In a world where climate change regularly hits the headlines, taking steps to reduce the energy you use and be more environmentally friendly is a smart way to act responsibly and protect our world for future generations. What’s more, it can help you save money on your energy bills – something we’d all welcome in these volatile financial times.
Here are some tips to help you reduce energy consumption, and increase your disposable income.
To save money long term, you sometimes have to spend a little now.
The biggest savings often require some upfront investment. But while there’s an outlay now, you’ll feel the benefits in no time – with incremental savings to be enjoyed in the years to come.
Upgrade your windows
When was the last time your windows were replaced? Like many homeowners, you may not even be able to answer this question. They’re just the same ones that were there when you moved in, much like the front and back doors.
But there are a number of excellent reasons to consider upgrading your windows. Depending on their height, they may need to be made from protective glass, or have security features fitted. And, of course, you may want them to do a better job of keeping in the heat and keeping out the cold and the noise.
The most popular choices are double-glazing or triple-glazing. As the name suggests, double-glazed windows are made of two pieces of glass with a space between them – typically 16mm – while triple-glazing consists of three pieces of glass. The space between each pane can be filled with a heavy gas, such as Argon, which acts as an insulator for noise and heat. Manufacturers claim that triple-glazing can be 50% more energy efficient for homes, although this may depend on other factors including the coating on the glass and the pane spaces that separate the sheets of glass.
Insulate your loft
A quarter of your home’s heat can escape through your roof if not properly insulated. When you add up the cost of heating over a year, that amounts to a tidy sum. But the good news is that effective insulation will last up to 40 years, paying for itself many times over.
Lofts are typically insulated with rolls of foil-backed felt or mineral fibre, which trap warm air inside your house and keep it snug and cosy. It’s relatively easy to place insulation between the joists in your loft, stopping heat from rising up into the space above your living areas. If you have a loft conversion you can fit insulation to the inside of your roof, which is a trickier job that may require an expert if you’re not confident with your DIY skills.
Install solar panels
You may not think that the UK’s weather is conducive to solar energy. However, there are currently an estimated 1.5 million homes in the UK with solar panels. And as technology makes it easier to convert the sun’s rays into electricity, so the numbers continue to grow.
Solar panels are made from layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon. When sunlight hits the cells across the panel, an electric field is created. The stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced.
The benefits are clear. After installation, the electricity you create for your home is essentially free, and you can sell up to half the electricity you produce back into the grid. And not only do you save money, you’re also reducing your carbon footprint by an average of 1.3 to 1.6 tonnes of carbon per year.
You don’t always have to splash out to save energy. Here are cost-effective ways to quickly become more energy efficient.
Energy suppliers have a habit of hiking up prices and hoping customers don’t notice. But the growth of third-party companies whose sole aim is to find you the best deal makes it easier than ever to find the supplier who will offer you the best deal.
These companies will typically scour the market for the best tarifs, and automatically move your account to the lowest provider. And because they take into account any exit fees or charges for leaving early, you’re guaranteed to be quids in.
Moving to more energy-efficient light bulbs is a simple step, and one that can help you save both energy and money. The two best options are:
- Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which use about a quarter of the energy of traditional incandescent bulbs and can last up to ten times as long.
- Light emitting diodes (LEDs), which are becoming more popular in homes as well as in outdoor settings. LEDs also use only a quarter of the energy of incandescent bulbs, and can last up to 25 times longer.
Unplug anything you’re not using!
The average home contains 40 items that are draining power, even when not in use or sitting idle waiting to be used. It’s a phenomenon called vampire power or phantom power, and can make up about 10% of your annual energy bill. Across all UK households, that amounts to a whopping £470 million.
Likely culprits are appliances with remote controls – your TV, DVD player etc – as well as laptops and mobile phones. The solution is remarkably easy: simply switch things off when you’re not using them. So turn appliances off at the mains, unplug chargers when devices are fully charged, and don’t leave appliances sitting on standby if you’re not going to use them anytime soon.
Spending a bit of mental energy focusing on reducing your home’s energy consumption can result in smaller bills, a greener home, and more cash in your pocket.