Utilities bills make up a substantial proportion of the outgoings of most households, and energy loss in the home pushes up heating costs more than you might expect.
There are many ways to prevent energy loss around the home, but the main DIY methods fall broadly into one or both of the following categories:
- Increasing insulation, which reduces conductive loss of heat
- Preventing air loss, which reduces convective loss of heat
Although most modern homes are supposed to be more energy efficient, the truth is this can vary from house to house. If, like me, you live in an older place, you’ll know that they can be very cold and draughty indeed unless you take extra steps to keep the place cosy.
The main spots for heat to escape are:
- the roof
- the walls
- gaps around doors
- the windows
- the floors
I was lucky enough to be sent a Flir One thermal imaging camera for smartphones, which allowed me to take some pictures around the home to see where the heat was escaping. It was quite an eye-opener, as you’re about to see. For example, our hall was always very cold compared with the rest of the house, but we recently replaced the front door with a more sturdy model, including insulation tape around the frame, and a letter box with brushes and double flap.
This is the outside of the new front door, taken from the street. As you can see, most of it is coloured the cooler shades pink and purple which is a sign that less heat is escaping. The keyhole and letter box are extra insulated, so they are showing up as very cold (black) which is one of the main reasons the hall is much less draughty than it used to be.
Underneath the door is a completely different story, however. The pale yellow and white areas show that heat is still escaping here, in spite of the hefty new draught excluders we’ve also fitted. This is due to issues with floorboards, underlay and hall carpeting which we are already aware of – one of the next things on our home care to-do list that we’re saving up to do in the next few weeks and months.
For contrast, here’s the much older double glazing at one of the windows. We’re looking into getting the windows replaced soon, and with good reason. Note that this is inside the house, so in an ideal world this picture would be full of the warmer shades of white, yellow and orange, representing heat retention. As you can see the pane on the left is looking close to ideal, but the pane on the right is very different, showing up blue, purple and black. The reason for this is that the double glazing seal has failed, allowing draughts to pass between the panes of glass instead of trapping warm air.
And finally, I had a look at the coldest room in the house to see exactly why the bathroom gets so chilly in the winter. We already knew that the extractor vent was the wrong type and that it’s sited in the wrong place, and as expected it’s showing up as cold black with the thermal imaging. What we didn’t also realise was that the old window and the slanted roof are letting a lot of the warmth out too.
How to reduce heat loss in your home
It’s worth investing in one or more methods to help keep your house warm, including:
- Increasing the insulation in your loft
- Adding cavity wall insulation
- Placing heat reflectors behind your radiators
- Adding insulation foam tape around door frames
- Fitting draught excluders to doors and letter boxes
- Investing in double glazed windows, or newer triple glazing
- Hanging heavy, lined curtains in the colder months
- Using a chimney closure device in open fireplaces
- Fitting carpets, and possibly under-floor insulation
- Using sealant under skirting boards and around windows
The bigger tasks are often best done in the Spring and Summer so that you aren’t battling too much against the elements, and your home remains habitable during any work.
Have you used any of these ways to prevent heat loss in your own home, and do you have any extra smart ideas of your own to add to the list?