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Keeping your home warm is essential for your health and well-being.
If the temperature falls below 18 degrees Celsius/64 degrees Fahrenheit at night, you are at an increased risk of hypothermia, heart attack or stroke.
Heating can be costly and this is usually the main problem when trying to keep your home warm. Nevertheless, you can make more efficient use of your heating system and retain heat in your home to keep costs down.
It is useful to know where heat is lost from a home in order to understand how heat loss can be reduced. The majority of heat in a home (35%) is lost through un-insulated walls. This is followed by heat loss through the roof (25%), floors (15%), doors (15%) and windows (10%).
There are a number of things that can be done to reduce the amount of heat lost from the home in wintertime. Some are more expensive that others and checks should be made to see if financial help is available. A warm, draught free and energy efficient home can be achieved by:
Insulation can slow down the escape of heat from the home, keeping heat inside the home. There are various forms of insulation including:
- Cavity wall insulation –Injecting cavity walls with insulating material can help to prevent heat loss through walls. However, this can be expensive.
- Solid wall insulation – It is possible to insulate solid walls by adding insulation to either the inside or outside of the wall.
- Loft (roof) insulation – Layering insulation between wooden joists can help to limit heat loss into the loft and through roofs.
- Floor Insulation – Insulating beneath floor boards will reduce heating bills. Gaps and cracks around floors can also be filled with a sealant.
- Hot water tank insulation – Insulating the hot water tank with a special jacket will stop heat escaping, allowing the tank to keep hot water warmer for longer.
- Cold water tank insulation – Insulating cold water tanks can stop them freezing in winter, which is increasingly likely where lofts have been insulated.
- Pipe insulation – Insulating material can be fitted around pipes to prevent heat loss and stop them freezing in cold weather.
- Window insulation - Whilst double glazing is the best method for preventing heat loss through the windows it can be expensive. Plastic film attached to the window frame is useful where double glazing is not possible. Heavy curtains will also act good insulators. If there is a radiator behind curtains it is advisable to tuck curtains behind these to enable the heat to get into the room.
Doors and windows, where heat enters or escapes, can be draught-proofed.
A well fitted curtain and draught-proofing strips fixed to the bottom of a door will make a big difference to the amount of heat getting out and draughts getting in.
Windows can also be draft proofed by sealing gaps. Letterbox and keyhole covers can also be used.
It is important when draught-proofing or insulating a house to ensure that enough fresh air can enter the home for ventilation purposes.
Poor ventilation can cause condensation and damp. Drying washing outside and covering boiling saucepans can also help to produce less moisture.
Related information on home insulation and glazing.
Ensure your central heating system is working efficiently by having it checked at least once a year.
Knowing how to adjust the timer and thermostat to control the heating is useful and can help save on heating costs. For example, if heating is on at night the thermostat could be reduced so that the house remains warm but not as hot as during the day when you are awake.
Thermostatic valves on radiators can be used to control heat in different rooms. Those in more regular use can be set at a higher level, for example, than those used less often.
Foil heat reflectors can be fitted behind radiators to help reflect heat back into the room.
If using room heaters it is best to use one with a built-in thermostat so that it switches itself off when the room reaches the required temperature.
Renewable energy such as solar power and wind power can be used to heat and power homes alongside or in place of existing energy sources.
These can be expensive to install, however, but grant schemes may be available and saving will be made in the long term. For further information visit Action Renewables or contact them on 0800 0234 077.
The following organizations can offer you help and advice to make their home more energy efficient:
- Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) offer energy advice and home energy checks.
- Energy Savings Trust offer information on energy efficiency and have information about a range of grants available.
- Power NI (formerly Northern Ireland Electricity) has a range of energy saving tips, advice, home energy checks and information about grants available.
- Bryson Energy operates the Heatsmart project for people living in NIHE houses. This provides energy advice and free home visits, for example, to help people operate heating systems more efficiently. They also operate the Energy Advice Line on 0800 142 2865
- Phoenix Natural Gas offer advice and information about boiler maintenance and current grants and offers.
For further information about saving energy and keeping warm in the home see:
The BBC offers handy advice on energy efficiency at home in this article.
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