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
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.
6 LAY LOFT INSULATION
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