Tuesday 15th January 2013, 12:30PM GMT.
One of the best ways to make your home more energy efficient is to improve the insulation. Two of the areas that benefit most from being insulated are the loft and exterior walls, where a large amount of heat can escape.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, a quarter of the heat in an uninsulated home is lost through the roof.
It says that laying 27cm (the recommended depth for mineral wool) of insulation in an uninsulated loft will save you up to £175 a year (based on a three-bed semi with gas central heating).
Even if your loft has insulation, it may not be thick enough. The Trust calculates that if everyone in the UK fitted 27cm of loft insulation, the saving would be almost £500 million a year.
While you can get a pro to insulate your loft, it’s generally a straightforward DIY job – simply lay the insulation between the joists and then across them at a 90-degree angle to create two layers.
There are lots of different loft insulation materials to choose from, including rigid insulation boards, which are useful if you want to board over the loft for storage, insulation granules, which are good for filling awkward spaces, and environmentally friendly insulation made from things such as sheep’s wool or recycled plastic or newspapers – B&Q has a good selection. The recommended depth will vary from material to material, so check the manufacturer’s instructions.
And don’t forget to insulate any water pipes and tanks in the loft, as insulating the floor will make the loft itself colder because less heat will get through from the rooms below.
One of the hazards of this time of year is burst pipes, so don’t take any risks – insulate them in the loft and anywhere else you can access them.
When it comes to the walls of an uninsulated house, a third of the heat is lost through them, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
If you home has cavity walls (houses built from the 1920s onwards usually do), it’s easy to insulate them.
The Trust calculates that installing cavity wall insulation in a three-bed semi (with gas central heating) will produce savings of up to £135 a year, but this isn’t a job you can do yourself – see www.energysavingtrust.org.uk for information on finding registered installers.
The installer will make small holes in your home’s exterior walls, blow the insulation material through the holes into the cavity and then fill the holes.
It’s a relatively quick and easy process, but the installer will need to be able to access all the walls. And it’s more complicated if your house isn’t detached because the installer will have to insert a barrier so the insulation doesn’t go in to the adjoining walls.
Insulating homes with solid exterior walls, which are usually made of brick or stone, is less straightforward, but the savings are bigger.
If you insulate them internally, the Energy Saving Trust says that the saving will be about £445 a year, or £475 if you insulate them externally (based on the same three-bed, gas-heated semi).
However, the work is likely to cost several thousand pounds, rather than the few hundred, or less, it costs to insulate a loft or cavity walls.
There’s lots of information on the Energy Saving Trust website about the pros and cons of internal and external solid wall insulation.
Insulating solid walls is probably something you only want to do as part of other home improvements, as it can be disruptive as well as expensive, but it could make a big difference to how warm your home feels and how high your heating bills are.
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It’s important to insulate the hatch when you do the rest of the loft.
You can buy a replacement, such as the Insulated Loft Door in White (£36.89, Screwfix), or adapt what you already have.
Cut a piece of insulation material to fit, put it in a bin bag to keep it neat and tidy, and fix it to the back of the hatch door or cover.
You can also fit draught-excluder tape around the edge of the hole.
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