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Energy Saving Tips
With about one third of the carbon emissions from an average UK family coming from home heating, energy costs increasing and interest rates on savings accounts being so low, now is the perfect time to take some energy savings measures, many of which will quickly pay for themselves.
The information below is taken from the the Energy Saving Trust, who provide a reliable and comprehensive guide to home energy savings. All figures are based on a gas heated three bedroom semi, except where otherwise indicated.
See also, "Reducing carbon from energy use at home - guidance for households" published jointly with the Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition.
Switch to green electricity
Whilst this is unlikely to save you money it should cost no more than a standard tariff and will help to reduce your carbon emissions. The current turmoil in the energy market means switching tariffs at the moment is not recommended. The recent increase in the OFGEM price cap, with more increase likely to come, means there is a lot of uncertainty about future tariff prices and care needs to be exercised.
Make this switch as soon as stability returns to the energy market.
Generate your own renewable electricity
An additional action that can reduce carbon at home is to generate your own renewable electricity. A few households may have the opportunity to generate electricity from wind and hydro but solar panels tend to be the most common option available to homeowners (this will depend on whether you own your roof and the direction of your roof – South is best).
On average a solar home system costs around c.£4,000 - 8,000 and can save up to one TCO2e per
year. Solar home systems will usually reduce your energy bills (though savings vary from £100-240 p.a.). In most cases, you can also earn money for surplus electricity that you export to the grid (worth £90-120 p.a.). For guidance on solar home systems and other home-based renewable electricity generation options see the Energy Savings Trust and MoneySavingsExpert
Insulate the loft
If you have no insulation you can lose a quarter of your heat through the attic. The recommended thickness of insulation is now 270mm so if you have less than this it is worth topping up to save around £60 p.a. and recover the cost in around three years or less, if you fit the insulation yourself.
Insulate the walls
About a third of all the heat lost in an uninsulated home escapes through the walls. By properly insulating cavity walls, you will save energy and reduce your heating bill.
In general, houses built from the 1990s onwards have wall insulation to keep the heat in. Some 1920s houses and most post 1930 houses have cavity walls. You should recover the cost of installing cavity wall insulation (about £485) in less than three years and reduce your (gas) heating bill by£185 p.a. If you use oil or LPG heating, you will reduce your heating bill even more.
The cost of insulating solid walls internally or externally is £8-10K and the savings about £255 (gas heating) so the return on your investment is about 2.5%. If energy prices increase, then so will your saving, but if they fall you will see a smaller reduction in your energy bill.
Draught proofing around windows and external doors could save you around £30 a year. For many people this is a DIY job and the materials needed are not expensive.
If you have an open chimney, installing a chimney draught excluder at a cost of less than £30, when you’re not using it could save around £20 a year. Breathable felt or similar excluders are best. Another option is a chimney cap but it will cost more than £100.
Draught free homes are comfortable at lower temperatures – so you may be able to turn down your thermostat, saving even more on your energy bills.
Insulate hot water tanks and pipes
If you already have a jacket fitted around your tank, check the thickness. It should be at least 80mm thick; if it isn’t, consider buying a new one. Topping up your hot water tank insulation from 25mm to 80mm thick, using a British Standard jacket, could save you around £20 a year, which is more than the cost of the jacket. By slipping pipe insulation around your exposed hot water pipes you’ll keep your hot water hotter for longer.
Install radiator reflector panels
Installing radiator reflector panels behind radiators on external walls is an attractive low-cost option, especially if your walls are not insulated. Fixed behind your radiators, they reflect heat from the radiator back into the room, instead of letting the heat out through an external wall.
Improve the control of heating systems
If you only have a single thermostat for the whole house you may find some rooms are warmer than necessary so heat is being wasted. Reducing the setting by one degree could save 10% on your heating bill.
Programmable room thermostats
A programmable room thermostat combines time and temperature controls in a single unit and allows you to set different temperatures for different times of the day. Some heating systems may use two programmable thermostats (upstairs and downstairs) rather than a single programmer for the whole house.
Thermostatic radiator valves
Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) control the flow of hot water through the radiator they are fitted to and allow different rooms such as bedrooms, to be set at a lower temperature to that on the main thermostat.
Smart heating controls
Many companies offer more advanced control systems for central heating, known as smart heating controls. They do everything that conventional controls do, with a programmer (timer) to control when the heating is on or off and using thermostats to control the heat in your home. However, smart controls are connected to the internet and offer more functionality.
Some of the more sophisticated features they can offer include:
Simple and easy to use time and temperature controls with user friendly interfaces, making it easier to check and change the on/off periods for heating and hot water.
Allowing you to turn the system on or off and change the temperature using your smartphone when you’re not at home.
Learning your habits and adjusting controls to match, for example turning up the thermostat in the evening when you’re relaxing, detecting an open window (by a sudden drop in temperature) and turning the thermostat down or heating off, or heating the hot water ready for when you’re most likely to take a shower or bath.
Track where you are, using your smartphone location, known as ‘geo-fencing’. When you’re returning home from work, the heating system will turn on and heat the house or hot water in time for your return.
Other advance control functions such as load compensation and weather compensation.
Whether smart heating controls will save you money will depend on your lifestyle and how you currently control your heating. Studies suggest that while they can save money, it may take some time to pay for their upfront cost as they can be quite expensive.
Change to LED lighting
There are two main types of energy-efficient light bulbs available: compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs). LEDs are the most common and adaptable light fitting, and are suitable for replacing dimmable lights and spotlights. LEDs are also more energy efficient than CFLs and will pay for themselves in less than a year. If you replace all the bulbs in your home with LED lights, you could save £30 a year on your electricity bills.
Only buy appliances that have an 'A' energy rating
When you’re buying a new appliance for your home, look out for its energy label. The energy label tells you how much energy that appliance uses, comparing it to similar appliances. This can help you find appliances that use the least amount of energy. You should also consider the size of the appliance you need.
Install an efficient boiler or switch to a heat pump
If you have an old (‘G’ rated) boiler you could save about £195 p.a. by installing an A-rated one, which would pay for itself in less than 10 years (gas) or 15 years (oil). Better still, heat pumps can not only reduce the energy needed to heat your house and provide hot water by about two thirds but they can also help to eliminate carbon emissions, particularly when used in conjunction with a green electricity supply.
Heat pumps are expensive to install (£7-13K) and at present the running costs are higher than for gas heating. They work by transferring heat from the outside air or ground to radiators or underfloor heating. They can also heat water stored in a hot water cylinder for your hot taps, showers and baths. If your current heating system uses oil or LPG, replacement with a heat pump may be cost effective with the benefit of a grant.
Grants for insulation and low carbon heating systems
Home Upgrade Grant
Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) is offering grant funded insulation for low income households across the district through the Home Upgrade Grant (HUG). HUG funding is available to you whether you own or privately rent* your home (subject to terms and conditions). You can use the HUG for loft insulation, draft proofing or cavity wall insulation. If you own your home, the entire cost of the works will be covered by the grant and a maximum of £5,000 is available for improvements if you rent your home from a landlord.
HBC is offering HUGs through the Better Homes Yorkshire initiative.
*You will need your landlord’s permission to carry out any work if you are in private rented accommodation.
The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (Domestic RHI)
This is a government financial incentive to promote the use of renewable heating. Switching to heating systems that use eligible energy sources that can help the UK reduce its carbon emissions and meet its renewable energy targets. People who join the scheme and stick to its rules receive quarterly payments for seven years for the amount of clean, green renewable heat it’s estimated their system produces.
Since opening in April 2014, the scheme has already seen thousands of people successfully join and receive payments. Further details are on the OFGEM website.
This scheme will close in March 2022.
The Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS)
This scheme offers capital grants of £5-6K to property owners to install heat pumps and in some limited circumstances, biomass boilers, to replace fossil fuel (oil, LPG, natural gas, coal) heating systems.
The scheme will open in spring 2022. Further details are available on the OFGEM website.