We’re not talking about hanging your stockings and decorating the tree. This post is about something much more exciting… energy efficiency! That’s right, Christmas has come early. Heating your home efficiently is vital over the colder months and making a few small changes could help you massively cut your energy bills and reduce your carbon footprint.
The basic concept of being more efficient means needing less heat energy to keep your house warm. There are two sides to this. First of all, we want to reduce the amount of heat energy we are using. However, we don’t want to get cold. So second of all, we want to make the heat we are using last longer. It’s that simple.
Use Heating Controls
Don’t switch off. We know this might not sound like the most thrilling thing you’ve ever read, but stay with us. There’s some really useful info in here.
If you don’t have a thermostat, install one. Thermostats prevent you from using more fuel than you need to. All you have to do is set the temperature you want your house to be, and the thermostat will make sure the heating delivers enough heat (it’s similar to programming your oven temperature). You can now buy smart thermostats too – these can be controlled remotely via an app, so you can adjust your heating from anywhere!
If you do have a thermostat, use it correctly. It should be set to the lowest comfortable temperature (typically around 18-21°C) and you don’t need to change it on colder days. The house will heat up to the set temperature whatever the weather, and turning the thermostat up won’t make your house heat up any faster.
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a typical 3-bedroom house could save around £60 a year by turning the thermostat down by just one degree!
Use thermostatic radiator valves. These are the numbered knobs on your individual radiators. Turn them down in rooms you’re not using to reduce your heating consumption.
Install an automatic timer. This device allows you to programme the times at which your heating and hot water are turned on and off. Set a schedule that fits with your daily routine – most people like their heating to come on about half an hour before they wake up and turn off about half an hour before they go to sleep.
If you have electric storage heaters, programme them correctly. Keep the output dial low and put it to zero if you’re going out. This will reduce the speed at which the stored heat is released, making it last longer.
Insulate Your Home
Wrapping up your house is just as important as wrapping up yourself! Effective insulation reduces the amount of heat that escapes from your home, meaning the heat energy you do consume lasts longer.
Draught-proofing. This is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce heat loss. Block up unwanted gaps that let cold air in and hot air out – good examples include keyholes, letterboxes, edges of windows and doors, gaps in floorboards, spaces around pipes, and even chimneys.
You can get professionals to do this work for you, but if you’re happy to carry out a few simple DIY tasks, it’s not too tricky to do yourself. You can buy insulation strips or spray-able filler from most hardware shops. Just make sure you don’t block any intentional ventilation points – some flow of fresh air is important to prevent damp.
Walls and lofts. About a third of the heat lost in an uninsulated home escapes through the walls and about a quarter escapes through the roof. So these are important parts to get right, and it’s best to get a professional installer to carry out this work for you. The Energy Saving Trust has some really handy information on what type of insulation you might need.
Windows. Upgrade to double or triple glazing. This refers to windows made up of two or three glass panels – the layers of air between the panels act as insulation to reduce heat loss. For a quicker and cheaper fix, hang thick curtains over windows.
Anything else? Yes! Insulating your hot water pipes is a quick and easy DIY job that will reduce heat loss and prevent pipes from getting so cold that they burst. All you have to do is slip some foam tubing over them. Fitting your hot water cylinder with an insulating jacket is also a good energy-efficient move and could save you around £20 a year.
Sweater weather! It’s not strictly a home improvement, but make sure you insulate yourself too! Get those snuggly jumpers, fluffy socks and blankets out in full force.
Did You Know?
Get Into Good Habits
Here’s a few handy lifestyle changes to help you on your efficiency journey…
> Free your radiators! Make sure they’re not covered with curtains, furniture, etc. because this will reduce the amount of heat getting into the room.
> Close your windows. It’s good to get some fresh air in the house, but avoid leaving your windows open for too long because it will let the hot air out.
> Draw your curtains early. Close them as soon as it gets dark – this will help keep the heat in.
> If it’s safe to do so, leave the oven door open after cooking so the heat can be released into your kitchen.
> Save hot water by taking showers instead of baths. If you wash up by hand, use a bowl of hot, soapy water rather than running the tap.
> If it’s an unusually warm day, turn your heating off.
Install Renewable Heating
A heat pump is a renewable heating system that absorbs heat energy from the ground or air and transfers it into your home. It can be connected to your current system of taps, radiators, underfloor heating or air vents to provide heating and hot water from one system.
Heat pumps are the most efficient way to heat your home. In fact, a well-fitted heat pump is 400% efficient! That means it produces 4 units of heat energy for every 1 unit of electrical energy it uses. For comparison, a standard boiler is 60-90% efficient, and an electric heater is about 100%.
Due to their efficiency, heat pumps are cheaper to run than any other heating system. And through the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, you could be paid up to £2500 a year for generating your own renewable heat!
Because they take advantage of a constant source of natural heat (there is always heat energy retained in the ground or air), heat pumps provide reliable heating all year round. They also don’t require any fuel, meaning they are easy to run, virtually silent and produce zero carbon emissions.
How Does All of This Help the Planet?
Buildings contribute around 40% of UK CO2 emissions, and heating accounts for about half of that. Nearly all homes in the UK use central heating (a boiler) or storage heating (electric radiators). Both of these heating methods involve burning fossil fuels and so both generate carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global warming.
If we can reduce the amount of fossil fuel we are burning for heat, by either improving our energy efficiency or switching to renewable heating, we’ll be reducing the nation’s carbon footprint.