Keeping your home warm during the winter really needs a two-pronged approach: adding heat (through your central heating system) and preventing the loss of heat. If you only pay attention to heating your home and not to minimising losing heat, you will waste energy and it will cost you more to keep your home warm.
Therefore, if you consistently feel cold, rather than just turning the heating up try taking some steps to prevent heat being lost unnecessarily.
The majority of heat is lost from your home via the windows, doors, and roof. Even the smallest gap can allow heat to escape as well as cold air to enter. This is the main reason for heat loss around doors and windows. Cold air enters in this way and convection currents can transfer heat energy to the top of the house, where it can escape through roof tiles.
There are many ways that you can minimise this loss of heat. Some require quite major home improvement projects, and some are much smaller. In fact, some measures are as much about changing your behaviour as they are about buying things to help you save energy.
Many of the main methods for retaining heat in our homes come with quite a sizeable price tag, although you should make this investment back over the years in what you save on energy. Here are some of the things you can do to ‘seal in’ the heat:
Double, and even triple, glazed windows are a really effective way of preventing heat from escaping. They have either air or a vacuum between the panes of glass and this prevents heat being lost by either conduction or convection. Double and triple glazing has a lifespan of around 20 years so even if you have it, if it’s very old it may not be doing the job as well as you need it to.
Cavity wall and loft insulation works by inserting insulating material into the cavities inside walls or the roof. This is effective in two ways: it prevents air circulating inside the gap, so it reduces heat loss by convection, and the material used conducts heat very poorly so you minimise loss by conduction.
It makes sense that as well as engaging in proactive measures, such as those above, you maintain your home well. Heat can escape through gaps and cracks so keep an eye on the fabric of your home: sealing up cracks when they appear (all houses are subject to some movement) and monitoring things like the pointing between the bricks on the exterior of your home. This will deteriorate more quickly than the bricks themselves so need re-pointing periodically. As well as letting heat out, this can also let cold air and water in which can lead to damp so it’s well worth keeping up to this.
As well as the major, costly home improvements you can make to reduce energy loss, there are plenty of things you can do that don’t necessarily cost a lot or are just about making better choices. They include the following:
Hard floors like wood, laminate, and tiles can look lovely and they’re very practical to keep clean but they don’t offer the insulating properties that carpets do, especially when used in conjunction with a good underlay. Regardless of which floor covering you have, make sure that gaps in floorboards are sealed as much as they can be underneath and that flooring is fitted with a minimum of gaps (eg between planks or between floor covering and skirting boards).
As windows are responsible for much of the energy lost, it’s no surprise then that curtains can go a long way towards preventing it. Thick fabric, with a good lining, hung as close to the window as possible can insulate it well. It’s also better if they reach the floor rather than stopping at the windowsill. Curtains tend to be more energy efficient than blinds, especially horizontal or vertical ones which will always have gaps, no matter how tightly you close them.
Long, stuffed sausage-like objects placed at the bottom of internal doors may seem more like something your gran may have had than anything found in a modern home but grans often have the best idea and they do the same job now as they did then! Draught excluders can be really effective at preventing heat escaping from the gap under the door, especially if teamed with a carpet. Hard flooring tends to be thinner than carpet and therefore creates a bigger gap under the door so a draught excluder can be especially helpful here.
Other areas can allow heat to escape as well, including chimneys and even letterboxes and cat flaps. If you don’t use your chimney for a fire you can buy products that plug the cavity, such as a chimney balloon.
You can spend lots of money on energy efficient measures but there are also lots of things you can do in terms of changing your behaviour that will really help:
We’ve already looked at how curtains can help but you can also use them more effectively as well. Keep them open during the day to benefit from the natural heat of any sunlight but then close them as soon as it gets dark. This will help trap the heat inside. Do this throughout the house (don’t wait for bedtime before closing bedroom curtains).
It's the same principle with doors. Leave them open during the day to allow air to circulate around the home and then close them fully in the evening (and use your draught excluders!).
Now this seems like an obvious one but how many of us leave the door open for the dog to have a wee or while nipping out to the car or open windows to air out bathrooms or cooking smells from the kitchen and then forget to close them again? A great deal of heat can be lost in a small amount of time doing this.
Just remember that your energy bill represents a fairly sizeable chunk of your monthly out-goings so it makes sense to retain as much of the heat that you’re paying for within the home as possible. It’s also good for the planet as well.
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