How to make your home more energy efficient

Joy Persaud / 28 November 2016

Saving energy can mean lower bills and a reduced carbon footprint. We look at ways to minimise energy loss.



Insulation

Windows

Ensure there are no gaps around doors and windows, or cracks that can allow heat to escape – hire a trusted handyperson to fix any of the latter as a quick way to save energy and stay cosy. If you have gaps around windows beware of people telling you that an entire replacement is needed. Often, changing a panel, part of a frame or hinge can remedy the problem.

Double-glazed windows keep heat in, reduce your energy needs and cut down noise from outside, so it may be worth having these fitted if finances allow. Whatever your windows, close blinds or curtains at dusk to stop heat loss and lessen draughts.

Read our tips for cleaning windows

Roof and loft

Keep warmth in by making sure your roof and/or loft insulation is the right thickness, as this could save you hundreds of pounds, offsetting the initial outlay.

Different types of roofing need appropriate insulation depending on what you are using the space for and its accessibility. See the Energy Saving Trust for an idea of how much you could save and what type of insulation would be most effective in your home, as well as to check if you are eligible for a grant.

Remember that if you have a water tank in your roof space, it will be colder and more prone to freezing if you have insulated the floor of the attic, as it won’t receive the warmth that would otherwise naturally rise. You’ll need to insulate the tank to avoid problems.

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Walls

Cavity wall insulation, usually made of mineral wool or polystyrene beads, stores heat between the double-walled exterior of your home, bouncing it back into the room and holding it for longer. It also gets rid of draughts and keeps rooms a more constant temperature, which means you’ll be burning less fuel and will have lower bills. The insulating material is injected into the cavity between the property’s two external walls (which are usually around 5cm apart) and the small, drilled holes are filled afterwards.

Solid walls (without a cavity) are found in around 36 per cent of UK homes. They are not energy efficient, however, and can be the cause of up to half a property’s heat loss. Panels can be placed inside or outside such homes to increase insulation. If attached to exterior walls, these panels will be weatherproof.

The National Insulation Association is a good starting point to find registered companies that can fit all types of insulation (cavity wall, loft, roof, solid wall and draught proofing).

Find out about energy wasting habits around the home

Switch off standby

Making the effort to switch appliances off at the plug could save you around £30-£40 a year, as well as lowering the risk of a fire starting in the home.

A standby saver is a device that will enable you to switch off all appliances at once. You need to plug several appliances into the standby saver and programme it to respond to one remote control – which can be used to switch all electronic devices off at once.

The saver automatically cuts the power to your appliances by recognising when they are in standby mode. Most manufacturers have recognised that some appliances need a constant source of power so they include an ‘always on’ socket on their standby savers for things like broadband or a Sky box.

You’ll need to buy at least one standby saver, though, so it’s far more cost effective to simply switch off electrical equipment at the mains. If bending to reach switches is tricky, though, the standby saver could be particularly beneficial.

Buy wisely

Choosing white goods that are A+ or A-rated will mean you use less energy to run the item. According to the Energy Saving Trust, choosing an A+++ fridge freezer over an A+ unit will save you about £190 in energy bills over the lifetime of the product, but bear in mind that a smaller, A-rated fridge will be cheaper to run than a larger one with a higher rating.

Smaller televisions consume less energy and SD (standard density) models are more energy efficient than HD televisions. Similarly, a laptop will use less energy than a desktop – as much as 85 per cent lower.

Control your heating

Modern boilers are more efficient and burn fuel more effectively than their older counterparts. The newer models are all condensing boilers, which recover more heat than non-condensing types and send cooler, rather than warmer, gases up the flue. If you don’t have gas, consider a biomass heater.

Find out about the different ways to heat your house

It’s wise to control your heating and boiler, so you use energy only when needed:

  • Room thermostats switch the heating on only when a certain temperature is reached. Turning down the heating by just 1°C can save a typical home around £85 to £90 a year
  • Thermostatic radiator valves can be adjusted to allow heat into a room
  • Set timers to switch your boiler on and off during certain hours
  • Programmers can be set to come on at various times and temperatures throughout the day, with each day having different settings
  • Apps, such as Hive, allow you to control your heating and hot water tank (if applicable) remotely.

Larger households will benefit from using regular boilers (which require a hot water cylinder), whereas smaller households may find a combination boiler (which needs no tank) more energy efficient, as their consumption is lower.

If you’re considering renewing your boiler, or having your existing one serviced, use a Gas Safe engineer

Energy monitors

These allow you to see how much electricity you use, giving you a real-time estimate. They cost around £40 (or are free from some energy suppliers, though do compare tariffs carefully before signing up) and you can install them yourself. 

Some monitors allow you to set a target for usage, or can alert you when a certain level of usage is met. They work by monitoring the magnetic field around the power cable connected to your electricity meter via a clip-on sensor. The sensor sends information wirelessly to the handheld visual display unit, where it will is displayed as real-time power usage (in kWh), cost (£) and greenhouse gas emissions (tonnes of CO2).

Find out how to make your home more eco-friendly

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.