A quarter of all the heat loss in a home occurs through an un-insulated roof. Adding insulation into your loft is a very simple but effective way to reduce heat loss and save you money, and you can even get it installed free through the HHCRO Scheme. Even if you have loft insulation already installed, you may benefit from topping it up so that it reaches the recommended 270mm thickness.
How loft insulation reduces heat loss
Loft insulation works by reducing the amount of heat lost from your roof – reducing the amount of fuel you need to burn for heating and saving you money.
When your home is heated, a lot of that heat escapes through your roof, both through conduction and convection. laying loft insulation in your loft reduces the amount of heat that passes through your ceilings and reaches your loft space to escapes through your roof – it traps the heat inside the rooms below the loft, meaning that the air you heat stays in your home for longer. This means that you have to heat your home less to achieve the same temperature in your rooms, saving energy and money. The thicker your loft insulation is, the more effective it will be at stopping the heat from leaving your house – an insulation depth of 270mm is recommended.
Lofts with easy access can be insulated using layers of felt-like insulation material, usually mineral wool, that can be bought from your nearest DIY store.
If your loft is harder to access, you’ll need to install loose insulation material that is blown into your loft by an installer.
If you have access to your loft it is possible to install the insulation yourself, although it is often just as cost effective to get an installer to fit it for you, particularly if you are not confident about doing it.
If you are fitting yourself:
- Don’t squash down the insulation material. This makes insulation less effective.
- Make sure you don’t block any air vents, which are there to help prevent condensation.
- Keep all electric wires, cables and light fittings visible to avoid overheating.
- Always wear a protective mask and gloves when working with mineral wool insulation.
Exactly how you install your loft insulation depends on the features of your loft and how you are going to use it:
No storage or other use and the joists are regularly spaced: You can lay a layer of rolled insulation material, available from a DIY store, between the joists and a second layer over the joists. This will usually be mineral wool.
No storage or other use and the joists are irregularly spaced: You can pour loose insulation, available in granule form from a DIY store, between the joists. This can be mineral wool, paper (cellulose), vermiculite or cork.
No storage or other use and access is difficult: You can use blown insulation, which is loose, fire retardant insulation material – this should be done by a professional installer. This is usually either shredded paper (cellulose) or loose mineral wool fibre.
Storage or living space: You can either raise the joists so that you can fit enough layered (mineral wool) insulation between them, or you can fit layered insulation between your unaltered joists and add insulation boards over the joists. Some flooring material comes with insulation board already attached.
Alternatively, you could fit insulation boards on the underside of your roof – just cut them to size and fit them between the rafters. You will need to cover these pieces with plasterboard, and then fit more insulation covered plasterboard on top of the rafters.
Alternatives to mineral wool
If you’re short of space, you can fit rigid insulating foam instead, which has twice the insulating power of mineral wool, meaning you need half the thickness.
If you’d like a natural alternative to mineral wool, you can use sheep’s wool, hemp or cellulose (paper). It is safer to install than mineral wool, but is significantly more expensive and only equal to mineral wool in terms of insulating properties.
Loft insulation may cause other issues to worsen:
Loft insulation may make any damp problems worse, as it will make your loft colder. Try to solve any condensation issues before fitting insulation.
Similarly, a colder loft will make your pipes colder, so it is a good idea to to insulate these too to prevent freezing. Cold draughts may blow into your house from your loft hatch, so it’s a good idea to get an insulated loft hatch and draught proof the frame using adhesive draught proofing strips available from your local DIY store.
Costs and Maintenance
The cost will vary depending on whether you fit the insulation yourself or get a professional to do it. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that the cost for doing it yourself varies from £50 to £350 compared with £100 to £350 if you have it fitted. The actual cost will vary in these ranges depending on whether you’re getting full insulation fitted or a top up.
See how to fit loft insulation yourself on our how to fit loft insualtion page. If you are looking do more insulation and draught proofing work yourself we recommend you look at a DIY website like DIY Doctor who have a whole section dedicated to insulating and draught proofing projects.
The HHCRO scheme offers grants that fully fund loft insulation installations. The scheme available to all homeowners, but has a focus on helping poorer households, and is funded by the energy suppliers. You can see if you’re eligible for free insulation through the scheme and sign up by visiting our HHCRO Free Insulation page. If you are not eligible for the scheme, we are happy to provide you with competitive quotes for the work – you can request a quote here.
When loft insulation is fitted well, there is no maintenance, and the insulation should remain effective for at least 40 years, delivering you real long term savings!
How much money loft insulation will save you depends on whether you are insulating from scratch or just adding to existing insulation. By insulating from scratch you can save in the region of £175 per year, and top ups will save you around £25 a year, giving a pay back of between 2 and 6 years,
- Does cavity wall insulation cause damp?
- No, as the cavity insulation is generally water repelling, meaning water cannot cross from the external wall to the internal wall via the insulation - the only way it could cross is if another obstruction is connecting the walls. Before installing the insulation, the empty wall cavities are inspected for obstructions with a special tool called a boroscope. Any obstructions are noted and cleared by the installers before the insulation is injected.
- Can I install cavity wall insulation myself?
- No, this is because specialist equipment is needed to install the insulation into the cavity and it's important that the cavity is fully filled with the correct density of insulation. This is why only trained and approved installers are used, and this allows a guarantee can be given on the work. You will also need the work to be professionally done if it is being funded by any government grants.
- How can I tell if my new home's previous owners have already insulated the cavity walls?
- If a house was built within the last ten years, it probably has cavity wall insulation installed as slabs when the walls were built. You can tell if previous owners have had it installed after the house was built by looking at the outside of the external walls under your windows. If there are small holes of about an inch diameter filled in with something, this indicates that your walls have been filled with insulation. Another way to tell is by looking at the tops of your external walls, which may be open under your roof. If you can look inside the tops of the walls you may be able to see whether there's any insulation in them.
- Are there any grants available for installing solid wall insulation?
- The will be a grant scheme available for solid wall insulation under the ECO (Energy Company Obligation), the complementary grant scheme to the Green Deal. Under the ECO (Carbon Saving Obligation), any UK resident will be able to get their solid wall insulation installation either partially or fully funded. It's not yet clear how people should apply for this scheme, as the both the Green Deal and ECO have just launched. It's likely we'll know more in March (2013).
- I have lots of rubbish in my loft. Do I need to clear it out or will the installer do this for me?
- Yes, you will need to clear the roof of any rubbish or stored objects before the insulation is installed.
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