Let’s face it it’s difficult to get excited about insulation. It’s just one of those topics that most people believe has to be addressed. But in the fight to reduce your carbon footprint, insulation can be an important weapon (and the fact that over time it far more than pays for itself and energy savings is a plus, too).
In many ways, it’s also a cheap way to make a change. You can do a lot of insulating yourself, if you choose, and even small things like insulating a water tank – if you have one – can make a big difference. The more you do, the more you save on your heating bills and your carbon footprint.
The Easy Stuff
One of the simplest things you can do to stop heat and carbon escaping from your home is draught proofing. After all, 20% of the heat that a house loses goes through its windows. If your windows aren’t double-glazed, it’s worth considering, since the savings are remarkable, as is the comfort inside, and the reduction on CO2 going out.
However, if that’s outside your budget, one simple and cheap solution is curtains, as long as you close them each night. That cuts down on the heat loss.
Yours may be a house which uses a hot water immersion tank. If that’s the case, buy an insulated jacket for it. This won’t drastically reduce your carbon footprint, but it can save you up to £20 a year in fuel, even more if you also insulate the hot water pipes (you can buy the lagging from any DIY shop – it just slides over the pipe).
Too many houses don’t have enough insulation in their lofts, and that means a significant loss of heat through the roof – you can lose 30% of the heat in your house that way, which means you’re not only pushing CO2 into the atmosphere, you’re also paying through the nose to heat the outdoors.
You should have a minimum of 270mm of insulation in your loft, and more will bring greater savings. It’s easy to do yourself, just by buying rolls and putting them in between the joists (and make sure you only step on the joists) or fixing between the rafters. You can even buy good, sustainable insulation made from sheep’s wool or from old newspapers.
Cavity Wall Insulation
If your house was built after about 1920, you’ll find that there’s a gap, or cavity, between the external bricks and the internal wall. Earlier houses have what’s call a solid wall construction, with no gap.
Builders left that cavity empty, and it’s a major source of heat loss. But that having insulation pumped into the gap, you can keep your house a lot warmer and stop heat escaping (if your house is new, it almost certainly has this insulation installed when it was built). Is it worth doing? Absolutely! Considering it can pay for itself within two years, the savings can be staggering. Additionally, you might qualify for subsidized installation.
What if your house is older? What can you do then? You can have either external or internal solid wall insulation. Both have advantages and disadvantages. The latter requires a membrane to avoid damp – and you’ll need to be sure your home is damp-proofed first. External insulation is exactly what it says, put on the outside wall, then covered with render or cladding, so the look of your house is changed.
In terms of carbon footprint, they’re very effective, saving up to 1000kg in carbon emissions each year. On the downside, it’s expensive, which means it takes a long time to cover your outlay.
You might be able to obtain grants for many types of insulation – that’s dependent on several factors, of course. But if you qualify, it reduces the cost greatly. While you’re at it, don’t forget the floorboards. A little sealant can eliminate draughts there, too.
The government have recently introduced a new ‘Green Deal’ scheme in which homeowners and tenants can improve the energy efficency of their home for little or no cost. If you’re an installer by trade then you too can take advantage of the government’s new ‘Green Deal’ by becoming green deal accredited.