Low-cost ways to save energy

We recognise that the cost of some energy-saving measures can be prohibitive (but don't forget the Energy Saving Trust's zero-interest loan scheme). However, not all energy efficiency measures have a high upfront cost. Below are some ideas for low-cost ways to reduce energy bills; other ideas for saving energy are available on the Close The Door campaign website.

Insulation for pipework

Exposed pipes around a hot water cylinder or boiler leak heat. Insulating pipework with foam tubes reduces heat loss, which means that the water stays hotter for longer. Simply buy foam tubes with an inner diameter to match that of your pipework (you may need a few different sizes to match all of your pump) and slip it on. It's very cheap to do and the small investment will pay back quickly.
If your pipework is tight to the wall, then you may need to buy more expensive lagging.

Insulating window film

Single-glazed windows can be particularly problematic. Tesa manufacture an insulating window film: a transparent plastic foil that is fixed to the internal window frame to create a layer of insulation. The film is applied using double-sided tape and then heated with a hairdryer to shrink it in to place. You are left with a transparent, wrinkle-free coating. It is easy to use, especially as the film will lift of the adhesive for minor adjustments.

Reflective radiator panels

A proportion of the heat given out by a radiator is absorbed into the adjacent wall. Reflective panels are available to reflect the heat energy emitted from the rear of a radiator back into the room. This means that the room warms up quicker and so the central heating shouldn't need to be on as long, which will save on the bill. They are particularly worthwhile putting behind radiators on external walls, especially if it is a wall that cannot be insulated easily. There are several different models available, including heatkeeper, sempatherm and radflek, and you should expect to pay a few pounds per radiator. A finned panel helps to push warm air out away from the wall Use strong double-sided tape to install them or they could fall away from the wall within a few months. Aluminium foil would do the job at much lower cost, but it wouldn't be as durable and may look a bit messy (especially in a hotel or restaurant).


Draught-proofing is one of the cheapest ways to save energy. Ventilation is important in a home as it reduces dampness and condensation, but unwanted draughts through gaps should be sealed. Hot-spots (or cool-spots!?!) can be found in various places, including windows and loft hatches. Prioritise front and back doors, because cold air comes underneath the door and through keyholes and letterboxes. Be careful to ensure good ventilation in rooms with open fires or where there is a lot of moisture.
Wooden floorboards can be particularly draughty and up to 15% of heat loss from a home is through the floor. Draughts can be stopped by filling the gaps and there are a range of options available, including DraughtEx and StopGap. However, the best option may be to go for thin slivers of old board from the Old Pine Company that can be sanded down.

Draught-proofing materials sufficient to treat a whole house would probably cost somewhere in the region of £100, depending on what the requirements were. However, small items like letter-box covers are under £10. Choose materials with the Kitemark and go for the higher quality materials. For example, self-adhesive foam strips for door and window frames are cheap to buy but they don't last very long. The more expensive rubber and plastic strips will last much longer and are usually a better investment. The Energy Saving Trust website has lots of good advice on draught-proofing.

Old single-glazed windows can be an issue because they either cannot be replaced or are too expensive to upgrade. Much of the heat loss from single-glazed windows is from draughts caused by small gaps around the frame. Ventrolla
is a company that offers a draught-proofing service for old windows and doors to stop rattles and cold air infiltration. It is a cheaper alternative to replacing with double-glazing, but it is expensive so perhaps shouldn't be on our low-cost ways to save page!

on't forget to have a look at our pages on renewables, energy monitors, and refrigeration. In fact, upgrading incandescent and halogen lighting may be a relatively low-cost way to save, so have a read through our low-energy lighting page.