The cost of heating our homes is rising. However, by improving your home’s insulation, you may be able to cut your bills and help the environment. Find out how with our guide.
A combination of rising wholesale gas prices and increases in the energy price cap means that households across the UK are seeing the cost of heating their homes soar.
In fact, according to our analysis of recent cost of living statistics, average domestic gas prices increased by 96%, and electricity prices rose by 54% between July 2021 to July 2022 – and they are set to increase even further later this year.
Usually, households are encouraged to keep switching their gas and electricity suppliers to ensure they aren’t paying more than they need to keep their radiators hot. But with prices so high for energy suppliers and consumers alike, energy firms have stopped competing and better deals are hard to come by.
You may not have to put up with bigger bills, however. If you can improve your home’s insulation, you may be able to reduce the amount of heat that escapes and, in turn, reduce your heating bill.
Find out more with our guide to insulating your home, without breaking the bank.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, a home without loft insulation loses a quarter of its heat through the roof. Installing loft insulation is a relatively straightforward DIY task, and once laid will work for about 40 years. It's estimated you could shave £150 a year off your heating bills by insulating your loft.
You can find out more about how to insulate your loft yourself on the Energy Saving Trust website. The kit you need is relatively inexpensive and you should be able to buy everything you need at your local DIY store.
Around a third of your home's heat escapes through the walls, but this can be reduced significantly if appropriate insulation is used. If your walls have a gap between them, cavity wall insulation fills the gap and stops heat from escaping.
Cavity wall insulation should be carried out by a registered installer and involves drilling small holes, then blowing either foam, wool or granule insulation into the gap. You can find a suitable insulation installer at the National Insulation Association, Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency, or the British Board of Agreement.
If your home has solid walls, you can insulate either the external or internal sides of these walls to keep the heat in. You can find an installer at The Insulated Render and Cladding Association.
You can also improve the heat retention of your home by installing mineral wool insulation underneath your floorboards. This will usually need to be carried out by a registered installer.
However, there are also things you can do yourself to insulate your floors. A simple tube of silicone sealant from your local DIY store can be used to fill gaps in your floorboards or skirting boards. There is also a lot to be said for a few rugs or a thick carpet laid with good quality underlay.
If your home is draughty you can fit draught excluders to gaps around your doors and windows. You can also buy draught excluders for letterboxes.
Fitting foil behind radiators is also a good way to keep more heat in your home, because it reflects heat back into the room rather than letting it escape through windows and walls. You can either use everyday kitchen foil or insulated reflective sheets from a DIY store.
It's also worth making sure that sofas or other heavy furniture aren’t placed directly in front of your radiators, particularly when they are switched on, as they will absorb the bulk of the heat.
Additionally, make sure your hot water tank is properly insulated. If it isn't already lagged, you can buy an insulating jacket from any DIY store. Hot water pipes, especially those that run through the loft or under the floorboards, should also be properly lagged to prevent heat loss.
Windows leak heat in three ways: Conduction, with the cold air outside cooling the glass; radiation, where heat travels out through the pane and finally by air escaping around the frame.
Double or triple glazing will substantially cut down on this heat loss but it isn’t cheap. There are less expensive methods, however.
First, try to exclude drafts and make windows as tight-fitting as possible.
Second, use your curtains or blinds to keep heat in – especially at night.
Third, try applying window film. It can be picked up for a few pounds at the DIY store and acts like a cheap form of secondary glazing to cut down on drafts and heat lost through window panes.
If you're elderly, disabled, or receiving benefits, you could be eligible for a Home Improvement Grant from the Home Improvement Agency to help with the costs. You can find out about how to access a grant on the Foundations and Turn2us sites.
Even if you think you may not be eligible for a grant, it's still worth checking to see what you may be able to claim, or what insulation projects you may be able to get free help with.
If you aren't eligible for a grant, it's still worth having insulation fitted. The work should pay for itself within a year or two by reducing your energy bills.
Even if you cannot afford some of the insulation measures suggested so far, you can still make a good start by lagging your hot water pipes and getting some quilting blankets for your loft.
You can check how much energy you're using and how you can reduce it by entering your details on the Energy Saving Trust site – you may find that you're using more than you expected, in which case your home will certainly benefit from a bit more insulation.
We share our top 10 tips to help you to cut the cost of heating your home this winter.
1. Turn your thermostat down by 1 degree - You're unlikely to notice the difference in temperature but could cut your heating bill by £65 per year.
2. Close your curtains - Drawing your curtains at dusk will help keep the heat from escaping and will make a big difference even if you have single glazed windows. The thicker the curtains the better.
3. Bleed your radiators - This will release any trapped air and help to make them more efficient.
4. Don't heat empty rooms - Only switch radiators on in rooms that you frequently use. Shut the doors to keep the rest of the house warm.
5. Remember radiators aren't washing lines - Although hanging clothes on radiators dries them quickly, it also stops heat getting to the rest of the room.
6. Say goodbye to drafts - By using draft excluders or fitting curtains on external doors you’ll keep the cold out and the heat in.
7. Wrap up - Putting on a jumper, wearing slippers and getting under a blanket are all cheaper than turning the heat up.
8. Use the timer - Heating the house while you're out is a waste of money. If you don't like to come home to a cold house, set the heating to come on just before you. This way you won't notice any difference in temperature but will notice a big difference in your bill. The same applies at night, set the timer so that the heating comes on just before you get up – that way you're not heating the house while you're tucked up in bed.
9. Get the tin foil out - Fitting foil behind radiators will help reflect the heat back into the room instead of being absorbed by the wall. This works particularly well on exterior walls and while you can buy special radiator foil, tin foil works almost as well.
10. Check your energy plan - Taking a few minutes to make sure your current energy supplier is offering you the best deal will make a big difference to your heating bills this winter.