Energy efficiency is something that has the potential to affect every homeowner. The average UK household spends around £1,200 each year on gas and electricity. Unit prices continue to rise over time. Around 40% of us are concerned that we won’t be able to keep our homes warm this winter. The way energy is used and conserved has a big part to play in this. Whether you’re looking for ways to save money in the colder months or your home just never feels warm, there are lots of steps you can take to improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Installing or upgrading insulation
Insulation can make a big difference to how warm your home is. For example, according to the Department for Energy and Climate Change, in the UK homeowners waste a total of £500 million heating homes where the heat is escaping through non-insulated lofts. Loft insulation could save you anything upwards of £160 a year depending on the type installed. Solid wall insulation, for example, can generate savings of £245 a year on the average heating bill for the average gas heated home.
Double glazing and protecting against draughts
Anywhere that heat has the potential to escape can reduce your home’s energy efficiency. This could be around the side of doors or where windows meet walls. One obvious solution is to install double or even triple glazing to provide extra layers of protection against the winter chill and to trap heat in. Thick, heavy curtains can also make a big difference when it comes to keeping rooms warm, especially in older homes.
Replace an inefficient boiler
Not every boiler is the same these days and those that aren’t energy efficient could be adding £200 a year to your heating bills. Boilers have an alphabetical rating, from A to G. The most energy efficient boilers are rated A and the least, G. With a better boiler you’ll not only be able to save on energy bills but reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming.
Use energy efficient lighting
It hardly seems worth making such tiny changes as replacing all your light bulbs with more energy efficient options. However, these little improvements really do make a huge difference. Not only do they dramatically reduce impact on the environment but can help to cut your household spending too. LED bulbs are the most energy efficient and come in a very wide range of different colours and levels of brightness. And no longer are low energy bulbs seen as farcical in the start up time and brightness stakes. New LED bulbs are both bright and low energy.
Install solar panels
There are a number of ways in which you can use solar panels to help improve the energy efficiency of your home. If you invest in solar panels that have photovoltaic cells then these can actually generate power to feed back into your home to reduce the volume of energy required from other sources. According to the Energy Saving Trust it’s possible for the average home to generate around 40% of its energy needs this way. If your home generates more power than it needs then it can be sold back to the National Grid via a feed-in tariff.
Switch off and cut back
Sometimes it’s the simple things that make a real difference and this is the case with energy efficiency. You can make your home more efficient simply by becoming more mindful of the way you’re consuming electricity. Switch off lights and appliances in empty rooms, set heating so that it’s only on when required and choose more efficient appliances, such as energy saving kettles. According to British Gas it’s possible to save £130 a year just by cutting back on the energy you use.
What about older properties?
Many homes built decades, or centuries, ago were not designed with energy efficiency in mind. However, there are lots of steps that you can take to improve this. Start with the basics, such as repairing broken windows, blocking gaps, fitting draught excluders to letterboxes and outside doors and ensuring that radiators aren’t being blocked by furniture. Insulation for the loft – and also for the loft hatch – as well as adding insulation to the pipe work can also make a big difference.
Paying for energy efficiency improvements
If you’re on a budget, paying for the improvements that could potentially deliver energy efficiency can feel quite challenging. There is financing available to help, including grants. The Energy Company Obligation is a government scheme that requires energy suppliers to promote measures to improve the ability of low income, fuel poor and vulnerable households to heat their homes. This may include upgrading heating systems and boilers – call the Energy Saving Trust (0300 123 1234) to see if you might be eligible. If you don’t qualify for a grant then you may find it could still make sense to pay for the work yourself – whether by using savings or taking out a loan.
Amanda Gillam is Solution Loans's General Manager and has been since 2009. She is also a prolific writer on personal finance issues, and has been quoted numerous times in articles published on 3rd party websites and in press releases. Her...Read more about Amanda Gillam