This page provides guidance on what you can do to improve your home by efficient heating and installing insulation. This can help keep your home warm, cut costs and reduce your carbon emissions.
Our homes account for more than a quarter of the UK’s energy use and carbon emissions, which could be substantially reduced.
Home energy saving measures, such as insulating lofts and walls, can pay for themselves within a few years and government schemes may be able to help cover the initial costs. Once installed, efficient heating and insulation can save hundred of pounds on your energy bills.
In a typical home, most heat is lost through the walls (35%) and the roof (25%). Another 25% can be lost through doors, windows and draughts and 15% through the floor.
Within homes, most energy is used for heating (60% on average) and for hot water (18%). To save money on heating bills, you need to stop heat escaping by insulating your home. The better the insulation, the warmer you’ll feel, the more money you’ll save and the more you are helping the environment.
LOFT AND ROOF – Heat rises so a lot can be lost through the roof and loft insulation can make a big difference and is normally one of the easiest to do. Loft insulation can be effective for more than 40 years and savings can cover the cost in as little as 2 years.
CAVITY WALLS – If you have a modern house with cavity walls, you could save £100-160 per year from cavity wall insulation and up to £275 per year for a detached house. Cellulose beads are considered the best material for cavity wall insulation, followed by polystyrene beads or injected foam. Mineral wool is also widely used.
SOLID WALLS – These can be insulated from the inside or the outside. The cost and disruption can be high, but there are lower cost options too. Internal methods include dry lining, which uses battens, insulation and plasterboard. Alternatives are insulation boards with pre-attached external surfaces and flexible thermal linings, which are thinner and suitable for DIY application. External methods involve adding a layer of insulating material to outside walls and coating this with render or cladding.
FLOOR – Insulating under the floorboards on the ground floor will save you about £45 – £55 a year. Payback time for professionally installed floor insulation is typically less than 9 years and can be shortened to 2-3 years if you are able to do some of the work yourself.
WINDOWS AND DOORS – On average, properties lose 10% of their heat through windows and doors. Energy-efficient glazing keeps your home warmer and quieter as well as reducing your energy bills and adding to the value of your home. Options include double or triple glazing, secondary glazing, glass with special coatings or just heavier curtains. High performance external doors are designed to keep your home warmer and more airtight.
DRAUGHTS – Draught-proofing is one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to save energy and reduce bills. A bit of DIY can go a long way to fill gaps around windows and doors, as well as where pipework comes through external walls. You can also reduce draughts through floorboards, unused chimneys, letterboxes and the loft hatch. Cracks in walls can be filled, but check for causes too. And keep some ventilation – never block boiler flues, air bricks or window trickle vents and avoid over draught-proofing windows in kitchens and bathrooms where moist air needs to escape.
PIPES AND HOT WATER TANK – Fitting a British Standard jacket around your water tank can cut heat loss by more than 75% and save you around £25-35 per year, which is more than the cost of the jacket. Pipe insulation will keep your hot water hotter for longer.
RADIATORS – Reflector panels fitted behind radiators can reduce heat loss and be of benefit when installed on uninsulated external walls.
Insulation is one important way of saving energy. The other ways are to use energy efficient heating systems and to control them correctly. This also applies to appliances like televisions, computers and washing machines.
CENTRAL HEATING – Today’s central heating boilers are much better than old ones. They use much less energy and if your boiler is over 10 years old, it’s probably worth investing in a new one. When replacing an old boiler, the new one must be A-rated, which will be about 90% efficient. It will normally be a condensing boiler, either one for heating and producing hot water to store in a tank or a ‘combi’ boiler for heating and for producing hot water on demand. A new boiler with a programmer, room thermostat and thermostatic radiator controls (TRVs) can save £175-340 per year in a semi-detached home and £300-570 per year in a detached house.
ELECTRIC STORAGE HEATERS – These store heat overnight, using off-peak electricity, and give out the heat during the day. Hot water is normally provided separately from a tank heated by an immersion heater. Electric storage heaters can be expensive, hard to control and emit more carbon than other heating systems.
For lower bills with storage heaters:
- The output setting should be off at night and when you are out or not in the room.
- Don’t use the boost setting except when you really need the extra heat.
- Avoid using additional plug-in heaters – it’s better to turn up the input on your storage heater and store more heat.
To improve your heating system, you may wish to consider fitting thermostats and controls to make an existing system more efficient or install new storage heaters, which are easier to control. You may also wish to consider replacing your system with a more efficient boiler system.
BIOMASS (WOOD) – Logs or pellets can be burned in stoves or boilers, which will be carbon neutral if the source trees are well managed as a long-term sustainable crop.
HEAT PUMPS – Air and ground source heat pumps work like a fridge in reverse by taking low-grade heat from outside. They run on electricity and can convert 1 unit of electricity into 2-4 units of heat energy. Heat pumps are most suited for houses that are air-tight (draught-free) and have high levels of insulation, so can be most suitable for new build homes.
SOLAR HEATING – Solar thermal panels can provide all the hot water you need during the summer and can save £55-80 a year.
THERMAL STORE – These store excess heat from renewable heating technologies and can be used alongside a conventional boiler.
Ventilation & Heat Recovery
Modern houses have less ventilation to reduce heat loss. Natural ventilation, such as opening windows, and extractor vans can remove moisture and provide fresh air, but can also allow a lot of warm air to escape and add up to a third to heating bills. A well designed mechanical or whole house ventilation system with heat recovery can offer a better solution.
Appliances & Lighting
Our energy use for appliances has been rising and is now about 14% of total home energy use. Energy for cooking has fallen to 3%. Lighting also uses about 3% of total home energy, which can be 15-18% of home electricity use.
Energy-saving light bulbs use up to 90% less electricity than old bulbs, but produce the same amount of light and last 10 times longer.
LEDs are the most efficient and good for replacing spotlights and dimmable lights.
Look out for the most efficient A-rated appliances but remember the ratings apply to size categories; so the larger the TV the more energy it will consume regardless of its rating.
Further Information and Guidance
See side column on right of this page and following pages: