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With the cost of gas and power on a seemingly endless series of climbs, now's a great time to have a look around your house and see where it is possible to earn some energy savings.
More than 20% of the heat lost from your house goes straight from the roof, so it is crucial that you have the loft properly insulated. Even if your attic was insulated while the house was constructed or any time prior to the past few years, it might not have the perfect quantity of insulation.
Recent government recommendations have practically doubled the suggested amount of insulation, and a minimum depth of 200-250 mm (8 - 10 inches) is currently suggested in temperate regions.
If you need to top up your loft insulation, it is easy to do it yourself in a few hours if you're pretty good at DIY. You do not need any special skills or tools and it can be a lot cheaper than paying someone else to do it - so long as you do not put your foot through the ceiling!
But check before beginning as grants might be available to assist with part or all the cost of insulating material, particularly for the elderly or those on a low income or benefit. Should you decide on the DIY route, bear in mind that some kinds of insulation are irritants so wear appropriate clothing, such as gloves, goggles and a facemask when you're laying the insulating material.
Be sure you carefully follow the directions which come with the insulating material, and specifically ensure that you don't block ventilators or air inlets. Leave a gap around the eaves as well to reduce condensation.
Do not cover electric wires and keep insulation away from things like recessed lighting fittings which may require airflow to reduce overheating - check if you are not sure.
The attic is going to be a great deal colder once it is insulated so be certain pipes are lagged and water tanks are insulated. Do not insulate under tanks - leaving a clear area underneath will allow heat from below to grow and help prevent them freezing. Finally do not forget to insulate and draft evidence the access hatch.
Now that the attic is cozy, it is time to examine a number of the other areas which you can work on to decrease the heating bills.
Double glazing your windows is best at retaining heat, but if you do not wish to replace your old sash windows just yet, you can conserve energy by stopping drafts. Seal or caulk any openings around the framework using a sealant cartridge and gun - your local DIY or hardware store should be able to advise you on the best type for your requirements. But whatever sealant you use, first make sure that all the surfaces are clean and dry and that there's not any loose or flaking paint that could prevent the sealant adhering.
Fit weather strips to opening doors and windows - these are available in many shapes and sizes which range from cheap and simple to fit self-adhesive foam rubber strips to more expensive but durable vinyl or plastic weather stripping. Prevent drafts under doors by installing an adjustable threshold or brush type strip in the bottom of the door.
When the frames are weatherproofed, you may look at reducing heat loss through the window glass . The cheapest means of doing this is to use a transparent picture plastic sheeting that's stuck into the window frame with tape and then heated with a hairdryer. This leads to the plastic film to shrink and tighten eliminating wrinkles and creases. This sort of secondary gas - while low priced - must be renewed if you will need to get into the window, and so is unsuitable for windows that you would like to start before spring!
More expensive are secondary glazing panels. These are made from rigid clear plastic and can be fixed to the wooden frame with magnetic tape, or plastic station that may be left in place. In both these cases, the panels can usually be eliminated for cleaning and ventilation.
Do not forget that if you are draft proofing your home it is very important to make certain that you have adequate ventilation in rooms where there's a heater, fire, boiler or any other appliance that requires air for combustion and be sure that you never block up air bricks or vents.
Now that you have reduced the amount of energy it takes to keep your house warm, you can turn the heating down. Even a small 1 or 2 level C reduction on your thermostat can reduce your heating bill considerably. If you're able to also set your heating to fire up a bit later and change off a bit sooner, you might discover that a difference of a couple of minutes every day can add up to a huge saving over a year.
There is only space here to give you a couple ideas but there's plenty of additional information available both on and off-line on how it is possible to economise on energy usage.
As soon as you start to consider saving energy, you will be amazed how it soon becomes second nature and before you know it, you will get a greener and more energy efficient house with big benefits to your wallet and Earth.