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Today, modern houses are built to a level of thermal efficiency that is a world apart from those our Victorian ancestors lived in. Unfortunately, not all of us live in warm, well insulated homes. For most us, keeping our homes and families warm and cosy through the cold and damp of winter is a costly process.

Here are some measures you should consider in order to keep your home as warm as possible during winter.

Improve Energy Efficiency

Research suggests that the best way to reduce energy consumption and heating bills in the home is to improve the energy efficiency.

Heat loss occurs in all sorts of hidden ways so here are a few ideas, some costing pennies, some costing rather more, that will help us keep the thermostat turned down a notch or two.

Keep out the draughts

Unless your home is very new, you will almost certainly lose some heat through draughts around doors and windows, gaps around the floor, or through the chimney.

Heat loss through air leakage is far more significant than you would think. The better we can seal our homes and minimise heat loss through air leakage, the warmer our homes will be.

Professional draught-proofing of windows, doors and blocking cracks in floors and skirting boards can cost around £200, but according to the Energy Saving Trust, can save around £25 a year on energy bills. 

DIY draught proofing can be much cheaper. Installing a chimney draught excluder could save around £15 a year as well.

Insulate Pipes and Hot Water Tanks

Lagging water tanks and pipes and insulating behind radiators reduces the amount of heat lost, so you spend less money heating water up, and hot water stays hotter for longer. 

A hot water cylinder jacket costs about £15, and fitting it is a straightforward job if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Pipe insulation consists of a foam tube that covers the exposed pipes between your hot water cylinder and boiler. It reduces the amount of heat lost and, keeps your water hotter for longer. It’s usually as simple as choosing the correct size from a DIY store and then slipping it around the pipes.

Insulate the Loft

Spray foam insulation in a loft

Insulating your loft or flat roof is a simple and effective way to reduce heat loss and reduce your heating bills. Loft insulation is effective for at least 40 years and it should pay for itself many times over

Did you know, a quarter of heat is lost through the roof in an uninsulated home?

If your loft is easy to access and has no damp or condensation problems it should be easy to insulate, and it is possible to do it yourself, or you can engage a professional installer.

If access is easy and your loft joists are regular, you can use rolls of mineral wool insulation. The first layer is laid between the joists – the horizontal beams that make up the floor of the loft – then another layer is laid at right angles to cover the joists and make the insulation up to the required depth. 200mm thickness of insulation will be about right.

What If I Use my Loft for Storage?

If you plan to use the loft or attic for storage, you will want to lay boards over the joists. Unfortunately, if you only insulate between the joists before doing this, the insulation won’t be thick enough. 

To get a thick enough layer of insulation, you can do this by fitting timber battens across the joists or you can buy purpose built plastic legs that fit on the joists and support the new floor. It’s important to leave a ventilated air gap between the insulation and the boards to prevent condensation on the underside of the boards.

Also, make sure you don’t squash the mineral wool when you fit the boards on top as this this will reduce its insulation value. 

If you are planning on converting your loft, make sure you consider how to insulate the new space during the design process.

Insulating the Walls

About a third of all the heat lost in an uninsulated home escapes through the walls.

Heat will always flow from a warm area to a cold one. In winter, the colder it is outside, the faster heat from your home will escape into the surrounding air.

In general, houses built from the 1990s onwards have wall insulation to keep the heat in, but if your house is older than that it may not have any wall insulation.

If you don’t have insulation and you have a typical house with cavity walls, you could save up to £150 per year in heating bills just from adding some insulation. 

What Kind of Walls Do You Have?

Houses in the UK mostly have either solid walls or cavity walls:

  • cavity wall is made up of two walls with a gap in between, known as the cavity; the outer leaf is usually made of brick, and the inner layer of brick or concrete block
  • solid wall has no cavity; each wall is a single solid wall, usually made of brick or stone

Insulating the walls of a house is best left to the professionals but there are organisations who oversee the industry which are able to guide homeowners along the way.

As a rule of thumb, your installer should be a member of one of these organisations:

Remember to also check whether the installer is signed up to a code of professional practice like the one provided by the NIA and that the installation is guaranteed for 25 years by CIGA.

Your installer will suggest the most suitable type of insulation but check the installation is covered under CIGA, which means it complies with British standards. Ask your installer to ensure you make the best choice.

Consider Spray-Applied Insulation

spray foam insulation being applied

Unlike the urethane foams of 20 years ago, modern spray foams (such as Icynene Foam Lite) use water as the blowing agent. This means that the reaction between the two components produces CO₂ which causes the foam to expand. Cells of the foam burst and the CO₂ is replaced by air

Traditional forms of insulation are relatively inefficient, in that they cannot completely fill all voids or seal the interface between the insulation and the building structure. This can lead to cold bridging and localised condensation and dampness.

The modern alternative is spray-foam insulation, which is applied using a pressurised gun system. Insulation is applied as a two-component mixture that come together at the tip of a gun forming a foam that expands 100-fold within seconds, sealing all gaps, service holes and hard to reach spaces, virtually eliminating cold bridging and air leakage.

This open cell foam provides good insulation properties but still allows the building to breathe naturally.

Spray applied insulation tends to be more expensive but its speed of installation, its ability to perform in difficult to treat applications and the fact that it can be injected into voids that would otherwise require invasive tear-out of surfaces, means spray foam is a very cost-effective solution.

For more information about Icynene and how to find an installer near you, visit the Icynene website.

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