Use appliances and electronics responsibly
Some simple habits you can form to reduce energy consumption start with being conscious of your appliance usage. By remembering to switch off appliances at the plug when not in use, such as phone chargers and televisions, positioning appliances in cooler areas of the house so that they expend less heat energy, such as moving refrigerators away from ovens, and out of direct sunlight, and using smaller appliances when possible, such as laptops instead of computers, can all contribute to lower energy consumption.
Turn down your Thermostat
A simple but effective energy saver, if you've got one or more room thermostats, simply turning them down by 1°C you could save over £50 per year. Eventually, you should consider going the extra mile and installing a programmable thermostat, which you can use to control your heating and cooling needs automatically, up to 4 times a day. You can set a thermostat to turn on when you wake up and turn off when you leave the house, saving even more on energy bills.
Reduce your water consumption
Water consumption is a necessary part of any functioning home, and will be one of the most demanding areas of household energy use as a result. A few things you can do to reduce this include fixing dripping taps, which, despite seeming minor, can equate to filling around two baths of wasted water a year without maintenance.
Only boiling the water you need will reduce the amount of energy required for water heating – If you just want a single cup of tea or coffee use your cup to see how much water to put in the kettle.
If you have the option between using a shower and a bath, treat baths as a luxury and opt to use showers as much as possible.
Wash your clothes the eco way
Washing your clothes is another big contributor to inefficient water consumption in the home. But this can be reduced through smarter methods of washing, such as doing one full load of washing rather than two small loads.
Washing your clothes at lower temperatures, for example, 40°C, or even 30°C if possible, rather than 60°C, can be up to 30% cheaper. A typical tumble dryer can cost around £115 per year to run, so if the weather permits, take advantage of it by hanging them outside instead. For rainy days, use a clothes horse inside, but do so in a room with good ventilation or open the window to get rid of the water vapour in the air, until they're dry or almost dry. If required, you can then put them in the dryer to finish them off.
Be smart about cooking
An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking, but this can be lessened by using some of the following tips:
- Switching from a conventional oven to a convection oven, which are more efficient than conventional ovens and use fans to force hot air to circulate more evenly, allows food to be cooked at a lower temperature, and as a result use approximately 20% less electricity usage than conventional ovens.
- Using a Microwave oven consumes approximately 80% less energy than a conventional oven.
- Placing pans on the matching size heating element or flame can reduce cooking time.
- Using lids on pots and pans will heat food at a faster rate than cooking in uncovered pots and pans.
- Pressure cookers can reduce cooking time dramatically.
- When using conventional ovens, place your food on the top rack. The top rack is hotter and will cook food faster.
Install a Smart Meter
Smart Meters are one of the easiest ways to adapt your energy consumption. Once installed, you can keep tabs on your energy output and how much it’s costing you. With real-time information at your fingertips, you can adapt your behaviour and save money.
Replace your Lightbulbs with LED’s or energy savers
Energy saving light bulbs are one of the best green home improvements you could carry out, due to their cost, ease of installation, and pay-back time. Energy savers typically pay for themselves in under a year and last much longer than traditional bulbs. A typical 20 watt CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) could last around 12 years and in that time could save you up to £120 worth of electricity - and that’s just one bulb.
Draught Proof your home
Stopping draught around doors and windows etc. could save you around £25 a year and can be as simple as using draught excluders under doors, silicone or expandable foam to fill gaps around window frames etc.
Install energy efficient Showerheads and toilets
There are a variety of low energy shower heads and toilets currently available to further reduce water consumption. These include:
- low-flow showerheads, which are available in different flow rates, and can even include a pause button which shuts off the water.
- low-flow toilets, which can reduce usage to an average of 8 litres-per-flush, saving 45,000 litres of water per year.
- Vacuum-assist toilets, which uses a siphon action to suck air from the trap beneath the bowl.
- Dual-flush toilets, which let you choose between a smaller flush, and a larger flush. Dual-flush toilets can reduce water consumption by an additional 30%.
Upgrade your Boiler
You could make great savings by installing a modern, energy-efficient boiler, especially when you consider that heating accounts for a large amount of your energy bills. Modern condensing boilers are more efficient than conventional boilers because they require less heat from the burner and capture more of the heat before it’s released.
Upgrade your radiators
If you’ve upgraded your boiler, you may want to upgrade your radiator also. Some older radiators may not be able to handle the output from your new boiler, especially if you are getting a larger boiler than you had previously. If your radiators are quite small, they will need to be hotter to heat the room to your preferred temperature, causing the boiler to work harder. Larger radiators are also a more efficient alternative as they can run at a lower temperature and still heat the room sufficiently.
Install underfloor heating
If upgrading your radiator isn’t going to cut it for your energy reduction needs, then you might want to consider underfloor heating. Underfloor heating can be a big task, but the payoff is worth it: They work to distribute heat evenly and consistently around each room, with a suitably sized unit being able to heat a larger area than an individual radiator. Underfloor heating will also run at lower temperatures than radiators, reducing your heating bills as a result. What’s more is that your floors will stay warm even if the windows are open or the room is very draughty, creating less wastage, and they can be installed below a variety of flooring options including stone, tile, wood or carpeted floors.
Upgrade your kitchen with more efficient appliances
Buying A-rated appliances where possible can also significantly reduce energy costs. When you consider that you will likely have a washing machine, oven, fridge freezer, hob and possibly a dishwasher, it’s easy to see how the savings can quickly add up, so it’s worth reducing the energy consumption of your appliances where possible. For example, an A-rated tumble dryer could cost as little as £35 a year to run, saving you up to £80 per year when compared to the bottom of the range dryers.
Install Solar Panels
One of the most obvious green home improvements is to install solar panels on your roof. Solar panels require daylight, rather than sunshine, so they can still be effective when British weather forecasts are at their least favourable, although the longer winter nights may have a minor impact. Solar panels work best on south-facing roofs and generally don’t require planning permission unless you live in a conservation area, a listed building, or a flat-roofed property. While initially somewhat expensive, the return on investment can also be particularly considerable when installing solar panels.
Install a “tankless” water heater
Demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don’t produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don’t need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.
Install additional natural sources of lighting such as skylights
Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home’s interior. For example, installing skylights can create a source of natural light that is particularly effective during the summer months when the days are longer, and even act as a supplementary source of heat during the winter.
Insulate walls, windows and doors
Without proper insulation, heat can easily escape through the walls of your home. While properties built from the 1990s onwards typically have adequate insulation, if your home was constructed earlier you should assess whether you need cavity wall insulation or solid wall insulation. The former applies to properties built post-1920s; generally, the walls of these homes have gaps – or cavities – which can be filled with insulation material to keep more heat inside.
If your home was built before the 1920s it will most likely have solid walls, which means there are no cavities to fill with insulation. For these period homes, you can still insulate the external and internal walls, but the process is costlier than cavity wall insulation and for some historic homes, you may need a specialist installer.
Install efficient loft insulation
While insulating your walls, windows and doors is essential for maintaining efficient heating in your home, insulating your loft effectively can be just as important. If insulated inefficiently, your loft can act as a huge energy vacuum, sucking your heating straight out of the roof. If your loft is easily accessible, wool insulation can help you save this wasted energy. For inaccessible spaces, you can have insulation blown in by a professional.
Upgrade windows/Install double/triple-glazing
Another of the most well-known green home improvements you can make is to install energy-efficient windows. Double and triple-glazed windows create an insulating barrier to ensure heat is kept inside the property, reducing waste and saving you money. What’s more, steel and uPVC window frames can be recycled, while sustainably sourced timber is another option, especially for historic homes.
Plant shade trees and shrubs around your house
Shading your house via natural landscaping with trees can help reduce surrounding air temperatures, and keep your house cooler in the summer. Because cool air settles near the ground, air temperatures directly under trees can be much cooler than air temperatures above them. For the best results, plant deciduous trees with high, spreading leaves and branches at the south of your home, where possible.
For more information on green home improvement suggestions, follow the links below:
- 10 Ways you can make your home more energy efficient, according to Mose Home Inspection Services
- The Energy Savings Trust’s Home Improvement Guide
- 9 ways to make your home more energy efficient, according to Green Home Guide
- Top 11 ways to save energy at home (with infographics), according to Money Super Market
- Green home improvements from Eco Home Essentials
- Green home improvement ideas from Legal and General
How to avoid rogue traders and find the best services, including Eco-Builders
Finding a qualified and trustworthy trader is not always as easy as it sounds, and not seeking a professional to carry out larger scale work can often be more trouble than it’s worth. You may also want your work carried out by specialist Eco-Builders to ensure your home is improved through more environmentally conscious methods. This list of sites provides helpful advice, reviews and contacts for accredited traders and Eco-Builders you can trust.
Expert advice on your how to improve your home’s energy efficiency
Before you can start improving you home, you will need to know about its specific energy efficient consumption and the measures that can be taken to improve it. This can be achieved through carrying out an EPC rating, which we provide more information about on our dedicated EPC page. Alternatively, you can book an energy audit for more expert advice on how to improve your homes energy efficiency.
Building Regulations and Building Standards
When carrying out green home improvements, it can be difficult to know where to begin and what services you can trust. Planning and research can be time consuming and stressful, with plenty of confusing regulations thrown in the mix to make improving your home feel like a bit of a headache at times. To solve these issues and help make the process easier, we have provided a jumping off point for all the information you might need, including traders you can contact, and what regulations you may need to be aware of before carrying out any work yourself.
In order to know if it is safe and legal to carry out work on your home, you will need to be aware of the Building Regulations that may apply to you. To help you get started, we have compiled a list of sites containing Building Regulations, Building Standards, and all the relevant information surrounding them.