Ecovate Your Home and Reduce Your Fuel Bills

With some details of the Government’s Green Deal still to be unveiled, The National Home Improvement Show spokesperson, Michael Holmes explains how taking sustainability and energy-efficiency into account when renovating or extending can make an immediate and significant difference to your energy bills and reduce your home’s carbon footprint.

“With the green deal set for a review in Autumn, home owners are becoming increasingly aware that improving energy efficiency and investing in renewable energies in the home will save them money now and in the future, particularly at trigger points when people are already undertaking building work on their property. It can also enhance the appearance of the home and this is likely to be a big driver.

“There are a number of ways in which a house can be made more ecologically sustainable including the installation of renewables such as thermalolar panels or a heat pump in place of a conventional boiler, micro generation such as photovoltaic panels or a wind turbine, and rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling. However, renovators must understand that whilst investing in renewables is a good ideas, the starting point should be limiting the amount of energy we consume in the first place by looking at our own lifestyles, and the energy efficiency of our homes’ building fabric. The house should be highly insulated, free of draughts, and have low energy appliances and lighting. These improvements are relatively inexpensive, often very simple, and will result in a big saving on your total energy bill. ”

Michael explains ten ways to make your home greener and make both short and long term savings:

1. Insulation

Believe it or not, insulating your home is about the most cost-effective ecological improvement you can make. Renovators can save up to £135 a year on energy bills with effective roof, floor and wall insulation.

Good and effective insulation keeps heat from escaping while still allowing the house to breathe and will cut CO2 emissions – the greenhouse gases that are thought to contribute towards global warming.
For those renovating their existing home, houses in the UK from the 1920s on were built with a cavity – twin skinned external walls with a clear space in between. Cavity wall insulation costs as low as £100-350 and will save up to £135, paying for itself in around three years.

Loft insulation is even more cost-effective, taking on around two years to repay the installation cost of £100-350.

2. Solar water heating

30 per cent of the average household heating bill is spent on heating water. Installing thermal solar panels to preheat domestic hot water can provide up to half the annual hot water requirement of the average family. Typical savings from a well-installed and properly used system are £55 per year when replacing gas heating and £80 per year when replacing electric immersion heating. Installation costs range from £3,000 – £5,000. Once installed there is little maintenance required – just an annual service to ensure the controls and glycol levels are sufficient. To get the most out of your panels the ideal orientation is due south at an angle of 30-45 degrees, and failing that, a west-facing panel is preferred over east.

3. Water recycling

Water recycling methods can save between 30-50 per cent of a home’s water requirements. There are two types of water recycling methods: greywater recycling systems and rainwater harvesting. Greywater recycling systems can cost up to £3,000 and rainwater harvesting systems from £1,800. Greywater recycling collects used water from showers, baths and washbasins and once treated can be used for purposes that do not require drinking-water quality – such as flushing toilets and watering gardens. Whereas rainwater harvesting gathers rainwater from the roof and can be used again for purposes that do not require drinking-water quality, such as washing clothes, or the car.
Both options will reduce your water bills significantly.

4. Heat pumps

A heat pump is an ecological alternative to a conventional boiler for providing space heating and in some instances, domestic hot water. A heat pump works best when combined with low temperature heat emitters such as underfloor heating.

Heat pumps work by extracting heat from one place and moving it to another, in the same way that a refrigerator cools the air inside the fridge, and expels it via metal elements at the back.

The two most popular forms of heat pump for domestic use are air source – which extracts energy from the air, and ground source which extracts energy from the ground (heated by the sun). Their efficiency is measured by the coefficient of performance (CoP); this is the ratio of units of heat output for each unit of electricity used. Average performance rates range from 2.5-3.5, so you save 2.5-3.5 units of fossil fuels for every 1 unit of electricity consumed by the heat pump.
Installing a typical heat pump system costs between £9,000 – £17,000.

The amount save on fuel bills will depend on the type of fossil fuel being replaced and the unit cost. Energy saving trust estimate the energy savings at £130 per year when replacing gas, £620 per year when replacing electricity, £310 per year when replacing oil and £330 when replacing solid fuel. The savings are based on a CoP of 3.

5. Biomass

For those living away from the mains gas supply and relying on off mains fuel, such as heating oil, lpg or electricity, biomass is a fuel choice that is both green and inexpensive.

Five years ago fuel oil was less than 20p per litre. It is now more than 63p — a rise of 175 per cent. Using biomass fuel can be cheaper either by installing a biomass boiler in place of a conventional boiler, or simply by substituting some existing space heating with solid fuel stoves.

A standalone stove can cost around £5,800 and fuel can cost as little as £35 per tonne of logs bought locally. Using a biomass system can improve your CO2 emissions by up to 9.5 tonnes per year compared to a solid coal fired system or electric storage heating. Biomass is a carbon neutral fuel burning plant material, the CO2 it emits when burnt is the same amount as when it grew therefore the effect to the planet is neutral.

6. Low-energy lighting

Energy saving light bulbs can last up to 10 times longer than ordinary bulbs. They cost as little as £3 each and can save around £55 per year. High wattage incandescent lighting is soon to be a thing of the past and is slowly being phased out. 100w and 60w lamps are no longer available as of last year because they are considered to be a waste of electricity as only around 5% of the energy consumed is turned into light. Lighting that is more energy efficient is being promoted such as LEDs (light emitting diodes) and CFLs (compact fluorescent lights).

7. Energy Efficient Boilers

Replacing an old boiler with a modern energy efficient boiler will reduce fuel bills significantly. Typical installation cost for a gas boiler is £2,300 according to The Energy Savings Trust, which estimates the saving to be £105-300 depending on how old and inefficient your existing boiler is. Savings on a modern oil fired boiler will be even greater.

8. Secondary glazing

Giving period windows a makeover by ensuring they fit the frames correctly, adding draught seals and replacing any missing or cracked panes of glass will make a very significant difference to their energy performance. It is also worth considering adding secondary glazing – which can bring the performance of original period windows up to the standards of modern double glazing.
A whole house costs can cost from as little as £700 with savings of around £100 per year.

9. Under floor heating

Running costs for under floor heating tend to be between 10-30 per cent cheaper than a radiator based system. The reason being, the emitter (the floor) has a larger surface area then the standard radiator, and so it requires the water to be heated to a lower temperature to achieve the same output. It’s also very comfortable and space efficient, making it very popular with self-builders and extenders.

Installing under floor heating can cost around £2,000 more than conventional radiators. However, many DIYers lay the piping themselves which helps to keep the cost down.

10. Green finishes

Natural finishes are the next step in continuing the eco theme throughout the home. There is little point in installing eco friendly and efficient systems and contradicting your good work by using conventional paints high in toxins and chemicals. Natural or organic paints are non-toxic and are made from natural ingredients such as water, vegetable oils, plant dyes and natural minerals. Conventional paints are based on solvents containing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are emitted when the solvent evaporates. This has been linked to health problems such as allergies and respiratory problems. Eco paints are non-toxic are considered ‘low-VOC’ (low volatile organic compounds) and are therefore a good eco alternative. A 5lt tin of eco paint will cost around £35. Although this may be around £10 more than conventional paints.

For more information on a greener approach to home improvement, visit the National Home Improvement Show (28 -30 September 2012) at Olympia, London, Tickets are £8 in advance or £12 on the door (children under 16 go free).

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