Saving energy, like recycling waste, is one of those good habits which people acquire, but all too often lose. We tend to get our lofts insulated and turn off electrical appliances we are not using, then fall back into our bad old ways – and end up with inflated energy bills.
It should not be too difficult to keep your bills down. Most energy-saving measures are common sense. But it is worth reminding yourself from time to time of the basic principles of energy conservation – and how you can apply them in your home.
There are also implications for landlords. “From April 2018, Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for domestic residences will be introduced, meaning that landlords must ensure that any new tenancies or renewals come with an energy efficiency rating of E or above.”
Here are our top 10 energy-saving tips for the thrifty or environmentally conscious:
1. Loft insulation. It is a familiar energy-saving measure with government grants available for the cost of the work. The independent Energy Saving Trust estimates that, in a typical detached house, loft insulation will save £225 a year.
2. Boilers. Like human beings, the older boilers get, the more inefficient they become. So, you should not only get your boiler serviced regularly, but consider replacing it with a newer, more energy-efficient model. Buying a top-of-the-range gas boiler can be expensive, with installation costs likely to top £2,000, but after that there are potential annual savings of over £300 a year.
3. Double-glazing. Double-glazed windows save far, far more energy than single-glazed ones. Modern double-glazing is more pleasing on the eye than it used to be with contemporary options of attractive timber frames.
4. Solar panelling. It is not quite as popular as it was but it remains an excellent option with the possibility of recouping your installation costs through the “Feed-in-Tariff” (FIT), equivalent to 4.11p per kilowatt hour of electricity generated. “The upfront costs of installing photovoltaic (PV) panels can be daunting but it is well worth it if you expect to be living in your home for several years.
5. Cavity walls. People who get their lofts insulated often forget to do the same with cavity walls. But without insulation, cavity walls, particularly of the kind found in older properties, can lead to a waste of energy. In a typical semi-detached house, cavity wall insulation would cost around £475 to install but may lead to savings of around £150 a year.
6. Light bulbs. The latest eco-friendly bulbs are not just energy-efficient but make fashionable features around the home too. If you replace all your old bulbs with LED (Light-Emitting Diodes) ones, you should be able to save around £35 a year.
7. Thermostats. How many people turn on their bath taps and then immediately scald themselves? Setting thermostats too high is a common error which should be easy to avoid. Homeowners often use trial-and-error to find the right energy-efficient temperature for their homes. But now there are new products on the market, such as thermostats operated by smart technology which will send you a monthly home report on your energy usage. If you turn your thermostat down by just one degree, you should save around £80 a year in an average home.
8. Underfloor heating. Many new properties have underfloor heating as standard. But it can be worthwhile installing it in older properties.
9. Monitor your electricity consumption. Nothing makes people inclined to make economies so much as seeing the bill mount up before their eyes. Invest in an electricity meter with a state-of-the-art digital display. And remember to turn off your lights and unplug your mobile phone chargers when they are not being used.
10. Radiators. “Replace your horizontal radiators with a vertical design to make best use of wall space,” suggests Strutt & Parker’s Richard Banes-Walker. “If your radiator is under a window or behind a sofa, it is wasting energy.”
In summer, when energy bills are naturally lower, it is easy to lose sight of the basics of energy-saving. But if you do not give yourself a wake-up call this autumn, your bills this winter could be a nasty shock to the system.