Everyone knows about turning lights off when you’re not in the room and not leaving your TV on standby when it comes to ways of reducing energy usage in the home. I’m not going to tell you about these things or that energy efficient bulbs really do reduce your electricity usage.
Here I have 5 simple things that you can physically do to your home, yourself or through a trained professional, without needing Planning Permission. I cannot exclude any requirement for Building Regulations as technically approval is required to upgrade thermal elements on your house, bizarrely.
For now, here are 5 great investments you can make to your home that will reduce heating demand and make your home more efficient and ‘green’:
1. Cavity Insulation: if you have a masonry cavity wall constructed house that was built in the 20th century (that’s around 15 years ago or more) chances are there is no insulation in that cavity. Having some blown insulation injected into your wall will help keep the heat you produce in your home. Other forms of construction will need a different solution and wrapping your home with insulation on the outside would be a great way to go, however this may require planning approval if you use a different finish material than the original house (i.e. Render in lieu of brick) and that’s a whole other blog.
2. Loft Insulation: this is fairly easy and cheap to do yourself. Assuming you have an empty loft, the ideal method would be to place one layer of mineral wool quilt insulation down between the ceiling ties followed by another layer over the top. A little added benefit would be to lay the top layer perpendicularly as this will cover the gaps in the layer below where the ceiling ties are. Remember not to squash this type of insulation as it works best when inflated. Keep this insulation away from the roofing felt too (the black stuff between the rafters and tiles) otherwise you may block ventilation paths for fresh air that come through the eaves. This ventilation stops your rafters rotting when condensation forms as it will evaporate that moisture.
3. Window and/or Door Upgrade: even if you already have double glazing, replacing them with new is likely to make a noticeable improvement. The older your current windows the bigger the improvement. Some glazing companies will even recycle your old uPVC frames and glass too giving you a greater sense of well being towards the environment. Your windows and doors are the weakest thermal element of your house so investing in them will be worth the money. If you really want to improve them, go for triple glazing as this can make them as effective as your walls or roof, or pretty close at least.
4. Solar Thermal: this is a method of providing hot water in your home thanks to that big bright yellow thing we see in the sky from time to time. What’s great about solar thermals in the UK is that they will work even when it’s cloudy. Here’s the science; it’s something about the ultraviolet light passing through clouds, which is the bit that heats the system. Just a couple of panels on your roof and a hot water tank inside and you’re done – your boiler no longer needs to heat water.
5. Wear a Jumper: turning your thermostat down just one degree will reduce your heating demand and what’s more, you’re not likely to notice one degree all that much. If you have zone controls for your heating (or even a simple TRV on your radiators) you might think about turning areas or rooms off when not in use too. If you do feel a chill, wear a jumper – it’s insulation around you to keep your heat in!
Nearly all of the above ideas can be supported by local authority grants and it is worth a quick internet search to find out what is available, though I am not sure many people give jumpers away for free. Another good place to ask will be your energy provider who may have a grant or offer available.
If you have a listed building it is worth checking with your local authority conservation officer before committing to any of these, other than wearing a jumper, as they may be detrimental or even damage the protected fabric of the building.
Holding on to the heat you produce in your home will not only reduce your energy usage and therefore save you money, it will be better for the environment too.