On this page:
Frequently asked questions
Should I insulate between ground and 1st floor?
In most cases this is not worth it for heat insulation unless you want to keep the first floor cold and the ground floor warm, but even then there will be lots of heat going up an open stairway. As long as the loft is insulated, heat transference from ground floor through ceilings is still effectively used as it heats the 1st floor, and with TRVs on radiators it’s easy to blame the central heating to take that into account. There may be some benefit regarding sound transference but in that case it is better to use dedicated sound insulation (see below).
Does insulation help cut down sound?
Thermal insulation is not designed to insulate for sound, but will cut down a little bit of sound. If reducing sound is important, then dedicated sound insulation is much better. If you want to cut down sound from outside, then triple glazing will be more effective on windows than double glazing.
Should I get double or triple glazing?
Obviously triple glazing is better, but the huge difference in extra cost relative to energy saving is worth considering as it is probably not proportionate, so payback time may be a lot longer. However triple glazing can make a difference if you have big problems with external noise.
Double or triple glazing is not possible due to expense or being in a conservation area. What else can I do?
Secondary double glazing can be surprisingly good compared to single glazing, especially when it is fitted to help cut out drafts. In most cases it is more cost effective than double glazed units. Although there won’t be vacuum sealed gas between the passes, the air gap is still an effective insulator and can make a big difference. If you use low-E or thermal glass for the secondary glazing it can make an even bigger difference. It will also cut down on noise.
What is the first thing to do when thinking about improving energy efficiency?
Provided you have done the absolute basics such as ensuring there are good draft excluders on doors and windows, and you have easy access to the loft, then that is probably the best place to start. As we know heat rises so a lot of heat is lost through the roof. Fitting loft insulation is not disruptive to the house and is inexpensive compared to the energy saving benefits. Easy to do yourself, although it can be a bit of a dirty job.
How do I get the best from my current heating system?
A reasonably cheap and simple retrofit is to put TRVs on your radiators. These are valves that control the temperature in each room of the house, so for instance you may want the living room warm, but bedrooms (especially when not used much) can be less warm and so you are using less heat overall. You can now get TRVs that control the actual temperature as opposed the conventional TRVs which just give you an approximate temperature on a scale of 1 – 5.
If radiators seem to have cold spots then check whether the system needs bleeding. It also may be worth having the system flushed so your radiators are heating more efficiently. Worth doing every 8 – 10 years.
My house is at 19º. Why does that feel colder in the winter than summer?
18º – 19º is a reasonable temperature for energy saving, but some people may find it not quite warm enough (especially if you walk around in a tee shirt). However you may find it odd that in the spring or summer then it feels just fine. This is because the readout from a thermometer is showing the air temperature. But in the warmer months the walls will be warmer than they are in the winter so you are getting the benefit of heat radiating from the walls as well as the heat of the air. So this is why you can set your thermostat a bit lower in between March/April and October /November.
Hints and Tips.
NB: You’ll find a lot of energy saving products on the market. One way to determine if they are valid or just snake oil is to visit the Energy Savings Trust which is a thoroughly legitimate organisation that gives advice and can verify that various products actually do work
Some of these you probably know about and are things that everyone can easily do (but not always easily remember to do).
- Install LED light bulbs (and remember to turn them off when possible)
- Turn off electric appliances on standby when possible
- Have a smart meter. It is very useful to check your current, hourly or daily consumption and cost via a display or app.
- See if you can run your fridge at a higher (but still safe) temperature, e.g. 18 for freezer, 4 for fridge.
- Have you fridge or freezer organised so you don’t leave the door open too long looking for things.
- Check for any air leaks in your property and fill them (provided they aren’t part of a necessary ventilation system). Especially check round doors , windows, letterboxes, cat flaps etc.
- Thermal wallpaper, paint, plaster.
- Do you always need to wash your hands in hot water? This is very inefficient because the hot water left in the pipework just sits there afterwards cooling down, so you end up using a lot more energy than you require purely for the amount of water needed to wash your hands. Do you actually need hot water to kill germs?
- If you are carrying any maintenance or structural alterations, be aware that this is often the most cost effective time to consider energy efficiency changes to your home.
- Reflector foil behind radiators on external walls. Does this actually work? Tests by BBA seem to confirm that at least one product does what it claims.
- Use waterbutts to collect rainwater for the garden
- Re-use washing up water etc on the garden.