Home Care > How to keep your home warm

“Leaves are falling gently, Yellow, red and brown. The wind is in the treetops, leaves are floating down. Down, down, down. Down, down, down,” went the morbid song that I used to sing at primary school music assembly. Don’t remember it? Google it. It’s very sombre.

Jon Snow (Game of Thrones, not the bright-tied Channel 4 new anchor) often told us that “winter is coming” and, given that we are now in in the infancy of Autumn, we can safely say that he was correct. Winter is coming, and you need to be ready for it.

We might be stating the obvious here, but winter is cold. It’s bleak, it’s dark and it’s miserable. Save for the festive period in December, there’s nothing good about winter. Well, that’s a lie, there is one thing that’s good about winter.

The best thing about winter is your home. Warm, cosy and dry, your home is an oasis on those cold commutes home. It’s a place of refuge from the bitter icy winds that grip the country in the colder months. The smug sensation of being at home in the winter, and listening to the galeforce winds and torrential showers batter your windows is unmatched. 

But how do you make sure that your home is set for winter? After all, the last thing you want to happen is for the blustery weather to find a chink in your property’s armour and burst its way into your home. 

With your comfort in mind, here’s how to keep your home warm throughout the chilly months, and how to keep those energy bills down.

Roof Insulation

According to the Energy Saving Trust, a quarter of heat is lost through the roof in an uninsulated home. Having a properly insulated roof will not only reduce heat loss in your property, but it’ll also reduce your energy bills!

While roof insulation can be done by yourself, it’s recommended that you hire a professional if the loft or roof space is particularly difficult to access or has damp issues. 

Typically, the installation of the average 270mm loft insulation will cost an initial £280 – £400. This may seem like a pricey outlay for a few bits of foam, but it will undoubtedly turn out to be a sound investment. Not only could the insulation save you up to 920kg in CO2 emissions, but it may also save you up to £225 per year on your energy bill (Ker-ching!). Given that properly installed insulation should last for 40 years, you may end up saving yourself £9,000 in total – not a bad return on your £400 outlay.

As mentioned, there are a few different techniques used for insulating a loft and it is a project that you can perform yourself in the right circumstances. If you are unsure of what you’re doing, or you believe that your loft has damp, do some research and seek the advice of a professional before carrying out any work. Whatever you do, do not head up into the attic and cause more damage, it’ll only end up hurting your home and your wallet.

Wall Insulation

Your loft isn’t the only part of your house that can be insulated. The walls that make up the rooms in your property can also be insulated to keep the home extra cosy in the winter months.

Before you decide to insulate your walls, you need to determine what ‘type’ of wall you’re dealing with. You may think that all walls are the same, but you’re wrong. 

Homes built before the 1920s will usually have solid walls rather than cavity walls. Solid walls have no gap, so they can’t be filled with the standard cavity wall insulation. Cavity walls, on the other hand, are made of two layers with a small gap between them that is perfect for filling up with fluffy insulation. 

Although there is no gap, solid walls can be still insulated. This process requires a professional and will cost more than insulating a standard cavity wall, but the savings on your heating bills will be bigger. If you decide to have your solid walls insulated, there are two options for you.

Internal Wall Insulation

Internal wall insulation on a solid wall involves fitting rigid insulation boards to the wall or building a stud wall that is then filled with insulation material. It’s generally cheaper than external wall insulation (which will come onto shortly), but it also requires skirting boards, door frames and external fittings to be removed before the process begins. In general, the process is pretty disruptive but it can be done room-by-room to control the amount of impact it has on your day-to-day life.

External Wall Insulation

External wall insulation is a less disruptive process that involves fixing a layer of insulation material to the wall, then covering it with a special type of render. You can choose the finish of the render, whether you want it to be smooth, textured, painted or tiled – the choice is yours.

External insulation is more expensive than internal insulation but it’s less disruptive, renews the appearance of your walls and will improve the lifespan of your walls by filling in gaps and protecting the brickwork. That said, external insulation may require planning permission, and it requires structurally sound outer walls that are easy to access. 

This may sound like a lot of hassle, but getting your solid walls insulated could end up saving you £435 per year on your energy bills – so the returns are worth the disruption. 

Cavity Wall Insulation

Cavity walls are insulated by injected the insulation material into the gap from outside of the wall. This procedure should be carried out by a professional who will drill holes into the wall and inject the insulation through the holes before sealing them with cement. If the job is carried out correctly, you should barely notice the filled holes in the wall. 

Although filling cavity walls is a quick and easy job for a qualified professional, it is not a job that you can do yourself. The process is not intrusive and can be completed within a matter of a few hours, making it a much more pleasant experience than solid wall insulation that tears your room to pieces. Not only is the process easy to handle, but cavity wall insulation may save you up to £255 per year on your energy costs.

Energy-efficient windows

One of the nicest things about winter is sitting in your warm house and watching the weather through your window. But, while your windows may be a gateway to feeling smug at your comfort, they may also be a gateway for cold air the creep into your house and disrupt your pleasure.

Getting yourself some energy-efficient windows will not only reduce heat loss, but they will also insulate your home against external noises and reduce the amount of condensation that builds on the inside of the window.

There are two types of energy-efficient window glazing: double and tripled glazed. Double glazing windows have two sheets of glass with space in between to create an insulating barrier. Triple glazing windows, unsurprisingly, have three sheets of glass. The gap between the sheets is sometimes filled with gas to add an extra layer of insulation.

Even though double-glazing is becoming increasingly common, you will need to check with your local planning office before you have your new windows installed. This is because some listed buildings and conservation areas will not be allowed to have this sort of work carried out. Even if you know that these rules do not apply to you, it’s always best to check.

Even if you fancy yourself as something of a DIY expert, having energy-efficient windows fitted is best left to the professionals. Additional glazing can be fitted by an adept DIYer, but replacing windows should be carried out by a specialist company. 

It’s easy to see why so many people choose to have double and triple glazing. Having a double-glazed house could save you £120 on your energy bills per year, and will keep your house warmer and quieter than it was previously. In other words, it’s an absolute win-win.

Underfloor heating

Away from insulating your home, there are other techniques and methods you can use to keep your house warm and your energy bills down. As our awareness regarding climate change and emissions continues to grow, the benefits of renewable and sustainable energy sources have become increasingly publicised.

Your traditional radiator needs to be heated to around 70 degrees for it to heat a room effectively. However, underfloor heating, on the other hand, only needs to run at a temperature of 29 degrees or less to warm up your room. 

This temperature does depend on the size and finish of the room in question, but underfloor heating generally uses less energy and saves you money on your energy bills. Not only that, but it’ll keep your tootsies warm throughout the cold snap.

Smart thermostats

Another growing trend in home heating is smart thermostats. It used to be that you controlled your heating through the timer on the boiler, but things have changed and you can now warm your house using your phone.

Smart thermostats allow you to switch your heating on and off remotely via the internet on your device. Whether you’re turning the heating on while on the bus home from work or turning it off when you pop to the pub, smart thermostats offer a level of control and versatility that wasn’t previously available.

The main selling point of a smart thermostat is that it should save you money. It’s claimed that by giving you greater control, you won’t waste energy on heating your home when no one is in. Also, smart meters will often encourage users to turn their heating down a degree or two and show you how much you can save by doing so, therefore increasing the likelihood of people preserving energy and saving their money.

As the technology in smart thermostats develops, newer models can monitor your routine and create an automatic schedule based off of your manual programming. Some thermostats are also fitted with GPS, meaning that they will switch on your heating when you’re near home and turn it off when you leave.

While there is still an air of cynicism around smart thermostats, a study by Nest, the smart home product provider, revealed that customers who have a smart meter saved an average of 10 to 12 per cent on heating costs compared to their manual counterparts. Of course, this might be a marketing ploy to make their products look good, but there are plenty of other studies into the benefits of using a smart thermostat to monitor your energy efficiency. 

So there you have it, that’s how you can keep your house warm and your costs down in the winter months. Don’t leave yourself short when the cold hits – make sure that your house is properly insulated and that you are monitoring your energy usage. Not only will it save you some cash, but you’ll also be doing the planet a favour.