Reducing heating costs
The cost of the UK's energy bills are rising. According to the Office of National Statistics, the average UK household spends around £109 per month on heating bills. This is a huge increase compared to the average of £69 back in 2012. Heating bills can thus form a substantial part of a household's monthly outgoings, so any way of reducing them will be very welcome.
Cheaper ways to heat your home
Bills can be decreased by switching to a cheaper energy supplier or by using a cheaper type of fuel. The Energy Trust states that LPG is the most expensive fuel, valued at 6.66 pence per kW/hour. Gas comes next at 4.18 pence per kW/hour, whilst oil is (perhaps surprisingly) even cheaper at 3.58 pence per kW/hour. Putting your heating on a timer so that it only comes on when you are actually at home can halve your energy bills; why pay for heating when you will not be benefiting from it? Also: do you really need to heat the whole house to the same temperature? You could save money by keeping your main heating system on low and using a secondary system in your main living area. Convector heaters work fairly well if you want to warm a room up for several hours at a time; as a ball-park figure you could expect to pay about 28p an hour to run a 2 kW one on a standard tariff. A halogen heater, with an output of about 1.2 kW is cheaper to run at an estimated 17p an hour but they provide radiant, rather than convected heat; the effect is similar to sitting by an open fire compared to the all-round warmth of central heating. A fan heater is faster at warming all the air in a room up, but at an estimated 28p an hour to run for a 2Kw one it can prove expensive. If you decide to invest in a portable gas heater instead, bear in mind that, even if the fumes from it are not toxic, the main combustion product is water which can cause condensation problems if you don't have enough ventillation. And ventillation lets a lot of your expensive heat disappear!
Cheap options for home insulation
A poorly insulated room will waste energy at an alarming rate. Fibreglass for loft and wall spaces, double glazing for windows and sealants for roofs and draughty cracks will stop that heating you have paid for from seeping out of your house. Fibreglass is the cheapest option, and it comes at no necessary installation costs: you can pay as little as £20 per square metre if you install the fibreglass yourself. With labour costs from a professional layer, fibreglass can cost between £50 and £150 per square metre to have installed. Other insulation types such as concrete blocks and double glazing require specialist skills to install. Expect double glazing for one set of windows to cost £200 up; it can make your home more comfortable but the claims for energy savings are dubious. If you're a DIY type then consider fitting secondary glazing, which is much more economical and often more efficient than sealed double glazed units. Draught-excluding tape for doors and windows is cheap and easy to fit, but bear in mind that a house needs to 'breathe' otherwise it can become stuffy and damp so don't get too enthusiastic, and certainly don't use it on interior doors unless there is a real draught problem.
Airbricks can be a source of heat loss and many home owners cover them over, or remove them completely. This is OK provided that there is still enough ventillation into the room but, again, you need to be aware of potential condensation issues.
Insulating your loft
Fibreglass loft insulation is probably the most cost effective type that you can fit. However it is vital to make sure that any water tanks or pipes in the loft are properly protected, and ideally they should be under the main insulation, and not above it, otherwise you are greatly increasing the risk of burst pipes in very cold weather. A burst in the loft can be ruinously expensive so a bit of extra time and cost in protecting the plumbing is well worth while. It's unpleasant stuff to fit, though, and you'll need protective clothing and a face mask. Don't try doing it on a lot day, a loft can be like a sauna and it could be a very uncomfortable experience if you're compelled to wear extra layers.
Cavity wall insulation - be careful
Cavity wall insulation has been promoted by government subsidies. However, walls were built with cavities for a purpose; to leave a gap so that damp on the bricks of the outer layer couldn't penetrate to the inner skin. Many houseowners who had their cavities filled with foam some years ago are just now finding out what a terrible mistake it was, as damp patches arrive all over their walls. My advice, as a builder with over 35 years' experience; don't do it.