Heat loss from a house could be costing you a fortune on your energy bills. The recent rise in energy costs has left us all feeling insecure about flicking on a switch or turning up a dial. While reducing our energy consumption is a priority, so is using the energy we need efficiently and effectively.
If your home lacks the right insulation, each time you switch the heating on, you should imagine £10 notes floating into the air above your house. Therefore, understanding how to reduce heat loss at home could be a vital part of managing your family budget. Here we explore some of the ways of insulating and draught-proofing your home.
Why do we lose heat from our homes?
Heat loss happens through the transfer of heat through the fabric of your building. Airflow travels both ways, coming in from the outside and filtering out from your home. Whether through radiation, convection, conduction, or a mix of processes, your house is constantly losing or gaining heat – depending on the time of year – but it becomes most pressing in the winter months when we keep warm from the extremes.
Heat transfer rates are measured in U values, which are measured when you want to sell your home. The lower the U value, the better, as this suggests that your home is well insulation. If you have a high U value, then the house’s thermal performance will need some work.
What you can do to reduce heat loss
To understand how to reduce heat loss, you need to consider which areas are more prone to leakage. Your walls contribute 40% to the loss of heat from your home. Your roof contributes a further 25%. Windows lose 20% of the heat. The remaining 15% is lost through the floor and through gaps in brickwork or where pipes come into the home.
Consequently, the single biggest decision you can make to improve the U value of your home is the level of insulation in your home. The good news when investing in high-quality insulation is the rapid return on the investment. While it can be costly to improve insulation, the decrease in your energy bills and the added value to the price of your home soon counters this.
Investing in floor insulation can prevent 10% of heat loss from a house, which can seep through floorboards, around pipes and behind skirting boards. You can insulate concrete and wooden floors, which is a common choice for people on the ground floor. It is often a good idea to insulate floors of rooms that sit above garages.
Insulation comes from mineral wool or foam that you place between the joists. You might also want to use sealant to close gaps between floorboards. A rigid foam layer over concrete works best, usually sealed with a chipboard cover. You can increase the success of this insulation with the use of draught excluders.
A popular option, loft insulation, is one of the ways most people look to reduce energy bills. Adding insulation fibre in your loft and creating a barrier between your rooms and roof can offer a quick return. It might be tempting to skimp on the cost of this insulation, but the truth is that you get what you pay for here.
The numbers don’t lie, and a 40% heat loss through walls is significant. Most newly built homes come with cavity wall insulation as standard. Ever since the 1920s, it has been the standard practice of the construction sector.
Older buildings have solid walls, so there is no gap to fill with this insulation. Most of these homes counter the lack of cavity wall insulation with a thicker brick. However, anything less than 9 inches will cause a draft. To insulate the walls, they must be completely dry, and the work done must fit within the listed criteria for the building. A common way of working is spraying insulation foam on the outside walls. The system increases the efficiency of the thicker bricks of older buildings to store heat rather than lose it.
Fitting double or triple-glazed windows
Your windows are another significant source of heat loss. Installing double-glazed windows offers twice the insulation of single-pane glass. Expensive as it is, tripled-glazed glass can limit air permeability and increase your U value significantly. However, the cost of this might feel prohibitive.
Well-maintained and good-quality double-glazing will do the job for most homes. It will keep you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer too. It is also a great way to reduce the impact of external noise.
You can decrease the heat loss through windows even more with heavy-fabric curtains, which you can draw on winter evenings. If you tuck the curtain behind a radiator, rather than allowing it to hang in front, you trap the heat in your home more effectively.
You can invite a specialist to your home to point a heat gun at your house and find the sources of heat loss. Once you have insulated the roof, changed the windows, and insulated the walls, you would hope the colour scheme on the heat gun will be a cool green and blue. However, what this specialist will show up for you are the places where there are gaps that need further heatproofing.
It might be that they find that heat is being lost around doors. Equally, it could be that there are holes around pipes that need sealing, or you need to invest in a chimney cap. A popular way to counter some heat loss is with draught excluders around doors, which are generally relatively cheap and can make some difference to your heating bill.
Close doors and windows
A final step in reducing heat loss is educating your family to keep apertures closed. Forgetting to close internal and external doors is a significant cause of wasted money on heat. Closing the window properly and sealing it by pulling the handle down is another habit.
Increasing your U value is probably one of the more important jobs for increasing your house valuation. Energy efficiency is high in people’s minds and a significant priority when looking for a new home. For you, it is also about managing this cost-of-living crisis with all the small decisions you can make, believing it will all add up to make a difference.