There are several ways to keep your property toasty throughout the Winter months. We take a look at a few in our guide.
Very few of us want to live in a cold house, and when the British weather does its worst it can be tempting just to turn the thermostat up to maximum. There are many different reasons why your house might be cold, and if you don’t want to be wasting money on fuel, tackle the underlying causes of the coldness before automatically reaching for the heating control panel.
Dealing with Draughts
Draughts can lower the temperature in the house significantly, and if you’ve gaps under doors or around windows which are letting icy cold winds whistle through the house, then there’s lots you can do to block them out and keep things warmer. One of the best methods of blocking out door draughts is with the traditional sausage dog draught excluder. These are widely available in high street stores, or you can make your own with some fabric sewn into a tube and stuffed with old clothes, socks, bedding or towels. Foam strips are sold in DIY stores and can be stuck around window frames to plug gaps. Look around your home with a critical eye – identify the weak spots where draughts might be getting in, and search for ways of stopping them.
Insulate Your Home
Insulation is one of the best ways of stopping the heat escaping out of your home. If your home has cavity walls which haven’t been insulated, this alone could save you £160 per year off your heating bills. If you’re on a low income, there are grants available which will help meet the cost of getting this done so speak to your energy supplier. Loft insulation is an easy DIY project, with large rolls widely available. Simply lay the loft insulation between the joists, or under the floor of the loft if boarded. A minimum thickness of 25cm is recommended, but even thinner insulation is better than none.
<Insulation is all about reducing the amount of heat which is lost through the walls, ceiling, floor and windows of your house. A house which is well insulated will stay warmer for longer, allowing you to reduce the time you have the boiler switched on, or turn the thermostat down by a degree or two. Think of it as wrapping your house in a thick duvet. If you’re able to keep your house from losing as much heat, you can slash the amount you’re spending on keeping it warm in the first place. Paying for insulation does require some upfront investment, but the reduced fuel bills can mean that within a few years your insulation has paid for itself. There are a few different options for insulating your house, some of which are easier and cheaper than others.
Types of Insulation For Your Home
Cavity Wall Insulation
The type of insulation which can make the most difference and save you the most money is cavity wall insulation. Houses built from around 1920 onwards typically have cavity walls, which means there is both an inner and outer wall, separated by an empty cavity. Cavity wall insulation fills the gap between the two layers of wall. There are various ways of getting this done, and it’s not really a DIY job. A contractor will drill lots of little holes all over the outside of your home, fill the gap between the two layers of wall with an expanding insulating foam or other material, then fill the drill holes. Insulating the cavity walls on your average three bedroom-semi will take just a few hours. You can expect to pay around £500 for the work to be done, and the substantial cost savings on your fuel bill means that cavity wall insulation can pay for itself in about four years. If you are on a low income, ask your energy supplier whether you qualify for a subsidy on cavity wall insulation through the Energy Company Obligation.
Solid Wall Insulation
If your home was built before the First World War, you are unlikely to have cavity walls, and your insulation is trickier to install. Around a third of homes in the UK do not have cavity walls. Solid wall insulation involves putting an extra layer of insulation around the walls of your home, either inside or out. Externally, the insulating panels are fixed all over the outside of your home, and then covered with render. Internally, insulating boards are fitted on top of the existing plaster. This can be disruptive as it means you have to move sockets and radiators, and it can shrink the size of the room too. Solid wall external insulation can cost anything between £10,000 and £20,000 and with cost savings of between £200 and £300 a year on your energy bills, it takes longer to pay for itself.
If you’ve already had cavity walls insulated, the next area where the largest savings can be made is in the loft. Loft insulation is fairly cheap to buy and can be installed by the homeowner. Depending on the size of property and the type of insulation you choose, loft insulation could pay for itself in about 2 or 3 years. The minimum thickness recommended of loft insulation is 270mm, but any amount is better than nothing. You can insulate your loft with mineral wool rolls, thermal boards or a combination of both to reach the suggested minimum levels. If your loft is boarded and you don’t want the disruption of ripping up flooring to install insulation, then another option is to instead apply the insulation boards to the underside of the roof. This might take a bit more cutting and DIY skills, but has the added benefit of making your loft room warmer too.
The easiest type of floor to insulate is the suspended floor, where floorboards are placed on joists. The spaces between the joists can be insulated to prevent cold air circulating, but this is easiest done from below. If you don’t have a crawl space under your ground floor, then it’s probably wait until you’re replacing the floor or taking floorboards up for another reason and put the insulation in then. If you have another type of flooring such as a concrete or tiled floor, the best way to insulate is to put boards on top of the existing surface before putting a new floor on top. For rooms over a garage, the floor can be insulated by putting boards on the garage ceiling. If the ground floor of your house is insulated, it’s usually not necessary to insulate the other floors too. If the issue is draughts coming up through floorboards, then you can buy expanding foam and filler to place into the gaps.
Insulating Windows and Doors
Double glazing is the best way of insulating your windows and stopping heat escaping through the glass. It’s not a cheap option though, with double glazed units costing on average £500 to £1000 per window. You can expect to save around £110 every year from your heating bills with double glazed units. If you cannot afford to replace your windows, or if you are in a rented property and your landlord is reluctant to do the work, then there are still things you can do. Thick curtains or adding thermal linings to the back of existing curtains will help stop heat loss. It doesn’t matter what these curtains look like, as you can hang another pair in front of them. Transparent insulating film can be stuck to your windows very cheaply which will help with heat loss and draughts. Deal with draughts by using sticky foam strips to seal around the edges of the windows too. If your doors rattle and cause draughts too, then hanging a heavy curtain on the back of the door can help, as can putting a draught excluder along the base of the door. Seal up other gaps too; cat flaps and letterboxes are often forgotten.
Sort Your Radiators Out
One common reason that your home might be feeling cold is that the radiators aren’t performing as they should. If you put your hand to your radiator it should feel a uniform temperature across the full height. If it feels cooler at the top than it does at the bottom, air may be accumulating at the top of the radiator. This is resolved by “bleeding” the radiators with a special key to let the air out and then refilling the system with water. If your radiators are warm at the bottom but cold at the bottom, they may have started to fill up with sludge. This can be resolved by flushing the radiators through to remove the sludge. Think about where you’ve placed your furniture in relation to the radiators in the room and rearrange accordingly – there’s no point in heating the back of the sofa by placing it directly in front of a radiator and blocking the heat from circulating through the rest of the room.
Dealing With Bare Floorboards
The bare wooden floorboard look might be hugely fashionable, but uncovered floorboards, especially in older houses, can lead to a huge amount of heat being lost through the floor. Carpeting the floor will help, but if you don’t want to carpet the whole room then a thick rug or rugs will help block the gaps between the boards. If you have very obvious gaps between floorboards, then you can buy commercial filler products which come in tubes and can be squeezed into the gaps, expanding to fill the space available. The same sort of filler can also be used to fill in any gaps between the floor and skirting boards.
Block out the Cold With Thick Curtains
Double glazing is one of the most effective ways of making your house warmer and cutting down on your fuel bills too. Experts estimate you could shave around £120 per year off your heating bill if you replaced all single glazed units with double glazing. If you are not in the position to replace the windows in your home, or if you are living in rented accommodation, there are other things you can do to stop the heat escaping out of the window. Thick, heavy curtains can insulate a window, or add thermal linings to your existing curtains to stem the heat loss. Close curtains when it gets dark, but if it’s a bright sunny day don’t forget to open them again in the morning as the heat from the sunlight will help warm the house too.
Block Up the Chimney
Not many of us have a coal fire any more, but thousands of us are living in a home with a fireplace, purely used for decorative purposes. If you have one of these fireplaces, you’re probably stuffing newspaper or similar up the chimney to try to keep the draughts out, but there are more efficient ways. For around £20 you can buy a clever product called a chimney balloon which is placed inside the chimney just high enough to be out of sight and then inflated to provide a complete seal. It’s a minimal investment which could instantly make your room seem warmer. Other products for insulating chimneys are also available, but if you’re intending using the fireplace at any point in the future to light a fire, bear this in mind when shopping.
Invest in Central Heating Timers and Thermostatic Radiator Valves
Having timers on your central heating system gives you a greater degree of control over when the heating comes on and at which temperature. The house will seem warmer if you set it to come on at 20C half an hour before you get up than getting up in the cold and then immediately setting the heating to maximum. Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) allow you to control the heating on each individual radiator rather than having to choose between having the radiators on everywhere full blast, or not on at all. It makes sense to have a slightly lower temperature in hallways or bathrooms, and keep things at a higher temperature in living areas.