How warm should my house be?

    March 3, 2018

Some people like to heat their homes to Sahara-like temperatures, while others prefer a more arctic feel, however the majority of us sit somewhere in between. The whole ‘how hot should my house be’ topic is a bit of a contentious issue, so I will take you through some of the key points and try to give you a better idea of the temperature that might be right for your home.

What does the government say about temperature?

A recent government study found that in the UK, the average temperature of a home is 17.7°C, whilst the recommended level is 21°C (70°F). This discrepancy in temperatures has been used to show how fuel poverty was preventing people from heating their homes to a comfortable temperature – it is estimated that 2.5m people are currently living in fuel poverty.

This is really oversimplified though, because some people will need higher temperatures – like the elderly or ill – whilst the average person can get away with having the temperature much lower. It is a little odd for the government to recommend this relatively high temperature when it is trying to reduce energy consumption.

To be honest, the majority of people can live very comfortably at a temperature well below 21°C, so don’t just set the thermostat at this temperature out of habit!

Using a thermostat to set temperature

Many people use a thermostat to set their temperature, but you need to make sure it is set up correctly. A thermostat works by recording the ambient air temperature around it. If the temperature of the air is lower than the thermostat, it will send a message to the boiler to fire up, while if the temperature of the air is higher, it will tell the heating system to switch off.

Therefore, a thermostat positioned right by your draughty front door is going to kick in at a lower temperature than one in your living room. In this case, even though you are setting your thermostat to 21°C by the door, the temperature in the living room might be getting up to 24°C.

As a result, it is really important to know your house and how warm you need it, rather than just setting it at a certain level and forgetting about it. You can negate this by using a wireless thermostat that you can place where you like.

>>> The Most Efficient Way to Use Central Heating <<<

Insulation is just as important as your thermostat

It’s no good setting your thermostat to save energy if you are inefficient to begin with. You can set your thermostat down at 16°C or 17°C to save money, but if you have no insulation and an old inefficient boiler, you are still going to be spending a fortune, since whatever heat you pump into the home to warm it up, will quickly escape through the walls. If you set the thermostat to 25°C in a poorly insulated house, it might not even get that warm, because the rate of heat loss will be just too high. So increasing the amount of insulation in the loft, on the walls and under the floor is key to being able to heat your home effectively. Don’t forget your windows either; even if double glazing seems too expensive, secondary glazing like Ecoease could be the perfect way to reduce heat loss.

Every degree costs you money

Every house will vary, but the generally accepted rule is that for every degree you increase your thermostat, you will be paying an extra £60 a year. This is because your boiler needs to work harder to get the temperature up – if you have electric heating the savings could be even higher.

For larger or more inefficient homes, this can be much higher. So bear that in mind when you go to turn up your heating. If you need to be warmer, put on a jumper, or you could try supplementary heating like an infrared heating panel. This boosts the temperature in a room with instant heat, without having to turn up your thermostat for the whole house.

You shouldn’t be wearing shorts in the winter

It is a bit obvious, but you can keep your thermostat down if you wear warmer clothes. A recent study found that some people set their thermostat to 30°C, whilst many were setting it above 25°C. In a poorly insulated home, this would mean that the heating would just stay on all day, because that temperature will probably never be reached. These people would save hundreds of pounds a year by setting their thermostat to 21°C or below and wearing some thicker clothes.

Different rooms need different temperatures

Using only a thermostat means that you could be overheating other rooms in your home. Heating controls are really important. If you have them, use them. If you don’t have them, get them.

Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) let you control the temperature of each room individually. For example, a bedroom can be comfortable at 16°C (as you’ll be under the covers), whereas a living room might need to be warmer. Traditional TRV’s are simple, usually using a dial between 1-5 to set the rate, and you can pick them up for as little as £12.50, but there are also more high spec options. If you want full control of your heating system then smartphone enabled systems will give you the ability to zone out your house and only use the energy you need. This starter pack from tado provides everything you need to get set up with.

Don’t heat your home when you’re not there

It seems simple, but lots of people set their thermostat to 21°C and leave it there, even when they are out at work. Make sure you use your programmer as well, and if you want to control each room while you are out, you can get yourself a remotely controllable tool like a Nest. These gadgets let you control each room’s temperature remotely, even when you are out of the house.

Temperatures have been increasing for years

The average temperature of homes has increased over the decades. Ever since the advent of central heating, people feel like they should be able to walk around their home in a T-shirt in winter, whereas years ago people would wrap up even in their living room. Whilst there are certain situations where the heating needs to be up high (for instance when there is an elderly or unwell person in a room), you can usually wear a jumper and turn the thermostat down. Do we really need to have the heating up 4 degrees warmer than our parents had it a few decades back?

Can there ever be a perfect temperature that you should heat your home to?

The best answer as far as we are concerned is – the lowest comfortable temperature. Some people will happily turn down their heating in the bedroom but don’t want to wrap up in their living room, while others will put on jumpers and use an extra high tog duvet. At the end of the day, it’s your money – so decide for yourself what you are comfortable with, but don’t set the thermostat to 21°C simply out of habit!

Installing infrared heating

Are you thinking about installing infrared heating in your home? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.

If you would like us to find you a local installer to help install infrared heating in your home, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!


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    Introduction to floor insulation

    Insulation

What is floor insulation?

Insulating a floor means adding an insulating material beneath the floorboards, thereby reducing heat escaping through the floor into the ground. Approximately 15% of heat is lost from a house via this route. Insulation also acts to prevent draughts coming up through the floorboards. In addition the household should also consider insulating the gaps between the skirting boards and the floor, which also helps in reducing draughts.

Floor insulation is most commonly done when putting a new floor in place, but most floors can be retrofitted with insulating material, and this will make a large saving to your overall heating bill. Depending on how confident you are with DIY, it is possible to install floor insulation yourself.

Benefits

Limitations of floor insulation

Cost of floor insulation

Installing floor insulation

Interested in having floor insulation installed? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.

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    Can I get cavity wall insulation for free?

    July 21, 2016

Cavity wall insulation is a great way to increase the energy efficiency of your home – and increased energy efficiency means lower energy bills.

Until relatively recently, pretty much everyone was entitled to free cavity wall insulation. However in the last few months things have changed slightly.

The reason for this is that cavity wall insulation installers are paid via a scheme known as ECO. Basically installers get paid an amount per tonne of carbon saved. This sounds a bit ridiculous, but imagine your home uses a certain amount of energy for heating – once the cavity wall insulation is installed, the amount of energy the home uses should drop because there is less heat loss. This saved energy is converted to carbon tonne savings (gas produces CO2 when it burns).

Typically, bigger houses will tend to see greater energy savings when the cavity wall insulation is installed.

This means the amount of funding a larger property gets will tend to be bigger than a smaller property. The same is true when a property has a very old boiler, the savings are greater in these types of home.

ECO rates have dropped

The reason that 100% free cavity wall insulation doesn’t really happen that much any more is that despite the carbon savings being the same as they have always been, the rates the cavity wall installers are paid per tonne of carbon saved have dropped considerably.

Imagine an average cavity wall job costing £1,000 on a 3-bed end of terrace property. Previously, under ECO, the installer would have been paid £1,500 to carry out the install and hence this was 100% free for the homeowner.

Now though, the installer may only be getting £500 from ECO funding, so to cover the rest of the job they need a homeowner contribution.

Homeowner contributions for cavity wall insulation

As we have hopefully explained clearly above, it is rare now for a house to get 100% funding for free cavity wall insulation. Instead, the household will have to make some contribution to get the insulation installed. How much is entirely dependent on the energy performance certificate carried out by a qualified energy assessor – this will all be calculated by the cavity wall installer who will pay for an assessor to carry out this report.

Can you get cavity wall insulation for free?

The difficulty is that the homeowner contribution can vary from house to house; so while your next door neighbour (with a bigger property and more wall to insulate) may only pay £200, you could be given a quote for £500 or more. The key though is to find a good tradesman.

Avoid cowboy cavity wall installers!

Cavity wall insulation is a fantastic energy saving solution and is installed on millions of properties across the UK, however it is does not have a 100% success rate. There are some cavity walls that should not be filled with cavity wall insulation, regardless of whether the energy savings make it an attractive proposition. Properties that are privy to driving rain, or that are located on the coast, should not have cavity wall injected into the void between the skins of brick.

>>> How to avoid cowboy tradesman <<<

Most installers would know not to install cavity wall insulation where it is not suitable. Others, often desperate for work, will not make you aware of the potential issues that may occur further down the line. Unfortunately there are lots of unscrupulous ‘cowboy’ installers out there, so the key is to avoid them and only get good qualified tradesmen.

How to ensure you are getting good quality free cavity wall insulation

The number one thing you need to do to ensure you are getting a highly rated installer is to check whether the company offering you free cavity wall insulation has the Green Deal Quality Mark and PAS2030 processes in place.

PAS2030 is the certification that a company needs to carry out work under ECO scheme and will provide you with the guarantees and piece of mind that the work will be carried out to a high standard. For any company to achieve the PAS2030 mark of quality, they will need to have gone through rigorous testing to ensure their business practises are up to scratch, helping avoid the prospect of cowboys. Unfortunately, even PAS2030 doesn’t completely remove cowboys but it should certainly help!

If you do want to get a decent installer you may wish to ping us through your details below:


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We only work with PAS2030 installers and we seek feedback on all our installers ensuring they know what they are talking about!

Interested in learning more about the funding streams within ECO? Read on to learn more!

HHCRO, CSCO and CERO

So ECO works on the energy savings from your home. However just to complicate things, there are three different streams of ECO funding – HHCRO, CSCO and CERO.

ECO is designed to address two areas: one, to help vulnerable members of society meet the rising cost of energy prices by increasing insulation and offering more efficient sources of heat; and two, to help make more expensive measures like insulating solid and hard-to-treat wall insulation more cost effective. HHCRO addresses the first area while CSCO and CERO address the second.

Postcodes and Free Cavity Wall Insulation – CSCO / CERO

Some houses in the UK fall into CSCO / CERO postcodes – these areas are eligible for cavity wall insulation grants. The properties are situated in areas of low income, vulnerable households in rural areas or the properties are identified as hard to ‘hard to treat’ (e.g. thinner cavities).

You can use the link below to see if your property falls into one of these areas:

>> CHECK YOUR POSTCODE TO SEE IF YOU ARE ELIGIBLE! <<<

Currently, around 25% of properties fall into the postcode area, but even if you are in those locations, you may still need to make a contribution depending on the carbon savings resulting from the install of cavity wall insulation.

Qualifying for Free Cavity Insulation through Income – HHCRO

There is another avenue of ECO grant funding based on your circumstances; this is called the ‘Home Heating Cost Reduction Obligation’ (HHCRO), or Affordable Warmth. If the householder is on income support (with related top-ups), receives pension credit or tax credits, you could be eligible for free insulation. In this instance, all that is required is an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) on the property, and you will also need to provide proof of your entitlements.

Paying for Cavity Wall Insulation

If you know for a fact that you don’t qualify for insulation through any of the means mentioned above, you can still get it installed; and after loft insulation, it offers one of the fastest returns on investment.


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    Introduction to biomass boilers

    Heating

What is a biomass boiler?

Biomass boilers are very similar to conventional gas boilers that you will be familiar with, providing you with space heating and hot water for the entire home, but instead of using gas (or oil) to produce the heat, they combust sustainably sourced wood pellets.

Using wood in place of fossil fuels helps to prevent long-term climate change, since the carbon dioxide released during the combustion was actually absorbed while the tree was growing, so they are essentially carbon neutral.

Each year, approximately 8.5 million tonnes of wood goes into landfill in the UK; this waste wood could be used in either biomass boilers (if converted into the pellets) or burned in wood burning stoves. This would not only provide heat and hot water, but in doing so, it would also ease the pressure on landfill capacity.

How does a biomass boiler work?

A biomass boiler works in a very similar way to conventional boilers, combusting fuel to produce heat that is then used to heat water. Biomass boilers are normally substantially bigger than their fossil fuel-burning brothers though, for a number of reasons. Firstly since they are burning wood pellets as opposed to gas, the boiler needs to be larger to hold the larger volume of fuel.

In addition, you may wish to install an automatic feed hopper on your biomass boiler, which will require additional room. This hopper stores a large volume of the wood pellets that are then automatically fed into the boiler as required, meaning that the boiler needs to be refuelled very infrequently.

It is also a good idea to have a store of the wood pellets at your property so you can keep producing heat if for some reason there is an issue with your fuel supplier. Ideally this should be close to where the fuel is delivered to your home, to minimise the distance you have to carry it.

Biomass pellet

Most residential biomass boilers can also run on logs as well as the wood chips, so if these are in plentiful supply or if you can source them cheaply or even for free, it will dramatically reduce the operational running cost of your biomass boiler.

Every four weeks or so, the biomass boiler will need to be emptied of the ash. This can be put straight onto a compost heap to help fertilise the soil.

Biomass boilers are designed to work all year round; however you may choose to turn them off in the summer. They can be coupled with solar heating or an electric shower, providing you with your hot water for washing only, during the warmer summer months.

How does biomass measure up against traditional fuels?

Biomass boilers measure up very favourably in terms of running costs vs. natural gas, heating oil and especially electricity. The numbers can all be seen in the table below.

Figures courtesy of Biomass Energy Centre

Fuel Type Price per Unit kWh per unit Pence per kWh
Wood Chips £100 / tonne 3,500kWh / tonne 2.9p / kWh
Wood Pellets £200 / tonne 4,800kWh / tonne 4.2p / kWh
Natural Gas 4.8p / kWh 1 4.8p / kWh
Heating oil 60p / litre 10kWh / litre 6.0p / kWh
Electricity 14.5p / kWh 1 13.4p / kWh

Standalone boilers

A biomass boiler might simply be too big for your home, but smaller standalone wood burning stoves are also available, which are normally used to heat one room by burning logs or waste wood. These wood burning stoves can be fitted with a back boiler that uses the heat produced when the wood is combusted to heat water, that can then be used for either space heating elsewhere in the home or for hot water only.

Both standalone wood burning stoves and biomass boilers will need a vent, designed specifically for wood fuel appliances, with sufficient air movement for proper operation of the stove. Your existing chimney can be fitted with a lined flue, which is relatively inexpensive.

Can I get a free biomass boiler?

Under the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, you will be eligible for payments towards the cost of installing the technology.  These are quarterly, and over seven years, so you will still have to find the money to cover the upfront costs. How much funding you will receive depends on how energy efficient your home was before you installed your biomass boiler. You will start by having an EPC survey, and then payment rates are calculated by multiplying the ‘heat demand figure’ on your report by the current rate for biomass boilers. This means that some models will eventually be paid for fully by RHI payments, but many – especially top-end models – will not be covered completely. Find more information here.

Remember a carbon monoxide detector

It is really important when burning any type of hydrocarbon fuel (natural gas, coal, biomass) that you install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. In theory if all the fuel is 100% burned you produce heat, water and carbon dioxide, but in reality not all of the fuel burns. This means sometimes harmful gases like carbon monoxide can be emitted, which can be deadly. As long as you have a working carbon monoxide detector, you will be able to make full use of all the benefits a biomass boiler can bring.

Benefits

Limitations

Cost

Installing a biomass boiler

Are you thinking about installing a biomass boiler? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.

If you would like us to find you a local installer, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!


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    An introduction to loft insulation

    Insulation

Why should I install loft insulation?

Insulating your loft is one of the best ways to improve the EPC rating of your home. If you have a virgin loft (i.e. 25mm or less of insulation) then insulating it will produce massive savings on your energy bill and the great thing is that for many of us, the energy companies offer this insulation free.

Without proper loft insulation, a lot of the warmth produced by your heating system escapes through the roof of your property; in fact, as much as 25% of the heat in an uninsulated house is lost in this way. Loft insulation acts as a barrier, slowing the movement of heat out of the property during the winter and into the property during the summer.

Even if you can’t get it installed for free, it is an incredibly easy DIY job. In the tabs above, you can find out exactly how to do it.

The first decision to make is whether you are looking to create a warm loft or cold loft. The majority of us just use the loft space for storage so normally a cold loft will more than suffice, but for some we use the loft space for a games room or a study. To be honest, insulating your loft as a cold loft is far easier than trying to produce a warm loft – mainly because you don’t need to fight gravity. The method of insulating your loft varies considerably whether you have decide to push forward for a warm loft or a cold loft, but since the vast majority go for a cold loft lets start there – at the joists.

Insulating your loft at the joists

The purpose of insulation is to produce a barrier that slows the movement of heat either in or out of the property. When you produce a cold loft, you need to lay insulation directly above the ceiling to produce this barrier to slow the movement of heat out of the home during the winter and visa versa in the summer to prevent the home overheating.

The latest building regulations stipulate you need to reach a U-value of 0.16 to conform – now for most of us who don’t talk ‘U-values’, this simply means you need a 300mm blanket of wool insulation (if you decide to use rigid insulation board like celotex or Kingspan then you can achieve this u-value with less thickness).

What materials can you use to insulate joists?

Mineral wool

We describe the main types of wool insulation in detail here. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages, but all of them work in a similar way. The wool traps air, which provides an insulating barrier. They are all fairly easy to work with, in that they can be cut to measure, shaped to fit around immovable objects and also rolls of wool insulation are cheap.

The main issue with wool insulation is that it compresses if you put any weight on it, which lowers its insulating efficiency. If you lay wool insulation to a depth of 270mm, it is also difficult to locate the joists, which you should use as support if you are in the loft space. Never stand between the joists, otherwise you will more than likely come through the ceiling!

Wooden boards can then be laid over all the insulation if you need to make the loft usable for things like storage. The insulating mineral wool used normally comes in rolls of blanket, which is a consistent thickness and width.

Sheep wool insulation

If you are using sheep wool insulation you will get the added benefits of the material being able to absorb moisture as well. Warm air rises from the heated rooms below and condenses when it comes into contact with cold insulation materials. Unlike other wool products, sheep wool can absorb some of this moisture and protect the joist timbers from rotting, without affecting its own insulating properties.

Loose-fill loft insulation

Insulating your loft floor using loose-fill is great as a top-up process for a pre-insulated space. It tends to be light material such as recycled newspapers and mineral wool, which can be spread to cover any gaps between the joists. You simply open the bags of insulating material and pour into any spaces that were previously lacking an adequate level of insulation. This process is a fairly simple do-it-yourself job.

Rigid insulation boards

These boards, produced by companies like Celotex, are ideal for insulating loft spaces. They are more expensive than the wool, however they offer double the insulating capacity (therefore where you would normally use 270mm of wool, you would only require 135mm of the insulating board). In addition, since they are rigid it is easy to store items directly on top of them without laying board on top of them first. They can be cut to size using a saw to fit between the joists and also drilled to allow room for light fittings.

Blown fibre insulation

Another type of loft insulation is blown fibre insulation, which must be installed by a professional. An installer will use specialist equipment to blow insulation material into the gaps that require it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having a carpet of insulation in your roof will significantly reduce heat loss out of your home. The reason why we are such advocates of loft insulation and consider it the no.1 method of saving energy in the home is basically because the insulation is incredibly cheap to buy and the process of producing a cold loft is so easy.

Now a couple of important things to mention; while this is certainly the cheapest way to go, the loft space itself will be very cold in the winter. This means that anything you really value should be kept in the home itself, not in the loft. In addition you need to insulate any pipework and cold water tanks up in the loft as these may now be liable to freezing and the cost of repairing bursting pipes will far outweigh the energy savings produced!

For detailed instructions on how to insulate your loft to produce a cold loft please click the tab here.

Insulating your loft at the rafters

Gravity is a pain – it makes producing a warm loft that much harder. Unfortunately if one tries to insulate between the rafters by squishing in lots of wool insulation then 9 times out of 10 it will just fall out.

However if your heart is set on creating a warm loft space then it is definitely possible. There are four main ways to insulate your rafters; the first is to use netting and wool insulation. Using solid insulation board is again a really good way to minimise heat loss out of your home. The third way is simply to use reflective foil stapled to the rafters – this doesn’t produce significant energy savings but is by far the simplest way to go, requiring just reflective foil and a staple gun. You might want to use reflective foil anyway even if you do opt for a cold loft.

What materials can you use to insulate between rafters?

The materials you should use to insulate the rafter space will depend on the way you have chosen to insulate, however the products used will tend to be denser and more rigid than those used for joists.

Normally the process you decide on depends how deep the actual rafters are. If the depth is rather shallow the best option will be to insulate below the rafters. You can in theory increase the depth yourself by attaching planks of wood top of the rafter, but then you are giving yourself more work and adding complexity to the process.

Mineral wool for insulating between the rafters

This can be glass wool, rock or mineral wool and it comes in rolls. You will need to wear protective material, a mask and have the adequate tools to fix this to the space between the rafters. The material is then fixed to the space between the rafters, whilst ensuring there is gap to the roof membrane to avoid condensation.

The difficulty in creating a warm loft with mineral wool insulation is basically due to the thickness of wool insulation needed to hit the necessary U-value as specified by building regulations (300mm) although to be honest, if you are doing this yourself, you are not required by law to conform. The way to keep the insulation in place is to use a net that you can then staple to the rafters which acts as a hammock for the insulation.

Sheep wool for insulating between the rafters

If you are using sheep’s wool, which is not an irritant, then you can handle the material without wearing protective clothing. If you are using sheep wool insulation you will also get the added benefits of the material being able to absorb moisture. Warm air rises from the heated rooms below and condenses when it comes into contact with cold insulation materials. Sheep wool, unlike other wool products, can absorb some of this moisture and protect the rafter timbers from rot, without it affecting its own insulating properties. When insulating rafters, a more rigid form of sheep’s wool insulation can be used, which is more suited to rafter insulation.

Insulation boards for insulating between or below the rafters

Insulating board can be fitted between the rafters or below the rafters. Note: Because the material is thick, if you are going below the rafter space you will certainly lose headroom in the loft space. If your rafters are shallow then you have no choice and have to insulate below.

These boards, produced by companies like Celotex or Kingspan, are ideal for insulating loft spaces. They are more expensive than the basic mineral wool, however they offer double the insulating properties (therefore where you would normally use 200mm of wool, you would only require 100mm of the insulating board). They can be cut to size using a saw to fit between the spaces and drilled through for cabling.

Reflective foil for insulating below the rafters

A thin layer of reflective material is placed below the rafters to prevent heat escaping from the property. This is the most simple way to insulate your loft via the rafters, but obviously the insulating properties on this type of insulation are very limited compared to either mineral wool or insulating board.

As mentioned, the foil is by far the easiest way to insulate your loft; you simply staple it to the rafters. It is worth starting at the apex of the ceiling and then working down the rafters, overlapping the foil to achieve a continuous reflect surface. You can then tape over the joins.

Spray foam

A layer of foam is sprayed into the rafters and sets hard. This can only be installed professionally.

When professionals come in and install spray foams, they can achieve high thermal efficiency with very little depth. The two downsides of this firstly that it is very expensive compared to the other methods and also it doesn’t allow the roof to breath, locking in the water next to the timber – which as we have mentioned previously can lead to problems.

While having a warm loft space is great because you can then use the space – you are now heating an extra ‘room’ that you wouldn’t normally heat if you insulated just above the ceiling (i.e. a cold loft) – which means your heating bill will be higher.

Benefits

Limitations

Installing loft insulation

Interested in installing loft installation? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.

If you would like us to find you a local installer, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!


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    How Energy Efficient are Homes in London?

    March 10, 2014

London has undergone many waves of house building, with each type of home creating their own energy efficiency problems and areas for improvement.

It was 1965, that Building Regulations introduced the first limits on the amount of energy that could be lost through certain elements of a newly built house. However even until very recently, building standards were not sufficient to create what we would consider an efficient property.

Most housing in London was built well before building regulations really took effect and therefore it is fair to say that the majority is poorly insulated and fitted with inefficient heating systems. Yet these are very fixable problems.

There are plenty of ways you can improve the efficiency of your home, whether it be a 1900 Victorian terrace or a 1980s detached house. We thoroughly recommend an energy consultation to work out what is best for your home, as each property really is different and there is nothing better than tailored and personalised advice.

Need Help? Call us on 0208 819 9153

Having said this, you can tell a lot about a house by its age. As such, we can make some recommendations on the best steps for your home. It goes without saying that loft insulation should be up to standard (270mm) before you look at anything else – it really is the number 1 way to make your home more efficient, but here are some other key things you might want to consider to help lower your energy bills:

Pre 1930 London Properties:

1930’s London Properties:

Post war 1945-70 London Properties:

1970’s London Properties:

Modern London Properties:

If you live in a relatively modern house, your cavity walls should have already been filled, but there are a few things you can still look out for:


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    Is the Green Deal Worth It?

    February 24, 2014

UPDATE: As of 30 March 2016, the government has stopped funding and the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is closed to new applications. You can read about it here

When the Green Deal launched in early 2013, it had set the ambition of being the biggest retrofit buildings programme since World War Two; however the recently released Green Deal take-up figures from the Government have shown that thus far, this is definitely not the case!

Will then, the Green Deal be a bit of a damp squib and be confined to the dustpan of legislation programmes or is the sluggish start just like a longish runway before eventual take-off?

In this blog we explore some of the most typical questions that consumers are interested in when it comes to this programme and we provide our own view of how we have seen the programme roll-out over the last year or so.

Is the Green Deal Free?

One of the criticisms of the Green Deal is the initial cost of getting an assessment. Unfortunately, getting independent advice from a company not aligned with a Provider is going to cost you money. There is no government money towards getting a free or cheaper assessment.

Some customers who fall into certain benefit groups and those in certain postcodes, who have clear need of ECO funding towards a measure such as cavity or loft insulation, or a new boiler, could get a free assessment as part of this process, but it does not apply to everyone. You can give us a call or an email if you think you may qualify for a free assessment in this way.

So is the Green Deal worth it?

Having said that there is a cost involved, we think the cost of the assessment should be seen as more of an investment. Chances are you will find out about measures you can install or little things you could do that will save you many times the assessment cost in the long run. We find that customers who approach the assessment as a learning and fact finding experience get more out of their assessment. Just make sure you ask lots of questions when you meet your assessor. If they don’t know the answer, they will find out for you.

Is the Green Deal Interest Free?

No. There is a fixed interest rate attached of around 7-8% APR. This means that if you can afford to pay for the work up front, it will be cheaper for you in the long run. If you can’t however, the Green Deal is a one way of securing the funding before getting the work completed.

Where can I find Providers?

We are obligated to direct you to the Green Deal Orb, which has a list of all accredited providers, installers and assessing organisations. Unfortunately, the way the scheme works means that many companies claim to be nationwide, or say they can install any measure, because it allows them to generate leads that they can sell on.

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This means that the providers that really do offer what you need can be tricky to find. We recommend that you ask your assessor for several local Green Deal Providers you can contact – as this can really expedite the process and ensure that the companies you are contacting really do offer the service they claim they do.

Why can’t I Find a Company that does the energy efficiency measure that I want on the Green Deal?

Many Green Deal Providers tend to focus on a few key measures that they can deliver, like wall insulation, or boilers. That is why it is worth ringing around to find a Provider that can help you. Unfortunately, there are some areas of the country and some measures which are as yet not covered by the Green Deal – it is really worth asking your assessor what measures are currently covered in your area and what you may have to get done privately.

If you are after something specific, it is really worth trying to find a provider that will do the work before you go for your assessment.

The Green Deal Favours certain Technologies

The Green Deal is great for more cost effective measures (for example loft insulation), since it has a low initial install cost and creates big yearly energy savings.

When we get customers ringing who are looking for something like double glazing that is not really cost effective (savings are minimal and the cost of installation is high), we will normally advise them the Green Deal may not be for them – since the amount of finance they will have access to will be negligible.

A good Green Deal Advisor Organisation (and we include ourselves here) should give you an honest appraisal over the phone – if they promise you the earth, it is often to good to be true!

Is it true that Green Deal cashback is set to finish in early 2014?

The Green Deal cashback scheme is not finished yet! The government recently announced that the cashback scheme would accept applications for cashback until at least June 2014, so there is still plenty of time to take advantage.

Be aware however, some providers are not setup to do Green Deal Cashback. It is really worth finding a Provider that does, because you can get paid up to £1,000 for installing some measures.

The Government also announced the amount of cashback available under the Green Deal has increased – you can find more out on this here.

Any other questions about the Green Deal?

If you have any questions about the Green Deal, Energy Efficiency or Self Generation, please do get in touch on 0208 144 0897 or mailbox@thegreenage.co.uk.

 

    How to install your infrared heating panels

    Heating

Positioning the infrared heating panels is key

If you have purchased – or are about to purchase – infrared heaters, then understanding where to put them is important to get the best results.

Infrared heating panels don’t operate like conventional convection heating, which warms air. Instead the panels emit far-infrared radiation, which travels unimpeded until it hits a solid object, which will in turn absorb the infrared and then heat up. Do not mistake infrared with harmful UV light, which is on the other side of the light spectrum – infrared is 100% safe.

The main thing to remember is that if the infrared radiation is impeded before it reaches its destination, then the object will not warm up. As a result, to get the most out of the heating panel it should ideally be fitted in the centre of the room. Or if you have a larger area and are getting a number of panels, then they should be evenly distributed in that space. The panels should be above seating areas so as not to be shadowed, which is why positioning on the ceilings is by far the most popular.

The distribution of infrared heater rays

When the panel is positioned on the wall or ceiling, the infrared radiation will travel at 45o angles in all directions. If they are in a corner and too close to a wall other than the one they are attached to, then you will be warming a small concentrated area; this is not ideal since you will be wasting potentially useful heat. For this reason it is paramount that you don’t position the panels too close to the walls: rather ‘centre’ them as much as possible.

300Watt and 350Watt panels should be at least 0.5m (1.5 feet) or more from the floor – and the larger panels (basically anything over 600Watts) should be at least 1.5m (5 feet) away. When the panels are on they will beam the infrared radiation up to 3m(10 feet). If you have higher ceilings, please give us a ring and we can discuss appropriate models to use in this instance.

If you install the panels on the walls, then you should try and position them as high as possible. Positioning them too low will almost certainly result in furniture blocking the infrared radiation, which will limit their heating.

For the smaller panels we recommend having them at least 1.0m (over 3 feet) and for the bigger panels this to be positioned 2.0m (6 to 7 feet) high. Like your radiators, the surface temperature of the panels gets to about 80oc, so do not touch or have objects too close to them.

The installation process

All our panels come with a UK plug, so you can simply plug in and go, but we recommend hardwiring them into an electric circuit where possible. This allows you to use a proper switch (like a light switch) to turn them on. It also means you can install a smart heating system for optimal efficiency. We strongly recommend a professional installation and having the panels ‘hard wired’ into your electrical system by a Part P-qualified electrician.

In terms of the installations themselves we anticipate that most customers will seek the advice and expertise of a Part P qualified electrician who will hardwire the units to a thermostat and the property circuit board. You can find out whether your electrician is Part P qualified by looking up their details on the Competent Person Register.

The infrared panels will invariably come with a frame on the back, which allows you to easily attach them to the wall. This does mean that the panels will sit about 1-2 cm off the wall.

Although the panels radiate heat from their front surface (which will get warm), the reflector technology will ensure that there is no heat being emitted out of the back. The fact they are sitting away from the wall also helps in this respect.

Most of the panels that are sold should be supplied with screws and fixings to get the panels attached to the wall or roof. We do recommend getting an electrician to fix them in position though, and hardwire them into your mains electricity rather than simply run through an existing plug socket.

When the panels are plugged in, they take about 90 seconds to get up to full heat intensity and since you don’t need to wait for the air to get warm, you should feel their effect very quickly. To stop the panels from overheating, they will modulate and come on and off as required; however we recommend having them installed with some form of thermostatic control to ensure the room doesn’t get too warm.  The most basic option is a timer plug adapter, however we recommend going for a proper thermostat and programmer unit if you have the funds available.

The installation is carried out as follows:

Then when connecting to the wireless thermostat:

This will ensure that when the receiver switches the power on it will reach the panel. Please note – switch contacts alone are volt-free and will not therefore supply power directly to the panel.

Installing infrared panels in the bathroom

Good infrared panels are either IP45 or IP54 rated, which means they can also be used in bathrooms. It is worth bearing in mind that building regulations state that any electrical bathroom installations should be undertaken by a Part P qualified electrician, who in turn will complete a BS7671 installation certificate.

The pull switch or programmer needs to sit outside the bathroom. In terms of placement, the unit needs to be at least 0.6m (2 feet) from a shower or a bath. In addition if you are placing it above a washbasin, please ensure it is at least 13cm away. Again, your electrician should be able to advise and action as appropriate.

Benefits

Limitations

Installing infrared heating

Are you thinking about installing infrared heating in your home? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.

If you would like us to find you a local installer to help install infrared heating in your home, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!


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    Getting to grips with U-values!

    November 13, 2013

Getting to grips with U-values!

U-values might seem a pretty dull subject; however it is absolutely key that you understand them so that you can insulate your home with the most appropriate material. You can learn more about what a U-value is by clicking here.

The U-value signifies the heat lost through a given thickness of a particular material. You don’t really need to understand the mechanics of how it is calculated; instead it is useful to be able to compare different substances by their U-values.

The best insulating materials have a U-value of close to zero – the lower the better. Building regulations currently stipulate that for a new building, the elements must have maximum U-values as follows:

So in each section below we are going to examine each of the different elements and their typical U-values, we will then show you how to achieve the best possible U-values as stipulated in the building regulations (Part L).

U-values of SOLID WALLS

Solid walls were the norm in most properties built prior to the 1930s – unfortunately at this time energy efficiency wasn’t really on the radar, since fuel was very cheap. However, nowadays trying to keep this sort of home warm is very costly, so insulating them can considerably lower the heating bill.

U-values of CAVITY WALLS

Cavity walls became the norm in the 1930s. However until 1995, we assume that they were built but left unfilled (with insulation).

 Unfilled cavity walls

Filled cavity walls – assumed post-1996

All cavity walls built after 1996 are assumed to have filled cavities as part of more regimented building regulations.

U-value of cavity walls

Mechanisms for improving your cavity wall U-rating

Pages: 1 2

    Energy Bill Breakdown – The Different components that make up your Energy Bill

    November 12, 2013

Wholesale Energy costs

So, starting with the main component of your energy bill; the wholesale energy cost is the price of electricity and gas that energy retailers (British Gas, E.ON, Npower, etc) buy from the energy market. This makes up by far the biggest element of the energy bill  – about 48% averaged across the big six energy companies, which on a bill of £1300 a year comes to about £620.

The energy companies have to secure the energy ahead of actually providing it to customers, and this is done by buying it well in advance (sometimes as much as two years) to ensure that supply is not disrupted.

All of the Big Six energy retailers: EDF, E.ON, British Gas, Scottish Power, Npower, SSE, also have generation businesses, which means they have some generating (electricity) and extraction (natural gas) capacity. However this generating and extraction capacity doesn’t unfortunately stop them from having to purchase additional energy to satisfy the demand from customers.

So although they blame the increases in wholesale prices as the reason for increasing the price of the customer’s bill, in theory they are paying themselves twice – increasing the profits of their generation and extraction businesses (which also part of the wholesale price) and then passing on any increases in the market price to homes and businesses. So their increased cost effectively turns into increased revenue twice over. It’s no surprise that the generation and extraction businesses are the most profitable parts of their business portfolios but are ‘glossed over’ and poorly understood by the press and politicians.

The companies say there is strict separation between the different parts of the business – the retail side (selling to you and me) and the generation side (sourcing the energy); and they also tell us they don’t come together and collude on price rises, but when you begin to understand how they operate you begin to wonder what they announce publicly actually stacks up!

One final point is that electricity is generated all over the UK and demand for electricity doesn’t always match the demand. Therefore there is a need to move the electricity around the distribution network to ensure customers can get the electricity when it is needed. The National grid carries out this job and they recover their costs from suppliers through this ‘wholesale energy cost’ element of the bill – this is known as the Balancing Services Use of System.

The Energy Delivery Network

Transmission and distribution is the second largest component of your energy bill. This is the price paid by the energy suppliers to the companies that operate the energy distribution networks. This makes up about 24% of your energy bill and the price paid is determined by OFGEM (the energy regulation body) in conjunction with the energy distribution companies (like National Grid, Scotia Gas Networks, UK Power Networks, etc).

These prices are rising since investment is also increasing as the old network has to be upgraded to ensure that the distribution infrastructure can cope with increases in demand and continue to deliver an uninterrupted energy supply to our homes and businesses.

For example old gas pipework is being replaced by new more robust materials, which means roads need to be dug up and new infrastructure put in place. Also a new power station or wind farm will require new cabling to get the electricity from where it is produced to where it is needed, and this is what is responsible for this component of the bill going up.

Social & Environmental Costs

Social and Environmental costs make up just under 10% of your energy bill, so on an average bill of £1,300, you are paying about £130 towards this element. Despite only being a tiny portion of your bill relative to the other components, this component has been the one that has created the most media attention since this is the one the Government have a real say in.

The background to this component is that the Government have now made it a legal requirement for the energy companies to provide help to vulnerable members of society to ensure they have access to heat and electricity and to try and make this more affordable to them. There are numerous schemes running that the Government enforces to help achieve this and we have detailed a few of them below.

These schemes target in particular elderly customers, customers with disabilities and low-income families that require an extra bit of help. The first example is the Winter Fuel Payment, which provides a tax-free payment of between £100- £300 to any homeowner who was born prior to 5th January 1952. This can also be topped up by an additional £25 Cold Weather Payment for those particularly cold winter weeks.

Another scheme that is in place to try and tackle the root causes of heating and insulation problems is the ECO or the Energy Company Obligation. You can read more about this scheme her but in a nutshell this helps drive energy efficiency among this same group of vulnerable members of society, where if it was left to the market, would priced out and excluded.

Measures available through ECO include new boilers, cavity and loft insulation and solid wall insulation, have click here to see if you can take advantage of this.

So as customers we have to decide where our priorities lie and whether we want to help continue protecting the most vulnerable. As a nation we have always done this, and I expect we will continue to do so! Whether we do this through energy bills or general taxation is another argument altogether.

Finally, the Government also have put in place policies in place to help the UK adhere to its legally binding carbon reduction program. This includes the subsidies that are paid when wind farms are built or solar panels are put on your roof. Despite a few media outlets (see the Telegraph for example!) being incredibly critical of this kind of investment – these renewable technologies will ensure that the amount of energy we need to import from places like Qatar or Norway is massively reduced, which gives us a bit of energy independence and therefore protects us from price volatility but this obviously a longer term view!

Tax

This is simply tax paid either as VAT or corporation tax – and is roughly 5%.

Operating costs

Most big companies have overheads to keep the business running, like having to pay wages. If you think that the energy companies are providing a service to many millions of customers unfortunately there is not much they can do here to pass on any savings to us! Even if top management of the biggest salaries were to be paid less, this would be a drop in the ocean sadly. The operating costs represent about 10% of the energy bill you pay.

Profit

All the energy companies claim they are making a fair profit – which is roughly 5% across the board. They claim that this kind of profit is broadly in line with supermarkets, another of life’s necessities and since they are all publicly listed, they pay a dividend that helps boost pension funds. They also claim that they are investing in new power plants to replace ageing infrastructure, but to be honest I am yet to see materialise on a grand scale, but that may just be me being cynical!

Conclusion

So there you have it – hopefully everything you need to know about how energy bills are made up. I hope this gives you enough information to reach your own conclusion whether you feel the 10% annual increases are justified. It seems to me that although wholesale costs do go up, the energy companies have not come clean on the vast profits their businesses bring in. It is only when we have full transparency that we will see the tide of trust begin to turn.

To see a pie chart showing the energy bill breakdown please click here

To read some more of our ‘bigger picture blogs – click here – a great read over lunch!

 


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