Hello all, Energy costs are in the headlines. This will come as less of a surprise to all our regular readers than it seems to be to the general population. Many people are in serious trouble in this regard and none are well off. I would like to get a 10 or 20 Top Tips together and when we are done we can place them in order of 'bangs per buck' and we will make the list available as a download. By way of pushing the boat out I will suggest a few. First, check your insulation levels. If you can improve them sensibly then do so, loft, windows, hot water tank and pipes are all prime candidates. Secondly if you still heat with an open fire consider putting a stove in its place. Nearly 90% of the heat from an open fire goes up the chimney. A stove, on the other hand, can put 75% of its output into the room with 25% wasted. Many stoves are designed to sit on a hearth in front of a fireplace and look well. Some have a cooking surface which offers scope for further savings. I used to try to be polite to people who whinged about loving an open fire now I tell them to cop on. My last offering (today) is to wear a hat and to stop worrying about what the neighbours might think if they see you. It is getting cold out there so let us get this list together soon. C
I would target unwanted draughts in addition to insulation.
I will upload a pic of a double seal affair I made for three leaky doors in the knee/dwarf walls of our loft. These made a big diff to the heat retention in the house.
In the meantime I will describe three 'slightly unconventional' techniques I have used to trace unwanted air movements:
 Light an incense stick and hold near a suspected source of draught. Particularly useful when testing the seal on a loft hatch or other door to the outside.
 Get a kid's helium balloon. Only when the child is not using it mind you. Tie up the string so there's only a foot or so of the string dangling below the balloon. Carefully weight the string with blue tack, chewing gum, paper clips, etc.. so the balloon hangs mid air. It's tricky and requires much fine adjustment, but can be achieved with a little time. Once it floats mid air on it's own. let the balloon loose in various positions in your leaky room. The balloon will show you the paths of the main air flows.
 Finally, for or those with bare floorboards, there's the lightweight plastic dust sheet trick. Bare floorboards are a very common minimalist mod in older houses. Whilst they can look great, they can also introduce draughts, especially if the plumber or spark has previously ripped up bits of the floor.
Buy the cheapest lightweight plastic dust sheet from the likes of B&Q. The lighter and flimsier the better. Unfold and lay over the suspected floorboards. Turn the heating in the house up with the door closed and get the room good and warm. Then open the door to the hall (not an external door) and also an upstairs window. This provide 'a bit of suck'. The sheet will then rise where the draught is strongest, thereby highlighting the leakiest floorboards which can then be sealed with a little clear silicon. Mask off the upper surface of the surrounding floorboards with masking tape before applying a bead of silicon and smooth off with a wet finger. Once the silicon is nearly dry, pull off the masking tape.
I remember changing the carpet in my grandmothers house. It took ages to get the job done because under the old carpet was .................newspaper. Why did it take ages to do the job? There was just so much interesting stuff to read. Why was the newspaper there in the first place? To stop the draughts from between the boards. I would guess that trick has the best payback time of all!
In the 70s and 80's most people had single glazed windows and there were a number of 'secondary glazing' ideas around. One had thin frames which were glazed with perspex. I think there were even ones which slid open. There was also a way of fixing clingfilm to the inside of the frame. It was delicate but it worked. If things get any colder that sort of idea could pay for itself in a week.
Curtains are great. Long heavy ones that touch the floor. A pelmet reduces the airflow even more. If I reach behind the curtains these evenings I can feel the difference in temperature. There are thermal linings available which really improve the performance.
i read somewhere of folks countersinking rare earth magnets (strong magnets) into a wooden frame and painting/filling over these so they're not noticeable. with lightweight ferric metal strip sewn into the hems of curtains they make a good tight seal.
similar technique can be used for secondary glazing perhaps.
i will take pics of the wooden frames i fixed a secondary glazing film to a while back when i get a chance. these have compressible draught excluder on the window side and were screwed into place over the old single glazed frame. a bit rough and ready and somewhat unsightly, but delivered a very noticeable improvement and prevented condensation on the inside of the windows. they are no longer used as we have replaced the old single glazing with a triple glazed unit. it's funny to see the condensation on the outside these mornings!
Jim, you are right. The figures are out there to support your view. Turning the heat down just a little saves a lot of energy. Cye was on about condensation and it got me thinking about pressure cookers. They cook food faster and so save energy but I was wondering do people who use pressure cookers turn the heat down until there is just enough to keep the steam hissing from the valve or do they run them it flat out as so many do while boiling spuds or pasta in an open pot. It seems that some folk think that furiously boiling water is hotter than gentle bubbling and so they fill their houses with condensation for no good reason and waste the energy to do so.
Cye, that is a really good list. It is spot on apart from the last sentence which suggests that if you turn the thermostat up the house will heat quicker. This is nonsense. I also have a nagging worry that poorer people will shut themselves into airtight houses without fresh air and too much humidity and condensation. I don't know of a low-tech/low cost solution to this problem. c