At our November 2010 Annual General Meeting, we had a talk about boiler controls, as a way of starting efforts to share information about how we can reduce our energy consumption (and more generally, our carbon footprints) at home. We’re still exploring what the congregation would find most helpful. At the moment, to get some idea, congregation members can contact Jean Gifford (any way they like, including using the contact form – choose “webmaster”) with their ideas or with a request for a “home visit”.
This page currently just contains a quick set of links for more information – we plan to somehow put up the slides from the talk annotated just to help people remember and to fill out details about, for instance, the kinds of room thermostats that are available. We can put up whatever we think is useful, including a user comment facility, so please do ask.
- advice from the Scottish Building Standards Agency
- The Energy Saving Trust website has lots of general advice, and is especially useful if you want to look for grants, e.g., for insulation or “boiler scrappage”. The grant conditions are a bit complicated but you can call them for advice even if you find the website tricky. If you live in rented accommodation but have a friendly landlord, it can still be worth checking – grants for them are fairly generous at the moment, and it’s your gas bill it saves.
- For older properties, Historic Scotland has some excellent fact sheets, including for tenements – they tend to be more technical than other sources, but very informative
- “Warm in Woodburn”/”Switched On” is a project by very local green activists, Transition Edinburgh South – if you live in a tenement flat especially, you may find useful tips on the site aimed at Woodburn Terrace residents (see the factsheets especially). The TES site itself has a wider range of interesting ideas and discussion.
- if you work or study at Edinburgh University, Transition Edinburgh University has advice clinics and can also send someone out to give a “Green Makeover” to your home
- Carbon Conversations is a course that we are hoping to offer to the congregation during Lent 2011, in conjunction with Transition Edinburgh South
- I think it’s a couple of years old, but the Scottish Building Standard Agency has the clearest advice about how to set a boiler thermostat under different conditions
- Transition Edinburgh South has a page that will remind you about the kinds of thermostats in your system
- Fairly generic advice is to set your hot water to 60C; to keep your boiler thermostat as low as is comfortable if you don’t have a room thermostat anywhere; to experiment with turning your room thermostats and TRVs down; and to vary the boiler thermostat setting by season, especially if you keep your heating on for long stretches
- If you’re worried about redecorating, you can get a wireless programmable room thermostat
- Digital thermostats save energy and make you more comfortable by keeping tighter control on the temperature.
- “Optimum start control” is better than resetting your program by season – Heatmiser is the company local boilermen seem to recognize for this.
- Workmen usually like to install what they’re used to wiring in, but these often aren’t the best option – it does help to figure out what you want and talk to them about it, and test it afterwards.
- dust them! Dust on the fins impedes their correct operation by slowing down the airflow.
- The Energy Savings Trust recommends putting reflector foil behind radiators, especially if they are on an external wall, and putting a shelf above radiators than are under windows to deflect heat into the room. The professional draughtproofers we had round said it works just as well to make panels from foil taped to cardboard (as for many DIY jobs, YouTube is a good source for instructions). I tend to worry about fire risks, so I’d need to think about this one first.
- There have been active discussions in Edinburgh recently concerning what to do about windows on listed buildings and in conservation areas, including technical studies of slim-profile double glazing (tech paper 9)
- Sometimes for very important old windows, the right approach is reinstating shutters or very good curtains/thermal blinds – there are very thick thermal lining and interlining fabrics available now. If you can’t find them locally, there are web sources.
- Bethany shops often seem to have used curtains, as well as what used to be Family Thrift on Gilmore Place (near the Kings Theatre).
- DIY approaches to secondary glazing, which could be useful if you’re thinking secondary glazing might be right for you but not able or ready to get it just yet, or need to convince a landlord. One type is simply perspex held up by magnetic tape; the other is very temporary shrink-wrap plastic
- although it doesn’t work well like more expensive options, in a pinch for poorly fitting windows foam or rubber strips with self-adhesive will do more than tape
- Two of the most important and overlooked bits of draughtproofing are the hatch into the loft (usually takes strips) and the chimneys (chimney balloons).
- Transition Edinburgh University’s “Green Makeover” team know where you can get draughtproofing supplies locally. If you’re having trouble finding the ones you want, tell me, or ask them directly. Houseproud has some things and doesn’t mind if you phone to ask; if you’re going to use the web, Amazon is surprisingly better than some of sources you might think to try.
- Lots of people seem to have put in loft insulation around 5-10 years ago – but the usual amount then was 200mm, whereas now the standard is 270, and 300 is often recommended. There are often top-up grants that move around by geographical area, but it’s pretty cheap to do (or get done).
- Loft insulation is perfectly possible in most tenements and benefits the top flat the most, but also benefits the others (in one assessment, the ground floor flat got a 7% reduction in their heating bills from it)
So that you can get an idea of what kinds of home improvements other people in the congregation would benefit from, these are rough summaries of the visits. I went through the first two with a professional draughtproofer.
- Victorian semi with insulation added in 1986 and secondary glazing in 1995. The draughtproofer recommended an insulation top-up from 150 mm to 300mm, plus draughtproofing the loft hatches (which he says is cheap and easy but very important). He also recommended draughtproofing the external doors, letterbox, and the internal door into the bathroom (the rule of thumb appears to be not to draughtproof windows in “wet rooms” – kitchens and bathrooms – but to keep the doors closed and draughtproof where they meet the rest of the house). We’re considering a thermal blind over the window in the front door. A condensing boiler would be more efficient making it better to replace than sink money in boiler repairs if they become needed, and although every radiator had a TRV, having a room thermostat would save gas – since there wasn’t one already wired in, the easiest option might be a wireless one.
- Victorian semi, again with some insulation and some secondary glazing. There was a condensing boiler, but only a few TRVs with a room thermostat that wasn’t attached, plus possibly the system lacked independent control of the hot water – making the heating expensive and not so effective. The recommendations were the same, but with the addition of draughtproofing the windows that didn’t have secondary glazing and weren’t in “wet rooms”, and in some places, adding thicker liners to the curtains and keeping an eye out for floor to ceiling ones.
- Victorian top floor flat where the main problem is metal-framed double glazing that is draughty because it no longer fits very well, and a broken room thermostat (so that there is an uncontrolled radiator in the hall) on a combi-boiler. Because this one is limited to things with pay-back under a year, options are limited – temporary secondary glazing (perspex with magnetic strips or shrink-wrap plastic) would ruin the lightness of the flat, so we’re stuck about what to do with the windows for the moment. Minor bits of door draughtproofing would help a little, and a room thermostat would be easier than the current practice of turning the boiler thermostat up and down to control the ambient temperature, but would cost money. We also think it’s OK to turn TRVs off in unused rooms (in a flat where the room location won’t have a knock-on effect on the heat in used rooms) rather than use the frost setting, which was keeping the radiator warm even when the room wasn’t that cold.
- Older house that is in good condition – the main issues were a room thermostat (where wireless won’t interfere with recent redecoration); figuring out the best approach for the windows; and how to insulate a loft space that exists but doesn’t have access.
- Victorian flat where the main issue is the original windows – they’re in good shape, and only a little draughty, but the single glazing has some little holes and cracks. Trying a separate blackout curtain liner in one room and adding fleece lining in another, but also considering making the curtains reach to the floor; need to figure out some kind of thermal blind for the kitchen and bathroom; looking at the options for replacement glass (including slim-line double glazing) and getting window draughtproofing. Also, the door needs draughtproofed at the side, but the gap is big enough to need a brush strip and they can’t find one long enough.
- Half of a Victorian house cut more or less vertically, with good shutters and zoned heating allowing the upstairs and downstairs to be independent. We discussed room thermostats and what to do about some awkwardly placed radiators under bay windows, plus loft insulation and minor draughtproofing.
- Substantially built, smaller detached house – we mostly discussed loft insulation, thermal curtains, and room thermostats.