Battling against global warming

Just under half of the carbon dioxide emissions in the UK come from the energy we use on a day-to-day basis, which is generated by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

They produce greenhouse gases including the highly damaging carbon dioxide (CO2). Homeowners can do their bit in helping fight global warming by making some simple and, in many cases, low cost improvements to their property. And, there is the added bonus that taking a few steps to improve the environment can also deliver a big boost to stretched bank accounts in the form of lower fuel bills.

A useful starting point is to acquire an energy monitor. These devices can be linked up to the electricity supply. The monitor itself won’t save anyone money, but it will show which appliances guzzle most energy and where there are potential savings to be made.

Homing in on cash savings

CO2 emissions are among the biggest culprits in causing global warming. The best way to attack the issue is to make sure that heating systems operate efficiently. Installing cavity wall insulation will stop heat escaping and if the house was built after the 1920s, it is likely to be a candidate for this work.

The installation process normally takes a few hours for a typical three bedroomed house with the average cost likely to be around £500. Speak to your energy supplier as there are various grants available. The benefits should show in your bills almost immediately, but the big bonus is that the savings will be repeated year after year.

And it’s not just walls that are a source of heat loss – it can also disappear through the roof. Therefore, loft insulation is worth considering as well. It works a bit like a duvet, rolled out to capture the heat. It’s a simple task that anyone can do, so it won’t even incur the cost of calling out the experts to do the job.

If the house also has a cellar it’s worth considering under-floor insulation as well. Next on the list of targets should be windows and doors. Replacing leaky windows with fitted double-glazed units can cut heat loss in half. The quality of replacement windows made from uPVC has improved in recent years and they are normally available with a plain white or wood grain finish to fit in with the style of the house.

Off the boil

Boilers often account for more than half a household’s annual fuel bills, so clearly there is huge potential to make savings. Once a boiler is more than 10 years old it starts to become less efficient, therefore costing more to run. At that point it’s worth considering a replacement.

The cost of installing a replacement boiler will vary, but it would be reasonable to budget around £2,500 to £3,000. Condensing boilers are considered the most efficient, as they convert around 90%of the fuel they use into heat – that’s about 20%more than a conventional boiler – and if it has heating controls fitted, the efficiency is even greater. The savings can tally up to several hundred pounds per year. Fitting the boiler is only the start and it’s important to have it serviced regularly to ensure that it is still delivering maximum efficiency and, of course, remains safe.

Making the grade in efficiency

While an insulated house with well-fitted windows and doors can save money and reduce CO2 emissions, maximising fuel efficiency can prove to be an expensive business. However, savings and environmental benefits can also be made by kitting-out the house with energy efficient appliances. Savings can be made by taking simple steps such as switching off the TV or DVD player instead of leaving it on standby. Running a PC inefficiently can also make a big dent in the fuel budget. It’s possible to cut back by taking a few seconds to shut it down rather than just logging off and by unplugging the computer when it is not being used.

How can you make your home more energy efficient?

With everyone looking at ways to save money, reducing the amount of energy your home loses can go a long way to not only helping keep more cash in your pocket, but also reduce our impact on the environment.

Elizabeth Leighton of WWF Scotland explains, “The way we heat and power our homes has a massive impact on the environment – not just locally, but globally. Here in Scotland our homes account for 25%of total carbon emissions.

She adds, “If you are looking to buy a new house or flat to let, make sure you take a good look at the Energy Performance Certificate. In much the same way as appliances, it provides an A to G rating of how energy efficient the house is and, therefore, how expensive it will be to run. You might be able to use this as a negotiating point on price, as the EPC will provide recommendations on how to improve the property and how much it could save on energy bills.”