Improve your energy efficiency at home (2020)

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We’re a nation with a spending problem. No, it’s not that we’re shopping too much, getting too many takeaways or stopping off for one-too-many pumpkin spice lattes on the way to work (although these can all erode our carefully balanced household budgets). It’s that we’re spending too much on the essentials, like our energy. In fact, as a nation, we’re overspending by over £800 million for our gas and electricity. And while a big part of this is because we’re on the wrong tariff for our needs, or with the wrong supplier, we can also save money if we improve energy efficiency in the home.

Last update: November 2020

🏠 COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to affect all of our personal finances. However, the UK lockdown will not affect the services we provide. Our team of experts are working hard to ensure that you make savings on your energy bill by switching suppliers. Read more about your energy supply during COVID-19 here.

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If we improve energy efficiency, we can dramatically increase the savings that we enjoy by switching to the best suppliers and tariffs. While this may require some up front expenditure on your part, it can result in sustained long-term savings that drive down your home’s energy costs and reduce your carbon footprint for years to come.

There are all kinds of ways in which we can improve the energy efficiency of our homes from major renovations to smarter spending choices. Some require serious investment, while others won’t cost you a penny.

What is energy efficiency?

Energy efficiency is essentially how much of the energy that we consume is useful and beneficial for us. It means taking active steps to eliminate energy waste. But it also means being vigilant and keeping track of your energy use. It means switching electronics off at the wall rather than leaving them on standby. It means taking regular meter readings and installing a smart meter. It means accounting for spikes in usage, and taking steps to prevent from happening again.

While vigilance and a proactive attitude are the cost of energy efficiency, there are also huge benefits both for the planet and for your household budget.

Does energy efficiency save money?

Almost certainly. The investments that you make in a more energy efficient home may take some time to generate significant savings or pay for themselves. But just as energy waste is caused by dozens of little things rather than one big energy leak, so too can little steps to save energy add up to make a big difference month on month and year on year.

Most households can save hundreds of pounds a year by improving their energy efficiency measures. While we’ll include potential savings for specific energy efficiency measures, these can vary depending on where you live, your current supplier, and your current tariff.

The Energy Saving Trust has some useful tools to help you to ascertain what changes you could make to save energy around the home and how much you could save.

As well as saving money, the energy efficiency improvements you make today could make you money tomorrow. They could add to your home’s resale value if you choose to move, and make it more appealing to prospective buyers, potentially resulting in better offers and a faster sale.

What is wasted energy?

Wasted energy is energy that we consume (and pay for) that brings us no benefit. It doesn’t make us warmer, improve our visibility or allow us to enjoy our electronic devices. It just kind of… floats away. Literally, in some cases! Energy waste is a major contributor to unnecessary energy expenditure.

Energy waste is not only a hole in our nation’s pockets, it’s also creating unnecessary environmental damage. A 2015 report by the Association for Decentralised Energy demonstrates that around 54% of energy produced in the country is wasted by homes and commercial properties alike. This results in around £9.5 billion a month spent on wasted energy. That’s quite a price tag!

Furthermore, another report carried out by Schneider Electric in 2018 revealed that energy waste created 117 million tonnes of UK emissions in the same year.

The most common causes of wasted energy in UK households include:

Inefficient boilers

As boilers get older, they grow increasingly inefficient, which is why it’s recommended that they be replaced after around 15 years. If your boiler has started taking longer and longer to heat your home, behind making strange noises or smells, or the pilot light burns yellow instead of blue, these are all signs that your boiler should be replaced. Newer models are significantly more energy efficient and cheaper to run than their older counterparts.

Poor insulation

Time, water and tunnelling rodents can all erode the quality of your loft insulation and make it less efficient. This means that the energy you pay for to heat your home can drift upwards and out through your roof.

Poor quality windows

Many of us assume that our windows are at peak energy efficiency if their double glazed. But older double glazed windows can still leak heat energy out through them. Especially if they’re poorly fitted or incorrectly sealed.

Incandescent bulbs

Incandescent bulbs work by heating the tiny filament within until it glows. This means that a massive 90% of the bulb’s energy is wasted by generating heat rather than light. If you’re using multiple bulbs in multiple rooms, that energy waste soon adds up.

Energy vampires

Many of the devices that we take for granted around the home leach energy and cost money even when they’re not in use. Independent studies reveal that these “energy vampires” cost the nation around UK households waste £470M a year in wasted energy, taking up 6% of your annual energy bill and adding around £68 per year on average to your energy costs.

If it turns on via remote control or is left on standby overnight, it’s an energy vampire. Common energy vampires around the home include:

  • TVs and PC monitors
  • Media players (DVD, Blu Ray, Apple TV, Games Consoles etc.)
  • Wireless routers
  • Digital radios
  • Mains-powered alarm clocks
  • Music speakers, amps and subwoofers
  • Laptops (when charging)
  • Phone chargers
  • White goods and kitchen appliances

Draughts

If you can feel a draught tickling your feet when you stand by the door, you can safely assume that it’s costing you money. You may not notice it month by month, but it all adds up by the end of the year.

The environmental benefits of energy efficiency

Improving your energy efficiency at home won’t just save you money. It can also significantly reduce your household’s carbon footprint by reducing the amount of energy your home uses, and thus the amount of fossil fuels expended to generate it.

Although many UK energy suppliers have 100% renewable electricity tariffs, according to Ofgem roughly 30% of our energy fuel mix is generated by burning natural gas, coal and oil. Furthermore, even households that have 100% renewable electricity may not know whether or not their gas is renewable or carbon neutral.

The combination of a greener energy supplier and improved energy efficiency can make a huge difference to your household’s carbon footprint.

What is an EPC rating? And why do I need one?

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) were established by the UK government in 2007 as a way to measure the energy efficiency of our nation’s homes and commercial premises. At first, they were only necessary for properties with 4 or more bedrooms. But as the years went by, this was extended to all domestic and commercial properties.

An EPC is an effective way to ascertain how energy (and cost) efficient your home is, as well as determining its environmental impact. EPC certificates are rated on a score of 1 to 100 and each property is given a rating of A to G, with A being the most energy-efficient and G being the least.

You are legally required to have an EPC if you are selling or letting out your home to rent. If you are renting out your home, you are also legally required to ensure that the property has an EPC rating of at least grade E.

Even if you don’t plan to sell or rent out your home, an EPC may be beneficial. It can not only give you a clear snapshot of your energy efficiency, it can advise on changes you could make to improve your energy efficiency and provide an idea of how much improvements would cost.

And because they remain valid for 10 years, it may be useful to get one now even if you don’t need it until later.

Home improvement guide: Making changes to boost energy efficiency at home

Don’t feel like getting an EPC but curious about how you could make your home more energy efficient? We have a few suggestions!

From major renovations to tiny lifestyle tweaks, here are some ways in which you can improve energy efficiency around the home…

Rethink your windows

Your windows (and the space around them) could be causing you to lose heat energy. And while you may already have double glazed windows, not all are created equal. The British Fenestration Rating Council (BFRC) has its own system for rating windows. This is similar to an EPC except that it goes from A++ down to E. You can check it out here to see how your measure up against the highest-performing on the market.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, you could save up to £120 a year on your energy bills just by replacing your windows.

Improve your insulation

As well as replacing the installation, you can also add further insulation to your wall cavities. On average, cavity wall insulation saves homeowners around £150 a year. There are many different types of loft insulation on the market, and changing to a different type could dramatically improve its performance.

Sheet or blanket insulation can be much more effective than loose-fill or blown-fibre insulation. Changing your loft insulation can result in savings of up to £395 a year!

Consider installing solar panels and / or thermal panels

Solar energy is near-infinitely renewable and can reduce your reliance on energy from the national grid. These Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels convert energy from the sun into electricity for you to use at home. And any excess can even be pumped back into the national grid and purchased by your energy supplier. Under Smart Export Guarantees (formerly known as Feed in Tariffs), you can get paid anywhere from 2p per and 5.6p per kWh for the excess energy your panels generate.

Solar panels require a lot of upfront expenditure, and unfortunately government grants are no longer available for installation. The average UK household can expect to pay between £5,000 and £8,000 including the cost of installation. However, this expenditure can result in years of saving on your electricity bills.

You can also install solar thermal panels to heat your water more cheaply and sustainably. Unlike PV solar panels, the installation of solar thermal panels is covered by a government grant called the Green Homes Grant. This scheme provides both homeowners and landlords in England with up to £5,000 in vouchers for energy-saving renovations, in which thermal panels are included.

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Replace your inefficient old boiler

If your boiler is 12-15 years old or more, it may be on borrowed time. While nobody likes going to the expense of replacing their boiler, today’s investment could make for robust savings tomorrow. Not to mention sparing the expense incurred if something goes wrong.

Replacing your boiler now could result in savings of up to £305 a year of you go from a G rated boiler to an A rated boiler.

Replace or seal your doors

As well as windows, doors can also be a major source of heat loss. Especially external doors. Replacing them with better insulated alternatives can be a source of major savings, but even draught-proofing your existing doors can save around £20 a year.

Replace your incandescent bulbs with energy efficient models

LED and Compact Fluorescent Lamps are far longer lasting and more energy efficient than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. Lighting accounts for around 18% of your household energy bills. If you have 30 lights or more in your home, replacing your bulbs could save up to £100 a year.

Take control of energy vampires

The average UK household is home to numerous energy vampires from TVs and games consoles to Switch these off every night before going to bed. Or, if you need to charge your electronic devices, do so overnight. This will result in cheaper energy use if you’re on an Economy 7 or Economy 10 meter.

Taking control of your energy vampires could save you around £68 per year on average.

Need a new tariff that makes the most of your energy savings? We’re here to help!

After all the changes you’ve made to ensure that your home is at peak energy efficiency, you’ll want an energy supplier and tariff that can maximise your savings.

That’s where we come in!

Not only can we help you to find the best supplier for your needs and usage, we can provide full end-to-end management for your switch. So you don’t have to do anything except enjoy your savings!

Want to know more?

Call us today on 03300 540 017. We’re available from 9am to 7pm.

How to improve energy efficiency FAQs

How much can I save by improving energy efficiency at home?

Above we’ve listed all of the changes that you can make to ensure that you improve energy efficiency in the home. Combined, these can save over £800 a year on your energy bills. Of course, your savings will depend on where you live, the size of your home and your energy usage and tariff. Use the Energy Saving Trust’s calculator to see how much you could save.

⚡ How do I know if an appliance is an energy vampire?

By and large if it has a standby mode, is switched on or off via remote control or charges something, it’s an energy vampire. Make sure these are switched off at the wall when not in use, and used during off-peak hours wherever possible.

️ How long does an EPC last?

Your EPC is valid for up to 10 years. You do not need to get a new one every time you advertise your home for sale or rent.

‍♂️ How can I check if my home already has an EPC?

If you have recently moved into your home, you will be able to use the previous occupant’s EPC for reference. You can find and download it as a PDF on the EPC on the register here.

Redactor

Written by eleanor

Updated on 24 Nov, 2020

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