Unfortunately, most houses and flats in Britain were constructed at a time when energy conservation was unheard of. The result is that most have little insulation or double glazing. Instead they have draughty windows, gaps between floorboards and old, inefficient boilers. They lose heat like a sieve leaks water, and it takes your money with it.
To generate heat we use electricity or burn gas - either way, we use fossil fuels. And this releases carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere that is helping to heat the planet. If we want to tackle global warming and save ourselves some cash, we should begin work at home.
Get Your Home in Shape
The first step to greening your home is to give it an energy check. You can get an expert in, try an online home energy calculator or work it out yourself.
Basically you need to find out how well insulated your home is. Does it have insulation in the loft or roof space? If so, is it the recommended 270 mm deep? If it has cavity walls, are the cavities filled with insulating material? What about your windows? Are they double-glazed? Are there gaps in the frames or around outside doors that let draughts in?
Contact your local power supplier as they will offer you deals on home insulation and low energy appliances. Fit draughtproofing where you can, and contact local builders or insulation experts for quotes on fitting insulation and double glazing. All this can reduce your heating bills by a third.
Help Your Home
There are also plenty of cheaper ways to imnprove energy efficiency at home. Firstly, replace every light bulb with a low energy equivalent – this can more than halve the electricity needed to light your home. Note: these new bulbs can’t be dimmed.
Make sure you turn off gadgets and unplug phone chargers, computers, hi-fi and other electrical gadgets when you aren’t using them. Even though they may not look guilty, these things can guzzle power.
What about your electrical appliances like fridges? If they’re old and you’re thinking about renewing them, make sure you go for the latest, most energy efficient model.
Another excellent way to save energy is to tweak the central heating and hot water controls. Turn down the thermostat a degree or two. Alter the clock so the central heating and water heater come on for a few minutes less each day. Over a year these changes can make a significant saving to your energy use. For advice contact the Energy Saving Trust.
Think and Act Green
So you switch off lights and electrical gadgets if they are not needed? But will you change your behaviour permanently? There’s little point acting once then slipping back into old ways. And you must get the whole family involved.
One of the best ways to change the way we view energy use is to install a smart energy meter. You can buy small meters for as little as £40 which connect to a wire attached to your electricity meter, and which then transmits your energy use to a small wireless display. This means you can see how much energy your household is using instantly.
Tests have shown that these meters can help people cut energy use by up to 15% - being aware of the jump in consumption when you switch on a TV or light bulb will encourage the family to be more careful. A saving of 10% or so on your bill could save you up to £50 every year.
Don’t Forget the Wet Stuff
Making your home a greener place isn’t just about reducing your energy consumption. Water is a precious resource too – just look at the droughts and hosepipe bans that Britain faces every summer. So think about ways in which you can reduce the amount of water you use.
Turning off the tap while you brush your teeth is an obvious trick. Add a brick or special inflatable bag to your toilet cistern and you will reduce the amount of water you flush away. Only use the dishwasher when it is full. Take showers rather than baths, and if you have a power shower, think about buying a water efficient shower head. Or simply share a bath or shower with a friend. Who says going green can’t be fun!
You can save water in the garden too. Buy water butts to collect rainwater and use this rather than the hosepipe to spray on your flowers.
Even if you are on a low income you can still green your home. There are plenty of grants - from both local councils and government – that will help towards the cost of, say, loft insulation.
Your local power suppliers will be able to help save you money with special offers. home insulation grants can also be claimed through some of the larger building contractors. For more information contact your local council or utility company.