Heating Your Home

Improve Home Energy Efficiency

To reduce the damage caused by our way of life, we must reduce the amount of energy we use, and use the energy we do use more efficiently.

Not using energy efficiently damages the environment, and it also means that you will spend more money on energy such as heating and lighting.

This can make it difficult for you to afford to stay warm, which can damage your health. It can cause problems, particularly if you are elderly, have young children, or suffer from medical conditions which are made worse by being cold or living in damp conditions.

How can I save energy and reduce my fuel bills

There are lots of simple things you can do to save energy right now. These will reduce the amount of CO2 you produce (your carbon ‘footprint’) and help to slow down climate change.

Heating – by turning down your thermostat by only 1°C, you can reduce your heating bills by up to 10% a year.

Floorboards and skirtings – fill any gaps in floorboards with newspaper or silicon sealant. Fill any gaps in skirting boards with silicon sealant.

Windows – the best thing is to fit double glazing. Many DIY shops stock much cheaper alternatives, such as secondary double-glazing kits. Again, fill in gaps and fit stick-on draught-proofing tape around any windows which open.

Letterboxes and keyholes – fit nylon brush seals or a spring flap for the letterbox and fit covers over keyholes.

Hot water – have a look at the thermostat on the hot water cylinder. The ideal temperature for most people is 60oC (140oF). Normally there is no need for anything higher.

Basins and sinks – always put the plug in your basin or sink. Leaving the hot-water tap running without the plug in is like pouring money down the plughole. Turn taps fully off after you have used them. Over time, a dripping tap can waste enough water to fill a bath.

Curtains – Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through the windows.

Lights – turn them off when you leave a room and adjust your curtains and blinds to let in as much light as possible during the day. If you use a particular light (that has a normal, tungsten bulb) for an average of four or more hours a day, replace the bulb with an energy-saving bulb, which uses around a quarter of the electricity and lasts up to 12 times longer. Energy-saving bulbs cost around £5 each but will give you a saving on your bills of around £10 over the year.

Fridges – defrost your fridge regularly to keep it running efficiently and cheaply. Do not put hot or warm food straight into the fridge. If the fridge tends to frost up quickly, check the door seals are clean and that they fit correctly.
Washing machines and tumble dryers – always wash a full load. If you can’t, use a half-load or economy programme (if your machine has one). Always use the low-temperature programme, bearing in mind that modern biological washing powders will be just as effective at lower temperatures. Don’t put really wet clothes into a tumble dryer, wring them out or spin-dry them first, this will cut down drying times.

Pots and pans – choose the right-sized pan for the amount of food you want to cook and for the cooking ring. (The base of the pan should just cover the cooking ring). Keeping the lids on pans when you are cooking cuts down the cooking time and condensation. With gas, the flames only need to heat the bottom of the pan. If they lick up the sides, you’re wasting heat.

Kettles – boil only the amount of water you really need, don’t fill the kettle to the top for one cup!

TV’s – switch your television off at the set or mains and not by pressing the stand-by button on the remote. If you leave it on stand-by, your TV is still using 75% of the electricity it uses when it is on.
Energy appliances

If you are buying new electrical equipment, such as a washing machine or a fridge, you can reduce the running costs by buying items which are more energy-efficient.

All electrical appliances now have European Energy Labels, which show how energy-efficient the appliance is. The letter ‘A’ shows the most efficient appliance, and ‘G’ is the least efficient. It will cost you less to run an appliance which is rated ‘A’ than one which is rated ‘G’.

Some labels also show the electricity the appliance will use in a year. Some (for example, a washing machine), may show how much electricity the appliance uses in a ‘cycle’. They may also show how much water the appliance uses, and how loud the appliance will be when it is running.

Products that display the energy saving ‘recommended’ logo show that they meet the Government’s energy-efficiency standards. The logo can be found on most energy-efficient light bulbs, light fittings, fridges and freezers, laundry appliances, dishwashers, boilers, heating controls, and loft and cavity insulation.

Home improvements

If you are carrying out improvements to your home, you can think about ways of making your home more energy-efficient at the same time.

The main improvements are listed below, along with an idea of how much they will cost, and how much you may save on your bills if you carry out the work.

You may be able to get a grant or other help for some of the work.  See ‘Help for Energy Efficient Improvements’.

Loft insulation

If you do not have loft insulation and you install the recommended amount (270mm deep) you could save between £180 and £220 a year on your heating bills and nearly 1.5 tonnes of CO2 a year.

Loft insulation acts like a blanket, trapping heat rising from the rooms below. There are different ways of insulating your loft. They include the following.

Blanket insulation in a roll – this is the most common type of insulation used, and can be glass fibre, foil-backed felt or rock fibre.
Loose-fill insulation, such as cork granules or mineral wool.
Sheet insulation – this comes as ridged sheets of mineral fibre.

It is fairly simple to fit loft insulation. The insulation is laid between the joists, then over them if they are visible. The recommended depth of blanket loft insulation is currently 270mm.

Many people, particularly those on benefits and people over 60 years old will be able to get a grant to pay for their loft to be insulated. Other people, particularly owner-occupiers and private tenants who do not get benefits, may be able to get help to pay for having their loft insulated. See ‘Help for Energy Efficient Improvements’.

Even if you do not qualify for help for free insulation, having the work carried out using a scheme such as our scheme with Domestic & General Insulation Ltd , may cost about the same as you would pay for the insulation yourself, but it would save you having to drive to the DIY shop and transport the bulky materials home. It would also save you having to go into the loft yourself, wearing protective clothing such as a face mask and gloves, to do the work.

Cavity-wall insulation

Cavity-wall insulation is a fantastic way to reduce the amount of energy you need to heat your home. It will make your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. It will also help to reduce dampness caused by condensation. For the average house, heating costs could be cut by more than a third.

Cavity-wall insulation is installed from the outside of your home. Cavity-wall insulation is injected into the gap (cavity) between the inside and the outside wall. Normally, this only takes a few hours. There are different types of cavity-wall insulation, but they all work in the same ways. They mix with the air in the gap to stop heat being lost.

You should make sure that the installer uses insulation which is guaranteed by the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (CIGA). You should also make sure that the installer is registered with the British Board for Agreement (BBA). A registered installer will give you a 25-year guarantee for the work. You should ask the installer to show you their registration certificates, and you should make sure that they will guarantee the work before you tell them to start.

Cavity-wall insulation will cost around £160 to install, and you will save between £130 and £160 each year on your heating bills. This means the insulation will have paid for itself after about a year.

Many people, particularly those on benefits and people over 60 years old will be able to get a grant to cover the cost of cavity-wall insulation. Others, particularly owner-occupiers and private tenants not on benefits, may be able to get help to pay for cavity-wall insulation. See ‘Help for Energy Efficient Improvements’.

Draught proofing

If you can feel cold air coming in from windows or doors, warm air will be getting out. The cold air coming in can make people, especially older people or young children feel uncomfortable.

Draught proofing is one of the simplest and cheapest ways of making your home more energy-efficient. It can pay for itself in less than a year. You simply fill any gaps where cold air is getting into your home.  You can use a variety of products, such as brushes, stick-on strips and foam. You can get most of these from DIY stores. You should make sure that any draught proofing products you use meet standard BS 7386. You will find this information on the product’s packaging.

Before you start, you will need to be aware of the following.

  • Vents, airbricks and boiler flues must not be blocked.
  • You must not fit full draught proofing in any room where there is a gas boiler, a gas fire or an open fire. Vents fitted in these rooms are there for your safety – do not block them.
  • Ventilation is important in kitchens and bathrooms. You can fit extractor fans or open windows when you are running hot water or cooking. If you do not ventilate these rooms, condensation could make your home damp and make you ill.
  • If you use bottled-gas or paraffin heaters, do not draught proof any of the windows in your house.
  • You can fit ‘trickle vents’ in the window frame to give a small amount of ventilation. These can be closed to reduce the ventilation.
  • You can draught proof things on the outside of your home, such as windows and doors, the letterbox and keyholes.
  • For doors inside your home, only draught proof toilet or pantry doors if these rooms have fixed vents.

Insulation for hot-water tanks and hot-water pipes

If you have a hot-water tank, insulating it is one of the easiest ways to save energy and money. Check whether your tank’s ‘jacket’ is at least 75mm thick. If it is not, a new one will cost around £20, and it will save you about £20 a year on your bill.

You can also buy insulation for hot-water pipes that are not boxed in. Fitting insulation to both the hot-water tank and pipes is a straightforward DIY job.

Double glazing

Double glazing can reduce by half the amount of heat you lose through your windows.  It traps air between two panes of glass to make an insulating barrier that reduces heat loss, noise and condensation. All new double glazing comes with heat-reflective glass. This lets the heat from the sun into the house, but stops heat from inside escaping.

It can save you money on your fuel bills in the long-term. However, it can be expensive to fit, and needs to be fitted by a professional. Although it can be expensive, if you are planning to replace the windows in your home it would be best to fit double glazing. Otherwise, perhaps you could just replace the windows in the rooms you use the most. Or, you could use secondary glazing. This is cheaper than replacing your windows and you can buy it from DIY shops and fit it yourself.

High-efficiency condensing boilers

Central-heating boilers that are more than 15 years old are one of the biggest causes of high fuel bills and wasted energy. All modern boiler systems are more energy-efficient and use less fuel. The most efficient boilers are called condensing boilers which use 30-40% less fuel.

Replacing your old boiler with a new energy-efficient one can save you around a third on your heating bills straight away. You should consider fitting a new energy-efficient condensing boiler if you’re fitting a new kitchen or bathroom, then you can have all the work done at the same time. Condensing boilers can normally be fitted to your heating system and radiators.
Many people, particularly people on benefits and people over 60 years old, will be able to get a grant to pay for having their heating replaced or repaired. See ‘Help for Energy Efficient Improvements’.

Heating controls

Heating controls let you decide how warm your home will be. They can switch the heating on if you need to be warm and switch it off when you don’t.

There are different types of control, and they can be used together.

A room thermostat keeps your home at a temperature you choose by switching the heating on and off as the temperature goes up and down. Most people have one thermostat, usually in the living room or hall. By using extra thermostats, you can have different temperatures in different parts of your home (for example, upstairs and downstairs), which may need heating at different times of the day.

If you are too warm, try turning your thermostat down by 1oC. This can cut up to 10% off your heating bills and save energy.

A time switch or programmer automatically turns heating and hot water on and off at the times you set. You save money because you only use energy when you need it.  There are many types of programmers available, from simple automatic timers to advanced timers that you can set for weekdays, weekends and holidays.

A hot-water tank thermostat lets you control the temperature of the hot water in the tank separately from the temperature of the central heating.

Thermostatic radiator valves measure the air temperature around them and switch the radiator off or on to keep your home comfortably warm. You can also set different temperatures for different rooms.

* Source: Carmarthenshire County Council, County Hall, Carmarthen, SA31 1JP