People are increasingly aware of the need to make their homes more energy efficient. A recent survey by the Coventry Building Society showed that over half of homeowners are looking to make changes to their homes that will make them more green.
What’s fantastic about this is that there’s no conflict between doing the right thing for the environment and doing what’s best for your pocket. Making your home more efficient means using less energy, and saving money on your increasingly pricey bills.
While world leaders at COP26 debate what large-scale changes countries can commit to in an effort to combat climate change, there are plenty of practical steps you can take right now. Here are 26 to get you started...
1. Loft insulation
Lagging the loft is a relatively inexpensive and simple way to boost your home’s green credentials - 270mm of insulating materials can make a huge difference to heat loss through your roof.
2. Cavity wall insulation
For more modern homes constructed with two layers of brick with a space in between, cavity wall insulation makes perfect sense - it reduces heat loss through the walls with a relatively straightforward procedure, drilling holes in the brick and injecting in an expanding foam.
4. Solid wall insulation
While more intrusive than cavity wall insulation, solid wall insulation is another effective way to cut heat loss through your walls. It involves adding a layer of insulating materials either externally, which is then rendered over, or internally.
5. Floor insulation
Both concrete floors and suspended timber flooring can be insulated, adding solid insulating boards above concrete or a layer of mineral wool below wood floors.
6. Improve your glazing
Windows are key points of vulnerability when it comes to keeping our houses warm. If you still have single glazing then double glazing is the most effective change you can make, but triple glazing is becoming increasingly popular for homes looking to maximise their efficiency.
7. More efficient boiler
Over times, boilers become less and less efficient, meaning they use more fuel for less impact. Regular check-ups can keep it working at its best, but if yours is on its last legs, you might be surprised by how much difference a new model can make to your heating bills.
8. Upgrade your appliances
Like boilers, older household appliances like fridges and washing machines were never really made with energy efficiency in mind, in stark contrast to modern versions which are designed to use as little energy as possible.
9. Smart thermostat
Heating rooms you don’t use, at times you can’t use them, is pointless - but with most traditional systems, it can be unavoidable. A smart thermostat gives you full control over what you heat and when.
10. New shower
Showers are more efficient for water usage than baths, but for most people, even their showers could be improved - contemporary brands are designed to use less water without sacrificing pressure.
11. Underfloor heating
While for many people this feels like an indulgence to be enjoyed on cold winter mornings, underfloor heating is actually a more efficient way to heat a room than a traditional radiator, meaning you can use it less, saving energy, and money.
12. Heat pump
Over the coming years there’ll be a big drive away from carbon-based heating, with gas boilers set to be banned from new build homes from 2025. Ground and air heat pump systems will be the key replacement, taking heat straight from the ground or air, but they’re only effective in homes that are already insulated to a high standard.
13. Solar panels
Once seen as something of an eccentricity, solar panels are an increasingly common sight atop roofs all over the country. Depending on your set-up, photovoltaic solar panels can drastically cut the amount of electricity you take from the National Grid.
14. Thermal doors
Just like with windows, doors can be a key place where hot air escapes - especially for older wooden doors. Thermal doors are specially designed to stop warm air escaping.
15. Optimise lighting
Incandescent light bulbs have been replaced with more efficient LED and CFL versions, but you could also consider how you use your lights - well-placed switches encourage you to turn lights off when not in use, while low energy downlights could replace traditional ceiling lights.
16. Car charging port
The future of cars is electric, and if you want to get ahead of the curve, there are already plenty of electric options out there. For plug-in models, it’s ideal to have a charging station at home, so if you have the space to do it, you could install one right now and be ready to roll.
17. Environmentally friendly paint
If you’re planning on redecorating, the materials you choose to use can have a big difference for the environment. Look out for paints designed to contain fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and which use more natural materials.
18. Refurbished materials
Reduce, reuse and recycle is a common green manta, and you can apply it to updating your home. Reclaimed timber floors can be reused to great effect, as can fireplaces, kitchen units and other key features.
19. Draught proofing
Any point of entry into your home can be somewhere where warm air leaves and cold air gets in. Look out for any gaps - between the floor and the skirting, or places where pipes enter the house - and fill them up where you can.
20. Green driveway
Instead of traditional paving, you can create a green driveway, using a permeable layer, often holding gravel, allowing water to flow through and grass to grow through.
21. Composting toilet
While this might be a big step for a lot of families, composting toilets, which don’t use any water or have to be plumbed into the mains, can be a realistic alternative to a more traditional setup.
Thick, insulating curtains can be an excellent addition to souped-up glazing, giving a double impact on heat loss through your windows.
23. Have a clear out
We could all probably do with having less stuff, with all of the energy consumption needed in creating and shipping all of the things we fill our homes with. Think about your storage solutions to come up with a way of keeping what you need, and get rid of what you don’t.
Gardens are typically green, but often they’re not always that green. Think about what you’re planting, what kind of chemicals you’re using, how much water you’re using, and see if you could make some small changes that boost your garden’s eco credentials.
25. Add a chimney cap
If you have an open chimney it can be funnelling warm air out of your home thanks to the stack effect. Adding a chimney cap can help reduce that - alternatively, you can add a draught excluder above the fireplace, at the base of the chimney, to produce the same effect.
26. Build with renewable materials
If you’re planning a major project, like an extension, you could always consider using non-traditional materials. Timber frame panels packed with straw can be used in place of brick and block, meaning whole structures can be built of fully renewable materials.