The energy used to heat and power accounts for a significant proportion of personal carbon emissions.

It therefore makes sense to look at opportunities to reduce energy use, especially as many improvements can be achieved at little or no cost.  With a little effort, energy use can sometimes be reduced by half, and even more with some careful investment.

If you are a Homeowner or tenant the Energy Saving Trust website offers a wealth of straightforward advice on energy efficiency improvements and the options for renewable energy generation.

Please visit the case studies pages for inspiring examples of local Homeowners who have made significant savings on their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient or even by generating their own renewable power.  Follow our blog for more articles on home energy over the coming months.

However there are some simple changes you can make to improve the efficiency of your home:

Loft insulation

A good modern standard of loft insulation is a depth of 270mm of mineral fibre – if you only have 100mm (up to the top of the joists) then it is worth installing a second layer of 150mm laid at right-angles to the joists.  If you have a significant number of loft boards that you are currently using, these can be raised on loft stilts to allow the full depth of insulation to be laid underneath.  Also ensure that any pipes in the loft are properly lagged and check for sufficient cross-ventilation in the loft.

Wall insulation

The majority of homes have cavity walls – two leaves of brick or blockwork separated by a cavity, typically between 50 and 150mm wide.  The cavity on older homes was intended simply as a barrier to rain ingress, however in recent years the cavities have increasingly been filled with insulation to reduce heat loss.

In most cases, installing insulation in the cavity is a good idea – our notional three-bedroom semi would save around £145 annually in heating costs, and reduce carbon emissions by 660kg.  Before insulation is installed, the walls and cavities should be closely inspected by a surveyor – in a small minority of cases walls may be unsuitable for insulation without further work.

Windows, doors and draughtproofing

If your home has double-glazing installed within the last 20 years, it is probably of reasonable quality, however check the seals for draughts and panes for internal condensation – both can usually be replaced without complete window replacement.  Single-glazed windows should be upgraded to double-glazing or secondary-glazed where appropriate.

Homes need a small amount of ventilation to maintain air quality, however pre-war homes tend to be more draughty than they need to be.  Open chimneys are the worst culprit, losing £60 of heat each year – these can be easily plugged with a chimney balloon.  Other problem areas to tackle include external doors, exposed floorboards and redundant wall vents.

Heating

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that around half of homes have an aged, inefficient boiler.  Modern condensing boilers are around 90% efficient, compared to 55% for the oldest models – resulting in nearly half of your gas bill disappearing up the flue.  Therefore if your boiler is on its last legs, it is well worth replacing with a new model, with the potential to save up to £200 a year.

You should also ensure that your heating controls are set properly – in particular, thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) should be set to ensure each room reaches a suitable temperature, and no more.  In bedrooms, a TRV setting of ‘2’ is recommended (18-19degC), ‘3’ (21degC) is about right for living rooms and ‘4’ (23degC) for bathrooms.  Setting TRVs correctly has been shown to reduce heating costs by around 30%, or around £120 a year.

Lighting and appliances

A quick win with lighting is to replace any halogen and old filament light bulbs with LEDs.  LED bulbs are now available for almost any fitting and have come down in price recently to £2-£3, and typically save £5 a year on running costs.  The latest LEDs only use 10-15% of the energy of an equivalent filament bulb, so the energy savings really add up over the whole house.

Architects and other building professionals may be interested in WinACC’s consultancy services – these service offerings aim to provide impartial advice to professionals whose work involves energy use in some respect.  For example, architects often benefit from input at the design stage in relation to energy-related technologies in the areas of insulation, heating and hot water and renewables.

For more specific enquiries about saving energy or renewable energy in the home, please contact WinACC via email at homeenergy@winacc.org.uk.  Please allow seven days for a response.

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