In the week that the UK government unveiled its Heat and Buildings strategy to decarbonise homes and commercial premises enough to hit the target of net zero by 2050, here are some tips for saving energy at home.
Change The Boiler
For most homeowners, changing a boiler is a significant expense. However, the UK has the oldest housing stock in Western Europe. Government figures show that gas heating accounts for 21 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions and gas the boilers in the UK homes collectively produce twice as much carbon emissions as all the nation’s gas-fired power stations combined!
The UK government is, therefore, promoting the replacement of gas boilers with low carbon, electric heat pumps by offering £5000 grants from next April (although installation currently costs up to £16,000). Heat pumps are energy efficient because they simply absorb heat from the air, ground, or water around a building (with the help of compressed refrigerant fluid) to produce heat.
Other more energy-efficient options for home heating in the future include district heating using a network of hot water pipes drawing on heat from burning waste or heat pumps sunk into rivers, and low carbon hydrogen heating, which is still being tested.
Homes lose around one-third of their heat through the walls, a quarter through the roof, and roughly 15 per cent through the floor, the windows, and as a result of draughts. Insulating your home, therefore, means that more heat is retained, and less heating needs to take place, thereby saving energy and reducing carbon emissions.
Home insulation measures typically include cavity wall insulation, built-in solid wall insulation, external wall insulation, under-floor insulation (on the ground floor, or in upper-floor rooms above unheated areas), pipe insulation and loft insulation. It is estimated that a £450 installation of cavity wall insulation could save around £140 home-energy bills annually.
Insulating hot water tanks and radiators through lagging and insulation behind radiators can mean less money spent heating water up, and hot water staying hotter for longer (in the tanks).
Upgrade Doors and Windows
As part of the overall insulation of a home, upgrading to new double or triple glazed, ‘A-rated’ doors and windows could retain heat in the home and save around £75 per year and 330kg of carbon dioxide (Energy Saving Trust data).
Take Draught-Proofing Measures
Some areas of the home are typically sources of draughts, for instance around doors (internal and external) and windows, chimneys, skirting boards, and loft-hatches. Draught-proofing is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to save energy and money. For example, Energy Saving Trust figures show that draught-proofing windows and doors could save £25 a year and draught-proofing your chimney (when you’re not using it) could save around £18 a year.
Use Energy-Efficient Lighting and Appliances
Using LED bulbs and only buying home appliances (e.g., white goods) that have good energy ratings are also useful ways to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint.
With governments needing to turn up the heat on meeting carbon emissions targets, the climate emergency high on the agenda, and the prospect of rising energy bills, now is the time for homeowners to take a serious look at some key ways to make their homes more energy-efficient, reduce individual carbon footprints, and save money in the longer term. The government will need to help more with (and incentivise) some of the larger, more expensive changes (e.g., boilers to heat pumps) but making these changes in our homes will contribute to a better, more sustainable future, lower bills, and warmer, more energy-efficient homes.