The future of energy efficiency in the home

Have you ever considered reducing your carbon footprint and making your home more efficient? It’s not only kinder to the environment, but if you have some money to invest short term, there can be long term financial gains to be made as well. You can also make a positive impact on your purse and your conscience by saving water. Here we outline some of the options.
Close up image of a cushion resting against a window on a sofa. A blue book sits on the sofa.

Renewable Heat

Biomass
According to the Energy Saving Trust you could save up to £600 per year switching from electric heating to a Wood-burning system.

Biomass relies on burning logs, pellets or chips either in a stove to heat a single room, or in a boiler system which can be used to heat the home or heat water.

A biomass system can cost between £4000 and £20,000 but longer term you may make money with the Government’s Renewable Heating Incentive which makes quarterly payments to homes switching to renewable heating solutions. Find out more about wood fuel heating systems.

Air Source Heat Pumps
These systems absorb the heat from outside air and draw it into the home. Because they emit heat at lower temperatures for longer periods than standard heating systems, they may need to be on continuously, particularly in Winter months. They are best suited to providing heating only and efficiency will depend on how well insulated the home is. However the Energy Saving Trust highlights a reduction in CO2 emissions of up to 10.5 tonnes when you switch from storage heaters to Air Source Heating.

Ground Source Heat Pumps
GSHPs extract heat from the ground via underground pipes and can be more efficient than Air Source pumps. They are best suited to underfloor heating systems or warm air heating as like Air Source Pumps they run at lower temperatures over longer periods of time.

Initial installation can be expensive and you’ll need to have a large garden for the pipes to be laid, but once fitted the system could generate up to £3690 per year income with the Renewable Heating Incentive scheme.

Solar Water Heating
If you have at least five square metres of roof space that receives the sun for most of the day and space for a larger water cylinder then you may benefit from solar panels. They are compatible with combi boilers and are relatively cheap to install (£3000-£5000). However savings can be moderate, and your RHI income will be dependent on the number of people in your household.

Thermal Stores
Thermal stores work with other heating systems (such as Biomass boliers or Aga-type ranges) to harness and store heat until it is needed. This can improve the efficiency of the heating system allowing you to tap into the heat supply when you need it. The type of store you need will be determined by your main system, you can find out more on the Energy Saving Trust website
Builder fitting solar panels to the roof on a house.
Hydro
Harnessing hydro power from a stream or river is more suited to larger developments or communities than single properties but can also be a solution for remote properties that are off-grid. A certified installer will assess the river for the flow per second and the head (difference in height over a short distance) to check suitability. Find out more at the British Hydropower Association.

Reduce your Flow

Reducing water consumption in the home can also help to reduce your energy bills and reduce your Carbon Dioxide emissions. Here are a few low investment solutions:

Shower Heads
If you have a power shower or a mixer shower consider a head that reduces water flow without a feeling of reduced water pressure.

Taps
Low-flow taps either aerate the water or regulate the flow to reduce your water usage.

Baths
A standard bath uses up to 80 litres, so if you’re replacing your bathroom consider a reduced-capacity bath.

Toilets
Adding a Cistern Displacement device will reduce the amount of water needed to flush. You can often get these free from your water company. Check out the Save Water Save Money website.

Waste Water
If you’re not yet using your washing-up water to water the plants or haven’t yet got a water butt in the garden then what are you waiting for ? If you’re on a water meter you’ll definitely benefit from being clever with your waste water!

Light it Up


With lighting attributing 7% to household energy costs making small changes can be worth your while. There are various reduced-energy bulbs to choose from:

LEDs
As these produce a small amount of light, domestic bulbs contain a large number of LEDs. They can be expensive to buy but are by far the most efficient light source.

CFLs & LFLs
Compact Fluorescent Lamps last ten times longer than standard bulbs and are a great alternative to traditonal bulbs for domestic lighting. Linear Fluorescent Lamps use the same technology (gas in a glass tube) but are longer and flatter and used in strip lighting. They are more efficient and faster to light up than traditional strip lighting.

Halogen
These use filaments like traditional light bulbs but emit a bright light that can be too bright for some settings. LEDs are a great alternative. Discover more energy saving tips at the National Energy Foundation website.

And finally, remember if you do make any big changes to your home, it's worth telling your home insurance company and checking your cover levels meet your needs.
(Originally published on 20/11/2014)

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