Thursday, September 15, 2022

How Do Homes Lose Heat?

 

Pexels. CCO Licensed.

Winter is around the corner and many of us will be cranking up the heating in our homes. Rising energy costs are likely to make it an expensive season. There are many different ways in which you can reduce your energy consumption. When it comes to energy used for heating, one effective solution is to explore ways of limiting heat loss in your home - the longer it takes for heat to leave your home, the less often you’ll need to turn up the heating.

Reducing heat loss is typically known as insulating. By understanding how homes lose heat, you can explore the best insulation methods for your home. This post details some of the different ways in which homes lose heat and how to reduce this heat loss.

Your roof

Heat naturally rises and so a lot of a home's heat is lost through the roof. Roughly a quarter of a home’s heat is lost through the roof. However, this figure can vary depending on the condition of your roof and how well insulated it is.

Roofing damage will clearly lead to more heat loss. Cracks and loose tiles/flashing will not only let heat out, but let cold drafts in. Such damage can also lead to rainwater leaks. Repairing your roof should be the first step to insulate your home.

Certain types of roof will offer more insulation than others. Asphalt, clay, steel, timber and slate are all good insulators, whereas terracotta and concrete aren’t so good. Whatever type of roofing you have, it’s worth investing in some extra insulation beneath. This can serve as an extra barrier to reduce heat loss.

There are a few different ways to insulate a roof. This includes using insulation boards, using insulation wool blankets, using loose fill insulation or using spray-on insulation foam. This insulation material can be placed above the roof deck, on the underside of your ceiling or on the floor of your attic. Above-deck insulation boards are generally the most effective solution, but typically aren’t the easiest to install. Spray-on insulation on the inside of your roof is the fastest solution, but should only be carried out by a professional. Interior insulation boards may be a good DIY option. 

Your windows

Up to a quarter of a home’s heat can also be lost through its windows. The amount of heat loss largely depends on what type of windows you have and the type of window treatment you are using. The type of property can also have an impact - apartments and condominiums often lose most of their heat through windows as there are few other places for the heat to go.

Home window replacement could be worth considering if your windows are damaged, single pane or made from a material like aluminium. While installing new windows isn’t cheap, it could result in big energy savings by greatly reducing the amount of heat lost through your windows. Just what should you look for in new windows? First and foremost, you should choose a frame material that is energy-efficient. Vinyl and fiberglass will provide the most insulation. Timber can also provide insulation, but can be a little expensive. When it comes to the glass, opt for double pane windows. These will not only limit heat loss but provide extra strength and security. You can even opt for triple pane windows to reduce heat loss further.

If you’ve already got double pane vinyl or fiberglass windows, make sure that they are in good condition. Look out for cracks around window frames - these could be a source of heat loss and should be filled. Damaged glass or frames should similarly be repaired as soon as possible to stop heat escaping.

If you can’t afford to replace or fix windows, consider whether you can reduce heat loss by upgrading your window treatment during the winter months. Blinds and light curtains are great for providing privacy and blocking out light in the summer, but won’t provide much insulation in the winter. Thick winter curtains are a better solution and could help to trap in heat much longer.

There is also the option of installing shutters to reduce heat loss. Shutters can be installed on the exterior or interior of your windows. The likes of plantation shutters work much like blinds, but are fixed to the frame and solid to provide added insulation and security. 

It should go without saying, but opening windows during cold weather is the fastest way to lose heat from your home. For rooms that need ventilation, try to use trickle vents and extractor fans in colder weather rather than opening windows.

Your doors

10% of your home’s heat could be disappearing through your exterior doors. Large gaps around doors could let out even more heat, as well as letting cold air in.

You can stop heat escaping through the gaps around your door by sealing these gaps. Weatherstrips can stop air passing through and stop leaks. These are cheap to buy and can be installed oneself. As for the gap at the bottom of your door, you can either block it off using a draft excluder or install a stormguard. Draft excluders are typically the cheapest option and are suited to homeowners and tenants as they are not a permanent fixture.

Of course, you should also consider the doors themselves. Certain door materials are likely to offer more insulation than others. Polymer doors are an energy-efficient option that is cheap and secure. Timber is a lot more expensive, but also offers good energy-efficiency and generally lasts a lot longer before needing to be replaced. Doors that offer the best insulation include steel doors, composite doors and fiberglass doors - choose these materials if you really want to trap heat in. 

When it comes to glass doors, it’s worth considering the same properties that apply to energy-efficient windows. Vinyl and fiberglass are your best choice of materials when it comes to frames. Glass should meanwhile be double pane to help reduce heat loss.

Your walls

Most of a home’s heat is lost through its walls - in many cases, about 30% of heat loss is through the walls. This is particularly the case with detached houses that have more exposed walls. Certain wall materials let more heat pass through. Cracks and fissures can also allow heat to escape. 

Most walls are primarily made of brick, timber or steel. Brick and steel both provide a fair level of insulation. However, timber is the best insulator of the three - if your walls are mainly wood, you may find that they don’t need much extra insulation. 

Of course, adding extra layers of insulation to any type of walls can make a positive difference. If your home has cavity walls, your best option is to fill the cavity with an insulation material. This could include foam insulation, polystyrene beads or blown mineral wool. If your home has solid walls, you’ll need to consider other options. You could insulate the interior by adding wooden or polystyrene boards and then plaster over the top. Alternatively, you could look into insulating forms of plaster. Another option is to insulate the exterior of the wall. Various types of cladding such timber will help to trap heat in. This is generally less effective than interior wall insulation, but may be easier in some cases.

It’s important that any damage to your walls is repaired. Sealing up large cracks will not only prevent heat escaping, but could also prevent cold air, water and pests from getting in. Most cracks can be easily sealed with caulk. When it comes to larger cracks, you may want to get them checked out by a professional to ensure that there isn’t major damage to your wall.

Your floor

About 10% of a home’s heat can be lost through an uninsulated floor. Homes with large crawl spaces are more likely to experience heat loss here - heat may leak out and drafts may come up through floorboards.

Filling your home’s crawl space could be one way to prevent heat loss. A simple way to do this is to fill it with spray foam insulation. Just be wary that any wires and plumbing will still need to be accessible, and so certain wires and pipes may need to be relocated. 

You can also insulate your floor by placing a rigid foam layer beneath the floorboards or tiles. This will involve tearing up your floor - if you’ve been looking to replace your flooring, it could be the perfect time to install this insulation, otherwise it may not be recommended.

The type of flooring you choose can also have an impact on its insulation quality. Carpets are by far the best option in terms of reducing heat loss and staying warmer longer. Hardwood and vinyl are the second best options, with laminate being the next best solution. Stone floors generally provide little insulation and can quickly cool down. Of course, you can place rugs over the top to keep certain areas of flooring warm. 




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