There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home.
Start by finding out how energy efficient your home is by checking its Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) using the online register and search using your postcode. (EPC certificates were introduced in 2007 and required for certain properties that were rented or sold after this date.)
The certificate provides an energy efficiency rating for your home and identifies the types of improvements you can make to insulation, glazing, heating and lighting. The certificate gives an indication of the costs and potential savings of these home improvements.
EPC certificates are an excellent place to start when thinking about energy efficiency improvements you could make to your home. If your home doesn’t have an EPC, you can obtain a survey for as little as £34 through www.energyperformancecertificates.co.uk or alternatively you can work through the potential home improvements we have identified.
Financial Assistance for Home Improvements
You may qualify for financial assistance to help you install energy efficiency measures in your home. The ‘Energy Company Obligation’ or ECO Scheme, is a government energy efficiency scheme to help reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty. You may qualify for ECO if you claim certain benefits and meet other requirements. In some cases you may be able to get help even if you are not receiving benefits. You can visit Simple Energy Advice to see whether you qualify for help.
Heating Your Home
Changing how you generate heat in your home and how you control that heat can go a long way to reducing your carbon emissions and your fuel bills.
Green Fact: Lowering your thermostat by 1°C can save 10% on your annual fuel bill.
- If your boiler is more than 15 years old, think about replacing it with a newer one that is more efficient. If possible, choose renewable energy, otherwise choose electric heating over fossil fuel. The most eco-friendly option is to choose renewable energy such as Solar PV, Air Source Heat Pump or Heat Pump systems.
- *** Renewable Heat. For a comprehensive guide to renewable systems visit: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/renewable-energy and search using your postcode to find a local installer who is registered under the ‘Microgeneration Certification Scheme’. Installers will survey your property and provide a quote which should include an estimate of how much heat and electricity will be generated by any proposed system, an illustration of what this means in terms of your current energy needs and an estimate of the savings you could make after installation - including any payments you would receive through the government Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.
Servicing your boiler regularly will ensure it runs efficiently and lengthen its lifetime.
Here are some ways you can improve the control of your heating so that it works more efficiently and saves both energy and money.
- £££ Set your central heating timer carefully.
You could consider installing a system like Hive or Nest to give you better control of your heating. These allow you to turn the heating and water on and off using an app on your phone. These work particularly well if you are often away from home or work irregular hours (bear in mind that these technologies carry their own carbon footprint so only use them if they are necessary). You can turn up the heating when you are on your way home and savings can be up to £300 per year. Hive provides you with a monthly report showing how much energy you have saved in comparison to similar properties in your area.
- £££ Fit thermostatic radiator valves. Thermostatic radiator valves reduce the flow of water to a radiator when it goes above a certain temperature. This allows you to heat your home more efficiently. By keeping internal doors closed, you can create different temperature zones within the home, keeping the rooms you spend the most time in warm and turning down radiators in unoccupied rooms and hallways. Energy savings resulting from installing valves have been calculated as high as 40%.
£££ Lower your thermostat and put on another layer of clothing instead.
Reducing Heat Loss
Ways to reduce heat loss from your home.
- £££ A quarter of heat is lost through the roof in an uninsulated home. Insulating your loft, attic or flat roof is a simple and effective way to reduce heat loss and reduce your heating bills. Loft insulation is effective for at least 40 years and it should pay for itself many times over.
- Insulation thickness. Modern houses have loft insulation with 270mm thickness but older properties may have less adequate levels of insulation.
- Installation. Loft insulation is fairly easy to install yourself. For advice visit the Energy Saving Trust. If you would rather get someone to install it for you, see our ‘Insulation & Double Glazing’ section of the New Leaf Company Directory for local approved installers.
- About a third of all the heat lost in an uninsulated home escapes through the walls. By properly insulating cavity walls, you will save energy and cut costs.
- Cavity wall insulation was introduced in the UK in the 1970s but became compulsory in the 1990s. Older properties and some houses built around this transition time may not have cavity wall insulation. Older houses built pre 1920 are more likely to have solid walls and therefore only solid wall insulation is appropriate.
- You can determine whether your house has a cavity wall by examining the pattern of the brickwork. For more advice on this visit the Energy Saving Trust website.
- Installation. Visit the ‘Insulation & Double Glazing’ section of the New Leaf Company Directory to find local installers who are registered under the National Insulation Association or the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency. Installers will survey your property and provide a quote which should include an estimate of the savings you could make after installation of the insulation.
- Energy efficient glazing helps reduce your carbon footprint and your energy bills, whether it is double or triple glazing, or secondary glazing - even heavier curtains will make a difference.
- Some window manufacturers show the energy efficiency of their products using an energy rating scale from A++ to E. The whole window (the frame and the glass) is assessed on its efficiency at retaining heat.
- To find a local installer, see the ‘Insulation & Double Glazing’ section of the New Leaf Company Directory.
Fitting a chimney balloon or chimney draught excluder reduces energy loss from an unused chimney. The Energy Saving Trust says the balloons (which cost about £20) pay for themselves in just 6 months.
Draught excluders and curtains can be used to cut down on heat losses. Day to day, closing your curtains at dusk to minimise heat loss and opening them as soon as the sun is up to start warming your rooms is a simple way to minimise the need for heating.
Ways to reduce energy used in heating water in the home.
Insulating your hot water tank and pipes is a simple job which pays for itself in just a month and a half. Use a cylinder jacket to wrap the tank and foam tubing for the pipes to reduce heat loss by 25-45%.
- £££ Showering rather than bathing. Bathing generally uses far more energy than showering. Try reducing the number of baths you take and consider them more of a treat. Other ways of reducing the impact on climate change are to take shallower baths or share the bath!
- £££ Take shorter showers. Taking shorter showers will result in savings on energy and water consumption. Setting a timer on your phone can be helpful in reducing your shower time.
- ZZZ Wash less often!
- Use cold water instead of hot where you can, for example when washing your hands. This is particularly helpful if you have a combi boiler, which fires up every time you run the hot water tap.
£££ Turn your thermostat down to 50°C for your hot water. This can save up to 250kg of CO2 a year.
£££ Eco shower head. These clever devices reduce the amount of hot water used while creating the illusion of a stronger flow of water. Prices start from as little as £10.
Ways to reduce the carbon associated with electricity consumption in your home.
£££ ZZZ Switching to a green energy provider offering electricity from 100% renewable sources supports the generation of power from renewable sources. You could try Bulb or Ecotricity or try searching using the comparison site www.uswitch.com and use the filter to select green tariffs. Even better, choose a dual fuel tariff that offers carbon neutral ‘Green Gas’ as well. Bulb achieves its carbon neutral Green Gas through a mix of carbon offsetting projects and 10% biome thane gas production from farm waste (which would otherwise rot and release methane).
- £££ Get a smart meter. These are being rolled out free of charge by the energy providers so if you are offered one, take up the offer - making sure you get a 2nd generation one. These devices help you focus on your energy usage and make savings.
- Try putting your meter into ‘current usage’ display to see your ‘spend per minute’. Then turn off as many things as you can to find your baseline usage. Watch how it changes when you use different items in your home. This helps you understand where the energy is being used and allows you to target your energy saving efforts.
- Use off-peak electricity for running dishwashers and washing machines and avoid charging devices and cars at times when demand is highest. If the national power network cannot meet demand from renewables it has to resort to fossil fuels.
- Off peak times are: 1.30pm - 4pm and 11pm - 7am
Peak demand: 7am – 10am and 8pm – 11pm
- £££ Change to low energy LED light bulbs. Old style bulbs waste 90% of their energy as heat. LEDs are more efficient and also preferable to compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs, which contain mercury. Bulbs that are ‘A’ rated for energy consumption will give you the greatest savings.
Green Fact: LEDs use a quarter of the energy and last up to 25 times longer.
- £££ Switch the lights off when you leave a room or install switches linked to motion sensors.
- £££ Wash clothes at 30 degrees or cooler. Clothes rarely need a hot wash cycle and washing at 30 degrees uses less energy than an eco wash cycle at 40 or 60 degrees.
- £££ Choose economy cycles on dishwashers and run appliances with a full load. The appliance manual will show you the energy and water consumption for your appliance for the various cycles, allowing you to choose the most eco-friendly cycle.
- £££ Dry laundry naturally rather than tumble drying. If you have to tumble dry, it is important to check and clear the filter regularly.
Green Fact: A full filter on your tumble dryer can mean your machine uses 30% more energy.
- ZZZ £££ Washing clothes less often reduces your energy and water consumption as well as reducing the number of plastic fibres shed by synthetic fabrics which enter the water course. Your clothes will last longer too.
- Using a laundry ball or bag (Cora Ball, Guppyfriend) to catch microfibres prevents them entering waterways.
Green Fact: Up to a million plastic fibres can be shed in one wash of synthetic fabrics.
- ZZZ Ditch the washing up! A well loaded dishwasher uses less water than the equivalent bowls of washing up and because the water is heated by electricity at the point of use, there is an energy saving aspect too.
- £££ Make your own cleaning products. This is cheaper than buying branded products and it cuts down on packaging waste and the number of chemicals, used both in the manufacturing process and discharged into your waste water. For traditional recipes for tried and trusted cleaning solutions see our ‘Home Cleaning Products Info Sheet’.
- Composting the contents of the vacuum cleaner instead of placing it in the refuse prevents its incineration in the general waste system, which adds to CO2 emissions.
A+++ rated appliances. Choosing the top energy rated products when buying new appliances can shave 5% off the average electricity bill.
Things you can do for efficient refrigeration:
1. Set your fridge at its optimal temperature. The Food Standards Agency recommends between 0 and 5°, however the food waste charity WRAP says the average fridge runs at 7°.
2. Clean the condenser coils once a year by unplugging the unit and vacuuming dust and fluff that has accumulated around the coils. This can improve efficiency by up to 30%.
3. Defrost your freezer when the ice build up reaches ¼” thickness as this decreases the energy efficiency.
4. Overheating a room gives your refrigerator more work to do. A refrigerator uses 2.5% more energy for each degree over normal ambient temperature.
5. If your refrigerator has an anti-sweat feature which involves heating the area around the door seal to prevent condensation this feature will use 5 - 10% more energy so switch it off if it is not needed.
6. Make sure there are a few inches of space between your refrigerator and the wall to maintain good air circulation, this will help your refrigerator to run more efficiently.
7. Test the seals by placing a £5 note between the door seal and the door at different locations along the door edge. If the note moves easily your seals are likely not tight enough and you should consider replacing them. Loose or worn seals can waste huge amounts of energy.
8. Open the fridge door less frequently.
9. Let hot foods cool to room temperature first before placing them in the fridge.
10. Keep your freezer full - this will help it work more efficiently.
11. When leaving your home for a holiday in the summer, use up all the short shelf life food and set the fridge to a higher temperature while you are away.
- £££ Unplug phone chargers and electronic devices when they are not in use. Leaving them plugged on or in standby mode wastes electricity.
- Energy-saving standby plugs allow you to control and switch off a number of devices at the same time either manually, using a remote control, or an app on your phone. These devices make it easier to switch all your devices off rather than leave them in standby mode.
- £££ ZZZ Don’t watch TV through a games console. PS4 and Xbox One require 30 - 45 times more power to stream a film than players such as Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV.
- Use a laptop over a desktop and turn down the brightness on your monitor to save energy.
- Use rechargeable batteries rather than single use.
Ways to reduce the carbon associated with admin and finances in your home.
- Change to an ethical bank. The UK contributes 1% towards global CO2 emissions but 20% of the value of the London Stock Exchange is invested in high carbon and fossil fuel firms. Your finances are more than likely funding investment in coal and oil across the globe. From your bank account and credit card to your mortgage and pension.
Co-operative Bank and Triodos Bank are the only banks that offer a clear customer-led ethical policy. Switching to an ethical bank ensures your finances are not helping to fund polluting activities.
Other lenders that score well from an ethical standpoint are:
Leeds Building Society
Newcastle Building Society
Coventry Building Society
Nationwide Building Society
Skipton Building Society
- Green mortgages. Some lenders are now offering ‘Green Mortgage’ products which offer a preferential interest rate for energy efficient properties.
- Pension funds. Switching pension provider may be difficult or impossible but you could write to your them and ask whether they support ethical investment of your money. Applying pressure can help influence their future investment decisions.
You can reduce paper waste by:
- Printing on both sides of the paper.
- Switching to online billing.
- Opting out of junk mail. Opt out of junk mail using the Royal Mail form.