Don't let your heat waft your money away via windows and walls
With winter approaching and heating bills still sky high, perhaps now is the time to look at insulating your home. Alessia Horwich reports
Sunday 08 November 2009
Oil prices are rising; natural gas is becoming harder and more expensive to transport and our already hefty energy bills are only going to get more expensive. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) says one in four households in the UK are facing fuel poverty, where more than 10 per cent of their annual income is spent heating their homes. Yet homes across the country are inadequately insulated, meaning many of us are paying to heat the streets. Getting the proper insulation installed may seem like a costly hassle, but shelling out now will lead to savings in the future.
If you have previously turned your nose up at changing your heating habits, think again. "The era of cheap energy is gone," says Nick Turton, a spokesman for DECC's campaign Act on CO2. "The future is between a high-carbon and a low-carbon one and we know which one we want. We've simply got to get smarter with our energy, both for our bank balances and the planet." Heat leaking out through the roofs, walls, windows, floors and doors or going unused in unoccupied rooms may not break the bank now, but the quicker you get wise to heating your home efficiently, the more money you will save in the long term.
Being more efficient with your heating system is a simple task. The main hurdle is insulating. We lose about 50 per cent of the heat produced in our homes, enough through uninsulated lofts and cavity walls to keep more than 1.6 million homes warm for an entire year. "Loft and cavity walls are the low hanging fruit in terms of big wins," says Mr Turton.
Mat Colmer, the head of housing and supply chain at the Energy Saving Trust, says walls should be number one on your insulation list. "You lose most of your heat out of your walls, 33 per cent in fact, so you can insulate on the outside, the middle and on the inside and make big savings straight away." It will cost about £250 to employ a qualified installer to fill cavity walls, which are generally found in houses built post-1920. They are made up of two layers with a gap in between; the installer will drill small holes at strategic intervals around your home and fill the gap with mineral wool, beads or granules, or foamed insulants. Compared with other insulation, filling cavity walls is cheap and comes with good savings, roughly £115 per year knocked off your energy bills allowing you to recoup your initial investment within two years.
If your house is pre-1920, you could be dealing with solid walls. Up to twice as much heat is lost through uninsulated solid walls than uninsulated cavity walls, but they are more expensive and disruptive to insulate. You can choose to insulate either externally or internally, but if you have the option, external is the more effective and cheaper way to go. However, the catch is you need to get planning permission as the insulation will change the appearance of your property. It's a big job and will involve changing guttering, window sills and other external features. But the savings are big to match: about £400 per year on your energy bills. If your property is listed, you'll have no choice but to opt for internal work. This involves either cladding internal walls with insulation backed boards or building a stud wall which is then insulated. It costs more and savings are slightly less at about £380 per year on average family energy bills. Either way, solid wall insulation is not a small job and will incur substantial upfront costs. However, initial spend now will bear fruit in the future.
Whereas walls are not really suited to even the most experienced DIYers, loft insulation is something they can get their teeth into. "Insulating your loft is massively cost effective," says Mr Colmer. "We'd say absolutely definitely do it." However, you've got to do it right. Loft insulation involves laying insulating quilts of mineral wool down between the horizontal beams that make up the floor of your attic. "You can't squash the insulation in the loft," says Mr Colmer. "You need to let the mineral wool be at its full expanse so it can do its job." Typically loft insulation will cost £250 to install professionally and will save you £150 per year, paying for itself in two years.
If you want to go the whole hog, other options are insulating the floor and getting double glazing installed. However, because they involve labour, they are costly, and compared with other areas, the heat losses through windows and floors are significantly less. If you are already having work done on your property, it is worth considering both. "Once you've already got people on site, the cost is much less," says Mr Colmer, "so get as much done in one go as you can."
Cheaper ways to conserve heat are through draft proofing and temperature control. Closing curtains when it gets dark and whipping up a few draft excluders can prevent the loss of 12 per cent of your heat. You can also save by installing individual thermostatic controls on radiators to let you set the temperature in each room. So if you are mainly in one room, you don't have to pay to heat the whole house. A reduction of one degree on your thermostat can make savings in the long term. "Savings might not be enormous now," says Jasmine Birtles, editor of consumer financial advice website moneymagpie.com, "but as per unit costs get bigger, bills will be bigger and so even the smallest reductions are going to be much more worth it."
For those who simply don't have the money to invest in keeping the heat in, there are grants to go towards the cost of insulation. The Government, local councils and energy companies run schemes for elderly and disabled people and those who receive certain state benefits. WarmFront will contribute up to £3,500 to the cost of heating improvement and insulation, but there have been reports of contractors inflating prices resulting in consumers paying more for the work, even with the grant, than they should have. So it is essential to get a range of quotes.
You can get substantial reductions on DIY and professionally installed loft and cavity wall insulation. However, grants rarely extend to solid wall insulation, leaving those with older properties out in the cold.
Debt in Britain: Numbers seeking help on how to cope with mounting bills goes up by more than half in three years
General election 2015: David Cameron's promise brings uncertainty to investors
Have a happy new financial year
Simon Read: 'It went below the radar but you could be eligible for a tax break on your savings'
Women to lose benefits from contracted-out pension scheme
- 1 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 2 Martha Stewart accuses Snoop Dogg of 'smoking for four hours' during Justin Bieber Roast
- 3 I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts
- 4 Google April Fools': company unveils backwards search engine and huggable digital assistant
- 5 April Fools' Day 2015: The best hoax news stories from around the internet
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 per annum + commission: SThree: Sthree have an exciting opportunity for...
£18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...
Day In a Page
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000
A substanstial family home with five bedrooms and landscaped gardens in the much sought-after Branksome Park area
A well-presented three-bedroom house with front and rear gardens, close to White City station, £475,000
A handsome five-bedroom house in a sought-after location close to the city centre
A five-bedroom country home with valley views, equestrian stables and 27 acres of land, £725,000
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000