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Science
SLASH YOUR BILLS
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Tom Heap's guide to cutting fuel bills and helping the environment.

Costing the Earth presenter Tom Heap has just bought a rambling, rather unloved, cottage near Rugby in Warwickshire. The first heating and electricity bills have been shockingly high so Tom is determined to cut the waste. Over the next year he's going to find out the best and most cost-effective ways to cut his family's bills and help the planet in the fight against global warming.

Creating a greener home
Creating a greener home...

Read Tom's Top Energy Saving Tips >>

Step One
- Thursday 20 April 9.00pm repeated Friday 21 April 3.00pm

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Tom wanted to know just how much heat his home was losing so he called in the experts. Dominic Gooding and Phil McGrory of Creative Environmental Networks pointed out some of the potential problem areas such as a prehistoric oil-fired central heating system which makes the boiler room very cosy but struggles to heat the family's bedrooms.
Air leakage tests

Meanwhile Keith Bartlett of Air Leakage Testing Limited was installing a giant fan. First he effectively inflated the house to measure just how much pressure the house was losing.
Smoke tests

He then blew smoke through the house whilst Tom and his family ran around outside gleefully pointing out the gaps in window frames, loose tiles and badly-fitted doors where smoke, and therefore heat was being lost. Keith then toured the exterior of the house with an infra-red heat detecting gun. Unsurprisingly the boiler shed proved to be the hottest spot in the house. Dominic, Keith and Phil then produced reams of figures which made depressing reading - nearly 50% of the heat being put into Tom's house was being lost.
.

The good news is that much of that is easy to put right. Most homes will benefit from an extra layer of loft insulation. Homes built since the 1920s will often have cavity walls which can be filled to reduce heat loss. In most areas of the UK grants are available to part-fund the cost of insulation.

More simply, fireplaces can be fitted with removable covers or inflatable air blocks. Tom was shocked to see how much heat escaped up his two chimneys - and ageing window and door frames can be sealed and repaired. It can even be worthwhile covering up keyholes and letterboxes. A trip to the local DIY store will offer plenty of cheap solutions.

Tom's now busy fitting draught excluders and key-hole covers whilst pondering his next step - finding a clean way to power his new home. Will it be wind or solar, woodchip or heat exchanger?
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You can discover more energy saving tips and get advice on grants from the Energy Savings Trust.
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