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Top five ways to make your tenement more efficient

If you live in one of Scotland’s 187,000 traditional tenement flats [1] you might find staying warm and saving energy a challenge – particularly with the winter nights drawing in. Stone tenement flats built before 1919 are common in Scottish cities like Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh and are often colder, draughtier and more expensive to heat than newer homes. We’ve got some simple steps to help you improve the efficiency of your home and stay warm this winter.

Building block

1. Keep the cold out

Tenements are often draughtier than newer homes, which can increase heating costs as well as making your home feel chilly. Although you do want a level of ventilation, sealing draughts around windows, under doors, between floorboards and in unused chimneys can make a big difference. Draught-proofing gaps can save you around £125 and 50kg of carbon dioxide a year and your tenement home will feel much warmer.

2. Stop heat going out the window 

Lots of heat can escape through your windows in a tenement, as windows are often single glazed sash and case. Depending on your budget there are a number of things you can do to tackle this, starting with simple things like getting thick, lined curtains or using your shutters.

Double or secondary glazing could make a big difference but will cost more. There may be planning restrictions on what you can install depending on where you live so get some advice from your Local Authority, but there are options like slim-profile double glazing that could suit your home.

3. Take control of your heating

Be smart about your heating – installing and correctly using a full set of heating controls could save you lots of money, whether it’s a gas or electricity smart meter. If you’ve got an old heating system upgrading it could have a big impact on your bills. Home Energy Scotland offers interest-free loans to help cover the cost of energy efficiency improvements like a more efficient heating system, and you could even get cashback for some measures.

4. Insulate to keep the heat in

Making sure your tenement home is well insulated can cut unnecessary heat loss, and again there are a number of options depending on your property and budget. If you’re on the bottom floor and you’ve got a wooden floor, these are suspended which means you can insulate it to make your home warmer. Even just laying down a thick rug over wooden floorboards, or a carpet with thick underlay, can make your home a lot warmer. For top floor flats, loft insulation can make a big difference but you’ll need to find out who owns the loft first – it may be communal or might belong to the owners of the top floor flat.

Finally, solid wall insulation should be considered if you’re serious about improving comfort or if your building is undergoing wider renovations. Internal wall insulation will probably be the most suitable option and there are a few ways of doing this – it’s important to use a breathable material to stop damp building up, especially in a traditional pre-1919 home. Home Energy Scotland can help you work out what type of insulation is right for you, and you could also get an interest-free loan for this.

5. Don’t forget the communal areas

It’s easy to overlook communal areas like stairwells, but making improvements like draught proofing or even replacing your front door can help reduce heat loss in your building. You will need to team up with your neighbours to organise getting the work done, along with your landlord if you rent your home.

Find out more

Savings figures based on mid-floor flats in Scotland using gas heating revised as of October 2022.

[1] Scottish House Condition Survey, 2016 (available here)