Autumn has passed and winter is here bringing frosty mornings, biting winds, long nights.
We all love the changing of the seasons – and many of us never lose the childhood thrill of a snowy day. But as winter sets in many of us may be feeling that our homes aren’t quite as warm as we would like them to be, or that we’re suddenly spending a lot more on heating.
If this is you, then it’s time to have a think about insulating your home. Home insulation involves adding a layer of material in the loft or roof, under the floor or on or in the walls to keep the heat in – like putting on a coat on a cold day. If you want to make your house warmer and cut bills, insulation should be at the top of your list.
And if you end up using less gas, oil or electricity to heat your home, you don’t only save money but you cut you carbon emissions. Collectively making our homes more energy efficient is one of the best things we can do to combat runaway climate change.
Let’s take walls first. If your home was built in the past 30 years, the walls are probably already well insulated. But older homes were built with much less insulation. If your home dates from around 1930-1980, it probably has cavity walls – that is, two brick ‘skins’ with a gap between them. Over the years, many such homes have had their cavity walls filled with insulating material – often polystyrene beads or expanding foam. This can save up to £200 a year on heating bills, so is well worth the £500 or so that it costs to install. And there are grants available for this in some cases.
Homes that are older – pre-1930s – often have solid walls. There’s no gap that can be filled. But they can still be insulated by attaching a layer of material either on the outside of the house or the inside – we call this ‘external’ or ‘internal’ solid wall insulation. This can be quite a complicated job, though, and not all homes are suitable. Follow the links at the foot of this article for more information.
Homes also lose a lot of heat through the roof, so insulation is important here, too. Again, if your home is new or if the loft has been converted into a living space, there won’t be much you can do to improve it in this regard. But if your home has a traditional loft, then it’s time to check how much insulation there is. The recommended depth is now 270mm (10 inches) so if you have less than this or none at all you should definitely consider a top-up – you could save up to £400 a year. The insulation comes in big rolls, and while it’s a job that a competent DIY-er could manage, there are also installers who specialise in this work. As with cavity wall insulation, there might be grants for this depending on where you live and your personal circumstances.
And finally there’s floor insulation. This is only something to think about for ground floors or floors above an unheated space like a garage. And since less heat is lost through the floor than through the walls or roof (because heat rises, as we all know!) the savings here are much less – around £40 a year.
Want to find out more? Check out the Energy Saving Trust’s pages on reducing home heat loss at www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/energy-at-home/reducing-home-heat-loss. The Centre for Sustainable Energy’s home energy advice pages are also a useful source of information: www.cse.org.uk/advice.