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Simple home energy improvement ideas

2
Mar

Simple home energy improvement ideas

Spending more time at home over the last year will have seen the cost of energy bills creeping up for many of us.  Here we look at some simple home energy improvements which should have a positive impact on your bills as well as the environment. Building regulations do sometimes apply, so read our blog to find out when.

Data from the Department for business, energy and industrial strategy shows our homes are responsible for about 15% of UK greenhouse gases. The main source is use of natural gas for heating and cooking, but appliances and lighting also make a significant contribution.  There are two main ways to reduce this:

  • Make energy savings to use less energy or be more efficient with your energy use
  • Change your energy sources to renewable ones.

Insulate or improve your loft insulation

A poorly insulated loft can be a major cause of wasted energy but is fairly inexpensive to remedy and once installed you should feel the effect for many years to come. You can even do this yourself, if your loft is easy to access and has no damp or condensation issues. One of the most common insulations materials is the blanket type which comes in rolls and is made of mineral fibre.  You could also consider using environmentally-friendly insulation. There are different types available which are made from natural fibres such as sheep’s wool and are recyclable at the end of their life.

The recommended thickness for loft insulation today is 270mm. If your loft was insulated some years ago it is probably worth re-checking it, as the recommended depth was 200mm until quite recently and before that as little as 100mm. You may also qualify for a grant under the Green Homes Grant Scheme or Green Jump Surrey. (The current scheme will end on 31 March 2021 so get in touch with Action Surrey now to find out more.

Installing wall and floor insulation

Cavity wall insulation is the most commonly installed and is used to fill the gap between the internal and external walls of your home. This should substantially decrease the amount of heat lost through your walls but not all homes are suitable if they do not have ‘cavities’.  Again you may qualify for a grant to help fund the cost of the work, through Green Homes Grant Scheme  or Green Jump Surrey. Please note if you do provide additional loft insulation then you should always consider increasing roof ventilation accordingly.

If you are over 60 and receive benefits there may be further support available through the Government ECO Scheme which aims to tackle fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions.

Find more information on insulation see our Guide to Renovating Your Home here which also covers:

  • how to insulate solid walls and timber floors
  • *external insulation methods.

*Planning approval is not usually needed, but we would always recommend you check before starting any work, especially if the materials you intend to use are not similar in appearance to the existing.  Planning approval will be required if your home is within a conservation area or is a listed building.

double glazed unit and energy ratings

Installing double glazing

Will not only help keep heat in your home but lower your carbon footprint. We have written a chapter in our Homeowner Guide here on everything you need to know from facts about thermal performance to ventilation and fire safety issues.

However, you should remember the ‘fabric first’ approach.  Make sure your home is properly insulated first, before replacing windows and heating systems. This is because if your property is poorly insulated then these systems won’t be as effective.

Upgrade your boiler

A boiler typically accounts for up to half your household energy bills. If you think yours might have seen better days read our previous blog here.

Check or upgrade your thermostats and heating controls

Checking these regularly and adjusting them to suit the season or when you need heating and hot water to go on and off, can potentially save you money and reduce your carbon footprint. It is possible to upgrade your heating controls without replacing your boiler and room thermostats are much more accurate than a few years ago.

Example of potential savings:

The Energy Saving Trust found that a typical gas-heated three bed semi could save:

  • £60 and 310kg of carbon dioxide a year by turning the room thermostat down one degree
  • £75 and 320kg of carbon dioxide by installing/using a programmer, room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves.

Quick wins

Draught proofing

This sounds simple but is one of the most cost-effective ways to keep your home warm and bills down. Blocking up gaps around draughty windows and doors and your chimney could save you £35 a year on bills.

Insulating hot water tanks, pipes and radiators

These all lose heat quickly and insulating them is relatively inexpensive and simple to do yourself. A hot water cylinder jacket typically costs around £15 and can easily be bought online or from a DIY store.  Foam tubing to cover exposed pipes is cheap to buy and easy to fit.

Green light bulb

Switch to clean electricity or generate your own

Electricity generated from renewable sources, such as sun, wind, water and biofuels (gas released from rotting food!) has little impact on climate change and air pollution. To find out more visit the Big Clean Switch website here.

Installing solar panels is a substantial financial outlay, the average system costing from £5-8,000 and it takes many years to recoup the initial cost. However, solar panels work even on a cloudy day and are generally low maintenance as well as a sustainable way to help supply your home’s energy.

The Government incentive to earn money from ‘exporting’ your surplus electricity back to the national grid changed last year and you need a SMETS 2 (second generation) smart meter installed to claim.

Solar panels are generally considered to fall under ‘permitted development’ however there are exceptions and you should always check with your local planning department. See further information on the Planning Portal here.

For more tips on insulation and thermal efficiency read the chapter in our Guide to Renovating your Home here.

Do I need to notify Building Control?

Type of work

Notify Building Control

Loft insulation

No

Cavity wall insulation

No. Your cavity wall installer should be registered under the CWISC so can self-certify their work and notify us on your behalf when the work is complete.

External wall insulation

Yes. You should complete a Building Notice before work starts if more than 25% of the wall is affected so that we can check the work complies with building regulations.

Installing double glazing

If your installer is a member of a competent person scheme such as FENSA they can self-certify their work and notify us on your behalf.  If not, you should submit a Building Notice to us before you start the work so that we can inspect it to ensure compliance with building regulations and issue a completion certificate.

Replacing a boiler

No. You should however make sure your installer is a member of a competent person scheme who can self-certify their work and notify us on your behalf once the work is completed.

Installing solar panels

Sometimes. The work can usually be carried out by a member of the relevant competent person scheme who notify us on your behalf. However, you should also confirm your roof is able to carry the weight of the panels, as additional strengthening work may be needed. If so, a separate application would need to be made to building control. (Please contact us about this is you are unsure.)

Where to find more useful information

The Energy Saving Trust is an independent organisation. Their website has a wealth of information on keeping your home warm, whilst reducing your carbon footprint and your energy bills.

Change your habits to be more sustainable

Not all changes have to be big. By making small changes, whether it’s remembering to turn off lights and appliances when you leave a room,  or investing in more energy efficient appliances such as fridges and kettles, they will all add up to help make a difference to the environment and your finances.

If after looking through our Guide to Renovating or you would simply like to discuss the building regulations aspect of your project please get in touch here.

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