The average cost to heat and light a home is around £1200 per year, or £100 per month, which for most people is a lot of money to spend each month just to live in a warm and well-lit home. We’re also in an age now where people are more aware of the energy they’re using and the damage that’s been done to the planet by over consumption of fossil fuels. That’s why, it’s more important than ever to think of ways in which you can firstly; decrease the cost you spend on your energy bills and secondly, decrease your carbon footprint and damage to this wonderful planet.
In the remainder of this guide we are going to talk about 10 simple ways can improve the energy efficiency of your home, reduce your energy consumption and bills and subsequently your carbon footprint.
Our list of ways you can improve home energy efficiency and reduce your utility bills include:
- Loft insulation
- Wall insulation
- Boiler replacement
- Thermostatic radiator values
- Energy efficient lighting
- Adding solar panels
- Replacing windows
- Upgrading home appliances
- Upgrading bathroom fittings
- Switching energy suppliers
- Install a smart meter
We all know from simple scientific fact that hot air rises, as such there is a large amount of heat lost through the dead space at the top of your house, or bungalow, known as the loft space. It’s estimated that 3 out of 10 people still do not have adequate insulation in their loft or have little insulation at all. By insulating the loft, you will reduce heat loss through the roof and therefore reduce the amount you need to heat your home in the first place through your central heating, wood or gas fires. Whilst a lack of insulation is more common in older homes, there are growing reports of inadequate amounts of insulation in new build homes and therefore it’s still worth checking you have the right type or amount of insulation, even if your home is relatively new.
The cost of loft insulation will depend on a few factors, including the size of your home, the type of insulation, any grants you have access to, the type of installation (DIY or professional) and preparation of the area by removal of old insulation. A full breakdown of the loft insulation cost is show in our cost guide, but the average cost of loose fill insulation (the most common) will be around £590 for a semi-detached home, £750 for a detached and £715 for a bungalow.
Wall insulation, in addition to loft insulation, is a great way to conserve energy and reduce those energy bills. There are two situations where wall insulation can be considered, this is where your home either has:
- Solid walls – These are usually homes built before 1940. These homes usually have a very small cavity which often won’t be wide enough to take insulation and therefore you will need to have walls either externally or internally insulated. The main issue with this is that it can be expensive, and internal insulation in particular can significantly reduce the square footage of your rooms. Even if your home was built before 1920 however, it’s still worth getting a home insulation survey to ensure that you don’t qualify for something called spray foam insulation, which can be installed into the smallest of cavities and still make a difference to the overall energy efficiency of your home.
- Cavity walls – Cavity walls are standard in most homes built after the 1950’s. These are easy to have cavity wall insulation installed into through a spray foam method. If you’re having an extension to your home, cavity wall insulation will be installed in the form of rock wool insulation between the two skins as the walls are erected.
Again, new build homes are not perfect, if you have one we recommend you invest in a small smart phone camera such as these and take a look inside your own walls through a small hole you can drill and easily repair. It could save you thousands on your energy bills.
It’s estimated that if you have an old “gas heavy” boiler and go for a boiler replacement with a more energy efficient condensing boiler, you can save around 1/3 on your heating bills. In the average home this will equate to around £300 per year, which is a significant amount of money.
According to Which there are 4 types of boiler efficiency, there’s the old gas heavy (G-rated), old gas light weight, new non-condensing and new condensing (A-rated) boiler type. Efficiency for an old gas heavy boiler is around 50-50%, whereas a new condensing boiler in comparison has an efficiency around 80-90%.
Clearly, the above does not consider the new boiler cost or the installation cost, which on average will cost between £1,425 – £2,300, however a £300+ saving will get you your money back in just 3 years. Definitely something worth considering.
If you’re home currently has a single boiler with just one thermostat and no radiator valves then you are wasting energy and money. Thermostatic radiator valves (TRV’s) are valves which can be easily added (DIY) to radiators around your home, giving you individual control over the temperature of each radiator and whether you wantthe radiator on or not. This means that you don’t heat rooms you don’t use and that you don’t overheat the one you do. Radiators don’t come with these valves as standard, unless you buy a bathroom radiator that is.
TRV’s are available in cheap and cheerful mechanical form and cost around £6 – £25 each, the more expensive ones are usually a little more pleasing on the eye. The second type are the programmable valves which come with smart control and programmable settings, however a set of these (4) can cost upwards of £200 and in our opinion just aren’t worth the expense.
There are a number of ways you can save money on your lighting, these include:
- Switching from Halogen to LED
- Adding timers to your lighting
- Upgrading to smart lighting
Changing the bulbs in your home can be a great way to save money. The average home contains 35 bulbs, at 70W for the standard halogen bulb that’s a lot of energy to waste. LED bulbs can be brought for around £4 each, or £8 for a pack of 3 and will last 15,000 hours plus. These consume around 7W of energy whilst giving out 40-60W in brightness.Add
Just like heating rooms you don’t use, lighting rooms you’re not in is another way to waste valuable energy and money. The addition of timers to your lamps allows you to control when lights in your home go on an off, so there’s no concern about leaving your home in darkness but also you don’t waste energy and money.
If you have the money and want a solution which is a little smarter than a wall plug timer then you can invest in smart lights. There are a few variants of these including smart bulbs (such as the Hue lighting range) and smart lighting which integrates with existing systems such as the Yale or Ring smart lighting. All of these are expensive, and bulbs can start around £15 each and vary from system to system. So, whilst these systems do save energy they’re unlikely to become cost neutral over a short period of time.
Adding solar panels is not a simple method of improving energy efficiency like the other 5 above, but it is one way in which you can generate up to 75% of your homes total electricty needs. However, keep in mind that the initial expense of installing solar panels can be high, with prices for small systems starting at £1500+ but larger roof installations running to as much as £10,000+. No grants as such are available to pay towards solar panel installations, however the government offer something called a “feed-in tariff”, which essentially means you earn money back for around 20 years for having the solar panels installed. Feed-in tariffs however are only available for around another 2 months (at the time of writing this article). Details of how to apply can be found on the .gov website.
Many homes built before the 80’s still have single pane windows which are extremely energy inefficient. Furthermore, many homes with vinyl / PVC windows have units which are draughty and allowing valuable heat to leak out of their home. So, when should you replace windows? There are a few scenarios where you need to consider window replacement:
- Windows units have single panes
- The glass is foggy in the corners
- The frames are split or cracked
- There are draughts felt around the surrounding unit
- You have old aluminium or wood window frames
What will double glazed windows cost? UPVC windows will set you back £250 – £1500 per window, depending on type and size, with wood windows costing significantly more at £530 – £2400. Composite and aluminum are less popular choices owing to their lower energy efficiency, but will cost you somewhere in between the two. Our cost guide for double glazing has all the details.
Appliances are estimated to use 15% of your total home energy consumption. Therefore when you are purchasing new appliances you should look at both the purchase price, but also at the yearly running cost. Whilst it might cost quite a bit more to purchase a more energy efficient product, their usage costs are on average 10% – 25% lower than their non-efficent alternatives.
What about your existing appliances? It’s certainly worth checking your existing appliances including your TV’s, fridges, freezers, oven, microwave, kettle and stove. Home appliances more than 10 years ago aren’t as energy efficient as you may think. It’s worth checking the energy rating of the appliance and deciding if the energy it’s using is worth changing it up for a new appliance.
One more thing you can do is also avoid leaving your appliances on standby, consider switching TV’s off at the wall and see how much you can save.
This article provides some great tips on home appliance energy efficiency considerations.
So far our top 8 tips focus on saving electricity around the home, however one thing people tend to forget about is the cost of water. Each household in the U.K. uses on average approximately 300+ litres of water per day, which if you have a water metre installed is a significant yearly cost. There are a few ways in which you can save water in your home and therefore subsequently save on your water bill, these include:
- Taking a shower instead of a bath – This could ave you £25-30 per year on water bills
- Change the shower head or taps for energy efficient ones – This could save you £60 – £80 a year off your water bills
- Fix dripping taps – If you have a dripping tap, this is wasting water, get a plumber in to fix the problem
- Turn off the tap – If you’re brushing your teeth, turn the tap off until you’re finished. Leaving a tap running can waste 6 litres of water per minute
- Use energy efficient washing machines and dishwashers
- Don’t use appliances half empty – Make sure your dishwasher and your washing machine is full before you use it
One of the final and simplest ways to save money on your energy bills is to switch your energy supplier. You’d be surprised by the amount of people who don’t do this and continue to let their energy plan roll over year after year. There are several websites which can allow you to switch supplier, and it can take less than 15 minutes with all of the switching done for you, so it’s completely hassle free.
To Sum Up
These are our top 10 ways of improving the energy efficiency of your home and reducing those energy bills, with some being quite expensive to do but others being very cheap or no cost to do. We hope that you’ve found this article useful. Don’t forget to check out our other home improvement guides as well as our home improvement costs for a range of different home and garden improvement projects.