Tactics to keep the heat

by Andy Bryenton

With winter on the way and autumn already delivering cooler mornings, the thoughts of many people are turning toward ways to keep cold and damp out of their homes. When it comes to efficient heating, there are so many options available pellet fires, efficient wood burners, gas, heat pump systems — the choices seem endless.

There’s a passive system of indoor climate control, which works 24/7 with no moving parts. It can work silently at no cost for years in total efficiency, and without it, all the heat in the world will do little good. We’re talking, of course, about insulation, a topic, that has been discussed in arenas from real estate to politics in recent years, such is its importance to a healthy home.

With rules changing for landlords around minimum standards for insulation in rental homes, it makes sound sense as a homeowner to treat your own biggest investment to a healthy upgrade.

Imagine your home as a chilly bin; though instead of ice and cold drinks, it contains the warmth generated by your heat pump or fireplace. A house with no insulation is more like a cardboard box full of holes no matter the efficiency of your heating; it’s radiating out into space. At the same time, cold and damp can come creeping in. Insulating the roof is usually the first thing we think of, as heat rises. It’s a good idea to check on the condition of that insulation if it’s been a while since you’ve opened the hatch and visited the ceiling space; old insulation can settle and degrade over time. Next comes the underfloor space for those homes not built directly onto concrete. Check to see that everything is tightly attached with no gaps here.

Finally, and paradoxically, many people forget to consider the sides of the ‘box’ we aim to create with insulation. Heat can readily radiate out through walls, and it’s easier than you might think to unobtrusively fill the cavities between the inner and outer walls with a long-lasting insulation material.

Give your insulation coverage a check-up now before the cold weather strikes, and if you’re in doubt, call up a local expert. They have the tools to pinpoint where your insulation ‘armour’ has gaps, and can upgrade your level of defence to exceed government standards and achieve a healthier, warmer, lower-cost home for winter. Then it’s time to tackle the next phase of renovating for warmth — creating a dry environment in which heat spreads efficiently and in which mould and other nasties cannot grow.

The crucial factor here is all about input and output. A well-ventilated home, with all the windows open, may allow a breeze to pass through and clear away the moisture caused by sources such as bathing, cooking, washing clothes and even our own respiration. It’s also a home open to the bitter winds of winter and to certain unscrupulous criminals who see an open window as an invitation to burglary. A good idea to tick off one’s checklist this time of year is a check of the extractor fans which accompany your shower and kitchen. These can clog up with dust and airborne dirt over time, and it’s not difficult to give these often overlooked areas a clean.

If your shower, bathroom or kitchen is not fitted with an extractor system, these are inexpensive to buy and can be installed by most tradespeople with the minimum of fuss either directly through the wall or via a ceiling-stored ducted tube. Pick a motor that’s quiet and efficient; there are even options to have your extractors solar powered.

Heat itself can come from many sources, from the old-fashioned fireplace and its upgraded, less air-polluting variants through to the convenience of a modern heat pump.

When choosing one of these systems also a great bonus in the hot summer months; it’s always best to consider placement first. Despite wishful thinking, even the biggest unit will struggle to penetrate all the way through a home with long and winding corridors or far-flung rooms.

An expert appraisal can usually be had free of obligation or charge; see just where your local heating expert would suggest you place a heat pump and what kilowatt range is right for that space. Any less, and you’ll be unsatisfied with the result. Any more, and it’s a waste of money. Get the basics right, and you’ll have a warm and healthy home, a big initiative nationwide from the government, but also something, which homeowners are wise to spend some time considering. Just like a general preparing his army, think about defence in depth, and send cold, damp and chills packing this winter.