as well as reducing the amount of outside noise entering the building.
What are they?
Double glazing windows are windows that have two panes of glass close together – hence ‘double’ – one of which is inside the house and the other which is outside.
The space between the two panes of glass is called the air gap or a tight air pocket. The panes are made of PVCu or aluminium frames. These frames are durable and efficient materials that help insulate your home and reduce heat loss and external draughts.
How does it work?
The air gap acts as a poor conductor of the heat energy inside the house and therefore the heat lost from the house is reduce because the air pocket cannot conduct the heat from the first pane of glass on the inside to the cooler outside pane of glass.
Consequently, the room stays warmer for longer because less heat is escaping from the windows. The most efficient type of glass is low emissivity (low-E) glass. This type of glass has a microscopically thin coating of metal oxide on the internal glass surface. This metal oxide coating helps to reflect heat back into the home while still letting in the light from outside.
Why would you have them?
As well as help insulate your home, reduce heat loss, reduce external draughts and keep your home warmer for longer, double glazing has other advantages. They increase home security – the thickness of the windows makes them harder to smash and enter your home via the window.
Energy-wise, double glazing windows increase the overall energy efficiency of the property, consequently increasing the value of your home. The biggest benefit though is that it can reduce heat loss from your home by 30%. While some people think double glazed windows increase the condensation on your windows, there are ways to help prevent this.
By keeping your home at a constant warm temperature, the number of cold surfaces will be reduced and therefore condensation will have less opportunity to form. It is when you rapidly turn up the heating after coming back from work that you can cause condensation on the windows because the room goes from hot to cold quickly.
Extractor fans or an open window in the bathroom can help remove air containing water vapour. This is especially important in the bathroom because you do not want water vapour circulating in the rest of the house and increasing the humidity, and along with it the amount of condensation.
Tip 2: Close the doors
If you want an area to stay warm, the best thing to do is keep your doors closed. This traps the air inside and allows it head up via a convection current.
Radiators, electric panel heaters and convection heaters all work in this way.
They pump the hot air out, which rises and spreads out in the room. The air then cools and sinks to the floor for the appliance to reheat the air again. Closing the doors will isolate this process to one area and therefore keep that room warm.
Tip 3: Use curtains
Curtains help to create an extra layer of insulation for the house. The rooms are often heated in the day by the sun (which is free!), and curtains allow you to keep hold of this free heat. In the evening, shut the curtains to keep the warm air from escaping.
You can also buy special insulating curtains that work effectively in the winter and summer months. These curtains are usually white or light colours with a white backing layer to help reflect the heat back into the house and reduce escaping heat.
During the summer, closing the curtains can also reduce the amount the sun heats up a room by as much as 24%, helping you to stay cool when it is hot outside. This is again because of the reflective white coloured backing which helps keep heat out this time instead of in; insulating curtains can reduce the heating of a room via the sun by 33%.
Insulating curtains also have a layer of acrylic foam in between the double (or more!) layers of fabric to provide further insulation. Whilst insulating curtains are ideal for draughty windows, they can also reduce the transmission of sound, block out sunlight and, as a whole, save you money.
A misconception around curtains is that they cause condensation. They do not, however they do restrict the airflow around the windowpanes which can lead to the increased chance of condensation when the curtains are drawn.
Tip 5: Use timers on your central heating
While this is not really a tip on how to insulate your home, it is vital to making your insulation most affective. Rather than keeping your heating on all the time when you are not at home, or just putting the heating up to a high temperature when you need it, it is better for your wallet to set the heating to turn on 30 minutes before you get back at a lower temperature.
This means that because the boiler heats up at a constant speed, turning it at a lower temperature is cheaper than turning it up to a higher temperature as soon as you need it.
Tip 6: Don’t block your radiators with furniture
Your positioning of furniture in the sitting room maybe idea for watching the TV, but not for your house or your wallet! If the sofa or armchair is near the radiator it is essentially absorbing all the heat from it into its fabric, rather than heating your home. Moving your sofa away from the radiator allows the air heated by the appliance to circulate the room and the house.
Tip 7: Install loft insulation
25% of heat is lost through the roof, partially due to the fact that heat rises. Installing just 25cm of insulation throughout your loft could seriously reduce this . Some things you should consider implementing when installing loft insulation:
- Loft/Attic floor insulation – if you use the attic as a room, insulating between the joists and the attic floor will not be thick enough to effectively insulate your loft. A solution here would be to raise the height of the floor, either via timber battens across the joists or purpose-built plastic legs on the joists to support the attic floor , and therefore fit more insulation in. The mineral wool should not be squashed because this reduces its ability to insulate the space.
- Rafters insulation – this type of insulation in your loft involves insulation boards cut to the size of the space between all the rafters (including gable walls, party walls and chimneys in the loft space), which is then sprayed with foam insulation. This is highly effective in creating a warmer loft environment whether you are turning this space into a room or just to help prevent tank and pipes from freezing. While this is more expensive than most standard loft insulation, it is highly effective and contains the heat in the house well.
- Wall insulation – Sloping ceilings and vertical walls should be insulated with the foam insulation, as well as a layer of plasterboard on the inside of the insulation, should this space be used as a living space.
- Inaccessible loft spaces – for any spaces that are tricky to reach, a professional using specialist equipment may blow insulation material into space. They may use mineral wool fibre, treated cellulose or polyurethane foam.
- Flat roofs – flat roofs should be insulated from above if possible, on the top of the roofs weatherproof layer or on the timber roof surface and covered with a new weatherproof layer.
Tip 8: Install cavity wall insulation
What is cavity wall insulation?
Cavity wall insulation could save you £160 per year in heating bills. A cavity wall is made of two walls that have a gap in between (called the cavity). The outer wall is usually made of brick, and the inner wall is usually made of brick or concrete block. Cavity walls usually have a thickness of 260mm. The insulation of this cavity helps to insulate your home and reduce heat loss.
How does it work?
The cavity in the wall is injected with insulation material from the outside. A professional will drill a lot of 22mm sized holes into the outside brick walls, then inject the insulation through the holes. The holes in the brick wall will then be sealed with cement. The insulation used is either mineral wool, polystyrene beads, or polyurethane foam.
Tip 9: Insulate your solid walls too
Solid walls are exactly what they sound like – completely solid sides of your house that do not have a cavity that can be insulated. While this method is more expensive to install, the savings on your energy bills will also be greater. Solid walls can either be insulated on the outside or insulated on the inside.
External wall insulation will typically cost around £13,000, whilst internal wall insulation is typically just over half that cost, at £7,400. Please note these figures are based on the average semi-detached house in Great Britain.
Due to the 100mm thickness of the internal insulation, this method will slightly reduce the floor area of the rooms around which it is applied. Installing internal insulation can be quite a disruptive process; the method requires the removal of skirting boards, door frames and external fittings to be removed and reattached.
Saying this, it is possible to be done room by room and therefore does not require you to vacate the whole house while it is being completed. On the other hand, the installation of external insulation does not disrupt the household or reduce the floor area of your home.
This method will also renew the appearance of the outer walls, improve the weatherproofing of the walls, reduce the condensation that forms on the internal walls to help prevent dampness forming, and increase the walls ability to muffle sound from outside the house. The brickwork is protected and reinforced by this method, increasing its lifespan.
The only potential downside to the method of installing external insulation to a house is that it may require planning permission.
If you want to go forward with this method of reducing your household bills and carbon footprint, you should check with your local council first. Both of these methods of solid wall insulation will usually reduce the draughts through the walls and around the windows as well as reducing the amount of heat lost through these materials.
Savings can range from £375 per year for a detached house and £225 per year for a semi-detached house, to £150 per year for a bungalow and £105 per year for a flat.
The easiest way to install this solid wall insulation is to do so at the same time as redecorating or when you are having other building work done. The installation of internal insulation is commonly done when fitting a new bathroom or kitchen,
Tip 10: Insulate your boiler / hot water tank
You pay for the energy used to heat your hot water tank so it would be beneficial for you to keep that water hot for as long as you could, as well as reducing your heating costs – up to £150 per year!
Adding another layer of insulation helps to reduce the heat transmission from the hot water to the air around it. The hot water cylinder jackets cost around £15 and are so easy to install following the instructions on the packet – usually just involving picking the right size to slide around the pipes.
These hot water cylinder jackets should be around 80mm thick, as should the insulation on your hot water tank be.
If your boiler is more than 10 years old, you may need a new one – you could save up to £350 per year with a new A-rated condensing boiler. These boilers use less energy to produce an equal amount of heat, therefore saving you money. This is because they burn their fuel very effectively.
There will always be some heat that escapes but an up to date boiler can reduce this amount. A condensing boiler has a large heat exchanger so that it can recover more heat and send the cooler gasses back up the flue to be reheated and redistributed.
Sometimes the cool water condenses (hence the name of these boilers) and even more, energy can be recovered from the condensing water vapour. They are also likely to be insulated efficiently to avoid more heat escaping.
Tip 11: Insulate yourself!
If you really want to save money via insulation, rather than turning up the heating when you get cold, try putting on a jumper or another layer.
This incredibly simple action will stop you using more energy to heat your home, and instead of containing your body heat and helping you to sustain a level body temperature.
Tip 12: Block out the draughts
Buying or making your own sausage dog draught excluder will help keep the warmth in your home. This DIY is simple! All you need is 80cm of fabric, scissors, a needle and thread and some soft duvet or toy stuffing! Sew a tube of fabric the width of the door frame, leaving one hole open at the top of the tube.
Stuff the tube full of toy or duvet stuffing (this stuff is really cheap from craft shops, secondhand duvets or markets). Sew up the top of the tube and you are done. Alternatively, you can use self-adhesive rubber seals around your doors and windows which are really easy to install as well as cheap.
This DIY could save you up to £25 per year.
Tip 13: Reflect the heat produced by your radiators
Radiator insulation foil is an option that is quite cheap to buy and easy to install. They help make sure that the radiator heats your room, rather than just heating the wall behind it. This is achieved by reflecting the heat back into the room and away from your walls.
Tip 14: Install an insulated roof hatch
Cold draughts are likely to come in through your roof hatch if not insulated properly, as well as warm air escaping out. An insulated roof hatch should be installed with draught excluding strips around the edges.
These hatches are common in attic rooms but provide a weakness for the insulation system.
Tip 15: Insulate your floor
While insulating an upper floor would be pointless, insulating a ground-level floor would be highly effective. Floors above garages should also be heated due to the amount of heat you can lose through these spaces. This floor insulation could save you about £40 per year !
Solid concrete floors are very popular in homes, especially new builds. These solid concrete floors can be insulated by placing rigid insulation on top. Older houses tend to have suspended timber floors.
These can be insulated by lifting the floorboards and placing mineral wool in blocks of netting between the joints that hold up the floorboards. Another method is when a robot sprays foam insulation onto the underside of the floorboards. This is a great method to use if possible as it saves you having to pull up the floorboards.
Tip 16: When everything is insulated, turn down the dial
Public Health England recommended the minimum temperature of a living room to be 18°C (degrees Celsius) and with great insulation, you will not need it higher than this to stay warm. Research by National Energy Action shows that turning your thermostat down by 1°C could cut your heating bill by up to 10%.
Whilst this is not a tip on how to insulate your home, once your home insulation is maximised, turning down the heating will be easy to do with your house staying warmer for longer.
Final Thoughts on Insulating Your Home
There are so many ways you can insulate your home, but each house is different so be sure to check which boiler, what walls, roof, flooring, windows, central heating system and curtains you have.
Whilst a lot of these insulation methods come at a cost, they are guaranteed to save you money each year on your heating bills. Insulating your house will reduce the amount of energy that is wasted, reducing your carbon footprint as well as your impact on climate change.
- The Conversation (2016). ways to keep your house warm (and save money) this winter [online]: Link
- Energy Saving Trust (2020). Roof and loft [online]: Link
- Energy Saving Trust (2020). Energy-efficient windows [online]: Link
- Energy Saving Trust (2020). Floors [online]: Link