The UK’s homes contribute to 20% of its CO2 emissions, and much of that energy is wasted. Targets for homes include a 24% reduction from 1990 levels by 2030, and near zero by 2050. By improving your home’s energy rating now, you could significantly improve its value.
Your home could be losing 70% of its heat through its roof, walls and windows. It makes you cold and unhealthy, and it’s expensive. The good news is that there are plenty of tools to help you make changes to your home to make it warmer, greener, energy efficient and cheaper to run. You can make the changes that are within your budget and prioritize those that will suit your house. You can make a start by obtaining your home’s energy certificate‘
We’ve suggested a number of areas to think about, but https://warmersussex.co.uk/ is an organization which will, for a small fee, carry out an audit and advise you on improvements. The Centre for Alternative Technology will help make sure that your retrofit choices are eco-friendly.
Changes you can make to your heating system include installing thermostats on your radiators, using a smart thermostat, or having zoned heating panels. If it is time to replace your old and inefficient boiler, you could simply upgrade to a combi boiler and get rid of the immersion. Better yet, think about using a biomass or wood pellet boiler. You could add off-peak storage radiators to supplement your current heating, using green energy.
An air source heat pump uses electricity to extract low grade heat from the external air and convert it into high grade heat to heat your home and hot water. They can have efficiencies upwards of 200% because the energy you pay for is used to concentrate free energy in the air. A ground source heat pump takes the energy from the ground. They have higher installation costs, but save a lot of CO2.
It’s a no-brainer to insulate your home, and it’s important to consider every aspect of the house, including ventilation when your house is insulated and airtight. Start with the roof, where at least 350mm of mineral wool or natural fibre insulation should be used. Cheap fixes include draught-proofing old sash windows, doors and letterboxes, and using a chimney balloon to stop heat escaping. Close curtains and shut doors where rooms aren’t in use.
Wall insulation must be done carefully, because cavities in walls are designed to move moisture around and prevent damp. But natural insulating materials such as wool, wood fibre, cellulose and hemp have a much lower carbon footprint than fibreglass or mineral wool, and they have comparable thermal and sound reducing qualities. Companies such as ecomerchant offer natural building materials and advice. You can insulate cold walls with thermal wallpaper or blocks. If you have a suspended floor, you can insulate between the joists with natural fire-retardant material, and you’ll keep the sound out as well.
You can install double glazing for its heat-retaining benefits as well as security and reducing condensation, but the benefits are modest compared to other improvements. If you plan to insulate walls, upgrade your double glazing at the same time to prevent heat leaking around the windows.
There are a number of green incentives and grants available, and you can check the latest ones here.
- The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (run by Ofgem). It makes quarterly payments to those installing a biomass boiler, air or ground source heat pump, or solar panels, providing they meet certain criteria of use.
- Local Authority grants. West Sussex operates the West Sussex Local Authority Flex Scheme This is part of the West Sussex Affordable Warmth Partnership and is targeted at households most in need and who might be vulnerable because they live in a cold home. It is run by Arun Council on behalf of all the West Sussex councils. You can apply online at https://www.warmerhomes.org.uk/
- There are no installation grants for solar panels, but you can get paid for any electricity you export back to the grid, which makes solar panels (up to 5MW capacity) an attractive option if you have a sunny roof. This is called the The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) .
Don’t forget the small improvements. Make sure you have low energy light bulbs.
Compared to traditional incandescents, energy-efficient lightbulbs such as halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light emitting diodes (LEDs) have the following advantages:
- Typically use about 25%-80% less energy than traditional incandescents, saving you money
- Can last 3-25 times longer.
Cook things in the oven, and use electric extractor fans to expel moisture.
The house of the future will have been designed from the ground up for a very different lifestyle. The Design Council’s project, Home of 2030, gives an insight as to the priorities that will drive better homes.
Our homes will become more energy efficient, and ‘airtight’ is the watchword. We’ll become used to solar panels designed into the building as it is built, and ‘smart’ new technologies such as biophilic design, where bacteria and plants freshen the air will become a feature. We may automatically categorise and sort our waste and will retain far more of it. Food waste will become a valuable resource. Grey water systems will reduce our use and make far more use of grey water throughout the home and garden.
We’re building better for a greener future.