by Gilly Brewster
Making your home energy efficient is no longer just about having a green mandate and showing your awareness of environmental issues - the rising cost of gas and electricity has had most people thinking about how being more efficient can save money on utility bills.
There are many different options out there for reducing the amount of energy you use, and the costs can vary significantly. However, many simple changes made around the home, such as fitting draught excluders and remembering to turn off lights, can make a surprising amount of difference. Start off with a Home Energy Check from the Energy Saving Trust so you can work out exactly where improvements can easily and quickly be made.
Of the more substantial changes you can make to your home to improve energy efficiency, double glazing is perhaps the most commonly known. It is estimated that as much as 30 per cent of your heat energy can be lost through single-paned windows. Replacing them with double glazing can reduce this loss, and although it involves a relatively large up-front cost, this is recouped through energy savings and a possible reduction in your insurance premiums – double glazed windows are much more secure than single-pane.
Insulation is also very important, and loft insulation can be installed quickly and easily. Filling cavity wall spaces is a more expensive job, but again, the results are significant.
However, there is one measure that has really caught the imagination of Brits in the last few years – the installation of photovoltaic solar panels. Through the use of photovoltaics on the roof of a property, homeowners can generate their own electricity. The government has been keen to promote the use of solar panels and, through its Feed-in Tariff scheme, pays homeowners for any surplus green energy they put into the National Grid. Initially that offering was 39.6 pence per kilowatt-hour, but such has been the take-up of the scheme that it has now been reduced to a maximum of 16.8 pence.
Solar panels have a lifespan of around 25 years, so the upfront cost of having the devices installed is soon offset by reduced energy bills. However, it is recommended that an accredited firm carries out the work – badly fitted panels will not give you optimum energy production and it can be costly to have them fixed. For more information on installing solar panels in the UK please visit www.evoenergy.co.uk/.
But whatever method you choose to improve the energy efficiency of your home, it's worth considering the government’s Green Deal before you purchase anything. In its bid to meet Britain’s carbon reduction target, the government will help homeowners improve the efficiency of their property by providing up-front loans to pay for the installation of energy efficiency measures. This money is then paid back in manageable instalments via utility bills for the property, over a period of 25 years. In the US, there are similar deals for energy-related tax deductions that you can estimate using a free online tax deduction calculator like the one from Intuit.
Lastly, it is worth remembering that not only will a more energy-efficient home be cheaper to run but the measures will also add value to the property, as efficient homes will always be popular with buyers.