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.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity
Simon Read: There may be trouble ahead for cohabiting couples who don’t make a will
Why the City Watchdog is concerned with the credit card industry
Money Insider: Would £150 make you switch banks?
Bargain Hunter: Find the deals that have real value beneath the Black Friday hype
Gold-plated pensions – the key to retirement freedom?
- 1 Exodus Gods and Kings: Ridley Scott never considered casting 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
- 2 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 3 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
- 5 Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...
£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global Rolling Spot FX, Comm...
£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...
Day In a Page
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
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
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
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
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens