A sustainable home is an efficient home characterised by maximising the use of resources, optimising energy and water use and minimising waste. Sustainable homes make a contribution to improving the environment, but that’s not all. Being energy efficient, the very tangible benefit for homeowners is that an eco-friendly home is cheaper to run. If you are interested in increasing your home’s efficiency, here are six top tips to help you achieve that goal.
- Increase home insulation
As much as 40% of heat loss is the result of poor insulation in the home, so improving the level of insulation should be your first port of call. Consider adding loft insulation up to a recommended depth of 270mm, and find out about getting cavity wall insulation installed. Not sure whether you have solid or cavity walls? Here’s a good guide to explain the difference.
Solid walls can be insulated either externally or internally, but if you live in a period property, it’s important to ensure that the walls can breathe to avoid problems with damp further down the line. Here’s some useful advice about insulating old homes.
- Install double glazed windows
More than 10% of energy in the home can be lost through the windows. If your property has single-glazed windows, look into replacing them urgently with double-glazed or even triple-glazed versions to slow the heat transfer.
The highest performing windows available will contain a low-conductivity gas such as argon, and you can also get low-emissivity glass that has a special coating to help reflect the heat back into the room. Choosing new energy efficient windows not only lowers your heating bills but may increase the value of the property.
- Consider renewable heating options
If your gas boiler is coming to the end of its useful life, stop and think before ordering a replacement. There are alternative heating options worth considering including biomass boilers, ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps.
Wood-fuelled systems run on pellets or logs. A standalone stove can heat a room, and with the addition of a back boiler can also provide water heating. A biomass boiler can cover all your central heating and hot water needs, but it does require plenty of space.
Ground source heat pumps use pipes buried in your garden to extract heat from the earth for your home’s hot water and heating requirements. Air source heat pumps work along the same principles but extract heat from the air. If your home is suitable, they can be installed in a roof space or fitted on an external wall.
- Invest in a solar PV installation
Does your roof face south or west? If so, your home may be suitable for an array of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels that convert sunlight into electricity. You don’t need direct sunlight for the system to work and you may be able to get funding for your installation.
If solar PV is not the right solution for your property, what about solar thermal panels? These solar collectors are mounted on your roof to absorb the sun’s energy to heat up water, which is stored in a cylinder, ready for you to use.
- Smarter heating controls and thermostats
Did you know that around two thirds of the energy consumed in an average household goes on heating? By turning down the room temperature by just one degree, you can achieve an energy saving of 10%. With the use of smart controls, this can be reduced by up to a third.
Smart heating controls have the option of individual zoning of rooms at different temperatures, increasing energy efficiency. Unused areas of the home can be heated to lower temperatures, reducing your heating bills. Installation costs are moderate – you need an internet connection and a smartphone app to get the most out of their features.
- Fit underfloor heating
Instead of traditional radiators, consider underfloor heating – not just in kitchens and bathrooms but as a general installation. If you are in the middle of a large home renovation, this might be worth considering.
There are two types of underfloor heating – electric heat mats that are only really suitable for single rooms, and ‘wet’ systems consisting of a network of pipes installed under your flooring where warm water circulates. The system will achieve a temperature a few degrees warmer than the room air temperature, delivering the heat where you need it most.
The government’s house building goals notwithstanding, retrofitting existing homes will continue to play a crucial part in delivering more sustainable housing in the UK. While Green Deal incentives are available, the onus is on you, the homeowner, to implement the necessary changes.