5 energy saving quick tips for a warmer winter
Ensure all that money spent on heating bills doesn’t go to waste. Understand how to keep your home warm without embarking on costly internal or cavity wall insulation with these 5 quick and achievable energy saving tips to save money this winter.
Heating homes contributes to around 15% of the UK’s total carbon emissions. An Institute for Government report also found the UK’s homes are some of the least efficient in Europe.
Reducing this environmental impact should be a priority for all. But energy efficiency improvements don’t always have to mean costly and invasive cavity or internal wall insulation.
How to improve energy efficiency at home
Do you know how to control your boiler flow temperature? It’s a simple way to save energy and make your house more energy efficient.
For many homeowners, the modern combi boiler is an enigma behind a permanently closed door, only to be inspected when it makes a funny noise. But worry not! There’s an easy way to optimise your boiler that immediately starts saving you money. Look at your boiler’s control system. Whether it’s a digital display or a physical set of dials, changing your boiler flow temperature is as simple as pressing a few buttons.
Boilers heat up water to a specified temperature before circulating it to the radiators in your home. This is known as the ‘flow rate’. Most boilers are automatically set to heat to 80℃. When you turn on your central heating, water flows to your radiators. As it warms the home, it turns to water vapour, losing 20℃ in the process. It returns to the boiler at 60℃, where it must expend extra gas to heat water back up to 80℃. These 2 temperatures make up what is known as the boiler’s ‘flow rate’.
For a combi boiler to operate at peak efficiency, that lost water vapour needs to condense back to liquid when it returns to the boiler. Water exceeding 54℃ is too hot for the vapour to turn back to a liquid. When the water is cool enough to condense, that lost 20℃ is recovered when the water returns to the boiler. This way, your boiler uses less gas overall while still warming homes to the required level.
The Heating and Hot Water Council projects that households could save 6-8% in gas costs solely from heating flow temperature adjustments. Octopus Energy advises a flow temperature setting of 50℃ for maximum efficiency. At higher temperatures, your condensing boiler does not actually condense at all! Adjusting your flow temperature is a great answer to the question, “How to make the house more energy efficient?”
If you’re wondering what type of boiler you have in your home, consider that non-condensing boilers were banned from sale in the UK in 2005.
If you have a pre-2005 boiler with a hot water cylinder, consult an engineer for improvements that can be made to your heating system.
Around 35% of all heat lost in the home leaves through poorly insulated walls.
One coat of Stormdry Masonry Protection Cream saves up to 10% of heating costs compared to an untreated brick wall* according to SAP 10.2 modelling. The Energy Saving Trust states that Stormdry Cream “help(s) improve the energy efficiency of dwellings by reducing heat loss, leading to lower heating requirements.” This is backed up by extensive research and independent third-party tests.
Stormdry Cream is a cost-effective way to save energy. A single coat of Stormdry Cream is all it takes to increase the thermal efficiency of your home for the next 25 years. It makes brick walls waterproof, which improves their thermal efficiency. Consistently dry walls improve the thermal performance of existing insulative measures, contributing to improved SAP energy ratings. Rain cannot permeate a Stormdry-protected brick, so wet walls dry much faster.
Stormdry Cream is a breeze to apply with a standard brush or roller. It goes on white and dries to a clear finish, making it easy to see where you’ve already applied. Its invisible finish preserves the natural beauty of your home without compromising on protection.
Verified by the British Board of Agrément to last for at least 25 years. As well as protecting against water damage, Stormdry Cream helps protect against frost, heat and other weather-related spalling – tested and proven by Lucideon Laboratory. The coating itself is UV resistant. As well as an energy efficiency measure, Stormdry Cream also protects your home from penetrating damp. In homes already suffering from damp, Stormdry Cream prevents further damage and allows walls to dry out.
You could be losing approximately 15% of your home’s heat through draughty windows and doors.
Look everywhere for ways to save energy. Homes lose lots of heat from doors and windows for a very simple reason. Why? Because they are openings where heat can escape.
It’s important to ensure that windows and doors form a tight seal when closed. Any gaps will leak heat, make your home colder and waste the money spent on heating. Focus on external doors, as this is where you lose the most heat.
Luckily, this is an easy defect to fix. A reel of self-adhesive foam draught excluder stripping tape can be bought for around £10 online or at DIY stores or builders’ merchants. It can be cut to size and placed around window frames, door frames and other small draughty gaps.
For doors, also inspect letterboxes, keyholes and door-to-floor gaps. Something as small as covering the keyhole seems like it might not affect heat loss, but any gap lowers heat retention performance.
Fully draught-proofing your home could save you around £30 per year. That means if everyone in the UK made sure their home was draught-free, we could collectively save £843 million per year.
Loft hatches can be sealed similarly, although you may need a thicker type of draught excluder stripping.
We often think about heat escaping through living room walls and windows. It’s easy to forget about spaces we don’t regularly hang out in. UK homes lose 25% of their heat through uninsulated lofts. Loft insulation involves placing a layer of thermally resistant material (often glass mineral wool) on the floor of your loft. This stops heat from escaping your home through your ceiling and can save around £255 on your annual energy bill (based on a semi-detached house*).
Insulation is laid on the loft floor. If your loft is easily accessible, you can install loft insulation yourself with a bit of know-how and some spare time. Always ensure your loft space has no excess condensation, damp or mould issues before installing insulation.
Always consult house plans before installing loft insulation, to ensure you avoid blocking ventilation. Accidentally covering vents and airbricks can cause damp and mould problems.
If you’d like to use the loft as a storage space, loft floor rolls can be used in conjunction with insulated loft floor boards to provide a sturdier and even more thermally efficient base.
Installing loft insulation costs on average around £540.
UK homes lose around 15% of heat through floors. Installing floor insulation is another home improvement project that may seem intimidating but can be done by yourself with some planning and preparation. According to the energy saving trust, floor insulation could save you around £75 on your energy bills per year.
Modern homes have solid concrete ground floors. Insulation board can be laid atop this and covered with carpet or wooden flooring to improve thermal performance. As well as ground floor insulation, consider insulating floors above rooms without central heating like car garages.
When looking at insulation boards, ensure that you use the most efficient heat-retaining materials on the market. Stormdry EP-board is thin energy saving plasterboard. It is made from Magnesium Oxide and Aerogel. As well as on walls, it can be placed under floors as a ground-floor insulative measure.
Aerogel is an ultralight material renowned for its incredible thermal insulation properties. It is created by replacing the liquid inside of a gel with air. The unique structure of aerogel is formed of nanometer-length pores (for context, 1 millimetre is 1000000 nanometers!) that make heat transfer almost impossible. A layer of aerogel can protect the human hand from direct flame damage. Aerogel is so effective that NASA uses it to insulate the Mars Rover from the –270⁰C temperatures of outer space.
If you don’t want to go as far as insulation boards, a thick wool rug of at least 3 togs will help the floor to retain some heat.
Some more quick & easy energy saving wins
As well as these effective measures, there are also some other ways to save energy you may want to consider making.
Get thermostat smart
Andrew Capstick at the Money Saving Expert busts a common myth around central heating. It doesn’t save money to keep your heating on low all day. While this is a solid condensation-busting tip, keeping your heating on constantly is more expensive in the long run than heating it only when you need it. However, be smart – ensure you have a programmable thermostat so you can warm the home exactly when you need it to the exact degree that’s comfortable for you. Remember: if you’re always running the heating, you’re also constantly leaking some degree of heat (and money!) too.
Learn to control your radiator valves
A programmable thermostat gives you extra control over how much heat you spend, but also make sure you’re in control of your radiators too. Here you can set the temperature of each room. If you’re trying to heat the living room, there’s no point wasting energy keeping the bathroom at that same temperature. Always consider which radiators you want to warm when you turn on the central heating and ensure you’re not heating any rooms you aren’t living in. Also, make sure all the doors to unheated rooms are kept close to not lose any warmth.
Insulating radiators, pipes and cylinders
This is another simple, direct way to prevent heat loss. Pipe insulation is a simple foam tube to cover any exposed piping in your boiler room. Installation is as simple as wrapping the tubing around the pipe. Pipe insulation is available at any builder’s merchant, DIY store or online and will run you around £2 per metre.
You can also use radiator reflector foil to improve the energy efficiency of radiators. Placing insulative foil behind radiators on external walls can cut a small amount of heat loss and ensure warmth is retained within the home. Expect to pay around £10 per roll.
Don’t forget about the boiler itself. A British Standard hot water cylinder jacket covers the water tank to keep water hotter for longer. The energy saving trust estimates doing this could save you around £35 a year. Considering they cost about £20 from a DIY shop, this is one of the best ways to save energy.
How much will it cost?
|Energy Saving Measure||Projected heating cost saving over 5 years (July 2022 fuel prices)||Projected installation cost|
|Floor insulation||£755||Between £1,300 and £2,700|
|Boiler flow adjustment||Variable – around £350||£0|
|Draught excluder tape||Variable – around £150||Variable – around £25|
*Based on a standard semi-detached house where general energy saving measures (double-glazing, draught-exclusion, boiler insulation jacket) have been carried out. Report carried out by independent energy efficiency assessors Alan Pither Energy ltd.
The science behind home heat loss
You should always aim to decrease heat transfer from the inside of your home to the outside. To understand how to keep our homes warm, we need to understand how brick walls lose heat. In a brick, there are lots of tiny holes that can absorb large amounts of water. When brick walls get wet, they get cold. Wet walls transfer heat quicker than dry walls.
In winter, cold and wet walls contribute to wasted energy. At a time when we’re trying our hardest to conserve energy, walls are the least efficient heat retainers. Approximately 35% of all heat in the home is lost through walls. Our goal is to decrease the amount of heat that escapes through brick walls. To achieve this, we’ve got to keep walls dry.
Increasing the thermal efficiency of walls positively contributes towards an improved EPC rating and cheaper energy bills. Although no single measure bumps an inefficient home from a poor rating to a high one, all ways to save energy are worth implementing.