The typical British home spends the majority of its energy on heating. So tackling heat loss, whether it’s through poor insulation or draughts, is a great way to make energy savings.
The breakdown of heat loss in an average home is around 25% through the roof, 35% escaping through the walls, 10% beneath your feet and the remaining 30% through doors and windows.
‘Insulation’ describes how well a material keeps heat in, whereas ‘draughts’, caused by air leaks, are a measure of the pressure difference between indoors and outside. These moving air currents have a noticeable effect, which is why two rooms heated to the same temperature can feel so different.
Draught proofing is a quick solution to the problem of heat loss because it tends to be easier to block nooks and crannies than it is to change the material of your home.
We’ve put together a few ideas to help plug those draughts and make savings on your heating bills.
Some of the suggestions require a small spend upfront, and the savings will vary depending on your home and how well insulated it is already. We’ve included the upper savings for the average UK home. These tips will have the biggest impact on homes built before the 1930s.
Insulate sash windows
If you have sash windows, insulating film can make a big difference to the temperature of your home — available at most DIY shops. It should come with instructions. But, in general, you need to stretch the plastic film over your window and use a hair dryer to shrink it into place to seal over any air leaks.
Insulate your hot water tank and hot water pipes
Most homes use hot water all year round, so insulating your boiler and pipes is a good one to tackle.
Most hot water tanks in the UK already have some sort of insulation. Without it, your tank will lose heat much more quickly, and you'll need to use a lot more energy to bring it up to the right temperature. It’s worth insulating hot water pipes for the same reason, with the added benefit they’ll be better protected from freezing over in the winter.
Insulating any exposed water pipes could save you around £3 a year on your energy bills. And you could save an extra £18 a year by increasing the thickness of the insulation around your hot water tank from 25mm to 80mm.
Add radiator panels or boosters
You could save you up to £13 a year by adding reflective panels or boosters behind your radiators. Reflective panels bounce heat back into the room, instead of into the wall. You can normally pick them up at your local DIY store.
Block draughts around doors and windows
When you get to know your home, you can usually feel the areas around your doors and windows where the cold air comes in.
Blocking up draughts could save you around £25 a year, whether that’s with thick curtains, or running draught excluders or seals along the gaps between windows and doors. Self-adhesive window strips can be a cheaper alternative to metal or plastic strips, although they're unlikely to last as long.
Block a draughty chimney
Not only do chimneys let cold air in, but they help warm air escape too. Blocking chimney draughts can save you around £18 a year.
A chimney balloon is an inflatable, reusable balloon designed to fit inside the chimney to stop draughts and heat loss. If you’re worried about setting one up, one manufacturer offers the ‘Chimney Sheep’ — it's a thick pad of wool with a handle that plugs the gap just above the fireplace.
Make sure there’s enough airflow
When draught-proofing your home, make sure you leave enough room for ventilation. Blocking up every nook and cranny can cause poor air circulation, or damp.
For good airflow, leave the following unblocked:
- extractor fans
- underfloor grilles or airbricks
- wall vents
- trickle vents
Get to know your home and your heating
Sometimes, taking the time to think more about your home and the way you use it can uncover more ways to save. Even better, there’s no upfront cost.
Turn your thermostat down by 1 degree
Turning your thermostat down by 1 degree could save you up to £55 a year.
You can also save money by only heating the rooms in the house you use the most. If everyone’s in the kitchen in the evening, try turning down the heat in the bedrooms by a few degrees. And if you’re out during the day, make full use of the timer on your thermostat, so you’re not heating up an empty home unnecessarily.
Bleed your radiators
Trapped air makes your radiators less effective. Bleeding them means letting the air out, so the warm water can circulate properly. You'll need a radiator key. If you don't have one, they usually cost around £1 and you can find them in any DIY shop.
Watch our video on how to bleed your radiator in 60 seconds.
Dust your radiators
Giving your radiator a clean helps get the most out of them. Dust building up between the radiator fins stops the heat from escaping and warming up the room, making it less efficient. You can use your regular cleaning supplies to give your radiator a dust. Or you can buy a radiator cleaner (a long handled brush) for about £10 from most DIY shops.
Read this short guide from Best Heating on how to clean your radiator.
Ask the experts
Asking for professional advice can help to increase your savings longer term, but could mean a higher initial outlay. It may be worth getting more than one quote from different suppliers to better understand the costs.
- Installing secondary glazing in an entirely single glazed home could save you around £70 a year
- Loft insulation (270mm thick) could save you up to £135 a year
- Draft proofing doors and windows could save you around £25 a year
Getting a thermal survey, often provided on a volunteer basis by charity organisations like the Transition Network, can help you tell the best places to focus your efforts to make the most savings.
Energy saving grants and additional help
The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme is designed to help tackle fuel poverty in the UK and reduce carbon emissions.
You could also be eligible for a grant to contribute towards your energy bills or insulate your home. For more information, see the government’s Energy Grants Calculator.