Old fashioned kettles on stove


Dealing with dated systems and Older Buildings

Maintaining that warm feeling inside

When it comes to heating your home, efficiency is everything. If your current system is ineffective then not only could you find yourself feeling cold in the damp, winter months, but you could also see costly damage caused by long-term damp, mould or frozen and burst pipes.

Added to that, inefficient heating will cause you to spend over and above on your bills to fuel the system too. Roughly two thirds of your total home energy expenditure will be spent on the fuel you use – be it oil, gas, LPG or electricity. So the more efficient your system, the better off your wallet will be too.

Whether you live in a ‘modern’ post-war home, or are the guardians of an older, period property, there are several things to consider when it comes to the maintenance and replacement of the heating in your home.

Boiling point

Most homes of the last 10-15 years tend to have condensing boilers. The reason for this is that a high-efficiency condensing boiler is widely regarded as a good way to heat the home as it also heats the water returning to the boiler for later use. A heat-only boiler by comparison loses its’ extra heat through the hot gases it releases into the flue. 

Typically speaking, a modern condensing boiler will have an efficiency somewhere around 90%, whereas a new non-condensing boiler will only be around 75-80% efficient. If you have a heating system using a boiler that is more than 20 years old, it is likely to be significantly more cost-effective for you if you replace it for a modern unit. However, when deciding to invest in a new system, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the boiler so old that maintenance is very expensive or parts unavailable?
  • Is the floor space used by the current boiler needed? (Typically new domestic boilers are wall mounted)
  • Are grants available to reduce a new boiler’s effective purchase cost? (Look for incentives such as the Green Homes Cashback Scheme)


Fill the gaps

Replacing the heating system in your home can be a costly and time-consuming project where it might be months before you see your investment pay for itself. Whereas making sure you have the right insulation in place can also quickly improve your home’s ability to keep warmth on the inside and cold outside. And thankfully, adding insulation to your loft or attic is one of the easiest and cheapest ways of improving your energy efficiency.

Current building regulations require an insulation thickness of around 300mm, but installing that could be dependent on the nature of your building and the spaces to fill. For example, many traditionally constructed buildings have a timber ground floor suspended above a ventilated sub-floor. If the floor void is too shallow, then all the floorboards will need to be lifted in order to assess and add insulation – which can cause damage to the boards themselves.

Wherever you’re looking to make changes, we’d recommend checking with your local authority first, especially if you live in a Grade I or Grade II listed building that requires permission to make any home improvements.

Out with the old and in with the new

Older houses can vary greatly in their energy efficiency depending on how they are constructed and maintained. Some older buildings are made from materials designed to absorb moisture and release it again as part of their thermal performance. Some buildings were constructed with thick walls to store warmth and slowly release it. Some will require particular attention around ventilation and prevention of moisture build up without creating a draughty home.

There are some great tips and pieces of advice for making it more efficient and overhauling your energy system on the English Heritage site. From assessing your home for the best improvements and quick fixes that can help you save energy, to what you should consider if you’re thinking about generating your own energy for heating and electricity, it’s the ideal starting guide to improving older homes.

Wherever you start, making the effort to update and improve your heating and energy can not only save you money, but also save you the heartache of lasting damage from the elements and help you create a wonderfully warm and comfortable home.