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  1. Blog
  2. Why is my house so cold?
Advice about properties
26 October 2023

Why is my house so cold?

Sam Edwards
Senior Writer & Researcher
Why is my house so cold?

Table of contents

  1. 1. The risks of a cold house
  2. 2. Why is my house so cold and how can I fix it?
  3. 3. Summary: Don't let the heat escape!

There's no denying it - it's getting colder. And with the cold, comes darker mornings and shorter days. If you live in a house or flat, it's in your best interests to stay warm in the winter months. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to diagnose a cold property.

The risks of a cold house

  1. Smelly laundry: Cold and damp conditions in a house can lead to problems with your washing. If your home lacks proper heating and ventilation, it can take longer for your clothes to dry, which can result in a musty odour. Additionally, a cold and damp home can create conditions to the growth of mildew, which can also leave unpleasant odours on your clothing.
  2. Poor health: Consistently living in a cold house can have adverse effects on your health. Prolonged exposure to cold can increase the risk of health issues, particularly for vulnerable individuals such as the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing health conditions. Common health concerns include respiratory problems, an increased susceptibility to illness, and exacerbation of conditions like arthritis.
  3. Dampness: Cold homes are often associated with dampness, as condensation can occur on surfaces, particularly when warm, moist indoor air meets cold walls or windows. Dampness can lead to the growth of black mould, which can have adverse health effects, exacerbating respiratory problems and allergies. Dampness can also damage the building's structure and lead to maintenance issues.

Why is my house so cold and how can I fix it?

Identifying the root causes of a chilly home can be approached through either a DIY inspection or professional assistance. We recommend starting with a DIY assessment. It can save you both time and money, allowing you to pinpoint the problem before taking corrective action.

1. Diagnosing the problem yourself

For many homeowners, understanding why their home feels cold can be achieved through a few checks:

1. Test your radiators

Get started by checking if your radiators reach the temperature you've set them to. If not, ensure that the radiator valves are fully open. If the radiator surface remains cool, it may need balancing or bleeding.

In cases where the radiators reach the desired temperature, but the room still stays cold, consider whether the radiator is adequately sized for the room. If not, it may be time to explore replacement options.

Radiators are often measured in BTU or British Thermal Unit(s). This measurement tracks the heat output of an appliance. For living rooms and bedrooms, a common rule of thumb is to aim for around 120-150 BTUs per square foot (1,290-1,610 BTUs per square metre). This is just a rough estimate and should be adjusted based on the specifics of the room.

2. Assess loft insulation

If your room warms up but loses heat quickly, you could have a thermal leak, with warm air escaping. Start your investigation in the loft - because after all, heat rises. Check the thickness of your loft insulation, as some older properties are equipped with very thin material.

Since 2003, building regulations have recommended an insulation depth of at least 270mm. If your home falls short, consider adding additional insulation rolls either yourself or through a professional. This not only enhances energy efficiency but retains heat on the first floor, aiding in warmth below.

3. Ground floor insulation

If your first floor has LVT or laminate flooring, consider adding thick carpet to prevent heat loss from the ground floor. While this can be expensive, it's worth considering after addressing loft insulation.

Rugs can be an economic alternative. They may not trap heat but they'll offer a warmer underfoot experience compared to colder flooring materials. The same applies to ground floor areas.

4. Examine your windows and doors

You can easily detect a draft by wetting your finger and waving it along window seals and door frames. If you feel cold air seeping through, explore draught-proofing solutions. There are numerous options available depending on the source of the draft.

Some bathrooms have extractor fans with vents that may lack backdraft shutters. Use the wet finger test to check for cold air seeping through. If necessary, you can address this issue by adding shutters.

5. Inspect your home exterior

Last but not least, examine the exterior of your home and locate any external holes around pipework entering your home - this is a common issue around kitchens and bathrooms! If you locate any holes, it's best to ensure that they're properly sealed to prevent draughts.

2. Hiring a professional

If, despite all of the above, you still find it difficult to heat your home then you have two options:

Hire an engineer

Depending on the type of heating element in your Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, you could instruct either a Gas Safe Registered engineer or heating engineer to determine whether it's sized correctly for your home and radiators.

If your heating system isn't large enough, it might explain why parts of your home are colder than others, as your system can't cover the entire space. This is often the case for two-story properties lacking in zoned heating. Zoned heating splits your property into two zones that can be heated separately.

Clogged air filters are another common problem for HVAC systems. In modern HVAC systems, an air filter is a critical component, pushing air through ventilation pipes to keep your house warm. While a primary indicator of a clogged air filter is poor air quality, it can also cause serious problems with your entire HVAC unit, reducing its overall output.

Filters aside, the specific heating element of your HVAC (boiler, heat pump) could mean there are any number of reasons why your home heating system isn't working. A malfunctioning furnace, a dodgy boiler pilot light, or even leaky ductwork can be the difference between a cold home and a warm one.

Request a heat loss survey

A heat loss survey can help you find out why your house feels cold by examining areas with poor insulation and ventilation. Heat loss surveyors use a combination of tools during a heat loss survey, the most common of which include:

  • Infrared (IR) cameras that detect temperature variations in different parts of the house to work out where heat is escaping and cold air is coming in.
  • Handheld smoke pencils for visual detection of air leaks and drafts.
  • Digital anemometers to measure airflow and air velocity for ventilation issues.

The surveyor might also make some recommendations to make sure your home is both properly insulated and more energy efficient.

Summary: Don't let the heat escape!

Thanks for reading, hopefully you've correctly diagnosed the reason your house is so cold, and know a bit more about how to fix the problem. There's nothing worse than a cold house, but there's also nothing worse than having an unexpected bill - fingers crossed you can find a cost-effective solution.

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