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

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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Equity | New York

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...

    Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...

    Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

    Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?