For decades we have relied on the abundance of cheap energy produced by fossil fuels to heat our homes. But this has made us wasteful in terms of money and valuable resources, and it's changing the climate. With the cost of energy rising and winter on its way, this is a good time to think about how to keep warm.
According to the Government 66% of the energy we use in the home is used to heat it. We don’t like feeling cold - so what can we do?
First, let’s look at why we feel cold. It’s partly the temperature. But draughts make you feel considerably colder. And of course, we feel colder when we are sitting still - watching the TV, working on the computer or reading. So taking all this into account, I recommend you start with these ideas:
Insulate your home
There’s not much point heating the air in your home if the heat flies out through the roof, walls, and cracks. Even if your loft is insulated, it probably needs topping up – the thicker the better. Current standards recommend 27cm or 10 inches. If your walls have cavities, getting them insulated is cheap, takes only one day, and causes no disruption in the house.
Control your radiators
Turn off the radiator in rooms you are not using or don't use much. If you have thermostatic radiator valves, don't treat them like an ON/OFF switch by moving them between 1 and 5. Set them at 3, wait a day, and then adjust to 2 or 4 if you’re too hot or cold.
Draught-proofing - doors, windows, loft hatches, chimneys and floors
Put a draught strip around the edge of your front and back door. It costs very little and is easy to do.
Cover the inside of your letterbox with a brush seal or even an old bit of carpet. Add a keyhole cover (“escutcheon”).
A thick curtain makes a big difference to heat loss and draughts through windows. Close the curtains when the sun goes down.
If you don’t have double glazing and are not intending to replace your windows, secondary glazing may be a good option. A cheap and easy option is film (like cling-film) by “Mr Cosy” that you put over the window. It doesn’t look odd and it costs very little.
Block draughts around loft hatches with strip insulation as you would a door and glue 10cm or 4 inches of solid insulation on to the top of your hatch.
Chimneys lose a lot of heat. Block it up with a balloon when the fire isn't alight. You can get special chimney balloons but even an old cushion will do the job. Just remember to take whatever it is out of the chimney before you start your next fire. Better still, fit a wood burning stove. They can be expensive to install but they seal your chimney when not in use and are exceedingly efficient when in use.
If you have wooden floors, fill gaps between boards with a tube of sealant and put a rug on top. The best solution may be under floor insulation though it may be a big DIY commitment.
Reacquaint yourself with your heating controls
Take a look at the timer. Play with it a bit to get the hang of it (ask other members of your family to help) and adjust it to heat the house when you need it. Set it to shut down half an hour before you go out in the morning.
Once you are keeping the heat in your house with better insulation and fewer draughts, you will be able to turn your thermostat down to 18 or 19 degrees C and still feel warmer. The Energy Savings Trust says if you turn your thermostat down 1 degree you would expect to save around £55 per year.
If you have a wood burning stove or some other heater, you can set your central heating controls even lower for the whole house, and use the stove to heat the room you sit in but please source the wood sustainably.
It’s not rocket science
- When you feel cold, put on a jumper.
- When you feel hot, turn the heating off rather than opening the window.