Faced with ever-present headlines about ever-rising energy prices, it’s easy to feel helpless. But, if you’re willing to invest a little time and money in some basic DIY, you and your home can fight back.
One of the best ways to make your home more energy efficient, for the first example, is to insulate the loft. According to the Energy Saving Trust, a quarter of the heat in an uninsulated home is lost through the roof. They say that laying 27cm of insulation, which is the recommended depth for mineral wool (other materials may vary), in an uninsulated loft will save you up to £180 a year (based on a three-bed semi with gas central heating). Even if your loft has insulation, it may not be thick enough. The Trust calculates that if everyone in the UK fitted 27cm of loft insulation, the saving would be almost £500 million a year.
Insulating the loft is usually a straightforward DIY job and can make a big difference to how warm your home, particularly the upstairs, feels. Some people, such as pensioners and those on low incomes, can currently qualify for free energy-saving measures, including loft insulation. If this applies to you, do something about it now, in case the schemes are watered down or withdrawn.
Don’t forget to insulate any water pipes and boiler tanks in the loft, as insulating the loft floor will make the loft colder because less heat will get through from the rooms below. One of the hazards of winter is burst pipes, so don’t take any risks – insulate pipes in the loft and anywhere else you can access them, including raised wooden floors at ground level.
If your home’s radiators aren’t as powerful as you’d like, bleed them. Radiators containing trapped air are hot at the bottom but cold further up, so they’re not giving off as much heat as they should. Bleeding them is easy – simply put a radiator key or small screwdriver (depending on the type of hole) into the bleed valve on the radiator and open the valve to let out the air.
Another reason a radiator might seem inadequate is simply if it’s not powerful enough for the room it’s in. Radiator output is measured in btus (British thermal units) and to work out the btus needed to heat a room, ask a plumber or use an online btu calculator. Old radiators are usually less powerful than modern ones because technology has improved, so replacing old radiators can make a big difference.
Or, the classic error, perhaps your furniture is in the wrong place? You don’t, for example, want a radiator pumping heat into the back of a sofa. In this case, it’s best to move the radiator or swap a horizontal radiator for a vertical one, which will take up less space at sofa level. If you can’t afford to do this, move the piece of furniture to get more out of the existing radiator.
Old, especially single-glazed, windows are another area of major heat loss. Replacing windows is obviously expensive, but you can work with what you have by fitting secondary glazing units or film (clear film you fix in place across the windows), or buying thermal curtains. You can also fit weatherstripping, which is draught-proofing tape that helps to fill the gap between the frame and the window’s moving parts. Weatherstripping can also be used around exterior doors. At the bottom of the door, use a brush draught-excluder strip – simply cut it to fit and screw it in place. A fabric ‘sausage’ draught excluder will also help, as a brush strip will only cover some of the gap – fit it too low and it will drag on the floor. Don’t forget to fit keyhole and letterbox covers to stop cold air coming in there too.
For extra insulation at this time of year, fit a curtain pole above the door and hang a heavy curtain across it, especially if the door is partially or fully glazed. Inexpensive measures like these should make your home cosier and help to reduce your heating bills, which is something we all want now winter’s here and prices are soaring.
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