Times are changing. In happier years, we would think nothing of turning up the thermostat when the cold weather hit each winter. Now, however, many homeowners are concerned with rising energy costs and shrinking budgets. The date from which it is acceptable to switch on the heating is pushed back a little each year as we don scarves and hats in an effort to keep warm in the mornings. Besides, we all want to do our bit for the environment, and our central heating systems make up a large portion of our individual carbon footprints. What many people fail to realise is that their homes are cold and comparatively wasteful due to inefficient design. So if you’re building or remodeling your own home, bear the following three factors in mind.
Most people will be aware that improved insulation is the cheapest and easiest way to minimise heat loss and thus improve efficiency in the home. Loft insulation is cheap and easy to fit at any time, but insulating your wall can be a little more difficult and should be considered at the time of building. Most homes built after the 1920s feature cavity walls; two sections of wall forming a sandwich with insulation in the middle. The material and thickness of this insulation should maximise energy-saving potential. Homes built earlier than this, or modern homes with a more classic design, might have solid walls. In this case, insulation should be added to either the outside or inside of the wall. This is more expensive, but will prevent the increased heat loss these designs lead to. Home builders should think carefully about which type of wall they require and what they will use to insulate it.
2. Air Tight Systems
Air tight systems are an example of modern engineering’s desire to boost the energy efficiency of homes. The premise is a simple one – prevent heat from leaking out of the home by creating an air tight seal around all joints and small openings. An enclosed envelope is formed, making it much more difficult for the warm air inside the home to escape. The fitting of a truly seamless air tight system will mean that there is almost zero heat loss through the walls of your home, leading to vastly improved energy efficiency.
3. Heat Recovery Units
Heat recovery units have been used in the manufacturing industry for many years. Within the home, their job is to ensure that the air circulating through the house is both fresh and warm. With improved insulation and an air tight system, heat loss from the home will be very low, but providing ventilation by opening a window will let all that warm air out. Heat recovery units work by drawing in air from outside the home and combining it with warm air from the hottest parts of the house to provide a stable, fresh flow. These setups are certainly worth considering, especially in combination with air tight systems.
Charlie Bond is an architect with 15 years’ experience. He and his family enjoy living in a custom-built environmentally sound home in Kent.