The UK faces an immense challenge. We’ll need to retrofit a million homes a year with energy efficiency measures like insulation and renewables to reach the UK Government’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050. Although challenging, doing so will have immense benefits. Not only are energy efficient homes better for the environment, they’re also more comfortable, healthier and cheaper to run.
The steps you can take to reduce your home energy demand range from small to big, and some can even save you money.
You don't need to make massive changes to make a difference - Have you changed your bulbs to LEDs? Do you make sure you switch your appliances off at the plug? (standby mode is a secret energy guzzler) Have you made sure your home is energy efficient by sealing and blocking draft gaps and insulating it properly? All of these things would see a big drop in energy consumption.
We explore some of these ideas further below.
Changing your energy provider can influence your environmental impact on a national scale. There are many forms of renewable energy available to harness which range from wind, solar and wave power to tidal, biomass and hydroelectric power. All of these green ways of creating energy are mostly carbon neutral.
Many energy companies now offer tariff that incorporated renewable options. Ofgem research shows that comparing and switching energy providers can be a great way to save – with annual savings of around £300 available.
As the owner or main tenant of a building or flat you should be able to switch your energy supplier at any time. Speak to your landlord if you’re not sure. If you share a tariff with other tenants, why not ask around if the others would like to make the switch too.
Our Cambridgeshire Energy Switch is a great way to switch and save - and they only offer 100% green electricity tariffs.
About 12% of the heat is lost through draughts in an average British home. While it is important to let some fresh air into your homes to reduce condensation and damp, this is best done in a controlled way - like opening a window for a couple of hours every day, even in winter.
Most work to tackle draughts can be done yourself and at relatively ow cost, making this a cheap way of making rooms more comfortable, easier to heat and also reduces heating bills and emissions.
Draughts happen where there are unwanted gaps in the construction of your home, and where openings are left uncovered. You’ll find draughts in any gaps that lead outside (for example around doors and windows). While it is important to block most of these, be careful in areas that need good ventilation. These include areas where there are open fires or open flues and any rooms where a lot of moisture is produced, such as the kitchen, bathrooms and utility rooms.
Draught-free homes feel comfortable at lower temperatures. This means that by reducing draughts in your home you can turn down your thermostat saving even more on your energy bills. Draught-proofing around windows and doors can save around £20 per year.
Certain households might be entitled to support under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). Under this scheme medium and larger energy suppliers may fund the installation of certain energy efficiency measures. Find out more information about the scheme and if your eligible via Ofgem.
Moving away from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources is an important part of reducing our carbon emissions on a national level. There are a number of different types of renewable energy systems that will be suitable for different types of property and different budgets.
There are different ways to generate and store energy in your home. First of all you need to decide what sort of energy you want to generate: Electricity or heat.
- Electricity - The most common way to generate electricity at home is by installing solar panels. However, depending on the size of your land and electricity demand you might also consider other options like wind.
- Heating - There are a number of different ways to generate heat from renewable sources on your property. These include:
- Heat pumps: Ground source or air source. See below for more details.
- Solar water heating, also known as ‘solar thermal’ systems, this technology uses free heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water.
- Thermal stores: Store excess heat. See below for more details.
The Council's Solar Together programme is a great way to purchase solar panels at reduced cost. Quotations are free and non-committal.
See below more information on some of the options.
The Energy Saving Trust also provides a useful guide on installing renewable energy at home. It provides helpful tips for finding a reputable installer and getting a quote, but also for checking planning permission and building warrants as well as insurance policies and financial support options.
Regularly reviewing your household’s energy use will help you identify and track any potential savings. Smart meters can be a great help to keep on top of your usage.
It also helps you to see where you might want to do more to reduce your usage. By doing this, you can make informed decisions when investing in energy efficient appliances or energy saving measures.
The easiest way to review your energy bills is to keep hold of bills when you receive them and set aside a time once or twice a year to go over them. It can be helpful to do this with other members of your household. This way you can work out how you are currently using your electricity and heat as well as where the greatest potential for savings is.
- Smart metering - A smart meter is a gas and/or electricity meter that collects real time data and shares it with your provider. It also includes a in-home display, showing you how much energy your household is currently using. Many suppliers will upgrade your existing meter for free, so it is worth getting in touch with your supplier directly to find out more.
- Smart thermostats - Smart home appliances, such as smart thermostats, allow you to link your heating system to your personal devices, e.g. via apps. This enables you to not only regulate the heating of your home remotely but also get real-time insights into how much energy is being used.
You can find more information on smart meters and heating controls on the Energy Saving Trust’s website.
Turning down your main thermostat just one degree will cut your heating bills (and emissions) straight away, and you may not feel any difference.
If your home has a central heating system you can use the main heating thermostat to reduce the temperature setting for the whole house. Try turning the temperature down by one degree and wait for a day or two to see how it feels. If you’re still feeling comfortable, continue to turn it down until you reach a point where it starts to feel too cold. Make a note of the setting where you still felt comfortable – this is the temperature setting for you and your household.
In most cases, families are happy with a setting somewhere between 18˚C and 21˚C but you may need it warmer if there are any older people or people with health conditions living in the property.
Remember that it can sometimes be worth putting on an extra layer, like a jumper or slippers to feel comfortable rather than turning up the heat. It is definitely cheaper.
Energy efficiency booklet
Read our Energy efficiency booklet (opens as a .pdf). In addition to information about domestic energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades, it provides details of available sources of funding to help you reduce your carbon footprint.
See below for more information on some of the low carbon technologies available
Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) absorb heat from the outside air to heat your home and hot water. They can still extract heat when air temperatures are as low as -15°C.
Outside air is used to heat a liquid refrigerant. The pump uses electricity to compress the refrigerant to increase its temperature then condenses it back to release stored heat – a bit like a fridge in reverse. ASHPs still work well even when the outside air temperature is very low. They are generally very reliable sources of heat and require very little maintenance.
Air source heat pumps need electricity to run, but because they are extracting renewable heat from the environment, the heat output is greater than the electricity input. This makes them an energy efficient method of heating your home.
Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) use buried pipes to extract heat from the ground. This heat can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems and hot water in your home.
Heat from the ground is absorbed at low temperatures into a fluid inside a loop of pipe (a ground loop) buried underground. The fluid then passes through a compressor that raises it to a higher temperature, which can then heat water for the heating and hot water circuits of the house.
The cooled ground-loop fluid passes back into the ground where it absorbs further energy from the ground in a continuous process as long as heating is required.
Heat pumps have some impact on the environment as they need electricity to run, but the heat they extract from the ground, the air, or water is constantly being renewed naturally.
Solar panels use the suns energy to generate electricity. This video from the Energy Saving Trust gives an introduction into how this works.
Smart Export Guarantee
The UK Government encourages households to invest in renewable electricity generation not by providing support with the investment, but by offering a ‘Smart Export Guarantee’: once the system is installed and they start producing more energy than the household needs, participants receive a payment for every unit they feed into the grid.
The Energy Saving Trust provides a useful guide on how to install renewable energy systems. This provides helpful tips for finding a reputable installer and getting a quote, but also for checking planning permission and building warrants as well as insurance policies and financial support options.
Thermal stores are becoming increasingly common as a means of storing excess heat generated. They are used with either an individual renewable heating technology or else they combine different renewable heating technologies. Thermal stores can also be used with a conventional boiler or immersion heater.