Energy saving on a budget

The winter months are when ones attention is turned to keeping homes warm yet many homeowners will be turning on dormant heating systems that could be operating far more efficiently with the help of a few affordable maintenance tips.

Householder’s should keep a close eye on the efficiency of the insulation that is present in the property as a great proportion of heat is lost through poorly insulated walls, windows and heating systems.

In a typical British home, around one-third of the heat produced by a central heating system is rapidly lost through the roof, ceiling and walls. This means that for a poorly insulated property up to £1 out of every £3 spent on heating is being wasted.

So what can the average homeowner do without spending a fortune?

Heating system and water tanks

A large amount of latent heat is present in both the central heating system and the hot water tank and with a little attention efficiency in these areas can be greatly enhanced.

A simple insulating jacket that encloses the tank can be bought for about £20, a figure that pales into insignificance when one considers that an 80mm thick insulating jacket will save over 150kg in emissions each year and more than it cost on the heating bill.

As the heating has most likely been turned off all year it is important to bleed the radiators. This releases any air that may have become trapped or built up over the year thus reducing the efficiency of the radiator. Those with air in the system can be identified as they will not heat uniformly. Each radiator will have a valve at the top and there will be a key that can unlock this; take care to catch drips as water will emerge when the air has escaped, and always bleed when radiators are cool and the heating switched off.

It may be that the boiler itself is old and inefficient; while the investment for a new boiler can be substantial it will also mean a much more up to date efficient system. Boiler technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years and condensing combination boilers have set a new bench mark that was previously unobtainable.

Ideally, we are aiming for control of the heating system allowing us to section off rooms that are not needed to be heated at certain times and to a temperature we choose. This can be achieved with various heating control systems on the market. However, a simple system with a programmer, room thermostat and TRVs (thermo-static radiator valves) can adequately obtain this desired affect and can be installed relatively cheaply.

By setting the heating to come on and switch off at the least wasteful and most necessary times a great saving in both money and energy can be achieved; don’t heat rooms when there will be nobody in, and don’t heat those that are not used.

Walls and the roof

These are the main areas in all houses and should be examined to see if better insulation can be incorporated. A large proportion of all heat lost escapes via the walls and the roof.

Depending on the type of walls the house is built with there are certain recommended types of insulation.

Solid walls are not as easy to insulate in comparison to cavity walls and the work will be more disruptive and costly. Solid walls can be insulated with an external cladding or the more commonly used method of internal insulation.

For houses with cavity walls (that is those where there is a gap between two outer walls) the widely used cavity wall insulation is often recommended. This involves filling the gap with an insulating material, the return on investment will be rapidly recouped.

Loft insulation can be easily improved at a small financial cost and is widely applicable to the grants mentioned below. When you are in the loft taking your christmas tree out, examine the depth of insulation. Current building regulations require 270mm and if your insulation is below 100mm you should seriously consider improving the depth you currently have.

Insulating a home may involve an outlay that looks to be substantial, however when considering the returns that will begin to be seen in a short period it often makes perfect financial and environmental sense. Whilst you are saving money you are also reducing your carbon emissions.

It is quite possible that you maybe entitled to grants to implement some of the energy saving measure above. Further information can be found at the Energy Savings Trust.

It is a good time to look at your energy bills and expenditure, the comparison sites can help you make comparisons with suppliers and often save you substantial amounts on your gas and electric bills.

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