Insulation comes in many shapes and forms. They are all designed to help keep your house warm in winter — and cool in summer — and so cut your energy bills as well as helping the environment. Around a third of all energy consumed in the UK is used in people’s homes. Most of this ends up as heat, so by making sure your house is well insulated you can really make a difference.
One of the most common and important forms of insulation is in the loft. Because hot air rises, this is where most of the heat goes. The current recommended minimum level of loft insulation for new houses is 270mm — that’s almost 1ft! — so even if you already have some the chances are you could still benefit by topping it up. For a typical three bedroom semi, the money spent on installing loft insulation could pay for itself in just one year if you don’t already have any, and less than five years if you’re topping up. There are substantial grants available to all households to reduce the cost — you can get details of these from the Energy Savings Trust (http://www.est.org.uk, 0845 727 7200), HEAT Cambridgeshire (http://www.heatproject.co.uk, 0800 093 4050) or from your gas or electricity providers.
The most common sort of loft insulation is rockwool. This comes in large rolls, and is available from all DIY stores and builders’ merchants. It is designed to be rolled out between the wooden joists in the loft, so make sure you measure the space between the joists before you buy to ensure you get the correct width.
One disadvantage of rockwool is that it uses a relatively large amount of energy in manufacture. As a result, although you’re saving energy by installing it, it will take a few years until you’ve saved more than was used to make it. If this concerns you there are more environmentally friendly options. Warmcel for example is made from recycled newspaper fibres, while Thermafleece is made from sheep’s wool. Both insulate just as well as rockwool, but cost a bit more to purchase.
If space is a concern, you can get insulation (such as Celotex) that performs better than rockwool, and so you need less of it, but again it is a bit more expensive, and also uses more energy to manufacture.
Regardless of the type you choose, it’s much more important to make sure you have enough. They will all save you money and energy in the long term. When installing loft insulation make sure you also insulate any water tanks and pipes so they don’t freeze.
Once your loft is sorted out, you should consider cavity wall insulation. Again, this costs surprisingly little (costs start from around �75 including installation) and the savings are typically over �100 a year. As with loft insulation, there are grants and advice available from the above sources.
Smaller things can also make a difference. Thick curtains significantly reduce heat loss through windows at night. Make sure that any drafty gaps around doors and windows are sealed up, though make sure that you leave adequate ventilation, particularly if you have a gas boiler or fire. Ensuring you have no unecessary drafts can save around �10-15 a year.
If you do all of these this winter, you’ll not only find your house is cosier and your bank balance rosier, but you’ll also have the warm glow of satisfaction from knowing that you’ve done your bit to cut down on energy waste and so help to reduce climate change.
Many people put off getting insulation as they percieve it as difficult or expensive. Neither of these are true, particularly if you get someone to install it for you. The savings you’ll make in your heating bills will dwarf the initial cost of installing it in just a couple of years, and it will carry on making you money for decades.