Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Help! My house is freezing!

"My heating bills are sky high but my home is still freezing!?"

If this is you, don't panic. The following Guide provides fail-safe directions for creating a cosy home this winter (whilst keeping a lid on your heating bills). The Guide does this in 4 easy to follow steps.

Step 1:  Good housekeeping practices
Gran knew what she was doing with her good housekeeping practices. Keep those doors closed.  Wear a pair of slippers around the home.  Try on that onesie you received as a Christmas present. Below is a reminder of a few other golden oldie tips:
  1. Hang thick curtains during winter months, which should be opened during the day to naturally heat your home and closed at night to keep the heat inside.
  2. Try not to obstruct your radiators - give the heat a chance to circulate
  3. Whilst we are on radiators, fit foil on the wall behind them.
  4. If you have a ceiling fan, set it to spin clockwise to blow the rising hot air down.
  5. Lay mats or rugs down on cold floors.
The above tips are all low cost or no cost.  However, if you struggle with a cold home, these measures are unlikely to be sufficient to create a warm home for the winter.  On to Step 2.

Step 2:  Plug those Gaps

UK homes can be very draughty.  Before considering any expensive upgrades to your central heating system, consider the following measures to plug the gaps in your property.

Your walls
33% of the heat lost from our homes disappears through our walls.  Up until the 1920s the typical UK home was built to a solid wall construction.  If you live in an old property, installing insulation on your outside walls can drastically reduce the amount of heat lost from your home.

Since the 1920s cavity wall construction has been the standard. However, up until the 1990s, the gap between the two walls (the cavity) was rarely insulated. Filling this gap with insulation is a relatively inexpensive yet highly effective measure to reduce heat-loss from your home.

Your roof
26% of the heat lost from our homes disappears through the roof.  Bulking up your roof insulation to the full recommended depth of 270mm is easy to do and because hot air rises, properly insulating your loft will often be the single most cost-effective way to reduce heat loss from your home.

Your windows
18% of the heat lost from our homes disappears through our windows.  Replace single-glazed windows with double-glazing.  Already have double glazing?  Double-glazed windows will deteriorate over time.  Have your windows inspected.  They may benefit from draught proofing or they may need replacing.

You can expect a double-glazed window to last for around 20 years. After this length of time, the window may need replacing to keep those draughts at bay.

Feeling brash? Follow the Scandinavians and have triple glazed windows fitted.

Your floors
8% of the heat lost from our homes disappears through our floors. Insulate under the floorboards on your ground floor.  This will help keep the heat in and your toes warm.  Also, seal the gaps between your floors and skirting boards to further reduce draughts.

Your doors
3% of the heat lost from our homes disappears through our doors.  Consider draft proofing your doors.

The heat loss figures quoted above are courtesy of the Energy Saving Trust and are based on an un-insulated home

That's Step 2 complete.  If you have applied the above measures and your home is still cold, its time to consider your central heating system.  We do this at Step 3 below.

Step 3: Upgrade your central heating system
Typical central heating systems comprise a boiler and radiators. The boiler heats water which is then distributed through pipes to your radiators.  The problem with your central heating could be with your boiler, your radiators, or with both.  Have a suitably qualified plumber inspect your system.  Your central heating problem may just be down to your boiler needing a service.

Whilst you are examining your boiler make sure that your hot water tank and visible pipes between the tank and boiler have been insulated.  Also consider installing thermostatic radiator valves to control individual room temperatures.  This will prevent unnecessary heating of any rooms not being used.

My boiler needs replacing.  What are my options?  
The plumber's verdict is that your boiler is on its last legs - what now?  Whilst expensive, modern condensing boilers are much more energy efficient than older models.  If your old boiler is not doing the job, do not delay, have a new boiler installed.  Fitting a new boiler will save you money in the long run, and will ensure that you have a central heating system that has the capability to properly heat your home.

The most common boiler systems are powered by gas or oil. Gas being the more cost effective of the two. Feeling brave?  There are alternative boiler technologies out there, such as CHP (combined heat and power) boilers and biomass boilers. These, are well worth considering if you are currently relying on an expensive-to-run oil fueled boiler.

Paying for a new Boiler
A new boiler, whilst saving you money in the long run, will have a high upfront cost.  The Government's Green Deal scheme may help you to pay the upfront costs.

Step 4: Create your own energy
This is an optional Step for the really keen.  There are lots of technologies out there that can help you generate your own energy.

The type of central heating system you have will be a key factor in informing which energy generating technology you should go for.  Therefore, for optimum results, the installation of an energy generating technology is best carried out in tandem with an upgrade to your central heating system.

Your energy generation options include:
The above energy generating technologies, especially wind turbines and hydroelectric systems, do not come cheap. Fortunately, the UK Government is investing a great deal of money into enabling householders to install renewable energy generating installations. So now is a good time to check out the potential financial assistance available.

If the above measures don't deliver a toasty home I don't know what will.  There is off course a 'Plan B' - hide under your duvet and wait until Spring. Not such a bad option in the dreadful weather that we've been having.

Warmest wishes



  1. I've found the best way to stay warm in the house is to snuggle under a blanket on my sofa with my cat sprawled out on my lap. Its amazing how much heat a cat can create.

  2. We recently noticed that our radiators didn't feel as hot as usual and so decided to call out our local gas engineer company. They found that the boiler had a slight leak and that there was a lot of sludge in the system. They repaired the boiler and gave a complete system flush which thankfully solved the problem.

    Samuel @ JS Gas & Property Services

  3. As a homeowner, I am constantly thinking bout bills and why it's always so cold in my house. This handy guide provided me with some excellent tips for driving electricity bills down. MY property is fairly old and as a result there are lots of sources of drafts and this guide made me check each of the sources, I am now beginning work on filling many of these gaps in an effort to keep the heat in!

    Wilfred Andrews @ LB Plumbing and Heating