Energy saving tips
The rising cost of energy bills is putting a strain on household budgets. But you could cut the cost of bills by increasing the energy efficiency of your home.
Insulate tanks and pipes
You don't have to spend a lot of money or be a DIY expert to make your home more energy efficient. For example, you could buy a British Standard Approved jacket for your hot water tank for about £15 and save £45 a year on your energy bill.
Insulating your pipes is also relatively cheap and easy. The DIY cost is about £10 and it could generate an annual saving of £15.
Some jobs are much bigger so the upfront costs will be higher. However, they could make a real difference to your annual fuel bill. For example, you could expect to spend upwards of £2,000 to replace an old boiler with a modern, efficient model, but it could cut your energy costs by more than £300 a year.
Heat loss through the roof
Did you know that a quarter of the heat in your home is lost through the roof if the loft is not insulated? It's a lot of heat - and it could be costing you a lot of money.
If you ask a professional tradesman to install loft insulation, it will most likely cost about £300. But it could knock about £180 off your annual energy bill. In other words, it would pay for itself in about two years.
It's worth checking your loft even if it is already insulated as the recommended thickness is 270mm, and yours might not measure up. If you don't have enough insulating material in place, it's relatively easy to top it up to make the maximum savings.
There are different types of loft insulation, and the most suitable depends largely on the access to your loft and whether or not the joists are regular.
Some people are reluctant to insulate the loft if they plan to use it for storage as the 270mm thickness would cover the joists, making it difficult to lay boards on top to create a flat surface. But there are ways round the problem, such as rigid insulation boards, though you might need the help of an expert.
You might also need professional help if you plan to use the loft as a living space as you would normally then insulate the roof, rather than the floor. Flat roofs can be particularly tricky as they should ideally be insulated from above.
A word of caution about damp lofts. Insulation can make damp problems worse, so it's a good idea to try and sort out the damp before you insulate.
Heat not only escapes through the roof of your home, but also through the walls. Experts reckon that a third of the heat seeps through the walls of an uninsulated home - and the heat escapes quicker when the weather is colder.
If you live in a modern property, built after 1990, it is probably already insulated. You might not be so lucky if you live in an older building.
The type of insulation you install depends on the type of walls. So, the first thing you need to check is whether you have solid or cavity walls.
Solid walls are more common on very old properties built before the 1920s. You can also tell by looking at the brick pattern as solid walls have an alternating pattern (a side-on brick adjacent to an end-on brick). The pattern on cavity walls, on the other hand, is regular.
Don't worry if you are unsure. You will need a professional to install wall insulation, so the company should be able to help. If you have cavity walls, the insulation is injected or blown into the cavity between the inner and outer walls of the property. It typically costs about £500 and saves about £140 a year on your energy bill.
Solid walls let thought twice as much heat as cavity walls, but insulating a solid wall is a much bigger job. You can usually choose to insulate the home from the inside or the outside - and there are pros and cons to each method.
For example, internal insulation is usually cheaper and can be tackled room by room. However, there is greater disruption and the insulation slightly reduces the floor area of each room.
Again, you should contact a registered installer for advice on the most appropriate method for your home and budget. Check, too, whether the work complies with building regulations.
You can expect to pay between £5,500 and £8,500 for internal insulation of a three-bedroom semi-detached property. Prices for external insulation start at about £9,500 and go up to £13,000.
The cost of solid wall insulation is high, but you could save as much as £500 a year on your energy bill.
Insulating the floor
If your home already has loft and wall insulation, you might want to consider insulating the floor. You could lose about 15% of the heat in your home through the floor, so insulation will not only make your toes feel warmer but could also save you money.
There are various options for floor insulation, depending on the type of floor. Suspended timber floors can be insulated by lifting up the floorboards and insulating between the joists. Or, you could insulate from below if you have access from a cellar or basement.
Solid floors can be a bit trickier, though they should lose less heat. You can either insulate the floor when it needs to be replaced. Or you could lay rigid insulation boards on top of the solid floor. The boards are then usually covered with chipboard, plus the flooring of your choice.
Floor insulation will knock on average £60 off your annual energy bill. You can probably insulate a timber floor yourself for about £100, or £500 if you call in a professional. You will most likely need an expert to insulate a solid floor, and should expect to pay at least £500, probably more.
You can also save money by insulating the gaps between the floors and the skirting boards to prevent heat escaping. It's quite a simple DIY job that costs about £15 but could save £25 a year in energy costs.
Always make sure you employ an accredited installer to fit loft, wall or floor insulation. You can find out more information from the National Insulation Association.
Stop the draughts
Draughty homes are chilly and they waste energy. You could save on average £55 a year if you fully draught proofed your home. You would also be able to turn down the thermostat as the house would be warmer, knocking another £65 off your annual bill.
The most common sources of draughts are windows, doors, including keyholes and letterboxes, chimneys and fireplaces, loft hatches and skirting boards. Most DIY stores stock a good range of draught proofing equipment and you could probably do the job yourself for about £120.
Just be careful if you are sealing any gaps in a room that needs to be well ventilated, such as a bathroom or a kitchen. If you aren't confident about DIY, then a registered installer would probably charge between £200 and £400.
Draught-proofing your windows can help to keep the heat in the house, but you might also want to make the windows more energy-efficient by installing double or even triple glazing. It can be a big job but could save about £170 a year on your energy bills. It would also reduce noise levels from outside.
Take care if you live in a listed property or a conservation area as there might be restrictions on the type of alterations you can make to your home. And don't despair if you can't install double glazing: you could consider secondary glazing, or even some thicker curtains or sealed blinds or shutters.
Top energy saving tips
Turn it off. We waste a lot of energy because we leave our electrical appliances on standby when they aren't in use. But the average house could save about £85 a year by switching off at the plug.
Turn it down. Many of our rooms are overheated. If you can bear to turn the thermostat down by just one degree you could save £65 a year on heating costs.
Keep it cool. Washing your clothes at 30 degrees instead of 40 could knock £9 a year off your energy bills. Remember to make sure that washing machines and dishwashers contain a full load and try to use eco programmes where possible.
Buy efficient. Most home appliances come with an energy-efficiency rating, usually between A and G - and you could save up to £90 a year by choosing the most efficient.
Choose shower power. Take a shower instead of a bath and you'll use less hot water. And if you install a water-efficient head to your shower, you could save about £75 a year on energy bills, plus a further £90 on your water bill if you have a meter.
Let there be new light bulbs! If you replace the old light bulbs in your home with an energy saving version, you can save about £3 a year, or £55 over the life of the bulb.
*51% consumers, MoneySuperMarket data, December 2014