Can I save money on my energy bills and keep my home warm by putting tin foil behind the radiators?

November 20, 2017

Can I save money on my energy bills and keep my home warm by putting tin foil behind my radiators?


How much does it actually save? Is it worth buying special radiator reflectors or will tin foil work just as well?




Bright idea? Reflective foil can be installed behind your radiators to bounce heat back into the room

Emma Gunn of This is Money, replies: The idea is simple, using a reflective foil behind your radiator will bounce heat back into the room, rather than letting it seep out through the walls of your home. 


The benefits are, of course, a warmer more comfortable home and less energy wastage – so smaller bills. A win-win.


You can buy specialist foil from hardware shops or online in rolls or sheets, that can be cut to size, for just a few quid.

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For example, Screwfix charges £5.99 for 4m by 47cm, Wilko sells a roll of 5m by 50cm for £7 - which it says is enough to insulate three average sized radiators - and Homebase offers 4m by 47cm for £9.44.

Most retailers and manufacturers make bold energy-savings claims to cut heat loss by 50 per cent.

Switching this specialist foil out for the tin foil found in your kitchen cupboard is a popular 'hack' suggested online.  


The idea is the same, it reflects the warm air back into the room, but is comes at a fraction of the cost.

A quick look online reveals you can pick up about 20m x 30 cm of kitchen foil for as little as £1.

But can either option really make a big difference to your bills? We asked an expert for the lowdown and some top tips.


Caitlin Bent from Energy Saving Trust, says: Reflective radiator panels can help to keep your home warmer by reflecting heat back into the room, which would otherwise be lost through the walls.

However, they’re only effective behind radiators on external walls - you don’t need to place them behind radiators on internal walls or on walls shared between two properties in a semi-detached or terraced residence.


Silver foil: Many tout kitchen foil as a cheaper alternative to pricey reflective radiator sheets

This is because they prevent heat escaping to the outside – so more heat is kept within your home. Heat always travels from a warm place to a cold place, which is why it’s always ultimately drawn outside.


On internal walls, so long as the room on the other side of the wall is also heated, there won’t be the same temperature gradient to draw heat out of the room, so the radiator panel isn’t necessary. The same goes for a wall between two properties.


The reflective panels are most effective in uninsulated solid walled properties – and will have negligible impact in a property that already has wall insulation.


In a typical semi-detached, gas-heated home with uninsulated walls, installing DIY radiator panels could save you around £10 a year on your energy bills.’


We don’t have any data on the effectiveness of using tin foil, so cannot comment on whether this would be as effective as radiator panels.


Some people argue that tin foil becomes less effective over time because the material oxidises and therefore becomes less reflective to heat radiation.


However, the Reflective Insulation Manufacturer’s Association says that oxidation does not have a negative impact on the emittance. Since we’ve not done any testing ourselves, we can’t comment either way.


We would always urge anyone making home improvements to ensure any improvements are safe and appropriate for their home.



Clever trick? You can buy a roll of radiator foil for less than a tenner and install it yourself



Emma Gunn of This is Money adds: Unfortunately it doesn't seem as though this is going to be a life-changing trick to slash your energy bills.  


But if you are thinking of giving it a go, make sure not to obstruct your radiators or cover them with curtains if they are underneath a window, otherwise you will likely cancel out the work of your reflective sheets.


And if you do try using kitchen aluminium foil, the general advice is that while radiators don't reach great temperatures you should, of course, be careful.


There are likely some more effective home improvements you can make - and you'll find a list of top energy savings ideas at the end of our energy bills guide here.  


The easiest and most effective tactic to cut your energy bills however, is to compare prices, and switch to a cheaper tariff. 


Most households could save hundreds of pounds on their annual bills if they haven't switched in a while and are stuck on their providers' most expensive standard variable rate tariff. 


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