Saving energy in the home is a core aspect of both reducing energy cost and helping to reduce climate change, particularly if the ideas are simple and low cost.
This article introduces several simple ideas for saving energy in the home by reducing gas usage for hot water and central heating. These ideas are what we have implemented in our home and are described in the hope that they may provide ideas for your home.
We have a detached dormer house built in the 1950s with a traditional boiler and gravity feed system for the hot water.
The amount of energy used for hot water was reduced by reducing the temperature of the water and improving the insulation of the laundry room.
Reducing the temperature of the hot water was achieved by adding a temperature sensor to the hot water tank and inserting a water switch in the gravity feed system. This was installed on a contract. As a result, when the temperature is reached the switch blocks any more hot water flowing from the boiler such that the boiler turns off.
Laundry Room Insulation
The laundry room consists of a hot water tank with wooden shelving above it for storing the laundry. There are water pipes through the room from the loft to the rest of the house with some connecting to the hot water tank. The pipes were all insulated with pipe insulation and Thermawrap.
It was important to make sure that technical aspects, such as the water switch, were not insulated as this reduces their working life.
This reduced the temperature in the laundry room but is still able to air and dry the laundry.
The Hot Water tank in the Laundry Room.
The amount of energy used for central heating is dependant on the insulation of the home, so the initial reduction was achieved by reducing the leakage of energy from the home. This leakage covers walls, windows, doors, loft and roof.
The cavity walls were insulated in the years soon after moving in. In addition, pipes passing through walls to the outside have been insulated both inside the house and outside.
External horizontal water pipes have been turned down to reduce the flow of external cold air through them.
External horizontal water pipe.
All the windows were sealed into their frame using external silicone sealant. The rear windows are double glazed, while secondary glazing has been applied to the front windows.
The side windows are a mix of double and secondary glazed windows; these side windows have all been upgraded to quadruple glazed using wooden picture frames. This resulted in unheated small rooms being available during the winter period.
Sealing the Window Frames.
With the exception of the front door, the opening side sections of external doors were insulated with Stormguard insulation. As far as possible two layers have been used.
For the front door, an additional insulated letter box was added inside, Stormguard insulation was added to the side sections with an around door aluminium and rubber strip added to the door frame.
This resulted in the lower hallway being much warmer and the amount of warping in the front door has been reduced.
Insulation of the Door Frame.
Access to the loft was insulated, this covered sealing pipes and insulating the loft hatch.
Within the loft itself, we have a cold water tank that feeds the house and a small hot water tank that takes excess from the hot water tank in the laundry room. As a result, we had to fully insulate the tanks themselves so that the uninsulated floor below them was insulated from the rest of the loft, and all the pipes needed insulating.
The loft consists off a flooring area down the centre of the loft with open extensions at the sides. We checked the insulation that was already existing and added additional insulation to the extensions on the assumption that the wooden flooring adds some insulation.
Insulating the loft Water Tanks.
As we have a dormer house, part of our roof is above the living area on the first floor including bedrooms, hallway and bathroom. This section of the roof, which starts at the edge of the loft, needed insulating but with an approach that didn’t impede the role of the roof in ventilating the loft.
We used Double Reflective Foil Insulation cut to the width of the roof space between the rafters and long enough so it would extend down the roof while integrating with the loft insulation. This foil is 4mm thick so does not impede air flow and is equivalent to 55mm of standard insulation. A small wooden bar was screwed to the end to help the foil stay flat and enable it to be pushed to the end of the roof.
The result of these activities was to reduce our gas energy usage to almost half of what it was when we started. Up until 2005 our gas energy usage had been increasing nearly every year but these actions have reduced it and kept it relatively stable for the remaining years.
Together with the saving we have achieved on electricity, this has resulted in close to an average of £500 savings per year.
This meant that last year we had saved enough to invest in solar panels together with a battery for our home, which enables us to further reduce our energy use.