Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Focus on Heating Challenge

household energy consumption pie chartLast week I reproduced this pie chart about British household energy consumption. I hadn't realised that 84% of our energy usage is for space heating and water heating. It makes low-energy lightbulbs look like a bit of a waste of time.

They're not, of course. They're an easy thing that everybody can do. And if everybody does it (switch to low-energy lightbulbs) then it makes a big difference.

Reducing your home heating bill isn't quite as straightforward. But it has the potential to make a much bigger impact than changing lightbulbs - both on your own fuel bills and on your carbon footprint.

I made a list of ways you can reduce your home heating bill, and none of them involve turning the heating off and shivering:

  • Add to your loft insulation
  • Make sure you have cavity wall insulation
  • Install double or even triple glazing
  • Exclude draughts
  • Close curtains when it gets dark.
  • Make sure the curtains have thermal lining
  • Put foil behind radiators
  • Turn off radiators in unused rooms
  • Use timers to make sure the heating is only on when it needs to be
  • Wear a jumper
  • Turn down your heating thermostat

If you can think of any other things I could add to the list, do let me know. Notice that turning down your thermostat is last on the list. Once you've made your house more insulated and draught-proof you'll want to turn your thermostat down anyway because you'll be far too warm.

I tried to pick one of these things for March's challenge, then I thought - let's do them all. So that's this month's challenge. Every time you do one of the things on the list, vote in the poll. Even if it only makes a 5% difference in your home heating usage, that will swamp any saving you could make in lighting, appliances, leaving gadgets on standby, or any other single part of your domestic energy budget.


Unknown said...

Of course, the more people change a lightbulb, the smaller that percentage becomes, so the more it looks like a waste of time to the skeptics!

marigold said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
marigold said...

Why would one put foil behind the radiator?

Melanie Rimmer said...

Marigold - it is supposed to reflect radiant heat back into the room and prevent it being absorbed by the wall.

Unknown said...

Only one of our radiators is against an external wall!

I'd love to insulate the walls better, but downstairs they're brick outer leaf with a timber frame inside carrying the plasterboard - the existing small amount of insulation prevents application of any more.
Upstairs is tile-hung outside instead of brick - and one summer I'm going to strip all the tiles, battens and membrane, fit insulation and then put it all back again.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we can let our house get much colder — I'm wearing four layers as I'm sitting here including a thermal base layer, while the toilet cistern freezes when the outside temperature drops below -10C.

Getting out of bed in the 5.30am on a cold winter's day is bracing, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've done most of your ideas there tho we still have to work on the draughts. I was shocked by my heating bills when we moved from a newish house to a 30 year old one.We've gradually been working on improving it and the biggest thing so far has been the cavity wall insulation. I know that's brought the bills down a lot but I want to see a full winter's usage before I can say for sure.
BTW I found that silver foil behind radiators can cause condensation and black mould between the foil and the wall. I've seen ventilated thingys that do the same job (but obviously cost more) and I'm thinking of trying them.

ReminisceHeirlooms said...

Thank you for the tips. I need to look into more insulation.

Anonymous said...

We've done a few things on the list, but as renters, we have no control over the insulation or windows. And we don't have radiators because we have central heating and the thermostat which controls the heat in the entire flat is only in one room.

We have:

1) programmed the thermostat to be down when we're not at home or at night when we're asleep

2) turned down the thermostat overall

3) Wear more clothing because of #2

4) Also, we try to keep doors closed in the room with the thermostat so that it stays warmer and doesn't trigger the heat to come on.

5) Use a draft dodger at the bottom of the front door and stuff felt under the windows where they meet the sill.

We should do better with closing curtains but then the rooms are so dark when we first get up that it's depressing. Okay, whine whine. But Spring is almost here, and in the SF Bay Area, it's warming up already, so for this year most of this is moot.

carrie said...

re. lightbulbs the low energy light bulbs give out the most miserable and depressing light in my experience and the light seems to be concentrated around the bulb after a short while. I have a 100w equivalent above my sewing table When I sew, I now need another light on as well so that I can actually see what I'm doing. They dont shed light in the same way. Sorry, one of my pet hates

Anonymous said...

In Japan we used a kotatsu, a table with a heat lamp under it and a blanket over it. Since it heated a smaller space (under the table) it was much cheaper than heating an entire room, or a house full of empty rooms as I see in many American homes.

Rather than turn on the heater at night, we use an electric blanket. I sleep much better when hot air isn't blowing on me and overall we consume much less energy.

Yellow said...

ON the subject of energy efficient bulbs, we got one about 3 years ago, and it always started off dime & yellowish until it heated up a bit. But we got another for the hall just the other week and it's a lovely bright white light. Maybe Carrie's using an old style one.
Also, people often think of getting every ounce of natural light in, but open curtains on a cold dull evening suck loads of heat out of the house, even with double glazing. We've also turned down the radiator in the kids room, just because it's such a smaller room than the rest of the house.
And, don't have your hot water coming through the taps scalding hot, only to have to add loads of cold water to make it bearable to wash the dishes, wash your hair, or your face. Turn the thermostat down on your water tank. You should find that ALL uk energy suppliers have a dedicated team to give advice on use of gas and electric heaters, radiators and storage heaters.

Anonymous said...

All our radiators are on internal walls, so I don't see any point in using silver foil behind them. Any heat lost into the walls will surely help with maintaining the temperature (heat capacitor) when the radiators go off. i.e. smoothing out the temperature.

I do need to get the cavity walls filled and add more loft insulation - ughhh a major, horrible job as existing insulation is scratchy and very dusty mineral stuff. And no idea if I can do anything to improve the boarded areas or how to tackle the loft hatch best.


Anonymous said...

You should also try bleeding your radiators every year or so to make sure they are working at maximum efficiency, as well as getting a dual-flush toilet next time you re-do the bathroom as it helps save water :)

Anna said...

I really like these ideas, but living in rented accommodation most are impossible (I NEVER open the curtains and have 2 jumpers on right now!). I wish there were more incentives for landlords to make their properties more energy efficient - at the moment they have no reason to care how high my gas bill is. Grr....

Rachel said...

I agree. As a renter it is very hard to persuade landlords to invest in something which will onlt financially benefit the tenant.

We use energy bulbs, never open curtains except during daylight hours at weekends, wear jumpers, turn off lights and electical items at wall when not in use, etc etc but can go no further.

Ps. one of my early memories of my father is of him lowering the radiators and glueing sheets of silver foil to the wall behind, explaining to me why he was doing it. He must have been ahead of his time.

Anonymous said...

I have the same problem being a renter. Not much I can do about it.

Another way to insulate is growing creeper against your walls. Check out for details. It also nice to green the place up esp. in the city

Unknown said...

My heating comes from 1 open fire & 1 solid fuel range. The range should heat radiators, but the plumber disconnected them when he added the 1 in the upstairs middle room & he won't return to fix them. We have 4 radiators in a 7 room house thus far (2 rooms are in dire need of complete renovation, & therefore have no heating at all. Like Bill I live in a thick stone-walled 200-year old Irish cottage. My Icelandic neighbour added insulation to the outside of his house ~ it looked like polystyrene sheets & these were plastered over & painted. Apparently that's how they do it in Iceland ~ hope that gives him an idea. My drylining was removed as it attracts damp, so I have plain walls in my house. The range also heats the water, but even so I feel we use far too much electricity ~ computer, radio, lights, fridge, toaster, 'phone chargers & 'phones, Remoska (for cooking as the range only seems to heat itself & not the oven), kettle, chicken heat lamp (for pregnant cat that lost her kittens & now my pregnant porno puppy)

Anonymous said...

My OH goes around in t-shirt and shorts in winter (well, except Dec & Jan and some of Feb when he wears trousers) and wants fire on full blast. Me, I like my jumpers and blankets to wrap up warm.

Anonymous said...

Wool socks and sweaters and blankets. I used to be scared of wool, because I thought it had to itch and take special care. But it depends entirely on the kind of wool used, and how it's processed. Since finding wool that doesn't itch and that I can wash and dry like everything else, I'm a convert. Nothing else keeps you as warm.

Also -- any reflective metal will work behind the radiator. We have sheet metal on the wall behind our wood stove -- it's thin metal, but the wall behind it doesn't even get warm. It's quite amazing.

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