With most of us spending more time at home in recent months, there’s a good chance your energy bills will have been creeping up to match the increased demand.
A study earlier this year showed that British households would be spending an extra £52m a week on electricity, gas and water bills thanks to lockdown, with usage up by more than 25%.
As if that wasn’t scary enough, far too many of us are wasting money with homes that aren’t set up to be energy efficient. More than 25% of our home’s heat is lost through the roof for example, meaning you’re spending your valuable cash just to warm up the feet of your local pigeons.
With more of our outgoings than ever going towards our bills, it’s vital that we take control of our home’s energy efficiency and start making our money work harder.
Improving your home’s efficiency will mean cutting your carbon footprint, so you’ll be saving money as well as helping the planet - so get your house in order today by tackling these biggest energy wasters.
Poorly insulated homes are the main culprit when it comes to money wasted on bills - by some estimates, a poorly insulated home can waste more than £750 on bills, more than half the average annual energy bill for a normal home.
Insulation comes in a variety of forms depending on the home, and each can play a part in slashing your bills.
One of the easiest steps to take is installing loft insulation - a quarter of our home’s heat is wasted through the roof, so loft insulation is perfectly placed to lock in some of that wasted energy. Thick layers of foam insulation are a quick but fairly efficient solution - anything over 270mm thickness is recommended. Other materials you can use are fibreglass, mineral wool, sheep’s wool and cellulose, for a cost-effective job.
Specialist installers can also use spray foam, which is good for reaching hard-to-access areas of the loft space and getting total coverage.
You may be eligible to receive a Green Homes Grant which can cover some or all of the costs of having insulation work carried out on your home.
A third of your home’s heat escapes through the walls. The right insulation for your walls depends on the age and style of your home.
Cavity wall insulation
For most brick-built homes built since 1920, cavity wall insulation is generally a useful addition. While modern homes have it fitted as standard, many older homes stand to benefit from using insulating material to fill the space between the two layers of brick.
Cavity wall insulation is relatively cheap to install and can pay off fairly quickly, especially if your home is semi-detached or at the end of a terrace.
Solid wall insulation
Older homes will typically be built with a single, solid layer of brick or stone, meaning there is no cavity to fill. However, you can still insulate the walls either with internal insulation, using a layer of insulation and plaster board inside your rooms, or external insulation, covering your outer walls with insulating material and rendering over it.
These are both much bigger jobs than cavity wall insulation requiring a much bigger outlay, so it may take some years to see the savings.
All boilers are rated for their energy efficiency, and it’s no surprise that older models tend to be far more inefficient, meaning they use more fuel and make more emissions to get the same level of heating than a modern boiler could.
Installing a new boiler could save you 20 - 30% on your heating bills without making any other adjustments. Given the cost of installing a new boiler, that means it will likely pay for itself in a few years - certainly less than the lifetime of a boiler, which can last a decade or more if well maintained and inspected each year.
Look for a heating engineer who can install energy efficient models to make sure you’ll be making the best saving.
Of course, as well as investing in sweeping changes to your home, there are plenty of smaller things you can do on a day to day basis to save the pennies and contribute to cutting your bills.
One of the most common things experts suggest is turning down the heating a degree or two, and wearing a nice fluffy jumper.
That’s all well and good, but there’s no need to make a blanket change when modern technology lets you target what really matters.
With a smart thermostat, you can be exact about what temperature you want, exactly when you want your heating to come on, and even which rooms you want to heat.
You can programme your heating to give a quick blast first thing with another spell in the evenings, targeting whichever rooms you typically use - and changing it on the fly whenever suits.
You don’t even need to be at home to do it, meaning you can save the cash if you’re unexpectedly away.
The average shower lasts for around eight minutes and uses 60 litres of water according to research, making them generally better than a bath when it comes to using water and saving energy.
However, a modern energy efficient shower can squeeze that saving even further, with clever designs that get more for your buck.
Non-aerating shower heads use smaller holes to increase the pressure, while aerating shower heads mix in air to add volume. Hire a plumber to fit a new shower in your bathroom to see the savings.
Windows are another major source of heat loss in the home, responsible for around 25% of residual cooling.
Most homes nowadays have double glazing - a huge energy upgrade over old-fashioned single glazed windows, and one of the best moves you can make for your home in terms of boosting its efficiency.
However, nowadays triple glazing is becoming increasingly common, boasting all the properties of double glazing with even more insulating properties, keeping in heat, and blocking out sound.
The savings if moving from double glazing to triple are fairly small, but if you need to upgrade failing windows or even update single paned windows, asking a window fitter to install triple glazing might be the best way to future proof your home.
Thermally efficient doors
You might know that appliances like boilers and washing machines are rated for their energy efficiency, but did you know that doors are rated on the same scale?
It’s an easy thing to overlook, but old external doors are a huge source of draughts and leaks, letting heat seep out of the house. A modern, insulated door protects against this, and has been rated one of the most cost-efficient improvements you can make.
A big factor is glazing - the standard of glazing on your door should be the equal of your windows in terms of energy efficiency. Doors are rated on a letter scale, with anything rated as C or above classed as giving good performance. A door installer can talk you through the modern products available.