7 ways to make your home more energy efficient
05 October 2020 | Matt Mostyn
Energy-efficient. It’s the gold standard for modern homes. And in the quest to waste less power, save money, and help care for the planet, there’s lots that can be done. But before we get into the details, it’s worth defining a bit more clearly what energy-efficient actually means.
What is home energy efficiency?
In simple terms, energy-efficiency means doing more with less. So for instance, energy-saving light bulbs create the same amount of light but use less energy and waste less heat than old-style light bulbs.
In the same way, if 2 buildings use the same amount of energy to create heat, the building that can keep in more of that heat is more energy-efficient than the one that lets more escape.
Why’s that so important? Because energy-efficiency limits our levels of energy consumption. Which also means we’re cutting down on the use of polluting fossil fuels.
So here they are – 7 good ways to make your home an energy-efficient one.
To find out how much electricity an average UK home uses, and how your home compares, read our new guide.
7 home energy efficiency improvements you can make
1. Insulating your roof
Let’s start at the top. You know the old saying that we lose most heat through our heads? Well the same goes for a roof. And just as it’s sensible to pop on a woolly hat when it’s cold, it’s a great idea to take the necessary steps to insulate your loft.
Laying down a layer of roof insulation could cost very little. On average, loft insulation for an average semi-detached house costs around £300 – and it could save you as much as £750 on your bills after 5 years, and about 610kg of carbon per year!
If you receive certain benefits, you might qualify for the Energy Company Obligation Scheme, which can help you cover the cost of insulation. Find out more about the ECO scheme here.
Thinking about converting your loft into an extra bedroom or bathroom? Read our guide to how to pull off an energy-efficient loft conversion.
2. Keeping an eye on the little things
Small actions can add up to some big changes. From switching to LED lights to not leaving things on standby, it all helps. If you can invest in things like a water-saving shower head and an eco-kettle that saves energy too.
If you have gas central heating, it’s also a good idea to bleed your radiators once a year, so they're working as efficiently as possible. Find out how to do it, and why a yearly radiator bleed can bring your heating costs down, with our handy guide.
Turning down the thermostat by 1 degree can also save lots of energy (while making sure it’s set to a safe, comfortable temperature – usually between 18°C and 21°C).
3. Insulating your walls
Whether you’ve got cavity or solid walls, filling them with wall insulation could be a very cost-effective way to retain heat in your home and save energy.
Around one third of the heat loss from most homes is through the walls – but cavity wall insulation could save you as much as £310 a year in heating bills2, and 1.1 tonnes of carbon a year.
Whether you live in a 1-bedroom flat or a detached house, you’ll likely recover the installation costs in 5 years or less, according to the Energy Saving Trust. That’s down to the yearly energy bill savings you’ll make by having a properly insulated home.
If your walls are made of stronger stuff, solid wall insulation can have an even more dramatic impact. That’s because solid walls let twice as much heat escape as cavity walls. And while solid wall insulation can be a more expensive undertaking (depending whether you choose internal or external wall insulation), it’s worth remembering that the savings on your heating bills will also be bigger.
4. Getting a smart meter with an in-home display
Smart meters are handy gadgets that track your energy use in real time. This helps you spot ways to save energy. They also send meter readings automatically, so you don't need to do it yourself. You can get one installed for free.
Interested? Just book an appointment and we'll see you soon!
5. Draught-proofing your windows
Insulating your windows is a really rewarding way of energy-proofing your home. In winter, a draughty room is far from comfortable – so, if you can, it makes sense to invest in some energy-efficient double-glazed windows. Do this and you could save up to £95 a year on heating bills, and 330kg of carbon3.
To find more ways to stop draughts getting in and out, check out our complete guide to DIY draught-proofing.
6. Upgrading your old boiler
Inefficient boilers are a real problem when it comes to saving energy. Your boiler actually accounts for 55% of your energy bills4. That’s more than the rest of your electrical appliances combined.
Boilers are becoming more energy efficient all the time – so when it’s time to replace your boiler, you can get a model that uses less energy. In fact, you could save up to £240 per year on bills by replacing an old gas boiler with a new A-rated condensing one5. For more information, see our guide to the costs of repairing or replacing your boiler.
And even if you’re not in a position to replace your old boiler just yet, there are a few other nifty tricks you can try, to make your current one work better. Check out some of our handy hints and tips.
Also, if you're having trouble with low pressure on your boiler, you can try to solve the problem yourself with our easy-to-follow guide.
7. Installing solar panels
There’s no denying that installing solar panels is expensive. But if you can afford it and have room for them at home, it’s one of the most effective ways to reduce how much energy you need to buy. And with the price of solar panels being 70% cheaper today than in previous years6, it’s becoming something more people might consider.
These days, an average solar set-up will cost somewhere between £2,500 and £8,000 (including installation6), depending on the number of panels and the size of your roof. But we estimate that a 3.5kW panel in southern England will return about £300 to your pocket in the first year – and give an approximate 5% rate of return over the 25-year lifetime of the installation.
Larger solar systems can even generate as much as 4kWp, which is enough to meet the energy needs of a family of 3 to 4.
Making homes more efficient with OVO
At OVO, we’re getting up to all kinds of things to help make UK homes greener and reduce our members’ carbon footprints.
The Zero Carbon Heating Trial is just one new initiative that we’ve been picked to run. We’ve recruited a small number of homes to take part, and as part of the trial, we’ll be taking out each home’s old gas system and replacing it with a brand new one worth up to £15,000 – all for free! We’ll also carry out other great energy-efficiency measures (like putting in some loft insulation) worth up to £5,000.
We also offer a free online tool for all OVO members called OVO Greenlight. It’s been designed to help you learn more about your carbon footprint and discover new ways to save energy at home. Check it out!
For more tips, check out some of our other guides on energy-efficiency:
- The ultimate guide to energy-saving light bulbs
- How much energy do you use to heat your home, and what's the cost?
Not an OVO member yet? Get OVO Greenlight by starting your switch today
Sources and references:
1 Figures based on a semi-detached house - taken from: https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/advice/roof-and-loft-insulation/
5 Figures based on a semi-detached house replacing a G-rated boiler with an A rated boiler. https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/advice/boilers/