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How to improve your property’s energy efficiency

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How to improve your property’s energy efficiency

by Dan
December 30, 2020

 

We all desire an adaptable home, which adjusts throughout each season to guarantee your comfort and save you from hefty bills all year round. Yet many are unsure where to start or what they can do to create an energy-efficient home, and instead seek short term relief by flicking on the heating or turning on a fan throughout the summer nights. Unfortunately, these short-term resolutions’ knock-on effects are detrimental to our environment, which struggles to bear the burden year on year.

In this guide, we help you understand your property’s current and potential energy efficiency, and the practical steps you can take to improve your energy efficiency, resulting in reduced costs, an efficient home, and positive changes for our environment.

How to find out your property’s current and potential energy efficiency

Most UK buildings are required to possess an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) when the property is built, sold, or rented. This helps the new owner or tenant understand key information regarding estimated energy use, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and the property’s fuel costs. The certificate also provides guidance into the potential energy rating if the owner made positive amendments to their property. If your landlord or letting agent hasn’t provided you with your EPC, you can access it by visiting: find-energy-certificate.digital.communities.gov.uk/ and entering your postcode. EPC’s are valid for 10 years, and if your property doesn’t have an EPC, they can be performed for around £120.

How is the rating determined?

A non-invasive inspection of your property is conducted, with each part of the examination receiving a unique score. To calculate the score, the EPC uses the government’s Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) to rate the property between 1-100 SAP Points, with 100 being the most efficient. Once calculated, the property will reside within a band that showcases your home’s overall energy efficiency and environmental friendliness.

Below is the breakdown of the SAP Points, consequent banding, and an example of an EPC for a Manchester property.

How can you improve your property’s energy efficiency?

Newer property’s tend to have higher EPC ratings due to advances in regulation, technology, labour and materials. Nevertheless, the average home in the UK scores 60, which falls into Band D. Highlighting that there is room for improvement in most homes, and even small adjustments can have an enormous impact on your home’s efficiency and effectiveness. Our list below provides you with 10 effective methods you can deploy to increase your home’s energy efficiency. For most of the actionable list below, you can receive financial support towards your energy improvement by utilising the Government’s Green Homes Grant. For more information about the grant, please visit the gov website here.

  1. Plan and design with energy efficiency in mind

When people talk about their building and renovation projects, they usually let their friends know how much it cost, the length of the project, and the overall aesthetics. Yet, many don’t prioritise or consider the energy efficiency of their project, which is usually hidden to the visible eye and in some cases can result in a higher initial cost. This oversight and cutting corners in their initial project investment may result in short-term financial relief, but costs significantly more in the long term with increased energy bills. This is why it’s important to consider an energy-efficient alternative, which pays for itself over time.

At present, the building and construction sector is one of the largest additions to greenhouse gases. Accounting for over 45% of total UK carbon emission. Out of this 45%, 80% are associated with the built environment and buildings in use. This toll on the environment is unsustainable and is causing detrimental advances in global warming across our planet. This is why iknowa recognises the need to encourage energy-efficient alternatives, and raise awareness of the importance of making energy efficiency a key priority when conducting a building or renovation project.

  1. Conduct an energy assessment of your home

Professional energy specialists offer energy assessment audits that provide a detailed report into your home’s efficiency and consequent use. The specialist will conduct an external and internal inspection of your property, moving through each room and providing you with an actionable list of changes you can make.

The specialists are known to use various tools to conduct the inspection, including a Blower door, which is effectively a huge fan which simulates 20 mph winds so your auditor can find air leaks. The reason for this is that the average home has enough air leakage to add up to a two-foot square hole, which is the equivalent of leaving a medium-sized window open 24 hours a day! After an in-person inspection, your specialist may further analyse your home using computer software and then provide you with the results. You are then provided with an actionable list, which if completed, can result in you saving between 5 and 30 percent on your energy bill. The price of the examination varies depending upon the size of your property. Nevertheless, the national average is around £200. To action, your energy assessment, visit www.iknowa.com and post your job for energy specialists to help you today.

  1. Insulate your home

More than half of an average UK household’s energy bill is spent on hot water and heating. Showcasing the requirement to increase homes’ adaptability to be well equipped for the summer and winter months. Below are some areas you can insulate to reduce heat loss:

Walls – external walls in our homes are the biggest offenders for heat loss, with around 33% of our heat escaping through uninsulated walls. Most homes in the UK after the 1920s have cavity walls, which is made up of two walls with a gap in the middle. In comparison, home’s pre-1920 tend to have a solid wall with no cavity. Qualified tradespeople can insulate cavity walls by injecting insulation to fill the cavity. Most homes built in the last 20 years already have insulated walls, but it is still worth checking with a qualified tradesperson if that’s the case for your property. Wall insulation varies depending upon your home’s size and usually ranges from around £500 to £800. This may initially seem significant, but you will make your money back in energy savings within 4/5 years, whilst reducing your carbon dioxide emissions by around 700kg a year. 

Roof – You can lose up to 25% of heat through your roof. If your loft doesn’t have damp or condensation problems, then it should be easy to insulate, and if well equipped you could potentially conduct this yourself. Insulating your loft also provides you with the opportunity to add significant value to your home by converting your loft into another room. If you’re interested in this, read our complete guide to loft conversions here.

An average loft insulation costs around £300 but will increase or decrease depending upon your home’s size. This cost is insignificant when you consider that insulation can last for at least 40 years and will save you around £200 a year on your energy bill. To find a high-quality local tradesperson to install your insulation, visit www.iknowa.com and post your job.

Floor – Insulating the ground floor can save you up to £40 a year, and keep your feet warm every step of the way! If your home has suspended timber floors, you can insulate them, and save yourself money over time. When most people think of floor insulation, they envision the nightmare of their floors being pulled apart. However, don’t get cold feet, recent innovations now involve a robot applying a spray foam insulation to your floorboards, avoiding the need for your floorboards to be taken up. A typical floor installation costs between £500 and £1500 depending on the square ft of your floor. This may seem costly, but it will save you money year on year and increase your home’s value.

Fixtures – Looking after fixtures which provide you with heat such as your hot water tank, and radiators can provide significant savings and reduce heat loss within your home. Purchasing a £15 hot water cylinder jacket for your tank will save you around £20 a year in heating costs, and 150kg of carbon dioxide emissions. The easy self-install jackets pay for themselves within the first year and reduce your CO2 contribution to our planet significantly. If you already have a jacket fitted, measure the thickness, as your jacket should at least by 80mm thick. Another great option is to purchase radiator reflector panels. These low-cost panels (usually less than £15) are fixed behind radiators and reflect heat back into the room instead of letting the heat out through an external wall, ensuring that you receive all the benefit for the heat you pay for!

  1. Draught Proof windows and doors

Draught proofing your windows and doors is a cheap yet effective method of increasing your energy efficiency. Draught proofing involves the prevention of cold air coming in, and warm air escaping. Depending on the amount of work to be completed this task can be performed by yourself if you know how or you can hire a high-quality professional to draught-proof your home, which usually ranges between £150 – £300.  The advantage of hiring a professional is their experience in identifying and resolving draughts effectively. In contrast, someone with little experience may block essential ventilation, resulting in a build-up of condensation and mould from a lack of fresh air. Draught proofing can save you up to £60 a year and therefore pays for itself within 3 years, as well as prevents you from feeling a cold breeze dancing through your home.

  1. Replace windows and doors

Investing in double or triple-glazed windows not only keeps out noise, but it also significantly reduces your energy bill. Most window manufacturers now adhere to an energy-rating scale from A++ to E, with A++ being the most efficient. The windows’ rating is determined by assessing the effectiveness of draught prevention, solar gain, and heat loss. The cost of replacing all your windows is not cheap, ranging from £2000 – £5000 for a full replacement. Therefore, it is important that you search for multiple quotes to get the best price. We recommend posting your job on iknowa to receive numerous quotes from high-quality local tradespeople for you to compare easily, saving you both time and money. Replacing your windows can save you between £50 – £125 a year and significantly increases your home’s value. If you cannot replace all of your windows, a cheap alternative is installing secondary glazing or heavy thick curtains that act as a secondary insulator.

An additional option is the replacement of your door. Modern doors usually include effective insulation and a draught-proofing system, opening up new methods of keeping your home energy-efficient, whilst reducing your energy bill.  

 

  1. Install Solar Panels

Solar panels capture the sun’s renewable solar energy and convert it into usable electricity for your home. The most effective placement of solar panels is on south-facing roofs, away from shade and trees. If placed effectively, solar panels can generate between 25 – 50% of your household’s electricity needs. With the governments new Smart Export Guarantee scheme launched in January 2020, you can also be paid by big energy companies for the electricity you generate but do not use.

The installation of solar panels does not require planning permission as it’s usually considered a permitted development. Nevertheless, it requires an experienced tradesperson to install who meets the standards of the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). We recommend receiving multiple quotes as the price may vary, but typical installations of the system and panels can cost around £6000. Depending on where you live within the UK your electricity bill saving will vary, with Northern locations saving between £100 – £250 a year, and Southern locations saving £10-£15 more.

As a long-term investment, solar panels are a great opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint, cut your electricity bills and even receive payments for the extra energy you generate!

  1. Replace traditional lightbulbs with LEDs

LED lightbulbs are the future, quickly and cheaply guaranteeing energy savings through innovative, energy-efficient technology. In comparison to traditional lightbulbs, LED lightbulbs last up to 25x longer, range from being 25-70% more energy-efficient, offer comparable or better lighting quality and can even interact with smart gadgets in your home! In our opinion, switching to LED is a no brainer, saving you around £75 a year and paying themselves off within the first year of purchase.

  1. Install a smart meter

More than 20 million smart meters have been installed across the UK, and this figure continues to grow daily. A smart meter provides you with oversight into your energy consumption and the resulting monthly cost, with some smart meters even informing you of the carbon dioxide you are producing. This helps you understand the impact your home has on our planet and manage your energy consumption and bills. If your home or small business doesn’t have a smart meter, speak with your energy supplier who will likely send out an engineer to install one for free.

  1. Switch to energy-efficient household appliances and fixtures

When purchasing new household appliances and fixtures, take a moment to consider the EU energy label which rates appliances on efficiency from A++ to G, with A being the most efficient. Below is a list of electrical appliances where this label will be present:

  • Televisions
  • Boilers
  • Electric Ovens
  • Freezers
  • Refrigerators
  • Washing Machines
  • Dishwashers
  • Lamps and light fittings

Washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, and freezers are the least energy-efficient products, and it is possible to make considerable energy and cost savings by purchasing energy-efficient models. A standard refrigerator compared to an energy-efficient refrigerator can consume up to 5 times more energy, creating a substantial impact on the environment and your finances over time.

  1. Turn off sockets and appliances when not in use

Creating a habit to turn off your appliances and sockets when not in use can be a lifesaver, literally. If your socket doesn’t have an off switch or you’re leaving your socket turned on then electricity is still running throughout the appliance, even when not in use. This is not only a fire hazard but unnecessarily wastes electricity, with the Energy Saving Trust stating this costs homes on average £80 a year.

A common misconception is that phone chargers don’t draw power when they aren’t charging anything, or stop drawing power once your phone is at full battery. This is false and results in you paying for 8 hours of electricity every night when you only use 2 to charge your phone fully. We recommend charging your phone before going to sleep, and if required, top-up your charge in the morning whilst you shower.

Let us all take small steps to increase our energy efficiency, even if it’s as little as switching off our plugs when not in use or installing a smart meter. We can create a green future together and counteract the effects of global warming, which is destroying our planet.

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