Heating a home during winter season can be expensive. To the point of excruciating amounts – I say that based on an experience of moving from a modern, weather tight ‘EPC B’ flat into an old, drafty and uninsulated ‘EPC D’.
If you are not from the United Kingdom the EPC, or energy performance certificate, is a measure of property’s energy efficiency, A being excellent, G being ‘you live outdoors?’ level. Information contained within the EPC includes current performance of the property, potential performance (if you plan on implementing energy-saving features) and how individual parts of your home perform. Those parts usually include, walls, roof, floor, windows and the type of heating and lighting in use. If you are renting a property (whole flat, not just a room) or buying one, it must come with an EPC report. When it comes to heating, a rule of thumb for most properties is that around 25% of heat will be lost through the roof, 35% through walls and 10% through windows and doors. Where the remaining 30% goes in my house I do not know, it’s always a bit cold in the winter.
To avoid going bankrupt over the cost of running my central heating (gas combi boiler with radiators, in case you wondered), I took some simple steps to actually hold on to my 30% of heat that shouldn’t go anywhere. In this post I’ll list out the small number of things that I am doing being in a constrained situation of a leaseholder in a flat rather than a freehold house owner. However, these small but practical things will likely be applicable to any home which suffers with similar structural issues.
- The front door
My front door has gaps around it. Wind howls through these constantly. To stop this problem, I installed three items around my door:
- A door draught excluder on the bottom – it looks like a piece of metal with bristles around it and keeps the breeze out (and spiders too!)
- A post box draught excluder, just in case the postman jams something in the post-box and the front ‘flap’ does not close properly. British postmen (and postwomen) seem to do that a lot
- Weather strips around the whole door – these are flexible rubber seals that help the door
So far, on a moderately chilly weather these small steps completed on a £25 budget allowed me to have the heating on for average of 30 minutes less in the evening. I have not done the maths to see how this translates into monetary figures, but my guess is that they’ll pay for themselves by the end of the winter easily.
Windows in my building are double glazed but old, with the seal breaking in numerous places. Turns out however, that the original seal can be easily replaced or supported by weather strips (the ‘E’ kind works best for me). At a cost of under £10 I re-insulated windows in the master bedroom, bathroom and living room. This was not a full replacement of the seals though, only a patch job which has eliminated the feeling of draughtiness in rooms completed.
This advice will be counterintuitive BUT I turned the thermostat off completely. Instead I have opted for manually setting the timer on the heating system for the times I know I will be at home. Thermostats work great in new buildings, not so great in the older kind in my experience, especially the draughty ones.
- Unused rooms
I have one of these, and turn the heating off whenever not in use. With gas central heating this means that there is less water to heat up until the system reaches optimal temperature, resulting in reduced amount of gas being required/lower bills. This is also true for electric heating – if you don’t need something running, turn it off.
My kitchen does not have radiators or heaters built in. To get around the cold weather, if I happen to be using the oven on the day, I will allow it to cool with the doors open. If you do that, please remove children and pets from the room. It might sound like a super-scroungy tip, but honestly, the heat remaining after you’re done using it might just as well be used to keep your home warm. If I am not cooking, I wear a sweater.
Other things you could do, which I am not planning on:
- Heat pipes which run outside of your living spaces
If you have any heat pipes running through garages, unused spaces or in general anywhere exposed, insulate them with removable foam insulation, the one that looks like pool noodles but is not pool noodles (I have no idea what it’s called).
Ok, I’m not doing that because my property is not a ‘forever’ property for me, but if you fancy spending the cash, insulating your roof/loft/attic might save you around £250 for large properties per year. This is especially important if you must have heating on because of small children or elderly people at the property. Installing insulation does not cost a fortune (anywhere from £300 to however much you want to spend), so if you are staying in the property for more than a couple of years, it might be worth doing.
And finally, something that I sometimes do and sometimes don’t, keep the temperature at a minimal comfortable level. For me that’s 20 Degrees Celsius. I don’t usually let my house get warmer than that and wear a sweater if it’s a little below 20 Celsius. If there is a danger that I might see my own breath while walking around, I’ll put the heating back on.
Next on the blog – why I closed my (profitable) small business.