Cheap DIY home insulation: How to make your home warmer on a budget


UK residents live in some of the oldest, coldest, least-insulated properties in the whole world – and it’s costing us hundreds of pounds a year on our energy bills.

Many are put off the idea of paying thousands of pounds on professional insulation, especially during a cost of living crisis.

But insulating your home – and slashing record high energy prices – does not have to be tricky or expensive. Even cheap, simple DIY can have a major impact on driving down energy costs and saving you money.

With some experts claiming energy bills will stay high until 2040, here are some of the simplest ways to make your home warmer on a budget.

Every little helps: Helping keep your home warm is cheaper than you might think, and even a very small outlay can reap big rewards on energy bills

Easy ways to insulate your home

The typical property loses 25 per cent of its heat through the roof, 35 per cent through the walls, 15 per cent through the doors and floor and 10 per cent through windows, according to insulation experts LoftZone.

Draught-proofing – £60 a year saved

Have you ever wondered why we put radiators underneath windows, despite these being the coldest parts of the house? It is all to do with trying to beat draughts. 

When radiators first began being installed in the 1930s, they were put underneath windows in the hope that the ever-present draughts would push the heat from the radiator further into the home. 

That practice has continued to the present day, even though the logic has been debunked.

But draughts do not have to be a fact of life. The Energy Saving Trust charity says the average British home could save £60 a year on energy bills just by draught proofing windows and doors, or £50 a year in Northern Ireland.

Draught-proofing is the first thing to do. On a cold day you can easily feel these if you put your hands near a door or window 

The simplest form of draught-proofing is thick curtains, which help block cold coming from windows. This costs from £15 to £50 per curtain.

Dave Raval, of LoftZone, said: ‘Draught-proofing is the first thing to do. On a cold day you can easily feel these if you put your hands near a door or window.’ 

Raval points out that thick fabric curtains are one of the most effective draught-proofing techniques out there, and have stood the test of time. 

‘There’s a reason medieval buildings had tapestries on the wall, they really help keep heat in,’ he explained.

The Energy Saving Trust also recommends using draught-proofing strips to stick around the window frame, which help fill the gap between the window and the frame. These will set you back around 90p for a metre of strip.

For doors, the charity suggests fitting easy-access covers to keyholes and letterboxes, as well as ‘sausage’-type draught excluders that go along the base of the door. 

These cost upwards of £5, but can also be made for free at home using old tights and something to pad them with.

If you have an open chimney you do not use, a chimney draught excluder help stop draughts and heat loss through the chimney. These look like thick plastic balloons and cost around £18-£20 from DIY retailers.

However, be careful that you do not block off ventilation completely. Some airflow is needed to prevent mould and avoid build-up of carbon monoxide in rooms with fireplaces or open flues. The same applies to rooms which produce a lot of moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Why are energy bills so high? 

 Since coming out of the pandemic demand for gas has gone through the roof, but supply has struggled to catch up. It has sent prices soaring and pushed up the cost of gas and electricity for both households and businesses.

This has been compounded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which has led to a squeeze on gas supplies across Europe and seen analysts predict a cold winter could lead to blackouts and energy rationing.

Secondary glazing – savings vary

As the name suggests, secondary glazing is an additional sheet of plastic or other insulating material next to a single-glazed window – a bit like double glazing on the cheap.

There is no easy way to work out how much secondary glazing will save you, as ‘systems range from very cheap and temporary to expensive and highly effective’, the Energy Saving Trust said.

But at the cheaper end of the scale is a thin sticky-back plastic film you can peel off and put on your windows. This costs pennies per square metre, but only provides a small energy-saving improvement.

One level up from that is thicker plastic sheets which attach with magnets or clips. The next level up is professionally-installed secondary glazing, then double glazing.

If you want to try out secondary glazing with no cost at all, bubble wrap can work.  

‘It’s a bit Heath Robinson, but bubble wrap left over from Christmas presents is a good insulator, and the bigger the bubbles the better’, Raval said.

Heat helper: Insulating a roof means going up into the loft and pushing the wool between joists

Heat helper: Insulating a roof means going up into the loft and pushing the wool between joists

Medium-difficulty ways to insulate your property

Fit roof insulation – £640 a year saved

Insulating your roof can mean major savings on energy bills. Someone living in a semi-detached house with no roof insulation could save £640 a year by fitting 270mm insulation in their loft, the Energy Saving Trust said.

Most roof insulation is large rolls of wool spun out of basalt, a type of rock. Prices vary, but £25 will buy around 8-10 square metres of insulation. Insulating an entire loft might therefore cost a few hundred pounds, but most homes will make that money back inside 12 months as their energy bills fall.

Fitting it involves going up into the loft and pushing the insulation between joists, being careful not to squash the wool, as this makes it useless.

cost of living

However, there are some safety points to be aware of.

Firstly, wear gloves and a face mask, as some people may find the wool irritating to their skin.

But the main safety concern is not falling through a loft hatch or through the ceiling by stepping between joists. Around 2,000 people go to hospital every year with injuries from falling out of a loft, Raval said. 

Floor insulation – £110 a year saved

For homes with timber floors, insulating your ground floor can cut energy bills by more than £110 a year for the average home, or up to £180 for a detached house. 

Those figures rise to £90 and £145 a year respectively in Northern Ireland, the Energy Saving Trust said.

Like roof insulation, this involves lifting the floorboards and putting down mineral wool insulation on top of netting between the joists. Depending on how big your house is this can cost £100 upwards.

But if you don’t feel like pulling your floorboards up, there is a simpler way of insulating your floors – carpets with thick underlay, or failing that rugs.

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