The typical British home spends the majority of its energy on heating. So tackling heat loss, whether it’s through poor insulation or draughts, is a great way to make energy savings.
The breakdown of heat loss in an average home is around 25% through the roof, 35% escaping through the walls, 10% beneath your feet and the remaining 30% through doors and windows.
‘Insulation’ describes how well a material keeps heat in, whereas ‘draughts’, caused by air leaks, are a measure of the pressure difference between indoors and outside. These moving air currents have a noticeable effect, which is why two rooms heated to the same temperature can feel so different.
Draught proofing is a quick solution to the problem of heat loss because it tends to be easier to block nooks and crannies than it is to change the material of your home.
We’ve put together a few ideas to help plug those draughts and make savings on your heating bills.
Some of the suggestions require a small spend upfront, and the savings will vary depending on your home and how well insulated it is already. We’ve included the upper savings for the average UK home, which spends around £900 a year on energy. These tips will have the biggest impact on homes built before the 1930s.
Insulate sash windows
If you have sash windows, insulating film can save up to £80 a year. If your sash windows are old, the savings could be as much as £120. Readily available from DIY shops, the film will come with instructions. These generally advise you to stretch the plastic over the window and use a hair dryer to shrink it into place, which seals over the air leaks.
Insulate your hot water tank and hot water pipes
The hot water in your tank will lose heat much quicker without insulation. This means that more energy is required to heat the water each time you need it, contributing to your energy bills. It’s worth insulating hot water pipes for the same reason, with the added benefit that they’ll be better protected from freezing in the winter too.
Insulating your boiler and pipes is a good one to tackle. Most homes use hot water all year round, so you’ll always be reaping the benefits. Together, insulating boiler jackets and pipe insulation can save up to £100 per year.
Add radiator panels or boosters
You could save you up to £20 per year by adding panels or boosters behind your radiators. Available from DIY stores, there’s a variety of options, all designed to stop heat loss through the walls, and direct heat back into the room.
Block draughts around doors and windows
When you get to know your home, you can usually feel the areas around doors and windows where the cold air comes in. You could save around £20 a year by taking action to block them, whether that’s with thick curtains, more traditional draught excluders or modern seals. Self-adhesive window strips are the cheaper alternative to metal or plastic strips though won’t last as long.
Block a draughty chimney
Not only do chimneys let cold air in, but they help warm air escape too. A chimney balloon is an inflatable, reusable balloon designed to fit inside the chimney to stop draughts and heat loss. If you’re worried about setting one up, one manufacturer offers the ‘Chimney Sheep’. This is a thick pad of wool with a handle which plugs the gap just above the fireplace. Blocking chimney draughts can save around £15 a year.
Make sure there’s enough airflow
When draught-proofing your home, please remember to ensure that you still leave sufficient ventilation. Blocking up too much can cause poor air circulation or damp.
For good airflow, leave the following unblocked:
- Extractor fans
- Underfloor grilles or airbricks
- Wall vents
- Trickle vents
Get to know your home and your heating
Sometimes, taking the time to think more about your home and the way you use it can uncover more ways to save. Even better, there’s no upfront cost.
Turn your thermostat down by 1 degree
Turning your thermostat down by 1 degree could save up to £80 per year. It’s also easy to experiment – if you do feel the cold, it’s not too hard to turn the heating up again.
But you can also save money by looking at the rooms you use most, and when. If everyone’s in the kitchen in the evenings, perhaps you can save money by turning down the heat in the bedrooms by a few degrees? If you’re out in the day, make full use of the timer, so you’re not heating an empty home.
Bleed your radiators
Increase the efficiency of your radiators by releasing the air that gets trapped inside. There's a handy guide on how to bleed your radiators available online.
Dust your radiators
A cheap way to improve the efficiency of your heating is to make sure your radiators are clean. The dust that builds up between the fins of the radiator makes it less efficient, as it relies on air rising up through it via convection. You can use existing cleaning supplies or buy a radiator cleaner (a long handled brush) for about £10.
Ask the experts
Professional home improvements
Asking for professional advice can help to increase your savings longer term, but could mean a higher initial outlay. It may be worth getting more than one quote from different suppliers to better understand the costs.
- Secondary glazing could save £150 a year
- Loft insulation can save £120 a year
- Professional draught proofing can save £50 a year
- A thermal survey often provided on a volunteer basis by charity organisations such as the Transition Network, will indicate where best to focus your efforts to make the most savings
Energy saving grants and additional help
You could be eligible for a grant to contribute towards your energy bills or insulate your home. For more information, see the government’s Energy Grants Calculator.
Ofgem, the energy regulator, also provide information on Energy Company Obligations, which is the government energy efficiency scheme.