Saving energy doesn’t come much easier, cheaper or quicker to yield benefits than by simply insulating water pipes and tanks – and while we all know that it works, just how much of a difference it can make may come as a bit of a surprise.
Hot Water Tanks
According to the Energy Saving Trust, just adding a jacket to your hot water tank can slash heat losses by 75 per cent. Since the Environment Agency estimate that heating water accounts for a quarter of all the energy used in most households, any way of cutting down those losses has to be a good investment.
A 75-80mm thick jacket for your tank, for example, will cost around £15 to £20 to buy and should save you between £20 and £30 a year – which means that it pays for itself within 6 months to a year. It also shaves 195kg of CO2 off your carbon footprint. However, it’s not just about insulating hot water tanks – there are plenty of other places to lose heat.
Insulating water pipes is another low cost, fast return step. At a cost of between £5 to £10 for the average house, adding insulation to your hot water pipes should cut around £10 off your annual bills – another fast payback. In addition, from an environmental standpoint, properly insulated pipes can help you avoid 65kg of CO2 emissions – and on a practical note, as well as stopping heat loss, it also reduces the risk of the pipes freezing in the winter.
Cold water pipes too need to be insulated and although this is primarily done to avoid frost damage, it does have its role to play in energy saving too, since keeping in whatever heat the water has means you need less energy when you want to warm it up in kettles or boilers.
There are two main materials available for insulating water pipes – a mineral wool wrap and the more modern pre-formed insulation foam. Whichever you use, make sure there are no exposed gaps and don’t forget to cover any stop-cocks, valves, taps or overflows too.
Cold Water Tanks
Any tanks storing cold water in the loft need to be insulated for the same reasons – including any central heating expansion tanks or similar that may be present. One way to do this effectively is to use sheet insulation material. Packs are available from most large DIY stores with pre-cut panels to fit the most popular sizes of tank, or alternatively it can be cut to fit from larger boards. Alternatively, insulating blankets can be used, wrapped and secured around the sides of the tank and laid over a simple box-cover to protect the top.
In the event of an emergency, you’ll want to be able to open it up quickly, so whether you opt for sheet material or the insulating blanket, it’s worth organising things so that you can access the ballcock via the top of the tank without disturbing the rest of the surrounding insulation.
Making sure that your tanks and water pipes are adequately insulated is an essential part of any attempt to save energy and it’s not a difficult or expensive thing to do. For a relatively small outlay, you can see a real difference to your household energy use, which is good for the environment as well as your own bank balance!