We are all becoming more aware of how important it is to save energy, not just to save money, but also to be able to reduce our environmental impact. A few simple changes, such as turning your heating down and switching to a lower washing machine setting can make a contribution. The sooner you start the faster you can cut your bills and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.
The benefits of energy efficient homes
Not only will making your home eco-friendlier save you money, but it will also make it more attractive to potential buyers in the future. According to research published by the Government in 2013, making improvements to a property’s energy efficiency rating, or Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) could add significant value to the sale price of a home. Energy-saving and green improvements can increase the value of your property by over a third in some parts of England. The Government’s report suggests that insulating cavity walls, upgrading double glazing, and putting solar panels on the roof could increase the value of some properties by 14 per cent, while others could rise by as much as 38 per cent.
Government grants for home energy efficiency
The government recently announced help for homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient. The Green Homes Grant helps pay for energy efficient improvements to your home, as part of a bigger investment in green technology that aims to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050. Homeowner vouchers are worth two-thirds of the cost of the improvements you make; up to £5,000. And, if you’re on a low income and receive certain benefits, you would be eligible for a voucher covering all of the cost of the improvements, up to a maximum of £10,000.
Here are our top tips; big and small, to increase your energy efficiency around the home.
Insulate your loft
Poorly insulated roofs and walls can be a major cause of energy wastage. Much of the heat; up to 25% – lost in houses escapes through the roof because heat rises. Insulating your roof or loft to a recommended thickness of 270mm is the best way of stopping this heat from escaping. With decent loft insulation, you could save between £120 and £225 a year, depending on the type of property you have and where you live, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Insulation is a key part of the Green Homes Grant programme and counts as a primary measure, so you may be eligible to recover some or even all of your costs.
Types of loft insulation in the UK
There are different types of loft insulation, all of which have their merits when utilised properly:
Blanket loft insulation – Also known as ‘matting insulation’ is the most common type of loft insulation, and the easiest to install. It’s made from mineral or glass fibre and comes in foil-backed rolls which are put between the loft joists.
Loose-fill insulation – This insulation made from fire-retardant lightweight fibres, and is better for those difficult to access spaces with irregular joists, or to top-up existing insulation.
Blown-in insulation – This type of insulation comprises cellulose mineral fibres, which are blown into loft space using specialist equipment. It’s quick to install and useful for spaces where access is limited, such as gaps between roof joists. It’s a specialist job though, so you’ll need professional help.
Upgrade your boiler
Inefficient boilers can add a few hundred pounds to your energy bills so upgrading your boiler could be a great way to cut your costs in the long term. It’s also a great way to dramatically reduce your home’s carbon emissions as boilers account for 60% of the carbon dioxide emissions in a gas heated home. Boilers are rated on a scale of A to G, with A being the most energy efficient. If yours is at the lower end of the scale then investing in a new one could save you a packet over the long-term. Gas boilers are not covered by the Green Homes Grant scheme but you could look at air source and ground source heat pumps as a great alternative.
Hang thick curtains and insulate your doors
Not all solutions are technical and something as simple as hanging thicker curtains at your windows will help to stop heat escaping and make a big difference in the winter. You can also take care of draughty front doors by hanging thick floor length curtains to slide across, and sticking draught excluders down the sides of doors. You may be able to get a contribution to more energy efficient windows and doors under the Government’s Green homes scheme as a secondary measure this should link to our own green home grants page which would tell people about secondary measures, if you are also installing insulation or eco-friendly heating system as a primary measure.
Monitor your energy consumption
Investing in an energy monitor will help you to find out how much energy you use, and how much you waste. They cost around £25 to £40 but will tell you how much your energy is costing and when you use it the most. Make sure to put it somewhere the whole family can see it, like the kitchen. Check whether your energy provider gives one to customers for free, you may be in luck.
Save water and energy in the shower
If you tend to have a bath rather than shower consider changing habits, as baths use a lot more water and a shower is usually a greener option. However, some power showers use more water in five minutes than a whole bath. You may need to fit a water saving showerhead if you want to cut back on the amount of water and energy you use.
Fit double glazing
If you don’t have double glazing fitted, you’ll be surprised at the difference it can make to your annual energy bills. Double glazed windows are specifically designed to reduce heat loss from homes and buildings as they deliver twice the insulation that a single glazed unit would, reducing heat loss or heat gain by almost 30% in comparison to single-glazed aluminium windows. Double glazing will not only save you money on your bills but will contribute significantly to improving the energy efficiency rating of your home, increasing its value.
There’s an upfront cost of installing it which can be quite high, but double-glazed windows will save you money in the long term. These days double glazing comes in a wide range of styles, including designs that suit older properties. When you’re choosing your windows, look out for the ‘Energy Saving Trust recommended’ logo which is awarded to more efficient windows.
Invest in more eco-friendly appliances
When you stick the kettle on, do you boil more than you need for one cuppa? You’d be surprised how much less power you’d use if you invested in an environmentally friendly eco kettle, which can use as much as 30% less power. And it’s not just eco kettles that can help you save. When you’re replacing your appliances, choose those with the best energy efficiency ratings and you’ll soon see the difference in your bills.
Install solar panels to save energy
Solar panels enable you to generate some of your own heat or power so you’ll save money on your bills. Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells actually generate energy and the Energy Saving Trust thinks the average home can provide 40% of its power this way. In fact, if you install solar photovoltaic panels, you could even get paid for the electricity you generate. The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) was introduced in January 2020 and it enables small-scale low-carbon generators to get paid by electricity suppliers for any electricity they export to the National Grid.
The average PV system costs up to £8,000, depending on the amount you want to generate and the space you have for the panels But you could be saving one third of your energy bill every single year plus there are incentives to sell back to the National Grid some of the electricity you produce. Win win.
Insulate your walls
Uninsulated walls are another big cause of the heat lost in your home. The National Insulation Association estimates that about a third of a property’s heat is lost through the walls, so insulating your walls can make your property much more energy efficient. Filling cavity walls could save you between £70 and £255 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust. This is another expense that qualifies for the Green Homes Grant Scheme, so you may be eligible for a voucher to cover up to two thirds of the cost of installation.
Most modern homes in the UK are built with cavity walls, which means an inner and an outer wall with a space between them, which are designed to stop rainwater reaching the inside of the property. But these cavities also allow heat to escape, so you need to prevent heat from escaping by filling the gap between these two layers.
Cavity wall insulation is installed by drilling a small hole in the property’s outer wall and using a pump to fill the gaps with a range of materials including a polyurethane insulating foam. It is quick to do and relatively inexpensive but will need to be done by professionals. You can also install solid wall insulation, which can be fitted internally or externally, with decorative coatings. This method, however, is quite a bit more expensive and disruptive than cavity wall insulation, as it can mean more building and decorating work.
Whichever of our top tips you’re choosing, it will make a difference. Taking even small steps such as remembering to switch off lights or TVs has an impact, so don’t give up on changing habits like this. If everyone makes the effort then it will have a larger impact and not only save you money but will also help to make Great Britain greener.