Eco ESG housing Residential

What can you do to improve your home’s energy efficiency?

Q1 2023

Whether you want to improve your green credentials, make your home warmer, cut your energy bills, or get ahead of potential environmental legislation, there’s a host of reasons why energy efficiency might be on your mind right now.

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Alexander Macfarlane

Senior Associate Director, Building Consultancy & Private Projects

+44 1865 366635

Keen to boost the energy efficiency of your home? If so, you’re in good company. The majority (67%) of people think it’s important that their property is environmentally-friendly, according to our most recent Housing Futures survey.

Whether you want to improve your green credentials, make your home warmer, cut your energy bills, or get ahead of potential environmental legislation, there’s a host of reasons why energy efficiency might be on your mind right now.

The good news is that when it comes to making your home greener, there is a lot to sink your teeth into. From simple fixes, to major investments, here’s eight ideas of how to go about it.

Four quick fixes

1. Maintain and repair your home

Take care of your property to keep it warm and improve overall energy efficiency. Getting back to basics is often overlooked but it’s an important first step. It’s a case of good routine maintenance and dealing with any issues as and when they arise. For example, a leaky gutter could result in the wall getting saturated and cold. And there’s no point going further and insulating a wall that is wet.

2. Draught proof windows, doors and floorboards

Plug gaps around windows, doors, floorboards and other parts of your property to stop heat escaping. There are many simple and effective ways of doing this, such as laying good quality carpet or rugs on floors, hanging thermal-lined curtains across windows, and sticking draught strips around the edges of rattling windows and doors. If you have an open chimney, consider blocking it with a chimney balloon - but don’t forget to remove it during the warmer months to aid ventilation and reduce the chance of damp.

3. Install secondary glazing

Add in secondary glazing to boost the efficiency of single glazed windows. Secondary glazing is a stand-alone window which is installed behind the original window. There are various styles available to suit different properties and budgets. And you can remove some secondary glazing during the warmer months, while others are permanent.

Secondary glazing can be a good alternative if you can’t install double or triple glazing. This could be if you own a Listed property, or for financial reasons. In nine out of 10 cases, fitting secondary glazing is cheaper than changing the original window entirely.

4. Get tech-savvy

Embrace the latest tech to get a better handle on your energy use at home. Wifi-controlled heating appliances and smart metres can provide a helpful visual of how much energy you’re using. The latest tech also comes with a variety of features that allow you to heat your home more efficiently. Take smart thermostats for example, depending on which one you opt for, they can give you the option to control your heating remotely, and have clever features such as zoned heating (the ability to adapt the temperature in different parts of the property) and draught detection.

Four investments

1. Upgrade your boiler

Invest in a new boiler system to heat your home more efficiently and cost-effectively. You want to make sure that any upgrade is compatible with your radiators and pipework. The scale and cost of installing a new system can vary widely, but it’s likely to pay off in the long run. According to the Energy Saving Trust, you could save £840 per year if you replace an old G-rated gas boiler with an A-rated condensing boiler with all the mod cons in a detached house in England, Scotland and Wales. If you’re swapping a fossil fuel heating system for a heat pump or biomass boiler, you may be able to get help with the cost through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. There are alternative initiatives in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

2. Insulate your roof

Insulate your roof to help keep heat in your home. As much as 25% of heat is lost through the roof of an uninsulated property, according to the Energy Saving Trust. The type of insulation you need will depend on your roof type and budget. Rolling out some mineral wool insulation in the loft is a relatively simple way of keeping heat in, but there are larger and more intrusive pieces of roof insulation work that come with greater benefits. Whichever option you plump for, it’s important that there is good ventilation to avoid damp and condensation building up. We’d always recommend ensuring you work with a reputable company.

3. Insulate your walls

Insulate your walls to make another big impact on your energy consumption. Around a third of all heat lost in a poorly-insulated property is through the walls, says the Energy Saving Trust. Again, the type of insulation required will depend on the property you have. Older homes tend to have solid brick or stone walls, which means adding insulation can be quite an involved process - particularly if you’re preserving the character of a historic building, such as cornicing. If you have a more modern home with cavity walls, it can be a simpler task of putting insulation in the gap.

You could save £690 on your energy bill each year if you install cavity wall insulation in a detached house in England, Scotland and Wales. The annual saving rises to £930 if you apply solid wall insulation, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

4. Invest in renewable energy

Consider investing in solar panels and/or ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) to make the most of the natural environment. Solar panels turn sunlight into electricity, which can then be used to power your home. You can also get paid to export your electricity through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme. Meanwhile, GSHPs use heat from the ground to warm up your home and water. These two measures normally need a large capital outlay at the outset. The cost of installing a GSHP could be around £49,000 if you need to dig a borehole, according to the Energy Saving Trust. However, you’re likely to reap the rewards in the long-term of 10 years or more.

When considering what you can do to improve your home’s energy efficiency, it’s a good idea to have an eye to the future as well as the present. It’s also worth remembering that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach - every property is different. You may need to secure certain approvals before you start work and you might also have to meet different criteria to have works undertaken. Naturally, the impact of improvements will vary from property to property.

It's worth noting that with energy efficiency high on the government’s agenda, there is support available for making green upgrades to your home. To give you a flavour, the government recently unveiled ECO+ (or ECO Plus). The scheme provides grants for insulation, such as loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. And in the Spring Statement last year, the government reduced VAT on energy efficiency installations, including solar panels, insulation and heat pumps, to 0%. It is in place until 31st March 2027. There are also lenders who support energy efficiency upgrades through green mortgages.

We appreciate these changes and all their nuances aren’t always a simple exercise, however our Building Consultancy team is available and on hand to provide tailored support to help you make improvements to your home.

This article is a guide and you should always seek professional advice for your own personal circumstances.