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Heat loss and Household Insulation

Updated on October 5, 2009

Heat loss from your house

Thermal Imaging Camera is an camera which is sensitive to heat instead of light. If you stand in front of it you'll see yourself in a whole new way, your nose will be cold blue and armpits hot white.

Cameras like these are normally used by firefighters to help them find people in smoke-filled buildings and aircraft inspectors to check for faults in plane wings and engines. So you most probably don't have a thermal imaging camera if you are not a firefighter or aircraft inspector.

What, you have? Alright then. You may have tried it on everything that attracts your eyesight. But you might get a shock if you took a picture of your house. A poorly insulated home leaks heat from the roof and the walls. And if you are leaking heat, which means, you're leaking money too.

The local autority,Haringey Council in north London, hired the aircraft equiped with a military thermal imaing camera to draw up a street map identifying those residents guilty of wasting the most heat and shame householders into reducing energy loss. The mapping took place at night in winter when buildings were heated and the cold air allowed high quality data from an altitude of 1,500 to 2,000 feet. The aeroplane flew 17 runs back and forth across the borough. The colour coded map was created from footage taken by the aeroplane and then overlayed on a street map so that individual houses could be pinpointed.

The heat loss mainly through cavety walls and roof, up to 35% of the heat produced in your home is lost through your walls, and up to 25% through your roof. while up to half of all heat lost in an average house goes straight through the walls. Proper wall insulation can stop up to two thirds of this heat loss.

Photo taken with a thermal imaging camera revealing heat loss from the Houses of Parliament
Photo taken with a thermal imaging camera revealing heat loss from the Houses of Parliament
Cavity wall insulation
Cavity wall insulation
Roof insulation
Roof insulation

Household insulation

Loft Insulation - The rising hot air escapes through your house roof cause heat loss. Unless you insulate your ceiling and roof this hot air will find its way out of you house quickly. In the winter this means you will have the heating on far longer than you need to, increasing your heating bills.

There are three types of British Standard material:

- Mineral wool quilt

- Blown mineral wool

- Blown cellulose fibre

Quilt is rolled out in the loft space, whilst blown materials are installed loose using a purpose-built insulation blowing machine - including into areas where access by the technician may be difficult.

The latest government guidelines recommend 200mm (8") of insulation for domestic properties, while the EEC programme recommends a depth of 270.Homes with 150mm or less should be substantially topped up to 270mm for glass wool, 250mm for rock wool, or 220mm for cellulose - the requirement for new homes.

Cavity Wall Insulation - Most houses have an air gap between inner and outer leaves of the brickwork that make up the external walls of you house, this air gap called "cavity". Cavity wall insulation involves filling the wall cavity of your house with a material designed to insulate your home. It can normally be applied from the outside through small holes, drilled in the wall by technicians. The material is then injected through the holes, filling the cavity. The holes are then filled in to make as perfect a match as possible with the existing wall.

The materials used for cavity wall insulation are mineral wool, urea formaldehyde foam and expanded polystyrene bead. These materials are all resistant to water penetration and will not transmit water across the cavity or from below the level of the damp proof course by capillary action. However, they are not a water vapour barrier and any moisture that collects within the fabric of the building is allowed to disperse harmlessly into the outside atmosphere. Materials do not affect the fire resistance of the walls; and they are resistant to rot, fungi and vermin.

Modern houses (built in the last 10 years or so) have this insulation built-in when the house is constructed, but many older houses do not.

Other household insulations include central heating insulation, double or trible glaze windows, etc. Insulating a hot water tank with an Industry standard hot water jacket can reduce heat loss by 75%. Double glazing or even triple glazing can be expensive, but they can dramatically reduce heat loss and therefore reduce costs.


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