The cost of gas and electricity seems to be constantly increasing, and at the same time we are becoming more aware of the impact that our energy use is having on the environment. The government has put a lot of rules in place regarding how newly-built homes should be as energy efficient as possible. Sadly, those of us who live in homes that were built a few decades ago may have some work to do to bring our properties up to modern standards.
How Your Home Loses Heat
Heat escapes our houses by several means – convection, radiation and conduction. The main areas where the average house loses heat are the walls, windows, roof and doors. Heat rises, and if you do not have good loft insulation then a large portion of the heat that your home loses will be passed out through the roof. After that, draughty windows and doors are a major contributor to heat loss.
If you still have single glazing, then you will be losing a lot of heat through your windows. If your doors have single-glazed panes, are hollow-core doors, or do not fit in the frame properly, then they will be letting a lot of heat out too, and there is also a high chance that the door is not as secure as it could be. A good external door should be solid-cored, fit snugly in the frame so that it locks securely, and be at least 44mm thick.
Understanding Energy Ratings
Doors and windows are rated according to their U-Value. The U-value is he rate at which heat is able to escape through the window or door. It is expressed in the form of Watts per square metre, and lower numbers are considered to be more energy-efficient.
Some companies will use the alphabetical energy efficiency scale to rate windows, with A+ being the most energy efficient, and G being the least energy efficient. Standard quality double glazing is usually rated as a B on that scale, and is a massive improvement over single-glazed windows. In fact, it can cut the heat lost through windows in half.
External doors can be a major source of heat loss, especially if they are not draught-proofed. The best doors, in terms of U-Value, are uPVC doors. These doors require more energy to manufacture, and are less environmentally friendly to dispose of, but they have a U-Value of 1.8, compared to a solid hardwood door which has a U-Value of 3.0. It is up to each individual home owner whether the improved energy efficiency is worth the pollution and increased energy expenditure involved with making uPVC doors.
Metal doors and insulated solid wood doors are available. They tend to be more expensive, and will require more maintenance over their lifetime. If you opt for a metal door, make sure that it is at least 44mm thick, and that it is reinforced, as lower quality metal doors can often be forced open using a crowbar. If your doors have glass panes in them, make sure that the glass is toughened, and at least double-glazed. This will prevent heat escaping, and make the windows harder to break as well. Consider getting some decorative metal piping over the panes, for added security.
Tips for Cutting Your Heating Bill
Around ten percent of the heat that is lost from your home passes through the windows. If you have single-glazed windows, then you will see massive benefits from installing double glazing, and even more benefits if the double-glazed windows you choose are coated with a Low-E coating and have argon or a similar gas in between the panes. If you already have double glazing, however, then you will see diminishing returns for investing in triple glazing. It may be more cost-effective to improve or add insulation in other parts of your home.
Whatever type of door you decide to opt for, you can make it more energy efficient by fitting a draught-proof letterbox and using a draught excluder at the bottom of the door. When the door is fitted, make sure that it is weatherproofed and that the frame is completely snug in the opening, and the door itself fits the frame perfectly. With pre-hung doors this is usually a non-issue, but if the door is not hung properly there can be some sizeable gaps which can let heat out as well as pose problems from a security point of view.
Affordable Home Improvements
In a bid to encourage homeowners to make energy-efficiency improvements for their homes, the government has launched a scheme that will give households up to £7,600 back when they invest in home improvements such as double glazing, new energy-efficient boilers and double glazing.
The scheme, called the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is being offered to homeowners who are aiming to make eligible home improvements that will provide clear energy-related savings over the lifespan of the improvement. People who have moved into a new home within the last 12 months can claim up to £500 towards such projects.
In addition to this Green Deal, there are other funds available via the Energy Companies Obligation. These funds are aimed at low-income households and those that are classed as vulnerable, but anyone may apply for consideration. Each energy company has its own rules and policies, so it is a good idea to get in touch with your supplier and see what they are able to offer
If you live in Scotland, then instead of the Green Deal you will fall under something called the Green Homes Cashback Scheme. While the name is different, the way the scheme works is quite similar to the Green Deal.
Before you can get any new insulation, windows or doors, you will need to have your property assessed. It costs £120 to apply for a Green Deal Assessment, but if you implement any of the recommendations that you are given following the assessment you will get a £100 rebate, so it is well worth doing.
Posted on: 27 December 2015