York Community Energy

How to heat your home for less: energy-saving tips

So you want to make your house more comfortable, cheaper to run and to reduce your carbon footprint. Where to start? It can all seem quite daunting, so we’ve broken it down into different levels, to give you tips on how you can start with some cheap and easy quick fixes and work your way up.

Level 1: Quick and easy

These are simple and relatively cheap energy saving measures which you can take to bring your bills down. You should consider doing these before looking at the more advanced measures.

Level 2: Medium cost, medium savings

These are more expensive and advanced than the level 1 measures, but also bring higher savings in terms of cost and emissions. They are commonly installed in UK houses, so it should be fairly easy to find an installer, and you may even be able to DIY to keep your costs down.

Level 3: Super insulation

These measures, sometimes referred to as “deep retrofit”, can be disruptive and have a high upfront cost, but can make a real dent in your energy bills. These kinds of measures aren’t very common, but are urgently needed across the majority of our UK housing stock to meet our legal climate obligations. If you are considering any of these measures, please get in touch – we’d love to help you get started on your retrofit journey, starting with a whole house assessment to identify the best improvements to suit your house and your lifestyle.

Level 0: Switch to a green energy supplier

This isn’t really an energy saving measure, but it will reduce your carbon footprint and might even save you some money! If you haven’t already, the first thing you should do is switch to a green energy supplier i.e. a company that sells electricity generated from 100% renewable sources. You may want to consider the following companies:

Other suppliers are now starting to offer green energy plans too, which is great, but not all of them are as green as they claim, so beware. You can’t go wrong with the above suppliers though (with a slight caveat for Ovo), and usually they come out at a similar price, or sometimes even cheaper than, non-renewable tariffs from other suppliers. Have a look – you might be surprised!

Level 1: Quick and easy

Level 2: Medium cost, medium savings

Level 2a: Double/triple-glazed windows

Level 3: Super insulation

If you have done all of the above and are still keen to further reduce your emissions, then you will want to consider what is known as “super insulation” or “deep retrofit”. This is a series of more drastic measures to install insulation in your home, which will save you a huge amount on your energy bills, but will also cost a lot to install and may involve significant disruption. However, if you are serious about reducing your heating demand and thus your carbon footprint (as we all should be), this is the way to go.

When considering a deep retrofit, the first step is to contact us to discuss it and arrange for a professional whole house assessment. Every house is different and will require different solutions; there is no “one size fits all” approach here. Below are some broad ideas of the kind of things you can do, but they may not necessarily be right for your house. It is vital that you speak to an expert before attempting any of these, and ideally you should create a whole house plan to make sure that any work you do now is not going to conflict with some other work that you decide to do in the future. Measures may include:

An important thing to remember with these kind of improvements is that the more you insulate and reduce airflow through your house with draught-proofing measures, the more you allow moisture to build up in the house. This can cause problems with mould and damp, so a high level of insulation needs to be matched by extra ventilation as well. There are various kinds of ventilation, which can be discussed during your whole house assessment.

Another thing to remember is that these kind of measures often involve quite a lot of disruption during their installation, which may make your house difficult to live in for a short time. You should be prepared for this and make sure the people installing these measures explain the level of disruption to be expected. For this reason, it’s best if you can time these improvements to coincide with general decorating and/or renovation work, so you only have to deal with one round of disruption instead of two or more.

Extra credit: electric heating and cooking

Once you have super-insulated your home, you will have drastically reduced your heating requirements, meaning that you have to use your gas boiler a lot less to heat your home to a comfortable temperature. You may even decide that some sort of electric heating system now looks feasible in terms of running costs, for example an air source heat pump (or ground source heat pump if you have the space or are willing to drill a very deep borehole on your land). In fact, it’s probably best to factor the heating system into your whole house plan. It’s worth noting that heat pumps are not a particularly good improvement to install on their own without insulating your house first, because they tend to run at a lower temperature than the average gas boiler. At the very least you will need to look at installing larger radiators or an underfloor heating system, but even still, in a leaky house, most of the heat will be lost to the outside world before you are able to feel the benefit. For this reason, a heat pump should be seen as a companion to a well insulated home rather than an alternative.

For water heating, you can use solar panels (either PV or thermal) on your roof to heat up water stored in a tank. Solar thermal panels heat the water more efficiently and also qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive, so you can recoup some of the costs over time. However, solar PV (electricity generation) is more flexible as the electricity can be used to power the rest of your house as well. There are various smart water tank solutions available that allow you to use the solar electricity to heat up the water only when that electricity is not needed elsewhere in the house.

If you are using a heat pump for space heating, you can also use it for water heating.

In terms of emissions caused by using gas in the home, space heating is the main culprit, followed by water heating. However, if you want to reduce your cooking emissions as well, you may want to consider replacing your gas oven with an electric oven and your gas hobs with induction hobs. Remember though, not all of your existing pans may be compatible with induction hobs, so you may need to factor some new pans into your budget!

 

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