Energy efficiency: how to make your house more efficient

At the end of 2015 the Daily Mail asked a simple question: Has Britain created the most efficient home?The four-bedroom home described in the piece allegedly cost a total of £15 a year to power – including heating, lighting, cooking and water – thanks to a pump for pulling in heat, solar panelling, triple glazing and other insulation.

Not all of us have the techniques and skills of homeowner and architect Colin Usher (who has picked up awards for his work), but his home is essentially a template for us all to make our homes more efficient.

If you’re living in an older home, you might not have double glazing, which means heat will be escaping. Therefore, it might be time to upgrade, and while it might not be cheap, the initial outlay might save you big money if you play the long game. In addition, it will certainly be more attractive to buyers further down the line should you wish to sell up, or for tenants wishing to rent your property. If you can stretch to triple glazing this might also be advantageous, although it is not always more efficient.

Another tip is installing solar panelling, which can reduce utility bills considerably. Until February 2016 there were a number of government initiatives that made this idea almost flawless, but at that point payouts were slashed meaning that it was less profitable to invest. There are a number of factors to take into consideration, such as your location, the current efficiency of your home, and whether you need planning permission or not. For more information take a look at this guide from Money Saving Expert.

There are also many ways to get free insulation for your walls and roof to prevent heat escaping from the home. Energy providers will sometimes install the insulation for free, and even a boiler if you fulfil certain criteria based on income and status. Cavity and loft insulation could cost as much as £800 if you purchased it yourself, so it’s well worth enquiring with your provider.

If your home has an old hot water system there are a number of ways that you might improve it, without having to rip it out completely or replace parts. Buying a water-saving showerhead (aerated or low-flow), and keeping the boiler regularly serviced, can also help with water consumption. If you have the money and don’t mind a little upheaval in the home, TV architect George Clarke suggests installing underfloor heating as a more efficient alternative to wall radiators.

Finally, be smart. Turn lights off when you’re not in the room, and keep windows open in the summer and closed in the winter. Use energy-efficient lightbulbs in the home – perhaps ones that can be dimmed. Exchange your old appliances such as fridges and washing machines for newer, more ‘green’ products that use less water or electricity. You don’t need to be a visionary architect to create a perfectly efficient home, but the more you do, the better your chances of running an eco-friendly property.

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