There is increasing focus on cutting our carbon emissions and trying to look after the planet, but there is also a more selfish reason for eco-proofing your home: it will save you money! The average UK household emits about 6 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, which is more than the average car. You can calculate your personal carbon footprint online at mycarbonfootprint.eu. However, there are many simple changes we can make to reduce this, resulting in savings of around 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide and £200 per year on electricity and gas bills.
Wall cavity and loft insulation
The single most important thing you can do to save energy in your home is improve your insulation. Insulation holds the heat inside the house, reducing the need to use central heating systems or other heaters. A house loses about 40% of its heat through the loft space and walls, so good loft insulation can make an enormous difference to your heating costs. Don’t be put off by the cost of installing insulation, as the savings on fuel bills will recoup that expenditure in just a few years.
The Government estimates that loft insulation materials cost about £230 and they are simple to install (you may be able to do it yourself, cutting labour costs). You can insulate cavity walls for around £260. Additionally, you may be entitled to a Government grant to help with costs through the non-departmental public body, the Energy Saving Trust. Installing insulation can save up to 630kg of carbon dioxide per year.
Hot water cylinder and pipe insulation
It’s incredibly simple to fit the insulation known as a British standard jacket round your hot water cylinder, which will save 75% of the heat loss from it. Check your hot water cylinder, and if it’s already insulated check that the jacket is at least 75mm thick. Doing this should save you around £20 a year in heating costs, and around 150kg of CO2 emissions.
If everybody in the UK did this, £1.3 billion would be saved annually on heating bills. It’s also very easy to insulate accessible hot water pipes, making yet more savings, although you may require professional help to fit insulation to less accessible pipework.
Installing an energy efficient boiler and thermostatic radiator controls
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a new, efficient boiler could save the average household between £190 and £240 a year. As with insulation, there may be financial assistance available to you to take this step. Boilers have a 'Seasonal Efficiency of Domestic Boilers in the UK' (SEDBUK) label which rates their efficiency, so you should be able to check yours.
Boilers are rated on a scale of A to G, where A uses energy most efficiently. Thermostatic radiator controls can adjust the radiator’s temperature according to room temperature, switching it off when the room is warm enough, which ensures you do not overheat your home.
A substantial amount of heat is also lost through the windows. Double glazing helps keep it in and will also cut traffic and street noise! Estimates of how much professional double glazing could save in emissions vary from 350kg of CO2 per year to 680kg a year. It will require some initial financial investment, but should save you around £100 a year on your heating bills, so you will recoup your expenses eventually.
If you don’t want to splash out on professional double glazing, you can opt for secondary glazing instead, which is cheaper and will still prevent some heat loss. You can also create your own temporary version by taping cling film or clear plastic around window frames. Always tuck curtains behind radiators to keep as much heat in the room as possible.
There are a few other things you can do to keep heat in your home and save on central heating costs. Draught excluders will prevent heat escaping under exterior doors or other openings, and whilst they are simple and low-tech to install, they can actually cut up to 140kg of CO2 from your annual emissions. You can buy draught proofing materials from hardware shops, or even make your own. The Draught Proofing Advisory Association can assist you in locating good suppliers.
Having taken these measures, you should be able to experiment with turning your thermostat down, or even turning the heating off, depending on the weather and your needs. You should find that a few hours of heating will go further, so it’s important that you use your system's timer to ensure that you heat your home only as much as you need, saving money and emissions.
Whilst heating and insulation are the biggest areas to tackle when eco-proofing your home, there are other areas in which you can cut down on energy use:
Investing in a new, more efficient, European Grade A+ fridge/freezer could save 210kg of carbon dioxide per year. If you don’t want to buy a new one, ensure your existing fridge/freezer is placed in the coolest area of your home in order to use the least amount of energy, and always let hot food cool down to room temperature before refrigerating it.
Other electrical goods
The European Union energy labelling system also applies to other big electrical items such as washing machines. These labels indicate how efficient an item is, and investing in more efficient products will help to cut electricity usage in your home. The labelling system is explained at energysavingtrust.org.uk.
Other products may have different efficiency ratings. The best products will have an Energy Saving Recommended logo, so when replacing electrical items such as your television or microwave look out for the label to ensure you make maximum savings.
You can save up to 230 kg of carbon dioxide per year by installing a low-flow showerhead. They cost around £15 from household fittings shops and cut your heating costs, as less water is heated per shower. They will also cut the amount of water you use significantly, so you might want to consider getting your water usage metered rather than paying fixed rate charges. This way, you will save money for every water-saving measure you put in place.
If you need more advice on eco-proofing your home, you can contact the Energy Saving Trust advice centre on 0800 512 012.