The end of the long, hot summer coupled with rising energy prices means it’s a good time to check that your home is properly insulated before winter sets in.

And while insulation offers little in the way of visual appeal – no house guest is going to be bowled over by the mineral wool you’ve installed in the walls – it remains a worthwhile investment for any homeowner.

Why bother insulating your home?

Three main reasons: Comfort, cash, and carbon dioxide. An insulated home retains heat far more effectively, so will help ensure you feel warm and snug and sealed off from the elements when winter strikes. Effective insulation can also save you a great deal of money in the longer term – potentially hundreds of pounds a year.

According to the Energy Saving Trust (EST, energysavingtrust.org.uk), in an uninsulated home, 45% of heat loss is through solid walls, 33% through other walls, 25% through the loft or roof space, and 20% through windows and doors – which all adds up to hundreds of pounds more spent on energy bills every year, no good for your pocket or the environment.

“You’ll see a financial benefit straight away,” says Dave Robson, chief executive officer of InstaGroup (instagroup.co.uk) and board member of the National Insulation Association. “Your boiler will be able to maintain your chosen temperature without using as much energy, which has a direct impact on your energy bill.”

A home that guzzles less gas inevitably cuts carbon emissions too, and if you’re unsure how efficient your home is, Robson says it’s worth having it  assessed. “Most companies that deal with energy efficiency will come out to your house and do a survey,” he says, “and they’ll tell you exactly what needs doing.”

Professional heat loss test
A professional can scope out heat loss with all the various tools of the trade (Thinkstock/PA)

In short, properly insulating your home is an environmentally-friendly move that could save you a fortune over the years. As the EST notes: “There are many ways to insulate your home, which will not only save you money but are better for the environment too. Some options are relatively simple – from lagging pipes to even insulating a loft – and can be completed by a householder.”

Simple switches that add up

Insulation may sound quite technical, but making your home more heat-savvy can also be as simple as buying a nice furry rug. Soft furnishings provide an extra barrier to radiant heat loss, and even a poster or picture on the wall can aid retention.

For bigger gains, consider a thick woollen carpet or wide wall hanging, and ‘dress’ any bare windows with curtains. “You get a lot of heat loss through your windows,” says Robson, “so for us that’s basic housekeeping advice.”

6 ways to insulate your home

Here are the six main areas the EST says need insulating in the home, and how much you could save on energy bills.

1. Roof and loft

Insulate your loft
Loft insulation can help slash energy bills (Thinkstock/PA)

Simple measures aside, the biggest heat losses will be coming from the within the very fabric of your home. Warm air rises, and estimates suggest that an uninsulated home suffers roughly a quarter of all heat loss through the roof.

Insulating the loft or attic is a simple and effective way to reduce heat loss and heating bills, and it should pay for itself many times over, says the EST. If access is easy and loft joists are regular, you can use rolls of mineral wool insulation. DIY-savvy homeowners can attempt this themselves – but remember, this is no IKEA flat-pack.

Insulating your loft
Some insulation jobs you can do yourself, but call in the professionals for bigger tasks (Thinkstock/PA)

Insulation between the loft joists will keep your house warmer but make the roof space above colder, meaning pipes and water tanks in the loft could freeze more easily, so you’ll need to insulate them too.

Research the process thoroughly and, if in doubt, send for the specialists. Insulating the roof itself should always be done by a professional, usually with rigid insulation board or spray-on foam.

In addition, the cooler air in your insulated loft could mean cold draughts come through the loft hatch, so fit an insulated loft hatch and put draught-excluding strips around it. If your loft is easy to access, isn’t damp and doesn’t have a flat roof, you could probably insulate it yourself, but where there’s damp a professional installer should be used.

How much can you save?
According to the Energy Saving Trust, loft insulation in an uninsulated, gas-heated semi-detached house costs an average of £300, but can save an average £135 in energy bills annually – paying for itself in two to four years.  A pretty good deal when you consider that well-installed loft insulation should last around 40 years.

2. Cavity walls

If loft insulation is your home’s snug bobble hat, wall insulation is its cosy winter coat. First of all, you need to know what sort of wall your property has. Most UK homes are either ‘solid wall’ – single slabs of brick or stone – or cavity walls, that leave a space between two layers of concrete or brick.

The age of your house is often a giveaway: houses built from the 1990s onwards usually have wall insulation, but older houses built before the 1930s are generally likely to be solid and could be losing a lot of heat. There are other, more mercurial clues: “If your home is made of entirely horizontal brick then you’ve probably got a cavity,” says Robson. “If you have a mixture of bricks laid horizontally and end-to-end, that’s generally a sign that the wall is solid.”

Homeowners should not consider attempting this insulation task – call in the professionals and get an assessment up front.

How much can you save?
The EST says cavity wall insulation can cost between £330-£720 to install, depending on the type of house, and savings on heating bills can be anything from £65 a year for a flat to £250 a year for a detached house.

3. Solid walls

Insulating a solid wall
Fitting insulating mineral rock wool (Thinkstock/EST/PA)

Solid walls let through twice as much heat as cavity walls, but they can be insulated, either from the inside or outside. Internally, rigid insulation boards are fitted to the wall, or a stud wall is built and filled in with insulation material. Externally, a layer of insulation material is fitted to the wall, then covered with a special type of render or cladding. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods, says the EST.

How much can you save?
Solid wall insulation usually costs more than insulating a standard cavity wall, but heating bill savings are bigger. The EST says external wall insulation costs between £8,000-£22,000 and internal costs £4,000-£13,000. Savings can be anything from £115-£415 a year,

4. Floors

Once you’ve ticked off roof and walls, you can think about insulating your floor.

“It’s not done a huge amount because, practically, it’s difficult, as you’ve got to get underneath your property, which isn’t always possible,” explains Robson. “If you live in a park home, it’s easier to do and a really good idea.”

You can seal the gaps between floors and skirting boards yourself with a DIY store sealant. Older homes are more likely to have suspended timber floors, which can be insulated by lifting the floorboards and laying mineral wool insulation supported by netting between the joists. Many homes, especially newer ones, will have a solid concrete ground floor. This can be insulated when it needs replacing, or can have rigid insulation laid on top.

Most modern floors have at least a dash of insulation built in during construction, and it minimises the cold floor shock of of the morning bathroom floor.

Floors of upstairs rooms don’t need to be insulated if they’re above heated areas, but it’s a good idea to insulate those above unheated spaces, such as garages.

How much can you save?
Insulating the floor can cost anything from £950-£2,200, and savings range from £25-£65 a year.

5. Tanks, pipes and radiators

Lagging pipes
Lagging pipes (EST/PA)

Lagging water tanks and pipes and insulating behind radiators reduces the amount of heat lost, so you spend less money heating water and it stays hotter for longer.

Fitting a hot water cylinder jacket is straightforward, says the EST. Pipe insulation is simply a foam tube that covers the exposed pipes between the hot water cylinder and boiler. It can be bought from a DIY store and slipped on.

How much can you save?
Savings vary widely depending on what work is done, but the EST says installing a hot water tank jacket on an uninsulated tank, for instance, will cost about £15 and save around £89 a year.

6. Draught-proofing

Draught-proofing is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to save energy, and it’s as simple as using sealant to block unwanted gaps around areas including windows and doors, and around pipework leading outside.

Self-adhesive foam strips work wonders for covering gaps around windows, door frames and loft hatches – a cheap and easy buy from your local hardware store. Consider a keyhole cover for your front and back door – a small metal plate that stops the wind from whistling in – and shore up your letterbox with a letterbox brush.

Cracked walls can be mended with a dollop of cement or hard-setting fillers, while a professional could install a suitable draught-stop into an out-of-service chimney.

Remember, when blitzing cracks and crevices, it’s essential not to block any of the intentional ventilation needed to air out your home. Extractor fans, underfloor grilles and trickle vents should all be left undisturbed.

Portable draught excluders for the bottoms of doors are cheap, available off-the-shelf and come shaped as tube trains, sausage dogs and any number of other fluffy animals. Despite their simplicity, they work pretty well.

Red sausage dog draught excluder
The perfect guard dog for stopping a draught (Thinkstock/PA)

Alternatively, pay a professional to draught-proof your whole home in one fell swoop. It’s comparatively costly – the Energy Saving Trust estimate a £200 price tag for a typical semi-detached property – but will save on time and effort, and, depending on your skill level, could yield far sturdier results.

How much can you save?
Draught-proofing around windows and doors could save around £25 per year. and as draught-free homes are comfortable at lower temperatures, you may be able to turn down the heating, saving even more on energy bills.

How to find a good installer

For more information on saving energy, visit energysavingtrust.org.uk. Looking for a good installer? The National Insulation Association is a member organisation for the insulation industry in the UK. For details of local installers, visit nia-uk.org

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