With winter on the horizon, making your home’s central heating system as energy efficient as possible should be a priority.
Replacing an old G-rated boiler (the least energy efficient) with a super-efficient A-rated (condensing) boiler is expensive (typically £2,000 upwards), but could save you around £300 a year on running costs, according to the Energy Saving Trust. This is based on replacing the boiler and heating controls in a three-bed semi with gas central heating.
If your home’s windows aren’t double or triple glazed (or have secondary glazing), the heating will be disappearing out of them.
Again, replacing the windows is an expensive business, typically costing several thousand pounds, but it is worth doing if you can afford to, and you don’t have to go for period imperfect windows – double-glazed sashes offer the best of both worlds, for example. With listed buildings and homes on ‘designated land’, such as conservation areas, there are stricter rules about replacement windows (and doors), so ask your local council.
To make further savings on your energy bills, you may want to consider fitting energy-efficient glazing, such as Planitherm. This glass has a special coating that helps to retain radiated heat in the room and also captures the sun’s energy to heat the room further.
Your home’s external walls are another big area of heat loss. Houses built from 1920 onwards usually have cavity walls and these can be injected with insulation (a job for the pros) to keep the heat in and cold out.
Solid walls let through twice as much heat as cavity walls, but insulating them isn’t as straightforward – it can be done internally or externally.
Measures like these that make your home more energy efficient go a long way, but you can go further down the eco route.
Have you considered generating your own electricity? This is typically done with a wind turbine or solar panels (a different type of solar panels can be used to heat your home’s water). Domestic wind turbines only work well in certain locations, so solar panels are the best bet for many of us.
If you’re worried about the cost (usually many thousands of pounds) of having solar panels fitted, there are ways to cushion the financial blow, such as special loans and ‘rent a roof’ schemes.
With the latter, you get the solar panels free of charge, but you have to give the company that provides and installs them the income you receive from the Government’s Feed-In Tariffs scheme. This scheme pays you for both the electricity you generate and use at home and any surplus you supply to the national grid.
Another Government scheme (although it isn’t up and running for homeowners yet) is the Renewable Heat Incentive, which is expected to financially reward people who use renewable heat technologies at home. This should apply to heat pumps, which extract warmth from the air, ground or a water source and use it to heat the home.
Then there’s the Government’s Green Deal, which may provide finance for energy-efficient home improvements such as insulation and double glazing. Go to www.decc.gov.uk to find out more.
Big eco home improvements are often most cost-effective as part of a major renovation or build, rather than being retro-fitted.
With large projects, the world’s your oyster in terms of making your home greener and cleaner. You could, for example, install a water-saving system for re-using ‘grey’ water, which includes used water from showers, baths and the washing machine. Systems like this aren’t something most of will be able to retro-fit to our homes, but they are the future.