In this LV= home insurance article, sustainability journalist Rachel England looks at the ways homeowners can do their bit to be greener.
You’ll save a lot of energy by investing in proper insulation to stop heat escaping from your home, advises Aiden Bell, founder of sustainable construction company EnviroBuild.
‘Pipes, walls and roofs all lose a lot of heat if not properly insulated,’ he says. ‘This just wastes energy, not to mention money spent on heating bills.’
According to the Energy Saving Trust, insulating the roof of a semi-detached house costs around £300 but could save you £130 a year in heating costs. A hot water cylinder jacket, meanwhile, costs about £15 and could save you £20 a year.
Recycling conserves resources, saves energy, protects the environment and reduces landfill, and everyone’s actions make a difference. According to Recycle Now, if everyone in the UK recycled just one toothpaste box, it would save enough energy to run a fridge in over 2,000 homes for a year.
‘Most people recycle, so if you already have a recycling bin in the kitchen, make sure you pop one in the bathroom or bedroom too (a bag on the back of the door works well if you’re short on space),’ says Craig Stephens, campaign manager for Recycle Now.
And don’t forget about food waste, as your council may well recycle it.
‘Reducing your food waste could save you money on grocery bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But for unavoidable things such as egg shells or banana peels, use a food waste caddy. If your council doesn’t collect food waste, and you have a garden, create a compost pile at home.’
When pockets of air get trapped in your radiators, heating up your home becomes much more difficult.
‘Trapped air means you need to keep your heating on for much longer to feel the same results. Bleeding your radiators helps them heat up faster and so saves energy as well as money on energy bills,’ says Adam Kendrew, ecommerce manager at The Electrical Guys.
Make them work even more efficiently by adding normal kitchen foil to the back of any radiators positioned on external walls.
‘This will reflect the heat back into the room, giving you more warmth for your money,’ he says. Or if that seems too fiddly, invest in some ready-made foil radiator panels.
If you want to reduce your energy consumption, it’s helpful to know how much you’re using to start with. An energy monitor will help.
‘From the minute you get one installed you can see how much energy you’re using and identify ways to reduce energy waste,’ says Robert Cheesewright, director of corporate affairs at Smart Energy GB.
‘Our research shows that more than eight in 10 people with a smart meter say they have a better idea of what they’re spending on energy, and it’s projected that smart meters will help people save almost £50 a year on their energy bills by 2030.’
Many energy companies and even some councils provide monitors free of charge, although you can pick one up yourself for as little as £20.
Smart home technology has made it easier than ever to keep on top of your energy consumption. Instead of relying on complicated boiler controls or having to be physically present in your home to change your heat settings, systems such as Hive and Wiser make everything easy to understand and manage at the tap of a button, wherever you are.
‘A smart multi-room heating system is a great long-term investment that will save you money as well as make your home more comfortable, by only heating the rooms you’re using and to the temperatures you prefer,’ says Mikael Eliaeson, product manager at heating company Drayton. ‘In fact, according to trade association BEAMA, adding smart controls to your heating system can save over 40% in running costs and lead to a 25% reduction in energy bills.’
There are plenty of companies on the market that provide green energy, whether that’s by carbon offsetting, or by creating electricity from renewable sources such as wind power. Scottish Power, for example, has recently become the first company to use 100% renewable energy.
Switching to a greener provider can reduce your carbon footprint as well as save you money. Last year, Green Energy Switch customers saved an average of £270.06 per year on their bills after using their comparison service.
‘Switching is not the hassle that people often imagine it is,’ says project manager Sarah Chatterton. ‘Simply provide your address and current supplier details and a selection of energy suppliers are supplied for you to choose from.’
Your new energy company will take care of the whole switching process for you.
According to Nicci Russell, managing director of Waterwise, hot water use in homes accounts for about 5% of all UK carbon emissions, so taking a few simple steps to reduce your water consumption can make a big difference.
‘Remember to turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, shaving or washing your face – a running bathroom tap wastes approximately six litres per minute,’ she says.
Knocking just a minute off your shower time will also have an impact.
‘If everyone in a four-person, metered household with a power shower did this, it could save them £60 on energy bills and a further £60 on water bills every year.’
The cleanest energy is renewable energy, and you can generate your own with solar panels.
‘Not only will you have the opportunity to save up to 60% on your annual energy bills, you’ll also be reducing your carbon footprint and helping contribute to the world’s shift towards clean power,’ says Dudley Moor-Radford, managing director of energy storage company Moixa.
You’ll also receive payments for the amount of energy you generate overall, as well as any energy your panels transfer back to the grid. According to the Energy Saving Trust, the average domestic solar panel system costs around £6,200 and could pay for itself in around 10 years, depending on where you live.
However, keep in mind that the government is considering closing their solar panel scheme to new applicants from 1 April 2019.
Taking steps to be more eco-conscious at home can, in the long run, save you energy and money – even doing something as simple as recycling a cardboard box, or having a slightly shorter shower, could have an impact.