Insulating your home
If your home isn't properly insulated, you can lose heat through the roof, the walls and even the floor. This makes it harder to keep warm, and puts a strain on your budget as well as your boiler. So how do you keep the warmth in and the heating costs down?
Through the roof
Let's start at the top. An uninsulated house loses a quarter of its heat through the roof, but you can stop this with loft insulation. It's relatively cheap and easy to fit, and you can even do the job yourself if you're handy around the house, and your loft is easily accessible.
It can be a bit more complicated if your loft isn't easy to access, or if you use it as a storage or living space. But even if you have to call in the professionals, it can still make financial sense. Loft insulation typically costs about £400, but you could save up to £250 a year on your energy bills. It's a no-brainer, really.
Cavity walls and stone walls
Heat also escapes through the walls of your home, again making it harder and more expensive to keep warm. Most modern properties already have wall insulation, but older properties might need some attention. Insulating your walls is a job best left to the experts. A professional firm should also be able to tell you whether your property has cavity or stone walls.
Cavity wall insulation is pretty straightforward. The firm simply drills small holes in the exterior walls of the property and then pumps in insulating material. The whole process can be done in a couple of hours. The costs vary, but you can expect to pay about £700 for a detached house. It sounds a lot, but it could save you about £250 a year on your gas and electricity bills.
Stone wall insulation is a bit more complicated, and could involve some disruption. The price is higher but the savings can be bigger, because you lose more heat through stone walls than cavity walls. It can cost more than £20,000 to fit stone wall insulation, but it could cut the energy bills of a detached property by around £450 a year.
Top to bottom
You can lose a lot of heat through your floor, but getting the right insulation could save you more than £50 a year on your energy bills. You might need to get a professional to fit floor insulation, and the price will depend on the size of your property and whether you have concrete floors or wooden floorboards.
There's no point in paying for insulation and then letting heat escape through draughts around windows, external doors and loft hatches. Draught proofing your home is fairly simple, and you can buy what you need, like foam strips and letterbox brushes, from DIY stores. Just make sure you don't block any ventilation to your home, or you could end up with condensation.
You don't normally need planning permission to fit insulation in your home. But, if you live in a listed property or a conservation area and you're considering solid wall insulation, there may be some restrictions. You should also make sure that the work you do complies with any relevant building regulations.
If you need to use a professional company to carry out insulation work, look for a company that's a member of an organisation such as the National Insulation Association, because this will mean they'll have to meet certain standards. It's also a good idea to check that the work comes with a recognised guarantee.
Lots of energy suppliers offer help towards the cost of loft and cavity wall insulation. You don't always have to be a customer to be eligible for this, but you usually have to be receiving income-related benefits. To find out more about what help is on offer, and to see if you're eligible, check on energy suppliers' websites.