Green Home Improvements
Energy saving home improvements are a great way to help the environment and may lighten the load on your wallet. What’s more, many green home improvements are easier than you think. From solar panels to eco-friendly flooring, here are some of the ways you can transform your property and make your home more sustainable.
Install solar panels
One of the most obvious green home improvements is to install solar panels on your roof. And no, you don’t need to live near the equator – solar panels require daylight, rather than sunshine, so the number of daylight hours is the key consideration. Solar panels work best on south-facing roofs and generally don’t require planning permission unless you live in a conservation area, a listed building, or a flat-roofed property.
On average, solar panel systems cost £6,200 to install and you can make annual electricity bill savings of up to £240 in London, or £220 in Scotland (prices accurate as of May 2019). While the government ended solar panel incentive payments in March 2019, the technology still offers a worthwhile route to sustainable home improvement.
Get an eco-friendly boiler
You can make great savings by installing a modern, energy-efficient boiler, especially when you consider that heating accounts for a majority of your energy bills . Modern condensing boilers are more efficient than conventional boilers because they require less heat from the burner and capture more of the heat before it’s released in the flue.
Condensing boilers – which can be combi or heat-only – are generally 25% more efficient than non-condensing boilers. Whether a regular or combi boiler is more energy-efficient depends on your usage – typically, large families who use lots of hot water are better-off with a regular boiler, which are more efficient at producing heat. However, combi boilers lose less heat and can be more efficient overall; they also require less space as they have no hot water cylinder, so often suit smaller households.
Try biomass heating
Biomass boilers and stoves offer some of the lesser-known types of sustainable home improvements. These wood-fuelled systems can be connected to your central heating and hot water boiler and according to the Energy Saving Trust, can shave as much as £960 a year off your bills, if you currently use an electric heating system. On the face of it, burning wood pellets, chips or logs doesn’t sound eco-friendly, but remember that the carbon dioxide emitted when the fuel burns is only half the story, as the plant would have absorbed CO2 while it was growing. If new replacement plants are grown and the fuel is locally sourced, biomass heating is one of the best green home improvements you can make .
Insulate your walls
Without proper insulation, heat can easily escape through the walls of your home. While properties built from the 1990s onwards typically have adequate insulation, if your home was constructed earlier you should assess whether you need cavity wall insulation or solid wall insulation. The former applies to properties built post-1920s; generally, the walls of these homes have gaps – or cavities – which can be filled with insulation material to keep more heat inside.
If your home was built before the 1920s it will most likely have solid walls, which means there are no cavities to fill with insulation. For these period homes, you can still insulate the external and internal walls, but the process is costlier than cavity wall insulation and for some historic homes, you may need a specialist installer.
Install eco-friendly flooring
For some of the best energy saving home improvements, look no further than the floor beneath your feet. Cork is a natural, renewable material, harvested and replenished in Spanish and Portuguese forests, so this type of flooring has strong green credentials. Another option is to consider reclaimed floor tiles, which have the advantage of being recycled from one owner to the next without extra production and transportation. Moreover, if you live on a ground floor, insulating under your floorboards – especially if there's an unheated cellar below – can prevent heat from escaping and save you money on bills.
Fit energy efficient windows
One of the most obvious green home improvements you can make is to install energy efficient windows. Double and triple-glazed windows create an insulating barrier to ensure heat is kept inside the property, reducing waste and saving you money. What’s more, steel and uPVC window frames can be recycled, while sustainably sourced timber is another option, especially for historic homes. If you live in a conservation area or period property, restrictions may apply and you will need to contact your council’s conservation officer.
Additional green home improvements
There are lots of additional ways you can carry out energy saving home improvements:
- Draught-proofing – block up gaps in your doors, windows and chimney to retain more heat.
- Loft insulation – if your loft is easily accessible, wool insulation can help you save energy. For inaccessible spaces, you can have insulation blown in by a professional using a specialist machine.
- Wind turbines – you can generate electricity with a domestic wind turbine – either freestanding or installed on your roof. They last around 20 years and cost as little as £9,900 to install a pole-mounted turbine (as of May 2019).
- Energy efficient lighting – switching to Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) can cut your electricity bills.
- Smart meters – these modern gas and electricity meters let you keep tabs on your energy output and how much it’s costing you. With real-time information at your fingertips, you can adapt your behaviour and save money.
For more advice on improving the energy efficiency of your home, check out our energy saving tips guide.
Energy saving home improvements can be cheaper than you think. Try these green home improvements and you’ll not only help the environment, but future-proof your home and cut costs in the long-run.
Always be cautious when undertaking any task that you’re not fully familiar with as you could injure yourself or those around you, seek professional help where required.