The shape of a house, cut from a green leaf, showing a blue sky behind. SAM Conveyancing's guide on How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient
Are you buying or selling a house that is not energy efficient?
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How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

(Last Updated: 04/01/2024)
11 min read
Key Takeaways
  • Insulation and double glazing are essential to an energy efficient house
  • New heat pump systems can be as cheap to run as gas central heating and are much more efficient
  • Tech helps: LED bulbs & modern, efficient appliances and thermostats can reduce your home's wasted energy

In this guide, we'll discuss some of our best home energy saving tips, including some energy efficient home improvements and home insulation advice which will save you money on bills, by reducing your energy consumption (and therefore your carbon footprint).

The government plans to get as many homes as possible to an EPC rating of C or higher, so improving your home energy efficiency now will help to prepare your home for the future.

New incentive for new homeowners may be announced in the Autumn Statement.

Last year, the chancellor set up the Energy Efficiency Taskforce, which recommended a new incentive for new homeowners. Those who make their properties more energy efficient within two years could receive a partial stamp duty rebate. If the chancellor decides to go ahead with this recommendation, this will be announced in the Autumn Statement on the 22nd November

Energy efficiency meaning

We all know we can save energy by using less, but that's no good if that means we're living in the cold and dark. Home energy efficiency means using less energy to perform the same task by reducing wasted energy in the house.

As well as reducing wasted energy, you might find you can reduce what you actually use as well. One of the best and simplest small changes you can make is to turn your thermostat down by just two degrees; try it and see if you are still comfortable. Read on for more energy saving tips

How can I reduce wasted energy in my house?

Here are our top tips for readers asking How can I reduce my home power consumption?

Switch to LED bulbs

Did you know LED bulbs use 90% less electricity than traditional incandescent lightbulbs? They're a bit more expensive but easily pay for themselves over their lifetime as they save so much electricity. And, of course, remember to turn them off when you're not using them!

Does unplugging appliances save electricity?

Yes! Leaving devices plugged in and on standby uses electricity; leaving your charger switched on at the wall does this, too, even if it's not plugged into a device. Get into the habit of switching everything off at the wall when you're not using it.

Upgrade your appliances

While it's not very 'green' to throw out all your appliances and replace them, as and when it's time to upgrade, opt for the more efficient models if you can afford to. Just upgrading your kettle can save 20% of the electricity you use every time you make a cuppa. Pressure cookers cook more efficiently than ovens.

A more expensive upgrade is the old gas boiler; new boilers are vastly more efficient, and you may find your new boiler will pay for itself in the money you can save with a more efficient model.

Dusting, believe it or not!

Dust in the air can clog the vents and motors of large appliances, making them work harder to move and/or stay cool. Dust and hoover the vents to keep everything running smoothly. You should also be sure to dust your lightbulbs and shades regularly, or they'll throw less light, and you'll end up switching more lights on.

Wash on cold

Most laundry cycles don't need to be as hot as they are. Use your cold or 'eco' setting on your machine to use less energy during a wash.

Pause in the shower

How long do you spend lathering up or combing conditioner through your hair while the hot water pours down the plughole? You might find you can save a considerable amount of energy by pausing your shower while you scrub-a-dub-dub and switching it on again to rinse off. You may also benefit from a water-saving shower head, which can increase the water pressure, meaning you can still get your 'jet' shower experience with much lower consumption.

Check your fridge seals and defrost it regularly

Badly sealed doors allow warm air in, forcing your fridge or freezer to work overtime, increasing their energy consumption, and a heavily frosted freezer runs less efficiently.

Dry your clothes outside

Many of us can't imagine life without a tumble drier, but if you have any outdoor space, you'll know that clothes dried on a line in the sunshine smell better than any fabric conditioner money can buy. This isn't much help for us Brits, especially in the winter months. But, provided you don't have problems with damp, an indoor clothes airer (particularly one fitted on a pulley system to take advantage of the hot air that rises above the stairwell) can have your laundry dry in 1-2 days.

How can I make my home heating more efficient?

You can improve your heating efficiency by using thermostats and smart meters to adjust your heating to only use what you need and when you need it. A smart thermostat can reduce your consumption by 15%, and most modern options even allow you to switch off or postpone the heating from your smartphone if you realise you'll be late getting back.

But, what is the best way to reduce energy loss from your home? The best way to reduce the energy lost from your home is to insulate the building. Depending on where the heat is being lost, this can be done in several ways:

Insulating the loft, the ground floor & the external walls

Start with whichever is currently the least insulated. Poorly insulated homes lose around a third of their heat through the walls. You can insulate the outside of your walls with a layer of insulation and cladding or render. Or, if your home has cavity walls (that's a 'double skin' of two walls with a gap in between), you can fill the gap with insulation. You may be able to apply for free or cheaper insulation through the Great British Insulation Scheme

We do not recommend expanding foam insulation unless it has been approved by a RICS surveyor. Common issues include severely limiting airflow and causing condensation & damp, making leaks harder to detect, being hard to remove, lowering the value of the property and making it harder to mortgage. Instead, we suggest rock, glass or cellulose wool insulation, which you may be able to install yourself.

The Energy Saving Trust say that a quarter of the heat you pay for is lost through the roof in an uninsulated home. If there are no damp or condensation issues, it is relatively easy to insulate an unconverted roof or attic yourself. You'll want to make sure you don't limit the ventilation though; the house needs to 'breathe' to prevent problems with damp or condensation.

15% is lost through the floor of an uninsulated home. If you live above an unconditioned basement or garage, you'll have to make a decision between insulating the whole of the basement or garage or under the floor of the living space. Insulating under the living space is often easier and cheaper. It will keep your living space warmer and limit the amount of space you have to heat while leaving your garage or basement unheated, which can offer benefits, including cool storage.

Always seal any possible air leakages between an unconditioned garage or basement and the living area, whether you are insulating or not. Air leakage can allow fumes and pollutants into the home from the garage or basement, which can pose a risk to your safety and respiratory health.

Replacing the windows and doors

10% of a badly insulated home's heat escapes through windows and doors, but some estimates reach up to 25%. The cheapest way to save energy lost through windows and doors is to seal and caulk around them to make sure there is no draughty air leakage sapping away your heat. You can also hang thermal curtains and/or blinds which will limit heat loss while they are closed. However, the best way to optimise the energy efficiency of your windows is to upgrade to double glazing. The captive gas in the spacing between the panes insulates your home, which has the added benefit of protecting you from noise pollution.

In a listed property where you can't upgrade your windows, secondary glazing offers some insulative benefits. Always double check before altering a listed or conservation property.

Locating and sealing draughts

As well as sealing around the doors and windows, check elsewhere for draughts, cracks and gaps, including poorly finished pipework where it enters and exits the building. These could be the cause of 15% of your home's heat loss.

If you have an unused fireplace, you may be losing heat straight up the flue. Many homeowners in older houses stuff their open fireplaces with old pillows to prevent the heat from escaping, but this can completely block airflow, which can cause problems with damp. It is possible for a builder to carefully seal up the fireplace with a smaller vent in such a way that it can breathe a little and be easily removed if you want to sell the property or re-commission the fireplace.

Energy efficient home improvements

If you're ready to invest in some energy efficient home improvements and you're already conserving all you can by reducing wasted energy, it's time to look at how you can source and use energy more efficiently.

Heat pumps

An air or ground source heat pump captures heat and uses it to heat water, which in turn heats your home & supplies your hot taps & shower. They only require a small amount of electricity to move a large amount of heat. They are not currently any cheaper to run than a gas boiler (and may even be more expensive) unless you also upgrade to the most efficient radiator or underfloor heating design. However, with rising fuel costs, we expect them to become the cheapest option, as well as the lowest form of carbon available. They are already cheaper to run than LPG or oil boilers.

In order to get the most from your heat pump, you will need a well-designed system. Larger radiators and underfloor heating can produce the same ambient heat with cooler water due to the greater surface area for heat exchange inside your house; this will mean the heat pump doesn't have to work so hard to reach higher temperatures. You will need some outside space where the unit can sit on the ground with good ventilation and an indoor water cylinder. The amount of space depends on the system you choose. They cost around £14,000, but you may qualify for up to £7,500 toward the cost through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme if you live in England or Wales.

Water recirculation pump

Most homes have a one-way plumbing loop from the water heater or boiler to each faucet and back to the heater. Once you shut off your hot tap, that whole circuit of pipes (often gallons of water) loses its heat, which is a huge waste of energy. You're also wasting water when you run the tap, waiting for it to run hot - probably as much as 1000 gallons per person per year.

The solution offered by a water recirculation pump is to return the hot water back to the heater via the cold water pipes, running through a continuous loop with minimal wasted heat. The pump itself uses about the same power as a lightbulb and can be switched on and off manually, set with an automatic timer, or even be motion activated.

The bigger the pipes and the further the distance from the heater to the faucets, the more you can save on your bills. While constantly running recirculation pumps waste energy, smart pumps pay for themselves in 2-6 years according to Energy Solutions. However, they conflict with heat pump water heaters, so you'll have to choose one or the other.

Solar panels

Solar panels cost £7,000 on average and make your home more energy efficient by reducing your reliance on the grid, saving you £155 to £400 per year on your electricity bill (Energy Savings Trust). You can also be paid £100 to £145 (Energy Savings trust) for the energy your panels produce, which you don't use, as it's fed back into the national grid (different energy companies offer different tariffs for this recycled power).

You'll typically have to replace the inverter within ten years, but otherwise, there are minimal maintenance costs, and many companies offer 10-20 year warranties.

Based on calculations by the Energy Savings Trust, the typical home will recoup the costs of new solar panels in 16+ years. For this reason, it doesn't really make sense if you're planning to sell up within the decade, as the cost of installing solar panels won't necessarily be reflected in the property value.

You save more on the electricity you don't buy from the grid than you make by selling it back, so it makes most sense to use what you need during daylight hours and use less when the panels aren't producing energy at night. That means investing in an efficient slow cooker and putting it on in the morning or running the washing machine before you leave for the day can boost your home energy efficiency even more.

Don't buy solar panels on credit
The interest on the loan can seriously diminish the savings you'll make.

There are some schemes which can help pay for your solar panels if you meet their criteria:

Convert to electric

Converting to electric can be more efficient because electric radiators are 100% efficient. You'll have a more energy efficient home, no risk of gas leaks or carbon dioxide poisoning, no need for flues or pipework for the boiler, no annual boiler service, a quieter system and smart digital controls. Plus, all new builds from 2025 will run on electric, with no gas boilers or hobs, so it certainly seems to be the way of the future. But, will it reduce your heating bill?

The old style of electric heating is more expensive to run than gas, but EDF Energy calculate that a well-designed heat pump installation is about four times as efficient as gas central heating! Which makes it roughly equal in running costs. Fossil fuels are becoming more expensive, so it may well be that the cheaper relative cost of electric means you can reduce your heating bill, as well as help the planet, by converting your house to electric.

What is 100% energy efficient?

100% energy efficient means that no energy is wasted. An old-fashioned incandescent light bulb is only 10% efficient because it loses 90% of its energy in heat rather than light. An electric radiator is 100% efficient because all of its energy is released as heat, which is exactly what you want.

How to Make Your Garden More Energy Efficient

Mulch your trees, shrubs and garden beds. If your garden needs watering in the summer, prevent water from evaporating from the soil by mulching the beds. This will help the ground retain the moisture your plants need and limit your water consumption.

You can also install rainwater collection from the gutters on your roof. This will catch and store the rainwater for you to use in the garden on drier days, reducing your main water usage.

Frequently Asked Questions
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Written by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Reviewed by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.

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