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Energy efficiency is a major consideration for both homeowners and home buyers alike. As a society, we are increasingly concerned about the impact that our homes are having on the environment. Indeed, data suggests that the average annual carbon footprint of a UK home is 10 tonnes per year and that UK housing now contributes over 40% of the country’s overall carbon emissions. But savvy homeowners are not only motivated by an altruistic desire to protect the environment, they also know that an energy efficient home means lower bills.

Given the importance of energy performance to homeowners, we suggest ten initiatives that can improve a homes efficiency. When deciding whether to undertake any of the following, homeowners should consider not only the payback period of the investment, but also the resulting potential increase in property value.

1. Heating

Heating can account for up to 60% of a home’s energy consumption, so it’s certainly worth giving it some attention. An “A” rated condensing boiler will save up to £300 per year over a G rated boiler. Also, by introducing smart and “learning” thermostats home owners can control heating to achieve the optimal temperature at the minimum cost and can save up to £75 on heating bills. Finally, remember to turn down radiators in any rooms that are not in frequent use.

2. Loft Insulation

In an average home, up to 25% of the heat is lost through the roof. Remember that warm air rises and if there is nothing to stop it escaping, you are paying a lot of money to warm the environment and not your home. Insulating the loft is not hugely expensive, but can save a couple of hundred pounds in reduced heating costs per year. The average payback period for loft insulation is just over two years, so you will be putting money back into the bank in relatively short order.

3. Cavity wall insulation

In a home without wall insulation, almost a third of heat is lost through the walls. Having the walls insulated can save up to £200 per year in energy bill savings.

4. Windows

Installing double or triple glazing can have a big impact on heating bills with savings of up to £150 per year achievable in an average home. Double or triple glazing also offers the additional benefits of reduced external noise, fewer draughts and less condensation.

5. Efficient appliances

In 2014, a Powering the Nation report studied energy use across the UK. The report showed that an average household uses 41 different electrical appliances. While we don’t advocate that you change out all of these immediately, when it is time to upgrade, then select appliances with high energy efficiency ratings. Cooking accounts for almost 15% of an average household electricity bill and by choosing an A+ electric oven you could use 40% less energy than using a B rated oven. Similarly,  A+++ fridge freezers save almost £200 in energy costs compared to an A+ model over the products expected useful life. When you apply this logic to all appliances in the home, considerable savings are achievable. 

6. Let there be light – or at least, more efficient light

A typical home spends about 15% of its energy bill on lighting. Changing all light bulbs for energy efficient LED’s can save up to £35 per year. The cost of LED lighting is often seen as prohibitive to making the upgrades, but taking into account that an LED bulb has a potential life of 24,000 hours (compared to an incandescent bulb's lifetime of no more than 2,000 hours), then the saving becomes more apparent.

7. Efficient water usage

Installing low flow shower heads, faucets and toilets can have a considerable impact on water usage. Just installing a water efficient shower head alone can save up to £100 on water usage and £75 on water heating bills where the water is taken directly from a boiler or hot water tank. When it comes to washing clothes, 90% of a washing machine's energy is spent heating the water. Washing at 30 degrees rather than 40 degrees can result in savings of approximately £50 per year.

8. Draught proof

It’s amazing how much cold air can penetrate the smallest of gaps during the winter months. Ensure all windows and doors close properly and where appropriate, have draught seals. Also consider seals for the letter box and a balloon for any unused chimney. Caulk, seal and weather strip all areas of the home where cold air can penetrate. Average annual savings from a home that has been draught proofed can be up to £35.

9. Human behaviour

In addition to all of the upgrades that you can make to your home, don’t forget that changing human behaviour may be the biggest contribution you can make to energy efficiency. For example, reducing the thermostat by just 1 degree can save an average household over £70 per year in heating costs. Getting into the habit of turning off lights when they are not needed can also save a further £50 per year. And, by turning appliances off completely (not leaving them on standby mode), homeowners can save over £50 per year.

10. Keep an eye on usage

Installing an energy monitor will help you keep an eye on your usage.  People who fit home energy monitors tend to find their energy use drops by between five and fifteen per cent in the first year of using them.

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