With several weeks of cold weather yet to come it is important to think about how to make the most of your home’s heating. This will not only ensure that you and your family are comfortable and healthy but reduce your utility bills at this typically expensive time of year. So whether you make use of gas or oil fired central heating, a highly efficient gas fire or the renewable energy of a woodburning stove – or indeed a combination of these, try our top tips for staying warm and start to feel the difference straight away!
• Heat the rooms you use most
Rather than warm your entire house, consider which rooms you use the most and concentrate your efforts on these. This can be easily achieved by making the most of the thermostat system on your radiators. For those areas that are rarely in use such as a spare bedroom, turn the thermostat down to 1 and keep the door shut. Conversely for the rooms you use most often and for longer periods of time, keep the thermostat level at a rate that will give you an even and comfortable temperature. Also ensure that you keep doors shut to allow the heat to circulate around a room rather than out of it.
Installing a gas fire or woodburning stove into one of your essential living spaces such as your sitting room is also an effective way to generate targeted and ambient warmth. Many modern glass fronted gas fires and stoves also have the advantage of being programmable so you can time them to come on before you arrive home in the evening or even, before you wake up. Many stoves incorporate boiler functions so you can link them up to your home’s existing central heating systems and create a supplementary source for underfloor heating, a domestic hot water tank or your radiators. This can be a very cost effective and eco friendly way to make the most of an appliance that will also double up as an attractive feature.
• Insulate and take advantage of grants and offers
No one wants to spend money heating their home only to lose that heat to the great outdoors but without adequate insulation this is exactly what will happen. The Energy Saving Trust states that 25% of heat is lost from our homes via the roof; for that reason it is a great idea to begin insulating your home from the top down. If you are worried about the investment value of insulation it is reassuring to know that it has a 40 year lifespan and will benefit your home immediately. If you feel that the cost may be prohibitive try contacting your local authority for advice on the availability of free or subsidised insulation in your area.
Some advice on insulation material…
There are four types of basic insulation and each one has its own unique advantages so you can choose the best one for the type and shape of space you wish to insulate.
• Rigid insulation boards – made from materials such as polystyrene, polyurethane or polyisocyanurate these foamed plastic substances will insulate ceilings, walls and floors. It must be cut to size by a professional but is one of the best types of insulation currently on the market.
• Blown insulation – this type of insulation is literally blown (by professionals only!) into the areas you need. It is fire-resistant and made from recycled newspapers or mineral wool. Although it is a loose material it can also bond as well as adhere to a surface which is good for stud walls.
• Loose-fill – derived from cork granules, vermiculite, mineral wood or cellulose fibre, loose-fill insulation is very versatile as it is sold in bags and can be dispensed easily into areas that are oddly shaped or may where there may be obstructions.
• Matting – this is mineral wool created from glass or rock fibre or sheep’s wool laid from a roll and often referred to as blanket or quilt insulation. Matting is good for an empty loft space or for stud walls and suspended timber floors.
A simple way to reduce drafts is to close doors as this will prevent cool air being drawn into warm areas which it is prone to do. A hallway can easily turn into an effective chimney, taking warm air away from your nice warm sitting room and leaving you cold so ensure you shut the door as this will act as an immediate barrier. You could also invest in some draft excluders for the base of your doors and also think about other areas of heat loss such as skirting boards.
A huge source of heat loss is your home’s windows, particularly if you live in an older property with single glazing or large floor to ceiling openings. Invest in properly fitting curtains especially those made from a heavy material as this will act as a natural insulator. Draw your curtains each evening to help prevent warmth escaping through the glass. Newer properties may already benefit from heat-reflecting glass windows that are better at retaining heat without a compromise on the amount of light they allow to pass through. This works by inserting an unreactive gas between the two panes which are then sealed to make one unit. Many newly built properties are already fitted with this type of glass but you may wish to consider fitting it if a renovation project is on the cards for your home.
Consider placing reflective material such as tin foil (shiny side facing the back of the radiator) behind your radiators. You can buy specially crafted radiator foil quite reasonably from a hardware store or use regular kitchen foil as a cheaper alternative.
Good places for further advice on heating and staying warm…