Reduce Your Fuel Bills and Live in an Energy Efficient Home

An energy efficient home is a must these days.

As the struggle to control climate change hots up, we all want to do our bit towards reducing our contribution to this global problem.

A green home can certainly save on both carbon emissions and financial costs. This page details some easy ways to make a more energy efficient home.

One way we can reduce our home's carbon footprint is to simply use less fuel and run a slightly cooler house. We can also hang onto the heat we do use for longer. And of course we can save electricity by using LEDs and CFLs.

Read on for details of how to achieve energy savings without compromising your lifestyle or comfort levels.

For an energy efficient home, lets start with the kitchen.

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A Cosy Kitchen

A good kitchen with a warm cosy atmosphere and lots going on can be the centre of the home.

One of the ways to make sure that your kitchen is a warm and welcoming area is to use it for as many energy intensive activities as possible. (Ones you were going to do anyway, of course!)

Everyone knows the lovely warmth that pervades the kitchen, with pleasant scents of food to match, when there is cooking or baking going on. That's a good argument for cooking a family dinner as often as practicable. But what about the other appliances?

Noisy white goods!

It is fashionable to have a utility room for laundry and other white goods such as the spin dryer and sometimes the freezer. All these appliances can be pretty noisy, so there is a lot to be said for this.

However, fridges and freezers are not so very noisy and they give off heat from the heat exchanger at the back all the time. If you have some or all of these appliances in the kitchen or at least just adjacent to the kitchen you can benefit from their heat, heat which is being generated all the time anyway.

The benefits of foil

It may be worth installing foil behind your fridge or freezer to take good advantage of this heat. If the appliance is against an outside wall this is especially worth doing, because otherwise a lot of that heat is lost.

Heavy-duty foil is available from DIY outlets but even ordinary tin foil will make some difference. Proper commercial foil designed for the job will be better, as it will last longer and usually comes with insulated backing.

If you are buying aluminium foil from a DIY outlet, look for the R value, which tells you how much insulation the foil provides. The higher the R value the better the insulation provided.

Timing

Your washing machine and tumble drier also give out quite a lot of heat. So, if they are in the kitchen area, it makes sense to run them at times when the heat generated helps keep the family warm, too.

For example, load up a wash the night before and switch it on first thing in the morning to boost the warmth in the kitchen in time for the breakfast time rush. If you time it right the noise will be finished by the time you want to eat - but the warmth will be there.

Here's a book which has lots of practical advice and home projects to help you save money on energy: Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings - Save Money, Save the Earth

For a more energy efficient home, lets now look at other parts of the house.


Heating rooms - the rest of the house

If you have central heating you can adjust your automatic switches so that the heating comes on at the most effective time.

Most people should be able to turn the thermostat down a notch or two without noticing much difference. Try setting the timers to turn the heating on a little later and/or to switch it off a little sooner at night. You probably won't notice the temperature drop once you are asleep! If your house is well insulated the temperature should drop slowly rather than quickly in all but the coldest weather.

The same goes for in the morning. If your heating is set to come on at 5.30 a.m. and you rise at 6.30 a.m. try putting the heating forward to 6 a.m. and see if you or anyone else notices.


Fitter and warmer!

If all this sounds a little spartan, try becoming fitter! Fit people generally feel the cold less.

We also adapt to a cooler climate, given a little practise, so persevere and soon you may feel that other peoples' homes are ridiculously hot. Generally, living in slightly cooler conditions is better for your health, too.

In some countries, you may qualify for a grant to insulate your loft or add cavity wall insulation to your home - which will certainly make your heat go further.

UK grants

The UK government has made funds available to enable some families and home owners to get upgraded insulation. Even if you already have some loft insulation, you may still qualify as the recommended depth of insulation has been increased. 

As of January 2013, the Warm Front scheme is just ending and a new "Green Deal" is just beginning, which will enable participants to borrow money for efficiency upgrades which reduce energy costs. The money borrowed is recovered via your energy bills and should normally be no more than the savings on the same bill. At least that is the intention.

Other countries

In Australia there are government grants available for ceiling insulation.

The US federal government does not appear to do any insulation grants. However, you can check for state help at dsireusa.org/

Canada now has no financial help available through the government - but there is advice. This is a common pattern as governments struggle to deal with debt. 

Electricity suppliers

Of course, to save money on your electricity bills and be more energy efficient you also need to check out that your electricity supplier is doing their bit. Price comparison websites sometimes offer this information. Scottish power for example has a green tariff which offers electricity from renewable sources.

Much of their energy is from hydro and wind farms - in fact they are the largest developer of wind power in the UK. Whether you opt to get your supplies from them or elsewhere, it is worth checking out the options as you could save on your bills and be a little greener too.

There are plenty of other green energy suppliers to choose from. Ecotricity and Good Energy are two green energy suppliers in the UK.

Here are some ideas for holding onto the heat, which will help you to create your energy efficient home.

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Keeping hold of the warmth

There are lots of things to consider to keep rooms warm for longer.

One quick way to make your heat energy go further is to get heavy curtains for night-time. Ones with bump interlining are ideal.

These should ideally cover the whole window and some. They should overlap the window pane effectively so that colder air behind them is effectively trapped. This slows down the heat exchange between the window and the outside world and between the window pane and the room.

Lined curtains of a heavy material such as brocade are best for this.


Plant hedges for insulation

If your house is at all exposed it may be worth planting trees and shrubs or a high hedge to cut down the effects of wind. Just like us, houses lose warmth quickly on windy, chilly days. Well-chosen vegetation can offer some degree of protection.

Take professional advice if you want to plant trees close to your property as the roots can affect the foundations.

External insulation is a good way to get a more energy efficient home. This involves adding several centimeters of high-density lagging and render onto the outside of your property. I've had this done and it works really well. Read more about it here.

Single and double glazing

Single-glazed windows are responsible for up to about 25% of heat loss from houses. Even double-glazed windows still lose a lot of heat - about half the rate for single-glazed. This is one of the reasons why modern houses are often built with small windows. So even if you don't mind the neighbours gazing in all summer long, you might want to fit snug curtains for the winter at least!

If you are considering getting double glazing, go for the best you can afford. There should be a gap of at least 2mm between panes and it should be factory-sealed against leakage.

If you have double-glazed windows that mist up inside, then the seal is likely to have become damaged. There are now companies which specialise in replacing the glass panels into the existing window frames. This can be less expensive than replacing the whole window.

For a cheap and cheerful solution to inadequate window insulation you can add removable panels or even use a special film with double-sided adhesive. This works well as a winter-time double barrier to keep out cold air. You can buy such film from Amazon and fit it in just minutes and can be very cost-effective.

Using soft furnishings for warmth

Have plenty of soft furnishings to soak up and help retain warmth. Rugs and carpets with good underlay will help. Wallpaper is also some help. Fabric wall hangings can also contribute, if you like that kind of thing. (Centuries ago it was standard practice amongst the wealthy to have rich wall hangings to help retain heat - now it is just one supplementary approach to energy efficiency.)

It is also be a good idea to position sofas away from walls as drafts and cold air are commoner by walls. If you have floorboards, think about sealing the gaps with sealant to cut down draughts and heat loss.

Gaps in doors and window fittings can be dealt with by buying draft-excluders. These are usually quite easy to fit. In old houses with loose fitting doors and windows you might need to consider getting professional help.

Energy efficient home:

The humble draft-excluder

One temporary solution which helps towards an energy efficient home is that good old student-standby of a homemade draft excluder for the bottom of doors.

These are quite easy to make from Kapoc and a tube of curtain material. They really do work to keep down drafts which, of course, cause a lot of heat loss.

Energy efficient home:

Effective radiators

If you have central heating make sure that your radiators are not blocked by furniture. If any of your radiators are beneath a window the curtains are better short but down to the windowsill so that the heat is kept in the room rather than sneaking up behind the curtain.

You can also make radiators more effective by placing aluminium heat reflectors behind them, especially the radiators which are on the outside walls of your house.

This works just like tin-foil - which is pretty much what it is! You can even use tin foil as a cheap short term fix.

Tin foil is of course one of the least environmentally friendly products as it is very energy intensive to produce. However, if it is serving a long term environmental purpose, it's use is perhaps justified - at least until a better alternative is widely available!

Insulate that loft!

Loft insulation is a must for an energy efficient home.

There are many different types of insulation to choose from: buy the best you can afford. The loft space inside houses is a big source of heat loss, partly because of the large surface area of the roof itself but also because there needs to be ventilation channels between the main joists and the roof. So a good level of insulation on the attic floor will help keep your home warmer and easier to heat.

The deeper your insulation the better for your energy efficient home. 4 inches (10cms) is minimum; 6 inches (15cms) is better. The British standard seems to go up every year. It is now 30cms which should ensure a very good level of insulation. You can even buy wool insulation now, which is very environmentally friendly. Other common types include polystyrene foam and fibreglass which can be a health hazard.

See Best attic insulation for the different types of attic insulation now available and their benefits.

If you have an unused chimney you can restrict the air flow to cut down heat loss. You should not completely block it as adequate ventilation is always important.

If you don't have double-glazing, consider installing temporary insulation which will help cut heat loss through the winter months.

You can find more ideas for creating an energy efficient home in other parts of the site. Check the nav bar and side bar for suggestions.

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On other pages:

Cheap solar power for hot water

Some Types of Home Insulation to Consider

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