Feeling cold in your own home can be really horrible – and spending lots of money on your bills with little noticeable effect just adds injury to insult.
It’s easy to get used to just whacking up the heating when you feel cold, but there are more effective and affordable ways to make your surroundings more comfortable. Turning your thermostat up by one degree could cost you £100 over the course of a year – so avoid it if you can! Energy efficiency means a warmer home and lower bills, so it’s worth thinking about. The better insulated your home is, the easier (and cheaper) it will be to keep it warm.
There are lots of things you can do to keep warm at home. Let’s start by looking at the different factors that affect thermal comfort. These are:
- Air temperature – If the weather is good and the air around you is hot, you will need less help to feel warm. This is the only thing in this list you can do nothing about.
- Metabolic heat – Quite simply, the more you move around, the warmer you will feel. Clearly, this is not an option if you are infirm or disabled. But it’s worth bearing in mind that sitting in one place all day will make it harder to keep warm.
- Clothing insulation – The easiest way to keep warm is something people tend to forget or ignore. If you are cold, make sure you have put a thick jumper and socks on before you look at other measures.
- Air velocity – If your home is draughty, or you have a window open, the temperature inside is more difficult to control. Proper draught-proofing makes it easier.
- Radiant heat – This is the heat that radiates from any hot surface. This could be your heating system, or from other sources, such as ovens and tumble dryers. These elements contribute to the ambient temperature of your home.
- Humidity – If the air in your home is damp, it can affect how you warm or cold you feel. Ensuring adequate ventilation is important for other reasons too..
There are a lot of things you can do to keep your home warm. A lot of them are very easy and quick. Some are more expensive long-term measures that will pay back in the long run.
Check your radiators
You might be surprised by how much you could save by being being proactive with your heating. If you have radiators, they may need a little bit of attention from time to time. Check if they need bleeding or balancing – it’s an easy DIY job. Also check they are not blocked by furniture. A lot of people pay to heat the back of their sofa!
Zone your home
You probably don’t need to heat your entire home all the time – this is key to keeping warm. Try heating only the rooms you know you’ll be in at that time. Use TRVs to set different temperatures in different rooms, or to turn only certain radiators off. Keep doors shut to avoid wasting heat on hallways or other rooms you’re not using. You could also try standalone supplementary heaters for extra boosts of heat. A freestanding infrared panel is a great choice: much better than inefficient electric convection heaters.
Hot water bottle
Next time you go to turn up the thermostat, grab a hot water bottle instead. Boiling a kettle costs next to nothing and it can really help to warm you up.
Alongside cavity wall insulation (if suitable), this should be the first point of call as far as insulation goes. Insulation works by slowing heat movement through surfaces, e.g. preventing cold air entering your walls and warm air leaving them. Loft insulation is fairly cheap, and is also a straightforward DIY job.
Lots of different parts of the home can benefit from draught proofing. Put draught excluders under breezy windows and doors and try a woollen chimney sheep. Put up some heavy curtains and keep them closed when you can to stop up to 40% of heat normally lost thorough windows. As a side note – don’t obsess over airtightness at the expense of ventilation! It could lead to health or structural problems down the line. Allowing some fresh air into your home is really important.
Cover bare floors
Rugs or carpet can make quite a difference to thermal comfort, because up to 10% of heat lost from your home goes through the floors. Having something cosy underfoot will also help keep your feet warm!
Heating controls have been around for a long time, but the new generation of ‘smart’, or digital, controls give you the best possible command over your heating. Heating control systems can comprise of several different elements, which you can normally mix and match. We have already mentioned TRVs. A central unit, thermostat and even motion sensors can help control every aspect of your heating routine: temperatures, schedules and even remote control, via smart phone apps.
You radiator radiates heat both into the room, and into the wall behind it. That heat can simply be lost to the outside, especially if you have thin single skin walls. Reflectors are installed behind the radiator and help prevent that heat from being lost by reflecting the heat back into the room.
Choose the right heating system
Consider your options to make sure your heating system is the best fit for your building and lifestyle. Some questions to ask yourself: do you want a green option, do you understand how it works well enough to run it efficiently, what is suitable in your property (off-gas limits your options, for example). Infrared heating panels can work really well as an alternative to central heating, for example. Don’t just assume that the technologies you have heard of are the best, or that you should stick with whatever was in your home when you bought it. A lot of people have stuck with storage heaters even though they are difficult to use, expensive to run, and often leave residents without heating when stores have run out in the evening. Doing your research can really pay off in the long run.
External wall insulation
External wall insulation is not cheap, but it can really improve thermal comfort and pay for itself in energy savings. Layers of insulation and render are attached to your outside walls, cutting heat loss through your walls by as much as 40%.
Internal wall insulation
Internal wall insulation is a bit cheaper, and can help to keep you warm. The downsides are that you will lose some floor space, and having installers inside your home can be quite disruptive.
Keeping your home warm
This is by no means an exhaustive list. With a little bit of effort, some small behavioural changes and some investment, you can feel much more comfortable when the cold weather sets in.