The trees are ablaze with colour, mist hangs in the morning air and the nights are getting longer: autumn is here. As the days and nights get colder, now is the time to check whether your home will keep you as warm as it should this winter.
At WWF we’re keen on energy saving in the home because it’s one of the quickest and cheapest ways to reduce carbon emissions and help prevent the worst effects of climate change. What’s more, it’ll make your home warm and cosy and put you back in control of your energy bills. And remember, grants are available to help pay for some measures, so don’t forget to check that you are eligible. And now, our top home energy saving tips…
Fur keeps animals warm by trapping heat inside. Insulation works just the same, making sure heat doesn’t leak out through the roof, walls and floor of your home. Sadly, the ‘skin’ of many of our homes isn’t quite up to the job: they could do with an extra layer or two.
Loft insulation is often the cheapest and easiest measure to install: make sure you have at least 270mm of standard insulation. It might mean having a clear out of your loft, but you’ll quickly recoup the costs.
Walls are the biggest drain of heat in most homes: around a third of the heat lost from an uninsulated house leaks out through the walls. Homes in the UK usually have either cavity or solid walls; you can tell by looking at the brickwork. If your home was built after 1920 it is likely to have cavity walls. As the name suggests, these are made up of two walls with a gap in the middle. Filling that gap with insulation will prevent heat loss, costing about £380 for a mid-terrace house and saving £100 a year off its energy bills.
If your home was built before 1920, chances are it has solid walls. Solid walls are particularly leaky, and can be insulated either from the inside or the outside. It costs more (£5 – 15,000) but the savings are bigger too (£150 – £450 per year). For many older homes, solid wall insulation is the single biggest way to save energy. These are big works, but you can reduce the costs and disruption by combining the work with other home improvements or by not doing the whole house at once.
Floor insulation is also important. Ground floors or those above unheated spaces (like garages) leak heat, and insulating under floorboards, or above concrete floors, will cost £1 – 2,000 and can save around £50 a year.
Stop the draughts
Draught-proofing is one of the cheapest ways to save energy. Unwanted gaps and holes around windows, doors, letterboxes, and loft hatches will let warm air out and cold air in. Many can be blocked using DIY materials, or you may want to get in a professional. Bear in mind that allowing fresh air to enter a building is important, especially a well-insulated one. Ventilation is needed to prevent condensation (especially in wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms) or near fires, so make sure you don’t block any air bricks.
Heating controls (boiler controls, thermostats and radiator valves) ensure that you only heat as much as you need to. And if you like gadgets, check out new ‘smart’ thermostats – these link to your mobile phone and allow you to control the heating remotely, either manually or automatically by using your phone’s location to know whether you’re on your way home. Some will even learn your habits and make sure the heat system is operated as efficiently as possible, saving you energy and money. Other smart controls will even let you control the heating on a room by room basis.
The Government also intends for all homes to switch to smart meters by 2020. These will give you real-time information about your energy use and make meter readings a thing of the past. You can request a smart meter from your energy supplier.
Lighting accounts for around 20 per cent of a household’s energy bill, and changing your bulbs could instantly save you money. Replacing an old-style bulb with an energy efficient one will save £45 over the lifetime of the bulb, while changing all of your halogen lights for LEDs could save £40 per year.
Check your boiler
A boiler is the engine of your home heating: get yours serviced regularly to make sure it runs efficiently, and replace old gas boilers with more efficient condensing ones. If you currently heat with oil, LPG or electricity, you could make a big dent in your heating costs and carbon emissions by installing a heat pump.
A top for your tank
If you have a hot water tank, make sure it is insulated (75mm is the minimum). A standard ‘jacket’ for your cylinder will cut heat loss by more than 75 per cent and could save you around £30 a year, more than the cost of the jacket. You can also insulate any hot water pipes that run outside or through the loft.
Just like insulation, efficient windows will help keep the heat in. They’ll also keep your home quieter and draught free. There are different types: double or triple-glazing and secondary glazing (windows fitted on the inside). Even putting up a thicker set of curtains (and closing them!) will help keep the heat in.
Check the label
Appliances and gadgets in the home all use energy, and paying attention to their energy rating will make a big difference to how much they cost to run. Although they might be a little more expensive, efficient appliances will often pay that back in energy savings.
There are many ways you could be saving energy, money and carbon at home. Combined, these measures can reduce a home’s carbon emissions by up to 60 per cent, and we’ll need to make these kind of upgrades to most UK homes if we’re to meet our climate targets. As well as encouraging our supporters to take action in their own homes, we’re making the case to Government for more support for those unable to pay for improvements themselves, as well as stronger incentives for everyone else.