Energy has become a pressing matter for UK households, as the effects of a growing climate crisis become more readily apparent to general populations in Europe. The stratospheric rise in energy bills, with further hikes announced in the winter, has also caused many to consider the ways in which we can collectively reduce our overall energy usage. Companies responsible for new builds also have a duty to make their homes more energy efficient, which is much easier when in the process of constructing them as opposed to after the structures are in place. But what are the best ways to improve energy efficiency in houses?
The single biggest intervention to improve the energy efficiency of a home is to ensure its exterior walls are correctly insulated. According to the Energy Saving Trust, up to a third of a home’s heat can be lost via the walls, meaning that the right insulation can slash energy bills by hundreds annually.
The industry standard for effective home insulation is cavity wall insulation, where insulating foam is injected into the hollow space between the two leaves of the wall, improving its thermal insulation properties. For homes built before the 1920s, though, this is likely not possible; the vast majority of homes that predate the 1920s were built using solid-wall techniques. For solid-walled homes, a more expensive cladding measure is required to improve energy efficiency.
Not all heat is lost via radiation in the home, though. Ventilation can have the effect of ‘wicking away’ heat if not correctly controlled, where unmitigated cracks and spaces created by a home’s natural ‘settling’ over time create channels for air movement and heat loss.
Draught proofing measures are simple and easy to administer. Silicone sealant can be used to reseal windows and door jambs, preventing air flow and subsequent heat loss. Aftermarket measures can also be taken, in the form of draught excluders and fittings for openings like letterboxes.
Heat convection causes heat to rise in homes and is responsible for the phenomenon of upper rooms feeling warmer than rooms on lower floors. This phenomenon can also cause heat to dissipate through the roof of the building, resulting in wasteful energy consumption to compensate for the deficit.
Loft insulation can be laid across the floor of loft space to prevent heat from radiating through the ceilings of upper floors. This functionally ‘traps’ heat in your home, in concert with an air barrier formed through insulation of the roof itself.
While less effective than major insulation interventions such as loft and cavity wall insulation, a significant amount of energy can be wasted through radiation from the home’s central heating pipes. Foam pipe insulation can mitigate heat loss and improve the effectiveness of central heating systems.
There are also other ways of using insulation to directly improve a home’s heating efficiency – particularly for homes with older, conventional boiler systems that utilise a hot water tank. An insulating sleeve can be placed around the tank and its distribution pipes, to reduce the energy used to keep the tank heated over time.