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Why is My House So Cold?

As we nestle into the heart of winter, a common plaint heard in many a British home is, “Why is my house so cold?” This is a particularly pertinent question in the United Kingdom, where historical architecture meets modern heating challenges. In this blog, we’ll explore the reasons behind this chilly conundrum and offer practical solutions to ensure your home remains a warm and welcoming haven, even in the depths of winter.

Age of the property

A key reason many UK homes are chilly stems from their age. Britain boasts a wealth of historical buildings, with numerous residential properties dating back to before the 1920s. Whilst these homes undoubtedly have charm, they suffer greatly during the colder months for several reasons. Many British homes still rely on older heating systems, which can struggle to heat these less insulated, draughty spaces effectively. The architectural layout of older homes, with high ceilings and large rooms, can also contribute to heat loss.

  • Single-Leaf Walls: Many homes built before the 1920s were constructed with single-leaf walls. Unlike modern cavity walls, which have a gap between two layers of brick to provide insulation, single-leaf walls consist of just one layer of bricks. This design significantly reduces the building’s ability to retain heat, leading to colder interiors.
  • Lack of Insulation: Historical properties were often built without the insulation standards expected today. The absence of insulation in the walls, roofs, and floors means that heat escapes more easily.
  • Single-Glazed Windows: Many older properties still have their original single-glazed windows, charming in appearance but less effective at keeping heat in compared to modern double or triple-glazed units.

Addressing these issues in a heritage property requires a sensitive approach to preserve its character:

  1. Insulation Retrofit: Explore options for internal or external wall insulation that are sympathetic to the building’s historical nature.
  2. Secondary Glazing: For windows, consider secondary glazing which adds another layer of glass inside the existing windows – a solution that maintains the external appearance while improving heat retention.
  3. Roof and Floor Insulation: Insulating the loft and, where possible, underfloor areas, can significantly reduce heat loss.

General issues that make your house so cold

Inadequate insulation

Regardless of the age of your property, one of the most prevalent reasons for a cold house is inadequate insulation. Insulation acts as a barrier to heat loss, helping to keep the warmth inside during the winter months. Many homes, not just older ones, may have insufficient insulation in key areas like the attic, walls, and floors. This lack of proper insulation means that heat escapes more easily, leading to a chillier indoor environment. It’s crucial to assess and upgrade your home’s insulation, which can include adding insulation materials in the attic, installing insulated drywall, or injecting foam insulation into wall cavities.

Drafts and air leaks

Another common issue contributing to a cold home is the presence of drafts and air leaks. These can occur around windows, doors, and even through small openings for pipes and electrical outlets. Drafts not only let in cold air but also allow warm air to escape, making your heating system work harder and less efficiently. The result is a home that feels cold and draughty, even when the heating is on. Combatting these issues can be as simple as applying weather stripping around windows and doors, using draft excluders, or sealing leaks with caulk or foam sealants. For more significant leaks, professional assessment and repair might be necessary.

Windows and doors

Windows and doors are critical components of your home’s thermal envelope. Inadequately insulated or poorly sealed windows and doors are akin to leaving a small opening in your walls; they can be significant sources of heat loss. Single-pane windows, common in older homes, and even older double-glazed units can lose heat rapidly. Similarly, doors that don’t fit well in their frames or that lack proper weatherproofing can contribute to a cold interior. Upgrading to double or triple-glazed windows, installing thermal curtains, and ensuring doors are well-fitted and insulated are effective steps in reducing heat loss through these areas.

How can you keep your house warm?

Quality insulation

Insulation is paramount in retaining heat within your home. Quality insulation, especially layered insulation, can significantly reduce heat loss. This involves using materials with high R-values (a measure of thermal resistance) in your attic, walls, and floors. Layered insulation often combines different materials, such as fibreglass, foam boards, and reflective barriers, to provide a comprehensive barrier against heat loss. Investing in proper insulation not only keeps your house warmer but also contributes to energy efficiency and lower heating bills.

Seal gaps

Identifying and sealing gaps is a crucial step in maintaining a warm home. These gaps can be found around windows, doors, and even in less obvious places like where pipes and cables enter your house. Use weather-stripping for windows and doors, and caulk or expanding foam for cracks and openings. This simple step can dramatically reduce cold drafts and heat loss.

Upgrade windows and doors

Upgrading your windows and doors can have a substantial impact on your home’s temperature. If you have single-glazed windows, consider upgrading to double or triple-glazed options. These windows have multiple layers of glass with insulating gas between them, offering superior thermal performance. Similarly, ensure your doors are well-insulated and fit snugly in their frames. Even adding thermal curtains or draft excluders can make a noticeable difference.

Utilise thermal mass

Thermal mass refers to materials that absorb, store, and release heat, such as brick, stone, and concrete. During the day, these materials absorb heat and slowly release it at night, helping to regulate the temperature in your home. If you’re renovating, consider incorporating materials with high thermal mass in floors or walls that receive direct sunlight.

Better heating systems

An efficient heating system is crucial for a warm home. If your boiler or furnace is outdated, consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient model. Radiator reflectors can also improve the efficiency of existing radiators by reflecting heat back into the room. Regular maintenance, including bleeding radiators and replacing filters, ensures your system operates at peak efficiency.

DIY solutions

In addition to these longer-term solutions, simple DIY measures can make your home cosier:

  • Thermal Curtains: Heavy curtains can prevent heat from escaping through windows.
  • Rugs and Carpets: They add an extra layer of insulation to your floors, particularly useful in homes with hard flooring.
  • Draught Excluders: Homemade or store-bought draught excluders can be placed at the bottom of doors to block cold air.
  • Rearrange Furniture: Ensure furniture isn’t blocking radiators or heating vents, allowing for better heat circulation.

Is your home feeling particularly cold right now? Let us know and let’s talk insulation!


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