Insulating your home; is it worth spending money to save energy?

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Over the last few years there’s been a lot more awareness about the benefits of energy efficiency around the home. But – whether your main motivation is to help your budgets or the planet – what are the options, especially if you live in an older property? Can your home really be energy efficient without costing a fortune?

Where to start?
If you haven’t tried the basics, such as insulating your loft or draught proofing your doors and windows, read the article on Saving money and energy around the home. There’s also lots of useful information at the Energy Saving Trust website.

SAVVY TIP: If you have wooden flooring, filling in the gaps between the floorboards or even lifting floorboards and fitting insulation between the joists can make a difference. According to the Energy Saving Trust, the payback time for filling the gaps is one year and for insulating underneath the floorboards it’s two years.

Insulating your walls
Unless you live in a property with cavity walls, which generally means those built after the 1930s, you can’t use cavity wall insulation to cut your energy use. If you have solid walls, it may be worth looking at other options:

– Solid walls lose much more heat than cavity walls, so you could potentially save up to £300 a year by getting them insulated.

SAVVY TIP: The bad news is that solid wall insulation is a lot more expensive to install than cavity wall insulation.

– There are two types of solid wall insulation: internal and external. Internal insulation normally involves fixing plasterboard backed with insulating material to the walls, while external insulation involves having insulating material attached to the outside of the building and covered by render, tiles, or brick slips (which look like brick, but are thinner).

SAVVY TIP: You will save far more if you have the outside of the property because the whole of the wall is covered, but it’s more expensive and, while it can improve the appearance and add value to some properties, it will do the opposite to others. Try the National Insulation Association or the Insulated Render and Cladding Association for more information. You can download a leaflet about insulation from the NIA.

Insulating your roof
Many homes don’t have the recommended level of loft insulation (270 mm) so that should be your starting point. If you have a flat roof or have converted your loft into an office or an extra bedroom, you may will need to insulate the roof.

– If you have a loft conversion: Take advice about the best way to insulate it. You need to get some air flow otherwise you could have problems with condensation and/or damp.

SAVVY TIP: You may be advised to install a vapour control layer, which is a membrane designed to allow the building to breathe.

– If you have a flat roof you can insulate it from the outside or inside. It’s not a cheap DIY job and it’s best done when your ceiling needs decorating — if you’re insulating internally — or when your roof needs weatherproofing if you’re using external insulation.

Replacing windows
Replacing windows can be expensive, but it could save you around £130 a year. There are two options:

– Secondary glazing: This is cheaper but it won’t save you so much. You don’t replace the windows but have a pane of glass fitted inside the existing windows.

– Replacement double glazed windows: You can have wooden or uPVC frames; although there’s a bit of a debate about how environmentally friendly uPVC windows are. Whether or not you fit them may come down to your budget (as they’re cheaper than wooden framed windows) and your tastes.

SAVVY TIP: In some areas uPVC may add to its value, in others and/or if you live in an older property it may not. It’s worth taking into account if you’re likely to move in the near future. Check with an estate agent if you’re not sure.

Useful links:
Ecology Building Society: lends on sustainable renovations.

Green Building Store: has information about green suppliers.

Related articles:

Making money from solar panels – how to get started

How much money can you save with a water meter?

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