Home Energy Saving
Energy ratings similar to consumer appliance ratings will have to be produced for every home bought and sold in England and Wales from June 2007. The new Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) will be an essential part of the Home Information Pack.
The certificates will give home buyers and sellers A to G ratings for their home’s energy efficiency and carbon emissions. They will tell them current average costs for heating, hot water and lighting in their home as well as how to cut costs with energy efficiency measures.
The reports, prepared by qualified home inspectors, will advise consumers on which energy measures - ranging from thicker loft insulation right through to solar panels - could cut carbon emissions from their home and improve their energy rating.
The energy ratings will be included in Home Condition Reports (HCRs) which will set out important independent information on the condition of the property as part of the Home Information Pack.
The Energy Saving Trust, on behalf of the government, manages the network of 52 local Energy Efficiency Advice Centres (EEACs). They are run by a variety of bodies and are not consistently branded.
These centres can provide you with expert advice about saving energy in your home.
Call 0800 512 012 to speak to a local advisor or submit the form at www.est.org.uk/myhome/localadvice
Before you commit to the expense of a solar heating system or your own wind turbine there are many simple and some inexpensive things that can be done to improve your home’s energy performance and these measures are also a pre-requisite for an award of a government grant for your renewables project. See the Grants page for more information.
Minimising heat loss
Millions of homes in the UK still do not have adequate insulation. Go outside when the snow comes and look at your property. If the snow is settling on your neighbours’ roofs and not on yours, you are paying the energy bill to melt that snow!
Cavity Walls - if you have cavity walls you can easily get insulation blown in. This is a tried and tested technology, there are thousands of qualified contractors nationwide, it can pay for itself within 12 months and takes less than a day to do.
Click here for links to Cavity Wall Insulation Suppliers
Loft insulation is even cheaper to install and in most cases can be done by the householder. The more insulation you install, the less heat that is lost, although eventually the cost of the insulation (both environmentally and financially) becomes as great as the savings. The optimum thickness has been shown to be 350mm, Building Regulations insist on a minimum of 250mm. If your loft space has been converted into a room then you will need to insulate in the sloping roof. High levels of insulation can be hard to achieve because a free air space of 50mm must be left between the insulation and the tiling felt, unless this felt is of a low-vapour resistance type. The most economic way of achieving a good thickness of insulation in the roof slope is to have two layers of timber: the first to support the roof finish, the second to support the insulation and ceiling finish. Insulation can then fill in between the timbers, providing a thermal break between the timbers. If you wish to be as “green” as possible fit loft insulation from a natural and sustainable resource such as Thermafleece made from sheep’s wool.
Click here for Loft and Roof Insulation Suppliers
Floor insulation is easy to install if you can gain access to the space below the floorboards and can fit insulation bats between the floor joists. It is more difficult if there is no easy access to this space or you have a solid floor. It can be done by either lifting floorboards or raising the floor level.
Click here for Floor Insulation Companies
Draught-proofing is a very simple home efficiency job. Draughts will occur down chimneys, around window and door frames, through letterboxes and cat flaps, where services enter, at skirting boards, and between floorboards. As a simple test to find out where there is unwanted ventilation, carry around a smoking stick (joss stick or cigarette) - if held near a draught you will see the smoke blown horizontally. Some ventilation is essential, for example providing air to rooms with fuel burning appliances and ventilating timbers in the roof and floor, but it is easy to minimise unwanted ventilation. Use a sealant paste to fill in gaps around skirting boards, between floorboards and around service ducts. Unused chimneys should be boarded up. Compression seals and wiper seals are available from your local ironmonger and can be used on openings such as windows, doors, cat flaps and letterboxes.
Click here for Draught Proofing Suppliers
Low energy appliances and lighting can make a big difference to your energy bill. Low energy bulbs will save money, last longer and are more economical long-term. If you use a particular light for an average of four hours or more a day, then replace it with an energy-saving equivalent, using around a quarter of the electricity and lasting up to 12 times longer. Energy efficient bulbs cost around £5 each, but will give you a saving on your bills of £10 over the year.
When buying a new appliance it is useful to look at the energy rating especially for frequently used high energy items such as washing machines. Appliances are rated from A to G, A being the most energy efficient.
Always wash a full load and if you can't, use a half-load or economy programme if your machine has one. Always use the low temperature programme bearing in mind that modern washing powders will be just as effective at lower temperatures.
Click here for Low Energy Lighting Suppliers
Lagging your hot water tank makes sense and is relatively inexpensive. Why pay to heat the water and then let the heat dissipate away? Fit a British Standard jacket that's at least 7.5cm thick. It will cost around £10 and will give a saving of £10-£15 a year. Hot water pipes can also be insulated to stop heat escaping from them. The best pipes to insulate are the ones between the boiler and hot water cylinder. Cost: around £1 per metre.
Good energy practice is to remember to turn off lights in rooms that are unoccupied, turn off appliances that are normally left on standby, and consider turning your central heating down by one or two degrees. Have a look at the hot water cylinder thermostat; the ideal temperature for most people is 60°C/140°F.
Double Glazing, Thermal Glass and Glass Coatings.
Although rather expensive, double glazing units are superb insulators compared to single glazed windows. If climate change is going to mean colder winters then the payback time will come down from decades to years on double glazing your home.
However not all windows can be double glazed. English Heritage estimates that there are 44 million single glazed sash windows in the UK many of which are in listed buildings. For these and as an alternative to double glazing there are replacement glass and glass coating products on the market that are efficient at stopping heat loss and also trap solar heat inside the building. This is the greenhouse effect working for your benefit.
Sunpipes are an innovative way to pipe natural daylight from your rooftop into your home to save on lighting by brightening areas from dusk till dawn where daylight from windows cannot reach.
Underfloor heating is a low temperature heating system that, used in conjunction with a condensing boiler, can be 20% more fuel efficient than the equivalent radiator based system, is particularly suited to new build and is suited to taking heat from a ground source, solar or other renewable system. It gives a more even and balanced temperature across the interior space and avoids the need for radiators that can limit furniture placement. However the heat is not as instantly available as radiator based central heating so it is more suited to buildings that are occupied for longer periods in the day, a family home with young children for example.
Click here for links to Underfloor Heating Suppliers and Contractors.
Environmental Building Design
Environmental buildings should aim to cause the minimum harm to the environment whilst maximising the sustainability and adaptability of the building for its potential users throughout its lifecycle.
In its simplest form it means ensuring that a new building makes best use of its orientation and position for solar gain, that it is designed to minimise energy use, that it is insulated as effectively as possible, that it is constructed from materials from sustainable sources and that the wastes that are generated from its use are dealt with ecologically.
Whilst we are not suggesting that we all live in houses built from straw bales, used tyres or rammed earth from now on, the government has chosen to accept the recommendation of the Sustainable Building Task Group that a Sustainable Building Code should be developed. It is probable that this will be based on the Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) and the BRE’s Ecohomes System.
Click here for companies offering Environmental Building advice, products and services.
The government’s Energy Review 2006 reaffirms the existing commitment to eliminate “fuel poverty” which is defined as the need to spend more than 10% of a family’s disposable income on energy to maintain a healthy living environment. To that end, families that can claim one of the following benefits may be eligible to receive 100% grants for insulation, lighting or more efficient heating systems:
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- Council Tax Benefit (but not including the single occupancy reduction)
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Attendance Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance
- War Disablement Pension (which must include mobility supplement or constant attendance allowance)
- Disablement Pension Credit (which must include constant attendance allowance)
- Child Tax Credit (with a household income of less than £14,600)
- Working Tax Credit (with a household income of less than £14,600)
- State Pension Credit
The mechanisms for achieving this commitment are the Warm Front programme in England, Scotland’s Warm Deal and Central Heating Programme, Wales’ Home Energy Efficiency Scheme and Northern Ireland’s Warm Home Scheme.