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How to check and improve the energy efficiency of your home

·5-min read
A woman looking at an energy efficiency app on a tablet screen
A woman looking at an energy efficiency app on a tablet screen. Photo: Getty Creative

As the Government commits to reducing its net carbon footprint to zero by 2050, homeowners and renters can also do their bit to tackle climate change.

By taking a few steps to be more energy efficient in our homes, we can not only move closer to achieving net zero emissions, but can also bring down our bills at the same time.

How can I check how energy efficient my home is?

The best way to find out whether your home is efficient or wasteful is by digging out your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

This document is required when selling or renting a property. You would have been given a copy when purchasing your current home, or ahead of moving into a rental property. You can also find your home’s score online here.

An EPC gives each house or flat a rating on a scale of A to G, where A is the most energy efficient. This report provides estimates of how much you will pay for your energy and details of the carbon emissions produced by your home. It also includes recommendations on measures you can take to lower fuel bills, improve efficiency and reduce emissions.

An EPC must be carried out by an accredited assessor. Once completed, it is valid for 10 years.

Be proactive

The Government wants all homes to have an EPC rating of C or above by around 2030 to cut carbon emissions.

Some lenders are starting to offer "green mortgages" with incentives such as lower interest if you carry out work on an existing property to make it more energy efficient – or if you purchase a green property at the outset.

While making a home less wasteful may be more difficult if you live in an ageing property, there are still measures you can implement to reduce energy consumption.

Ben Gallizzi, energy expert at comparison site, says: “There are steps everyone can take to improve the energy efficiency of their home. Some measures are more complex than others and will require more investment. But there are some things we can all do quite easily if we are to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and tackle climate change.”

1) Consider a roof window

This will maximise natural light into your home.

Professor Mark Gillott, professor of sustainable building design at Nottingham University, told “The more sunlight can find its way inside, the less the need for both electric lighting and artificial heating.”

If you have limited space, a sun tunnel – a roof penetration that allows more natural light into your home – is another alternative.

2) Get solar panels fitted

Solar panels work by generating electricity from sunlight on a roof to power your home.

Professor Gillott says all available roof space in Britain which is south or south-west facing should be utilised for solar energy.

Note, though, at a cost of between £5,000 and £8,000, solar panels do not come cheap. That said, over time, initial costs can hopefully be recouped.

3) Go triple glazed

While double glazing has become the norm for all new homes, it’s possible to go one step further to be truly efficient.

Professor Gillott says: “Triple glazing will become the standard of the future. It’s much more effective at stopping heat being lost from the home – thereby greatly reducing energy consumption.”

As well as helping you conserve heat, it will also make your living space quieter.

4) Make sure your home is fully insulated

There are still a lot of homes in the UK with poor insulation. This is particularly true of older housing.

Professor Gillott says: “Keeping heat inside the house is the simplest thing you can do to vastly improve energy efficiency – and reduce gas and electricity bills.”

Look into cavity wall insulation, but be prepared for a bill of several hundred pounds. Also top up loft insulation. Buy foam insulation tubes at a DIY store to insulate your hot water pipes, and invest in a jacket for your hot water cylinder.

5) Opt for underfloor heating

Opting for an air pump or underfloor heating is much more efficient than central heating. It also helps a house to retain heat far longer.

6) Upgrade to a condensing boiler

Modern boilers are far more efficient than older models, so if your current boiler is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it with a more efficient condensing boiler. Fuel savings can be significant.

7) Switch to energy efficient LED bulbs

The Government has made the decision to ban the sale of halogen bulbs from this September. It is estimated that the shift to LED bulbs will cut 1.26 million tonnes of CO2.

Sarah Broomfield, energy expert at comparison site Uswitch, says: “The announcement may have taken some consumers by surprise, especially those who need to pay for new light fittings. But while this may be inconvenient in the short term, people will soon reap the benefits through cheaper energy costs and the fact LED bulbs have a long life.”

8) Switch to a green energy tariff

There are now a wide range of green energy deals to choose from, and you no longer have to pay a price for trying to do your bit to save the planet.

Broomfield says: “It’s easier than ever to switch to a green deal, and many of them are among the best value tariffs on the market – meaning you can save money on your energy bills, and do your bit for the environment at the same time.”

Uswitch has a Green Accreditation scheme where you can see which green tariffs are classed as gold, silver and bronze for their environmental credentials. You can also check out green energy deals at other comparison sites, such as MoneySuperMarket and CompareTheMarket.

What about the Green Homes Grant?

The Government has yet to announce a replacement for its £1.5 billion Green Homes Grant scheme which provided up to £5,000 to households to make energy-efficient improvements.

It was closed to new applications at the end of March.

For more tips on improving the energy efficiency of your home, visit the Energy Saving Trust.

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