Climate change is all around us – and it’s not good news.
Four new UK weather records were set in 2019, including the highest winter and summer temperatures ever recorded, and the 2010s were the second hottest and second wettest decades of the past 100 years according to the Met Office.
This matters because the consequences of climate change for the UK are likely to be warmer summers, milder winters, more rain and – possibly – more flooding. We should all be doing our bit to help tackle climate change and looking for ways to create energy-efficient homes is a good place to start.
What We Can Do to Help Climate Change
Scientists urge us to act now to save energy, use more sustainable materials, and contribute less to further global warming. On a more practical note, as energy becomes more expensive, it makes sense to adjust our lifestyles and consider energy-efficient home design ideas.
10 Ways to Make a Home Energy-Efficient
Most of our homes are less than energy-efficient because they are old and built to less demanding standards than modern properties.
The 10 energy-saving measures below involve an initial outlay but will help to create an energy-efficient house and many produce long-term cost savings too.
- Install a Smart Meter: Smart meters give a minute-by-minute reading of electricity and gas usage, allowing you to identify what activity uses the most energy. Shorter showers, off-peak use of dishwashers and washing machines, and switching TV and other devices off instead of leaving them on standby could all improve your home’s energy efficiency rating and save money on utility bills, too.
- Insulate your Home: Keeping water and heating pipes covered reduces heat-loss, meaning you can turn down the thermostat and reduce energy bills. The most effective measures include lining the loft, lagging pipes, injecting insulation material into cavity walls, and draught-proofing by blocking unwanted gaps around windows or underneath doors.
- Double or Triple Glazed Windows: Double glazing means two windowpanes with a gap between, sometimes filled with a heat-absorbing gas. Double glazing traps a layer of warmth and helps keep out noise. Triple glazing has a third layer to multiply the effect. Before you install, check with your council that you are not in a conservation area which may mean you cannot fit modern windows of this kind.
- Fit Solar Panels: An increasingly popular method of saving energy in the home is fitting solar panels. You’ll have seen these panels (also called photovoltaic cells or PVs) on more and more roofs. They capture the sun’s energy, absorbing rays even on relatively cloudy days. The cells convert this into electricity which can contribute to running the property’s heating, lighting and electrical devices, helping to create an energy-efficient home.
- Energy-efficient Light Bulbs: The most common new energy-efficient type of lighting is LED: this stands for Light Emitting Diode and these lights take 75 per cent less energy and last 25 times longer than old-fashioned ‘incandescent’ lighting. Most new homes now have LED lighting and energy-efficient light bulbs as standard.
- Create A Roof Garden: Instead of conventional materials like tiles or concrete, there can be a roof lawn or plant growth. It looks cool, improves a home’s energy efficiency by making the area beneath the roof warmer, limits excessive rain-water run-off damaging walls or gutters, and is ideal for biodiversity. But the property must be strong enough to support the roof which may be heavier than traditional materials.
- Harvest Rainwater: Heavy rain is expected to increase thanks to climate change, so collecting it in a water-butt gives you a ready supply of water for the garden, to flush the loo or even run washing machines – soft rain eliminates the need for conditioners. These all save using the increasingly valuable resource that is tap water, but remember, rainwater should not be used for drinking.
- Use A Garden Compost Bin: Don’t waste leftover food: it can become compost, a kind of fertiliser to maintain your garden (or your families’ or friends’ allotments) which assists growth plant and vegetable growth.
- Alternative Building Materials: Your home is already built but any extension or outbuilding could be constructed with more sustainable materials than bricks and mortar. Ecobricks are plastic ‘bricks’ stuffed solid with non-biological waste to create a reusable building block – some schools are now being built of this energy-efficient building material. Some specialist builders use cob (a mix of mud and straw which combines to form very solid bricks).
- Buy From Zero Waste Shops: Jam jars, milk bottles, cleaning containers and scores of other everyday products can now be bought from the growing number of Zero Waste shops, meaning every time you buy a refill you don’t have to pay for an environmentally-damaging new plastic or glass container.
Funding Schemes to Help with Home Energy Efficiency
Are you keen to create an energy-efficient home but don’t know where to start – or wary of big expenditure? There may be help at hand with a home energy efficiency scheme.
For some green improvements, you may be entitled to a grant or loan. Many local councils operate schemes – eligibility varies according to where you live and your own circumstances, but a full list is on www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk, a government website.
For those born before April 6 1954 and who lived in the UK for at least one day between September 16 and 29 2019 (the qualifying period), there’s a one-off annual winter fuel payment of £100 to £300. The government writes to each recipient to explain how much they get. Some older residents get additional government money in extremely cold weather.
The Warm Home Discount scheme, operating until February 28 2020, gives rebates on electricity bills to vulnerable resident over autumn and winter – call 0800 731 0214.
E.on, EDF and Npower – three of the ‘big six’ energy firms in the UK – offer subsidies for new energy-efficient boilers for some residents; eligibility varies so check firms’ websites. There are also two energy-efficient home schemes for those with solar panels or domestic wind turbines – Smart Export Guarantee and the Renewable Heat Incentive – which mean that in certain circumstances if you generate your own electricity any excess can be sold to commercial energy suppliers. There are more details on the energy regulator’s website, www.ofgem.gov.uk