The typical household is predicted to spend about £1420 on its annual energy bill this year, up 8% on last year.
Shopping around for the most competitive tariffs makes good sense. But no matter how good the deal you find by using a switching service such as MoneySupermarket, it still makes sense to take steps to reduce your levels of consumption and cut the cost of heating and lighting your home.
Loft insulation can be a good way to conserve energy and lower household bills. It can also benefit the environment by cutting the amount of c02 emitted from your home. Our guide will tell you all you need to know.
Cutting energy costs
A family living in a three-bedroom, semi-detached house could save about £180 a year on their energy costs with appropriate loft insulation. They could also cut their co2 emissions by about 730kg. The savings are pretty impressive. If you calculate the cost of installation to be about £300, the insulation would effectively pay for itself after about two years.
You should first check whether there is any existing insulation in your loft - and if it is adequate. The recommended depth for mineral wool insulation is 270mm, so you might only have to top up to the recommended level rather than start from scratch.
If it's easy to access your loft - and there are no complications such as damp - it should be relatively simple to insulate. You might even consider tackling the job yourself if you have some experience of DIY. You simply put a layer of mineral wool insulation between the joists - the horizontal beams that make up the floor of the loft - and then add a second layer at right angles to the joists.
Mineral wool, sometimes known as batt or blanket insulation, is probably the most common method of insulation and is available in rolls from all DIY shops. However, if you are planning to use your loft for storage, blanket insulation will not be suitable as you will need to lay boards over the joists. You should instead fit blanket insulation between the joists, then lay rigid insulation boards on top, followed by the wooden flooring.
You can even buy floor boards that are pre-fitted with insulation board.
Alternatively, you could raise the level of the floor so that you can fit the required 270mm thickness of insulation underneath. Whichever method you choose, be careful not to squash the insulation down as this can damage its effectiveness. If you think any task might be beyond your strength or expertise, call in a professional to help.
Some lofts don't allow easy access, in which case you will almost certainly have to employ a professional who will blow loose, fire retardant insulation into the loft.
Loose fill insulation
Lofts that are awkward shapes, which have uneven joists or obstacles and are full of obstructions can prove tricky to insulate. You might be better off with loose-fill insulation, which is sold in bags and can be poured between the joists. Loose-fill insulation is also useful if you are topping-up existing insulation.
You should be careful if there is damp in your loft as insulation will make the loft space cooler and could exacerbate the damp problem. It's probably better to seek professional advice about the damp before you attempt to insulate the loft.
Living in the loft
You will have to insulate the roof, rather than the loft, if you plan to use the loft as a living space. Rigid insulation boards can be fitted between the roof rafters, though you should make sure they are a snug fit for maximum effect. You can then cover the boards with plasterboard, or even insulated plasterboard if the rafters aren't very deep.
It's obviously as good idea to stop-up any holes that let in cold fresh air.
Flat roofs should ideally be insulated from above. You can either add a layer of rigid insulation board to the roof's weatherproof layer, or put the insulation directly on top of the timber roof surface with a new weatherproof layer on top.
Energy performance certificate
Anyone who is selling a home in England or Wales must have an energy performance certificate, which gives the property an energy rating from A to G. Fitting insulation is a good way to improve the rating on your home, perhaps attracting more buyers.
Tenants and insulation
If you rent your home, your landlord cannot stop you from making reasonable improvements to the property. However, you must get your landlord's permission in writing and he or she is under no obligation to contribute to the cost.
That said, landlords may be able to access grants up to £1,500 to improve energy efficiency, so you could possibly persuade them to undertake some work.
You may be able to get financial help towards the cost of energy saving improvements from your energy supplier. Some local authorities also offer financial assistance, though it is usually limited. An alternative financial arrangement is the government's Green Deal, which is a form of loan. You don't pay for the cost of any improvements up front. Instead the cost is added to your energy bill, allowing you to pay over time.
†10% of customers could save up to £670. MoneySuperMarket Data, May 2016