With 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions attributed to the transport and residential sectors, there is a long way to go before we achieve the 2030 reduction target of 57% below 1990 levels.
Many people still mistakenly believe that their actions do not make a difference to the environment, but the statistics are showing that we decreased our UK net CO2 emissions by an impressive 44% between 1990 and 2018. There are now so many ways to save money, energy and the planet without having to invest too much time or effort. This section will focus on the small, medium and large solutions which can significantly help to reduce the carbon emissions your home produces and fight climate change.
The average house spends £1,254 on fuel bills each year, which can be up to 50% more than necessary due to the lack of energy-saving measures being implemented in the home.
There is also an Energy Saving Checklist which you can download to help you decide which measures you might want to adopt straightaway and those which may need a little more time, planning and financial investment.
All houses when bought, sold or rented require an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This is an assessment of how energy efficient the property is. EPCs cost around £150 and the rating given is similar to that of household appliances ranging from A-G, A being the most efficient.
Draught proofing is a low cost but highly effective solution to reducing heat loss throughout your home. Typically, all the entrance and exits will have some degree of heat loss as well as window frames, chimneys, letterboxes and cat flaps. In addition, any gaps between floor boards, skirting boards or water or electricity entry points can be areas where draughts can occur; these can easily be eradicated with flexible sealant.
Removing the draughts not only keeps heat in during the winter but the heat out during the summer. You can simply determine where heat is escaping with a small feather or burning joss stick – if the smoke or feather moves you know you have a draught to deal with.
It is, however, important to be mindful that some fuel-burning appliances do require ventilation and also timbers in the roof and floor.
Windows are the next problem if you don’t or can’t have double glazing. While it may not be the cheapest solution, installing secondary glazing or even triple glazing will ensure you are draught free.
If you can’t afford to replace your doors and windows, some of the easiest and cheapest measures for draught proofing are:
Insulation is one of the most cost-effective ways of retaining heat within a home, and is part of the Government’s focus on reducing fuel bills for homeowners. 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, heat is escaping through your roof and you are paying the energy bill to melt that snow!
Loft insulation is one of the easiest ways to help retain heat and is heavily subsidised by energy suppliers and even free for qualifying residents (those on low incomes and those over 70). The more loft insulation you install, the less heat is lost. The optimum thickness for insulation has been shown to be 350mm, and Building Regulations insist on a minimum of 270mm.
If your loft space has been converted into a room then you will need to insulate in the sloping ceiling. 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 the felt is low-vapour resistant. The most economical way of achieving a good thickness of insulation in the roof slope is to use two layers of timber: the first to support the roof finish, the second to support the insulation and ceiling finish. Insulation can then be filled in between the timbers, providing a thermal break.
If you wish to be as “green” as possible, fit loft insulation from a natural and sustainable resource such Thermafleece, which is made from sheep’s wool.
In order to maximise heat retention, older properties can benefit from cavity wall insulation, which again is subsidised by energy suppliers but can also be installed relatively cheaply. The wall insulation stops heat leaving or entering the cavity wall space, therefore helping to reduce the need to switch on heating systems more frequently in winter or air-conditioning units on during the summer.
Also available is floor insulation; however, this can be a much more invasive installation, as floors have to be removed in order to put the insulation into the space between joists.
Any door or window in your property has the potential to let heat escape from your home. If your doors have gaps you can see through, it might be a cheaper long-term solution to replace them, ensuring they are professionally fitted and contain triple glazing.
The same applies to your windows and although the cost of both doors and windows does require significant investment, the amount saved in heating bills could pay back the outlay much faster than you think.
Although rather expensive, double glazed windows are superb insulators compared to single glazed windows. If climate change is going to mean colder winters, the payback time will come down from decades to years when double glazing your home.
However, not all windows can be double glazed. English Heritage estimates 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 such as thermal glass 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 electricity bills by brightening areas from dusk till dawn where daylight from windows cannot reach.
Buy A+ rated Appliances: 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, fridges and freezers.
Appliances are rated from A to G. All white goods such as washing machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers, fridges and freezers have an appliance rating.
A is the most energy efficient. As the technology and energy efficiency of products has increased, so have the ratings.
Fridges and freezers also now have A+ and A++ ratings.
All new boilers installed must now be either A or B energy-efficiency rated.
If you can’t upgrade your boiler then 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.
They 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. This costs around £1 per metre.
In order to have a much larger impact on your carbon emissions, the best solution is to install renewable energy or microgeneration technology in your home. You can find more details on each technology on this website.
Although these solutions do involve higher investment the payback and reduction in both energy bills and carbon emissions is significant. Solutions include:
Underfloor heating without a ground or air source is still a very energy efficient way to heat your home. You can either purchase a wet or electric system. The wet method is a low-temperature heating system that, when used in conjunction with a condensing boiler, can be 20% more fuel-efficient than the equivalent radiator-based system.
Underfloor heating provides radiant heat which raises the temperature of the fabric of the room. This suppresses the perception of body heat loss while also being warm underfoot, which in turn maintains a constant heat which lasts longer. This means the overall temperature of the system can be much lower than the heat and energy needed for traditional wet/radiator systems.
Most people have now become accustomed to recycling and are used to dividing up their household items to ensure that the minimum amount of waste goes to landfill. There are more than 2300 landfill sites across the UK and it is not simply a question of waste; the methane gas which it creates is a contributor to climate change. Leachate is also a bi-product of older landfill sites and can pollute our water supplies.
Items which can be recycled
By the council:
Glass, paper, card, plastic, green garden waste
By your local Recycling Centre (also supermarkets, charity shops and rag and bone men):
Foil, batteries, bicycles, books, Christmas trees, computers, mobile phones, old medications, egg boxes, furniture, aluminium, steel, tin, oil, paint, printer/toner cartridges, shoes, clothes, eye glasses, TVs, tyres.
Sometimes it is important to think about the wider ramifications of how, what and where we buy our food and household items.
Below are a few suggestions which will help reduce carbon emissions beyond the UK and your own waste levels.
The Government has set out to ensure all households in the UK become more aware of the gas and electricity they are using. As part of the CERT scheme and the new Green Deal it is intended that every house should have a Smart Meter and energy suppliers have been tasked with distributing these to their customers.
The Smart Meter is attached to the mains cable by the meter and a wireless monitor can be carried around the home to see the usage and cost of electricity.
As items are turned on and off it is possible then to calculate which products use the most electricity. Some meters can be attached to each product and assessed individually.
Although customers will have to pay for the smart meters through an increase to their electricity rates, the hope is that the savings, which are made through becoming more conscious about the energy we use, will far outweigh the increase in cost.
The new Green Deal created by government aims to continue Smart Meter distribution to 2018.
All buildings should aim to cause the minimum harm to the environment while maximising the sustainability and adaptability of the building for its potential users throughout its life cycle.
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.
The Government’s formal policy is The Code for Sustainable Homes on how to build an energy efficient and sustainable home. It was based on the Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) and the BRE Ecohomes System.
The Code contains six award levels ranging from 10% efficiency to zero carbon. Building Regulation changes in October 2010 now meet Level 3 of the Code which ensures any new building commercial or domestic must be 25% energy efficient.
It is essential for anyone looking to build a property is familiar with the Code for Sustainable Homes and the consequences of the latest changes to Building Regulations. However in order to ensure you meet minimum standards aim further in your design, construction and completion. The more environmentally designed your building the more you will save money and help climate change.
The level of financial help you can receive is affected by your circumstances and what you want to do. Funding is available from Government schemes, Local Authorities and Energy Suppliers.
The current Government funding focuses on insulation and replacement heating systems and boilers. The following schemes are currently in place:
Currently there are no government grants available to help with the up-front costs and installation of renewable energy systems but the Government is looking at special green loans and financing deals which have low interest rates to help encourage the adoption of green technology.
The Feed In Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive are currently the main channels of central government funding for private individuals and homeowners installing renewable energy technology.
The Government also launched a pilot scheme in 2009/10 called Pay as You Save, for a selection of 500 homes to have an energy make-over. There were no upfront costs for installation and long term repayments were set which were lower than the predicted energy bill savings. Instead of the loan being allocated to the owner it was placed on the property, so if the house is sold, the loan remains on the house and becomes the responsibility of the new occupier. The pilot scheme has now closed but hopefully a national scheme will be announced as a result.
Energy saving light bulbs, smart meters, new boilers and cavity wall and loft insulation are heavily subsidised by energy suppliers to those who qualify. To that end, families that claim one of the following benefits may be eligible to receive 100% grants for insulation, lighting or more efficient heating systems:
There are some local government and council schemes to help with energy saving and energy efficiency measures in the home. A good starting point is the Energy Savings Trust also provides advice for individuals, businesses and the public sector and has lots of very useful information about energy saving. You can also contact your local advice centre by calling 0800 512012 (Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm) to see what help is available in your area.