Why is it important to make our homes more energy efficient?
The energy we use to power and heat our homes is a key cause of carbon emissions. In fact, it is estimated that the energy used in UK homes accounts for 20% of the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
. In a report
published last year by the Committee on Climate Change– an independent board that advises the UK governments on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change– it was made clear that the UK cannot meet its climate objectives without improvements to its 29 million homes.
Refurbishing our houses to be more energy efficient is not only important to tackle climate change, but also to protect our health and wellbeing. We have all spent an extraordinary amount of time at home in recent months due to the lockdown measures relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, giving us an extra appreciation of just how important a comfortable and cost-efficient home is. Many of the measures we can take to reduce our home’s emissions also help to make them more comfortable to live in, better for our health, and more affordable to run– even in light of our changing climate.
So, where should we begin?
What simple things can you do to reduce your household energy use?
There are a number of everyday changes you can make which can make a noticeable difference to your household energy use and bills. These include:
• reducing the thermostat temperature to no higher than 19°C and ensure the heating system is operating at no more than 55°C
• switching appliances off standby;
• turning lights off in unoccupied rooms;
• replacing old lightbulbs with energy efficient bulbs;
• washing clothes at cooler temperatures, and airdry when possible;
• making sure your fridge and freezer are defrosted frequently and avoid leaving the doors open for too long;
• taking short showers, which use far less energy and water than baths;
• fixing any dripping taps, especially if it is a hot water tap; and
• maintaining any heating systems and pipework to ensure they are working properly and efficiently, with no leaks.
You can find lots more ‘quick-win’ ideas at: https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-energy-efficiency/energy-saving-quick-wins
To make more significant savings, however, it will be necessary to carry out more significant improvements.
Which home improvements are best for boosting energy efficiency?
Over half of typical household energy is used to provide heating and hot water
. Therefore, a key starting point is to ensure you not only have an efficient heating system but that any heat produced does not go to waste. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint and lowering your energy bills, creating a thermally comfortable home can reduce draughts and heat or cold-related illnesses.
There are a number of measures that can be taken, including:
1. Insulation – By ensuring your home is well insulated, you can stay cosy and warm without having to constantly rely on your heating system. Insulation should not only be installed in easy to reach areas like lofts, but ideally in all the external facing parts of your home (floors, walls and roof) to keep in as much heat as possible.
2. Low carbon heating systems – Investing in systems which use ‘clean’ heat sources will help to decarbonise your energy supply. This can include solar thermal roof panels which supply hot water, or air and ground source heat pumps which replace your boiler and can be powered with renewable electricity.
3. Draught proofing – Sealing any gaps around window, doors and open chimneys will prevent too much heated air from escaping and stop cold air from getting in.
4. Windows and doors – Whilst most properties at least have double-glazing, any single-glazed homes should be upgraded to double, triple or secondary glazing where necessary.
5. Heating controls and service insulation – Thermostats, smart heating controls and hot water tank insulation can all be used to ensure any heating system is used in the most effective and efficient way possible.
Of course, all of these improvements come with an upfront cost which can be a stumbling block for many homeowners. This is where the Green Homes Grant can help.
How can a Green Homes Grant help to cut your carbon footprint?
The Green Homes Grant scheme provides up to £5,000 for most owners covering as much as two thirds the cost of many of the home improvements mentioned above, subject to certain conditions. It is a great opportunity to save lots of money on refurbishments which might otherwise be out of your price range, however, the total scheme budget is capped so you need to act quickly to benefit from it.
You can learn more about how to apply and what measures are covered in our Green Homes Grant scheme FAQ
Change starts at home
Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time and we are at the point where our actions today could truly save the world tomorrow. Whilst there is much more than improving energy efficiency that goes into creating eco-friendly homes, it is an essential element to address. By considering how we can effectively reduce our energy use at home, we can all make a positive contribution to the fight against rising global temperatures, whilst saving ourselves money and protecting the health and wellbeing of our families too.