The snow might have gone, but it is still cold! When autumn started I must admit I felt uncertain about how we were going to get through the winter without raking up a massive energy bill in this rather large house, and that was even before we knew we were facing the coldest winter in 30 years. I looked for cheap ways of insulating, only to discover that it isn’t really possible(see blog 6th Oct, Winter is coming)So when we were offered a free home energy audit I thought why not – at least that will tell us where we stand.

We kind of knew that there wasn’t really enough loft insulation and considering the temperature of the house we assumed there weren’t any cavity wall insulation, so I prepared myself for a massive quote that we wouldn’t be able to afford. My first shock however was when I was told that we do have cavity wall insulation already, because the whole extension was built 5 years ago and an obligation to insulate the wall cavity has been part of the building regulations since the 1990’s. ‘Help!’ was the first word that entered my head ‘the house is freezing, but actually insulated’.

The second surprise was the quote for topping up the loft insulation: £125. Now that is a fair amount of money, but not as scary as I had feared thanks to government grants. So we did some thinking, and as this was in December and we were already spending extra money on presents and food and I don’t know what, it did seem like time to get the priorities right and sort the insulation. So we did and we have no regrets!

Before we sorted the insulation this was how it worked. The original part of the house would usually stay reasonably comfortable, the extension part of the house would be cold and the kitchen would be freezing. Unfortunately the rooms in the original part are the ones we use the least, so all in all it was a rather chilly experience.

We now have a rather different situation. The top up loft insulation was put in covering all of the extension bit, and this part can now stay nice and comfy for a long time, which is great. Even when we don’t have the heating on in the evening and obviously not during the night (I work from home, so it is on most of the day), we still wake up in a bedroom where the temperature is 16 degrees. That is nice. The rooms downstairs will usually be 14-15 degrees first thing, which is pretty good in the current cold climate.

The one exception is the kitchen, and this is where I have fully understood the benefit of insulation. The kitchen is part old house part extension. The extension bit of it has a skylight, which looks great, but doesn’t do much for the heating. The old part of the kitchen sits below the bathroom, which hasn’t got any insulation on top, because of recessed lighting (apparently insulation on top of those kind of lights are a major fire hazard), so basically the kitchen is more or less uninsulated. Normal temperature in the kitchen in the morning is somewhere between 10 and 12 degrees – that is cold!

I am sure it will still take us a few years to claw back the £125 in saved energy bills, and it did leave a bit of a gap in the finances, but I can live with that – because I am warm!

Jamie Turner

Environment and Garden Activist at Linlithgow Climate Challenge
I focus on improving the local environment.
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