Smart Energy GB – The Green Aisle

Craig Phillips Mask

Craig Phillips’ advice on making your home more energy efficient – from insulation to LED lightbulbs….

Draught excluder

A simple DIY task that anybody can do is to plug those draughts. Have a good look around your doors and windows, and if you find you’ve got a tiny little bit of draught coming in, it means your heat is also escaping. Draught excluders or draught insulations fitted around all the doors and windows can make a massive difference to stop heat escaping and cost a couple of pounds to buy. You could also try and make one! Put your craft skills to good use by making a draft excluder dog!

Think about those places that you wouldn’t expect heat to be escaping like a letterbox or cat flap. Even things like an unused fireplace or chimney will result in a lot of heat loss. These have simple DIY fixes, like installing a specialised balloon flue in chimneys that are not in use.

Insulation

Firstly, the Government’s Green Homes Grant scheme does cover insulation – such as solid wall insulation, cavity wall insulation and loft insulation.

Insulating your house properly is very important and it’s recommended to almost always start with the roof area. Check all around your loft, if there isn’t much lagging in the insulation up there, get some advice on how best to tackle it.

Loft

If access is easy to your loft and you have evenly spaced joists, you can use rolls of mineral wool insulation.
If access isn’t easy or you’re unsure, you can ask a professional to advise. If you have your insulation surveyed by a professional, their advice might mean you can improve and look to upgrade the insulation yourself. If it’s a bigger job, homeowners or landlords can apply for the Government’s Green Homes Grant Scheme in England, the vouchers for this can be used towards the cost of upgrading the energy efficiency of your home, including insulation. Make sure you appoint a contractor with the Government required accreditation, such as one with Trustmark.

Wall insulation

There are a number of different products on the market that can help you and the first step is figuring out what type of insulation you already have.

If it’s a house with cavity walls, you can have them injected with a foam inside them. This makes them more airtight and, of course, more energy efficient.

If you have a solid wall construction on your house, you can apply a rigid insulation foam board on the outside, this is then covered up by a lightweight silicon render. Sealing the gaps in the original wall and keeping heat inside.

Both of these should be carried out by an appropriately accredited contractor in order to comply with the Government’s Green Homes Grant scheme T+Cs.

Get a smart meter installed

One of the easiest things you can do is to speak to your energy supplier about getting a smart meter installed. Having a smart meter allows you to better manage your energy consumption at home and identify situations where you are using a lot of energy, which you can then change as necessary. But also, on a national level, they help to upgrade Britain’s energy system to one that can help tackle the climate crisis and meet our net zero target.

Technology to help us be more sustainable is changing all the time and it’s so exciting. Earlier this year, I got an electric vehicle. A smart energy system – with smart meters at the heart - will allow consumers to charge their vehicles when rates are low and energy is greenest, whilst hopefully lessening the peaks in electricity demand.

Switch off appliances

One thing you can do that costs you nothing, in fact saves you money, is walking around your house to check that appliances are turned off. This could include TVs on standby or lights in rooms you are not currently in; check they’re unplugged and that nothing is running that shouldn’t be.

Energy ratings

When it’s time to upgrade white goods in your house, do be careful about what products you purchase. All these items will have energy ratings on them from A+++, for most efficient, to G, the least efficient. Selecting white goods with the best efficiency rating, is not only good for the environment, but good for your pocket as the less energy used, the more money saved.

Also, don’t forget, that with your existing white goods, you don’t just have to upgrade to be more energy efficient in the way you use them – for example, doing a full wash rather than half a load and washing on the coolest possible cycle.

Solar panels / batteries

Solar panels are something I’m planning to install in my home. They're a great way of generating renewable and sustainable energy - which added together will help reduce carbon emissions. Smart technology is opening up so many exciting options - from storing solar energy in a battery to use later, to having a smart energy system, with smart meters at the heart, which may even make it possible for you to sell back the energy you generated to the grid.

If you haven’t yet installed solar panels or batteries, but are interested in exploring options, some of the cost for this could be saved using the Government’s Green Homes Grant Scheme for homeowners and landlords.

Floor underlay

When choosing floor underlay, on the ground floor the thicker and better quality you have the better. It means you can contain as much cold air from the floor slab from penetrating up into the house, avoiding the need to use central heating as much.

Likewise, those who live in a three or four-bedroom house, but often only use one or two bedrooms regularly, should be aware of controlling the central heating systems. Turning radiators off and closing the doors to rooms you’re not using along with having a good carpet underlay, helps contain the heat in the zones of the house that you’re using. Using less energy and reducing pressure on your combination boiler.

Charging appliances

Whatever electrical items you’re charging up in your house, whether it’s cordless power tools, your phone or your laptop, check the manufacturers advice on the batteries. You’ll find nowadays with modern batteries it takes as little as an hour to charge up and you can get dozens of hours use from a single charge. This compared to ten years ago, when it was the norm to just leave your phone to charge all night, this excessive charging leads to energy wastage and is not required for modern day tools.

Heat exchange systems

Something I considered for eco improvements in my home was a heat exchange system. While not a DIY job, if you’re in development or building a new house, it’s a definitely something to consider. It uses the energy from the sun that heats certain rooms, such as those with big south facing windows, and draws the warm air out of one room into a centralised system. This can then be dispersed into other rooms not benefitting from the same warming daylight, balancing out the heat in the house.

Water saving shower head

A water-saving shower head is great option for those looking to make their bathrooms more eco-friendly, with a simple DIY fixture change. Options include shower heads that regulate the water flow or that aerate the water. Both significantly increase the efficiency of your shower, saving water and energy, some can reduce water use by up to 50%.

LED lightbulbs

When the time comes to replace lightbulbs, replace them with LEDs, which are the most energy-efficient bulbs available. Even though they are more expensive to buy at first, they will save you money on your energy bills in the long-run as they are much cheaper to run and rarely need replacing. But, make sure you check which fitting you need for your new lightbulb.

Windows and doors

Energy efficient doors and double, or even triple, glazed windows make a huge difference to stop heat escaping, save money and are eligible within the Government’s Green Homes Grant Scheme.

Radiators

Bleed radiators to make sure they’re working as efficiently as possible. If they don’t heat up fully or gurgle, they probably contain air so you could be wasting energy. Make sure your radiators are off when you bleed them and use a radiator key. If you can, try also putting reflector panels or radiator foil behind the radiators to reflect heat back into the room.

Heating Controls

Over half the money spent on fuel bills goes towards heating and hot water. Turning down your room thermostat by just one degree can save a household around £60 a year and adding heating controls to your home is a simple way to regulate or reduce the temperature. Heating controls allow you to schedule your heating and hot water to go on and off when needed, they also allow you to select areas of your home to heat at a particular temperature, rather than heating your whole house at the same temperature. By installing and using heating controls efficiently you could save money and reduce your carbon footprint.