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Energy Saving Tips

House-Saver's 4 Step Guide to saving on your energy bills:

- Step 1: Good housekeeping practices

- Step 2: Plug those Gaps

- Step 3: Upgrade your central heating system

- Step 4: Create your own energy

Step 1:  Good housekeeping practices

Gran knew what she was doing with her good housekeeping practices. Keep those doors closed.  Wear a pair of slippers around the home.  Try on that onesie you received as a Christmas present. Below is a reminder of a few other golden oldie tips:

The above tips are all low cost or no cost.  However, if you struggle with a cold home, these measures are unlikely to be sufficient to create a warm home for the winter.  On to Step 2.

Step 2: Plug those Gaps

UK homes can be very draughty.  Before considering any expensive upgrades to your central heating system, consider the following measures to plug the gaps in your property.

Your walls

33% of the heat lost from our homes disappears through our walls.  Up until the 1920s the typical UK home was built to a solid wall construction.  If you live in an old property, installing insulation on your outside walls can drastically reduce the amount of heat lost from your home.

Since the 1920s cavity wall construction has been the standard. However, up until the 1990s, the gap between the two walls (the cavity) was rarely insulated. Filling this gap with insulation is a relatively inexpensive yet highly effective measure to reduce heat-loss from your home.

Your roof

26% of the heat lost from our homes disappears through the roof.  Bulking up your roof insulation to the full recommended depth of 270mm is easy to do and because hot air rises, properly insulating your loft will often be the single most cost-effective way to reduce heat loss from your home.

Your windows

18% of the heat lost from our homes disappears through our windows.  Replace single-glazed windows with double-glazing.  Already have double glazing?  Double-glazed windows will deteriorate over time.  Have your windows inspected.  They may benefit from draught proofing or they may need replacing.

You can expect a double-glazed window to last for around 20 years. After this length of time, the window may need replacing to keep those draughts at bay.

Feeling brash? Follow the Scandinavians and have triple glazed windows fitted.

Your floors

8% of the heat lost from our homes disappears through our floors. Insulate under the floorboards on your ground floor.  This will help keep the heat in and your toes warm.  Also, seal the gaps between your floors and skirting boards to further reduce draughts.

Your doors

3% of the heat lost from our homes disappears through our doors.  Consider draft proofing your doors.

The heat loss figures quoted above are courtesy of the Energy Saving Trust and are based on an un-insulated home

That's Step 2 complete.  If you have applied the above measures and your home is still cold, its time to consider your central heating system.  We do this at Step 3 below.

Step 3: Upgrade your central heating system

Typical central heating systems comprise a boiler and radiators. The boiler heats water which is then distributed through pipes to your radiators.  The problem with your central heating could be with your boiler, your radiators, or with both.  Have a suitably qualified plumber inspect your system.  Your central heating problem may just be down to your boiler needing a service.

Whilst you are examining your boiler make sure that your hot water tank and visible pipes between the tank and boiler have been insulated.  Also consider installing thermostatic radiator valves to control individual room temperatures.  This will prevent unnecessary heating of any rooms not being used.

My boiler needs replacing.  What are my options?  

The plumber's verdict is that your boiler is on its last legs - what now?  Whilst expensive, modern condensing boilers are much more energy efficient than older models.  If your old boiler is not doing the job, do not delay, have a new boiler installed.  Fitting a new boiler will save you money in the long run, and will ensure that you have a central heating system that has the capability to properly heat your home.

The most common boiler systems are powered by gas or oil. Gas being the more cost effective of the two. Feeling brave?  There are alternative boiler technologies out there, such as CHP (combined heat and power) boilers and biomass boilers. These, are well worth considering if you are currently relying on an expensive-to-run oil fueled boiler.

Paying for a new Boiler

A new boiler, whilst saving you money in the long run, will have a high upfront cost.  The Government's Green Deal scheme may help you to pay the upfront costs.

Step 4: Create your own energy

This is an optional Step for the really keen.  There are lots of technologies out there that can help you generate your own energy.

The type of central heating system you have will be a key factor in informing which energy generating technology you should go for.  Therefore, for optimum results, the installation of an energy generating technology is best carried out in tandem with an upgrade to your central heating system.

Your energy generation options include:

The above energy generating technologies, especially wind turbines and hydroelectric systems, do not come cheap. Fortunately, the UK Government is investing a great deal of money into enabling householders to install renewable energy generating installations. So now is a good time to check out the potential financial assistance available.

If you’re still worried about the costs, here's some more good news.  You’ll be charged a lower rate of VAT when you pay to have energy-saving work carried out. This applies to materials, equipment and labour. If your house is new, you’ll pay zero VAT. To find out more, visit the HMRC website on www.hmrc.gov.uk


What about my water bills?

Fit a Water Meter

If you don’t use much water in your home, installing a water meter could drastically reduce your water bills. Why should you pay the same amount as your neighbour who obsessively washes his car three times a day, when you use far less?

The great news is, most homes qualify to have a meter installed completely free of charge. Once they have been installed, instead of paying a ‘standard fee’ (based on the rateable value of your home), you will only be charged for the water you actually use.

Use the Consumer Council for Water's "meter calculator" to find out if getting a water meter could save you money.

Install a Water Butt

Do you have a water meter in your home? If you do, then you need to start thinking about ways to reduce your water usage and lower your bills. A great idea is to install a water butt. A water butt is basically a large barrel that’s attached to a drainpipe to collect rainwater (plenty of that in the UK). The water collected is perfect for watering your garden, and can prove particularly useful during those irksome hose pipe bans.


Use a water-efficient shower head

Water efficient shower heads come in a number of different forms, but will generally work by reducing the amount of water coming out of the shower head.  However, this will not necessarily reduce the performance of the shower.

A larger shower head with bigger holes uses more water, but may not be as effective as a smaller one.  Examples of high performance water efficient shower heads include 'aerating shower heads', which mix water with air, reducing the overall amount of water that is required.  This means that you do not have to sacrifice on your showering 'experience' whilst showering with a water efficient shower head.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, installing a water-efficient shower head could save the typical family of four around £75 a year on fuel for water heating as well as a further £90 on water bills if you have a water meter.


Install a water displacement device

Water displacement devices work by reducing the volume of water in the cistern that is used for every flush.  Installing a water displacement device in your toilet cistern may save water.  Whilst not suitable for modern toilets (toilets fitted since 2001), water displacement devices in toilets fitted before 2001 can save around 1 litre of water per flush.

Want to take it further?

Seeking further inspiration for a greener home?  Check out www.energysavingtrust.org.uk

Need further advice?  Why don't you join our discussion forum