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Blog Post 26 April 2022

Grand Designs Live: how to save energy and money by reducing your carbon footprint

Did you know that adopting a low carbon lifestyle can help you save energy and money at home?

Our experts will be sharing their top tips at Grand Designs Live on how to live a low carbon lifestyle. They’ll cover a wide variety of solutions, from taking control of your heating and installing draught-proofing to insulation, solar panels and more.

If you’re at the show on 4 May, join our panel of experts in the Grand Theatre from 1pm. But don’t worry if you can’t make it! Here we share some of their ideas on how to make your home more sustainable in the short, medium and long-term.

Make these quick fixes today

Draught-proofing

Draught-proofing is one of the most effective ways to save energy and money. In the bedroom, block gaps in the window with draught-proofing strips. If you have an unused chimney, you can either fit a ‘cap’ normally made from terracotta or buy a chimney draught excluder. Heavy, lined curtains are an affordable quick fix, helping to keep more heat in and reducing energy loss from your home.

Heating controls

When it comes to heating, your thermostat should be set to the lowest comfortable temperature, typically between 18°C and 21°C. Turning your thermostat down by one degree can typically save you around £105 a year, while installing and correctly using a programmer room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves could save you £130 each year in an average semi-detached house.

Home appliances

If it’s time for a change in your kitchen, always look out for the energy label. Appliances are tested for how much energy they use during typical use. This gives them a rating on a scale of A to G, with A being the most efficient product of its class, and G being the least efficient. Some appliances use an older scale, from A+++ to G, with A+++ being the most efficient.

Fridges, freezers and fridge freezers are switched on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are some of the longest lasting appliances in our homes, so it’s worth finding an energy efficient model. They use the A to G scale, and choosing a higher rated fridge freezer can have a significant impact on your running costs. For example, choosing a D-rated fridge freezer over a F-rated unit will save you about £570 in energy bills over its 17-year lifetime.

Set some medium-term goals

Wall insulation

As the weather gets warmer you might not be thinking about the heating for much longer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare ahead for next winter! Did you know that about a third of all the heat lost in an uninsulated home escapes through the walls? By properly insulating the walls in your home, you will save energy and reduce your heating bills during the colder months.

In general, houses built from the 1990s onwards have wall insulation to keep the heat in, but if your house is older than that, it may not have any wall insulation at all. Most homes in the UK have a cavity wall, and the gap can be filled with insulation. We estimate that insulating your cavity walls could save you around £285 a year on your energy bills and cut your carbon footprint by an impressive 670kg!

Loft insulation

Similarly, unless you live in a mid-floor flat, your roof is another area where heat can escape. While most homes have at least some loft insulation, often it’s not enough. Topping up from 120mm to at least 270mm of insulation will help – and it’ll save you around £25 each year on your bills.

What’s more, if your loft is easy to access and has no damp or condensation problems, it should be easy to insulate – and in many cases, it is possible to do it yourself. However, flat roof insulation always requires professional insulation and damp roofs require professional assessment before work should be carried out.

Invest in longer-term improvements

Solar panels

When the money you can invest increases, so does the saving. So, if you’re able to spend more on making home energy improvements, consider installing solar panels. These are the most common domestic renewable energy source in the UK and, once you’ve paid for installation, your electricity costs will be reduced – saving you around £475 a year on your bills (based on a typical installation with occupants at home all day).       

Solar panels capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity that you can use in your home for a range of uses, from powering appliances to charging your electric vehicle, if you have one. There are some things you’ll need to consider first, such as whether you have enough space or require any planning permission, and you’ll ideally need an unshaded area that faces south. Use this tool to find out if solar panels could work for you.

Heat pumps

For hot water and heating, an air source heat pump is the most widely talked about low carbon heating alternative to a gas boiler and, for many people, the most readily available. In England and Wales, you can currently get a grant towards the cost of a heat pump with the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

Heat pumps are an attractive longer-term option as they run on mains electricity, which is becoming increasingly decarbonised as more renewable electricity is added to the mix. Ultimately, they have the potential to reduce carbon emissions from household heating to very close to zero – and in some cases, they’re already cheaper to run than fossil fuelled heating systems.

The impact on energy bills if you are installing a heat pump will depend on several factors, including what fuel you’re replacing and how much it costs, which type of heat pump you install and its efficiency, as well as the design of your central heating system.

It’s important to remember that switching to renewable energy is a long-term commitment and although there will not be dramatic cost savings straight away, you can expect to see year-on-year savings as these low carbon technologies become increasingly popular.

Last updated: 26 April 2022