heat your home

The cold­est sea­son is of­fi­cially upon us. Keep toasty and block out the chilly weather with our guide to the best and most ef­fi­cient ways to heat your space

Real Homes - - Contents -

10 ways to cre­ate a warm and en­ergy-ef­fi­cient space

1. Get cosy with a stove

A modern and stylish heat­ing so­lu­tion, stoves are a strik­ing fo­cal point in any home. Do your re­search be­fore buy­ing to de­cide which fuel type suits your space and needs: choose from mul­ti­fuel, wood­burn­ing, gas and elec­tric.

A wood­burn­ing or multi-fuel stove is an eco-friendly op­tion, as long as you burn sus­tain­ably sourced ma­te­ri­als. You will need to in­stall a pre-fab­ri­cated flue sys­tem if you don’t have a chim­ney. ‘Smoke-con­trol re­stric­tions may be in place in your area and must be con­sid­ered,’ says Dave Saun­ders, spe­cial projects en­gi­neer at Sto­vax. Visit gov.uk/smoke-con­trol-arearules to check the rules where you live.

Elec­tric stoves can be con­ve­nient, and some can even be hung on a wall or placed in a cor­ner, so take up lit­tle space. They don’t re­quire a flue, and can be placed al­most any­where in the home. You sim­ply plug them in for in­stant heat.

A gas stove looks re­al­is­tic and of­fers in­stant warmth as and when re­quired. ‘There are re­stric­tions for in­stalling con­ven­tional flue gas fires in bed­rooms or bath­rooms. They should be lo­cated where ac­ci­den­tal con­tact is un­likely,’ adds Jack Drew of Gazco.

Add wall in­su­la­tion

Ac­cord­ing to the En­ergy Sav­ing Trust (EST), around a third of all heat lost in an unin­su­lated home is through the walls. If your prop­erty was built af­ter 1920, it’s likely that you’ll have cav­ity walls, mean­ing there’s a gap be­tween the in­ner and outer walls which can be filled with in­su­la­tion. This can be in­jected ex­ter­nally by a pro­fes­sional so there will be min­i­mal dis­rup­tion to your home. The EST es­ti­mates that cav­ity wall in­su­la­tion will cost around £720 in a de­tached prop­erty and £475 in a semi-de­tached. But this could save you £225 per year in a de­tached prop­erty and £150 per year in a semi.

If your home was built be­fore 1920, you’ve prob­a­bly got solid walls with no gap. Solid wall in­su­la­tion can be fit­ted on your prop­erty’s in­te­rior or ex­te­rior. Fit­ting it in­ter­nally is a good op­tion if you’re al­ready adding an ex­ten­sion or re­mod­elling, as it re­quires a lot of dis­rup­tion to your prop­erty, so it’s ideal to in­stall this at the same time. Also bear in mind that in­su­la­tion will take up ad­di­tional floor space. In­ter­nal solid wall in­su­la­tion will cost be­tween £4,000 and £13,000.

Ex­ter­nal in­su­la­tion is a more ex­pen­sive but less in­va­sive op­tion. This in­volves fix­ing in­su­la­tion to your ex­te­rior walls and cov­er­ing it with a ren­der or cladding ma­te­rial, trans­form­ing your prop­erty’s ap­pear­ance, too. Ex­ter­nal wall in­su­la­tion will cost be­tween £8,000 and £22,000, but there are grants and schemes avail­able which can sub­stan­tially re­duce the in­stal­la­tion cost. Ac­cord­ing to the En­ergy Sav­ing Trust, adding solid wall in­su­la­tion can save you £415 per year in a de­tached house, and £245 per year in a semi-de­tached.

3. Up­date your boiler

An an­nual ser­vice will en­sure your boiler is work­ing as well as it should. If it’s over 10 years old, you should con­sider re­plac­ing it with a newer model which could be more ef­fi­cient. A combi boiler is a com­mon choice for homes with one or two bath­rooms. This heats wa­ter straight from the mains, so you only pay for the hot wa­ter you use. For larger houses, a sys­tem boiler, which uses stored wa­ter to pro­vide hot wa­ter to mul­ti­ple bath­rooms at once, may be a bet­ter op­tion. The EST says you should ex­pect to pay around £2,300 for a gas boiler and £3,000 for an oil boiler. ‘Up­grad­ing to a high-ef­fi­ciency con­dens­ing boiler could cut heat­ing and hot wa­ter bills by be­tween 5-10 per cent,’ says Mar­tyn Bridges at Worces­ter Bosch.

4 Opt for un­der­floor heat­ing

If you’re ex­tend­ing or ren­o­vat­ing, un­der­floor heat­ing can be one of the most ef­fi­cient ways of heat­ing your space. As warmth nat­u­rally rises, by putting your heat source in the floor, rather than on the walls, less en­ergy is wasted through the ceil­ing and the heat is spread evenly around the room. ‘The room ther­mo­stat can be set 1-2°C lower than a ra­di­a­tor sys­tem and the room will still feel com­fort­able’ says David Play­foot at up­onor.

There are two types of un­der­floor heat­ing – wa­ter and elec­tric. Wa­ter-fed un­der­floor heat­ing is more ex­pen­sive up front, but cheaper to run than elec­tric, and is ideal for large ar­eas or mul­ti­ple rooms.

Elec­tric un­der­floor heat­ing can be used in smaller in­di­vid­ual rooms, such as kitchens and bath­rooms, and is ideal as you won’t need to al­ter your floor lev­els. ‘Ex­pect to pay more than £100 per square me­tre for wa­ter sys­tems and over £50 per square me­tre for elec­tric sys­tems, in­clud­ing prepa­ra­tion, un­der­lay and in­stal­la­tion,’ says ex­pert ren­o­va­tor Michael Holmes. ‘Elec­tric sys­tems are less ex­pen­sive to in­stall for ar­eas un­der 20 square me­tres.’

‘De­pend­ing on your in­su­la­tion, you could save

20-30 per cent over tra­di­tional ra­di­a­tor sys­tems run­ning off con­ven­tional boil­ers, and even higher with re­new­able heat sources,’ adds David Play­foot.

Be Smart With heat­ing Con­trols

With the lat­est ther­mostats, you can con­trol your cen­tral heat­ing via an app. If you’re stay­ing out longer than ex­pected, you can de­lay your heat­ing so you’re not pay­ing to warm an empty home. Also, the whole fam­ily can ac­cess the app on their phones, tablets or lap­tops, con­trol­ling the heat­ing to meet ev­ery­one’s needs. for the Hive ther­mo­stat, you sim­ply con­nect the hub to your broad­band router, at­tach the re­ceiver to your boiler, and you can con­trol your heat­ing from your phone on the go. The Nest app also lets you see how much money you’re sav­ing, and how you could save more. On av­er­age, peo­ple us­ing the Nest Ther­mo­stat E have saved 10-12 per cent on heat­ing bills.

‘Sys­tems like Wiser ther­mostats from Dray­ton use ra­di­a­tor ther­mostats to cre­ate in­di­vid­ual heat­ing zones .this means you can fix the tem­per­a­ture in the liv­ing room to 20°C, for ex­am­ple, but have it lower in empty spare rooms to save en­ergy,’ says Mikael Eli­ae­son at Wiser. In­di­vid­ual Wiser ra­di­a­tor ther­mostats cost £44.99.


Putting in­su­la­tion in your loft, at­tic or roof is a sim­ple, ef­fec­tive way to re­duce heat loss and lower your en­ergy bills. The most com­mon in­su­la­tion is rolls of min­eral wool which can be laid be­tween the joists in the floor. If your loft is a liv­ing space, you can in­su­late the roof by fit­ting in­su­la­tion boards be­tween the roof rafters, and cov­er­ing them with insulated plas­ter­board. If it’s easy to ac­cess, isn’t damp or a flat roof, and you’re a com­pe­tent DIYER, you could fit the in­su­la­tion your­self. For more com­plex cases, use a pro­fes­sional in­staller. Con­tact the Na­tional In­su­la­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (NIA) to find one near you. The NIA says loft in­su­la­tion typ­i­cally costs £395 for a de­tached house, and £300 for a semi. The EST es­ti­mates 27cm in­su­la­tion could save £215 a year in a de­tached house and £130 a year in a semi-de­tached house.

7. In­stall brand new ra­di­a­tors

As they are of­ten the pri­mary heat source in a home, it’s es­sen­tial your ra­di­a­tors are up to scratch through­out the win­ter, and brand-new ra­di­a­tors will work most ef­fi­ciently and cost less to heat. With time, ra­di­a­tors can cor­rode on the in­side, lead­ing to flakes of metal in the wa­ter which turn to sludge and block the flow of wa­ter. This could make them luke­warm or have cold patches, so your sys­tem has to work harder and use more wa­ter, which costs you more money to keep the room warm. If your ra­di­a­tors feel colder at the top than at the bot­tom, bleed­ing your ra­di­a­tors is a DIY job which could re­lease air to solve the is­sue (see re­al­homes.com for a step-by-step guide). ‘Avoid po­si­tion­ing your ra­di­a­tors be­hind large ob­jects, such as so­fas, as this can block heat. If you’re short on wall space, a ver­ti­cal ra­di­a­tor is an ideal way to in­clude a big ra­di­a­tor for max­i­mum heat­ing im­pact,’ says Si­mon Mor­ris at The Ra­di­a­tor Com­pany. Up­date your ra­di­a­tor for less than £100 at soak.com.

Cre­ate a fo­cal point fire­place

Dream­ing of the ro­man­tic ap­peal of an open fire? Re­mem­ber that you’ll need some­where to store your fuel, and that 80 per cent of en­ergy from a fire is lost through the chim­ney. A more modern and en­ergy-ef­fi­cient op­tion, such as a gas or elec­tric fire, will be cost-ef­fec­tive and prac­ti­cal, while a fire­place sur­round makes a fea­ture in your space. ‘Gas fires can have pro­gram­mable re­mote con­trols, al­low­ing you to sched­ule the time the ap­pli­ance will switch on and at what tem­per­a­ture,’ says Alex Shel­don at Sto­vax. Gas and real fires will re­quire a flue to vent out gases. Con­tact a Hetas-reg­is­tered in­staller (hetas.co.uk) to en­sure yours is com­pat­i­ble with your fire. Al­ways hire a pro­fes­sional to in­stall your gas fire, by vis­it­ing gas­safer­eg­is­ter.co.uk or HETAS, to avoid car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing. An elec­tric fire­place can cost as lit­tle as £200.

9. Pick en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient win­dows

Up­date draughty win­dows to re­duce heat loss and keep cold air out. Look for the best en­ergy rat­ing – re­ferred to as WER (Win­dow En­ergy Rat­ing) or BFRC rat­ing (Bri­tish Fen­es­tra­tion Rat­ing Coun­cil). ‘Win­dows are rated from A++ to E, with A++ be­ing the most en­ergy ef­fi­cient. Aim for at least a C to sat­isfy build­ing reg­u­la­tions,’ says Sarah Hitch­ings at Res­i­dence Win­dows.

‘Ex­pect to pay from £300 for a UPVC win­dow on av­er­age, £500 for a tim­ber al­ter­na­tive and £600 for a tim­ber win­dow,’ says Andy Leonard at Evo­lu­tion Win­dows. Ac­cord­ing to the EST, putting dou­ble glaz­ing in a sin­gle-glazed de­tached house could save you £110-£115 a year. ‘Triple glaz­ing is 15 per cent more ef­fi­cient in terms of stop­ping heat loss,’ says Andy.

10 Con­sider al­ter­na­tive heat­ing

Air source heat pumps and skirt­ing board heat­ing are al­ter­na­tive op­tions for warm­ing your whole house. Air source heat pumps are an ef­fi­cient re­new­able en­ergy so­lu­tion, which sit on the ex­te­rior of your prop­erty. They’re pow­ered by elec­tric­ity and draw in ex­ter­nal air and trans­form it into en­ergy to warm wa­ter and heat pipes and ra­di­a­tors. ‘As a stand-alone heat­ing op­tion, it means you could heat your new ex­ten­sion sep­a­rately, with­out adding to the de­mand of your ex­ist­ing sys­tem,’ says Mar­tyn Bridges at Worces­ter Bosch. Heat pumps cost around £2,000, although once you add in in­stal­la­tion, a cylin­der and other nec­es­sary re­quire­ments, the over­all cost could be around £10,000. ‘You can ben­e­fit from a Gov­ern­ment re­new­able Heat In­cen­tive,’ ex­plains Chris Higgs at free­dom Heat Pumps. ‘It re­wards users with up to £1,500 a year for seven years to help with the costs. You could save 40 per cent by us­ing a pump.’

Skirt­ing board heat­ing can be ‘wet’ like a typ­i­cal ra­di­a­tor, work­ing with your boiler or heat pump, or elec­tric, like a panel heater. ‘The skirt­ing board is heated and ra­di­ates heat all around the room from a low level. The com­fort is sim­i­lar to un­der­floor heat­ing, but it heats up as quickly as ra­di­a­tors,’ says Martin Wadsworth at Dis­crete Heat. An av­er­age room would cost be­tween £400-£500 for a wet or cen­tral heat­ing op­tion, and elec­tric ver­sions cost a lit­tle more, but are eas­ier to fit if you don’t have a boiler or pipework sys­tem in­stalled. If used with a heat pump, an all-round skirt­ing heat­ing sys­tem could save you 25 per cent com­pared to elec­tric or oil heat­ing.

Vogue Small T wood­burn­ing stove with op­tional plinth, £1,284, Sto­vax

Green­star ri com­pact 2730kw gas boiler, ap­prox £2,000, Worces­ter Bosch

An­cona gal­vanised ra­di­a­tor, from £2,340, The ra­di­a­tor Com­pany

Wiser Ther­mo­stat kit, in­clud­ing room ther­mo­stat, Heat Hubr and app, £139.99, Dray­ton

Hive ac­tive heat­ing and hot wa­ter ther­mo­stat in­clud­ing in­stal­la­tion, £249, Ama­zon

Vic­to­rian tiled con­vec­tor in matt black, £700; Vic­to­rian Cor­bel an­tique white mar­ble man­tel, £1,600, Sto­vax

UPVC tim­ber­al­ter­na­tive flush win­dow in nat­u­ral oak, from £1,000 for a H1xw1m, win­dow, Evo­lu­tion Win­dows

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