Refurbishing for energy efficiency? Do these 5 things first

You know your home’s energy efficiency is not up to scratch and the idea that you’re constantly throwing money down the sink (or more likely out the window) is frustrating to say the least.

energy efficiency

We’re obviously talking about saving pounds not euros, but you get the idea! Image from Pixabay.

And who doesn’t like a solution that saves you money while helping the planet? You have a modest chunk of money saved and resolve to invest it in making your home more efficient – which will also save you money over time.

But once you start looking into it, you become overwhelmed by how much online information there is on home energy efficiency! There are loads of options available, all with different costs and savings and payback periods. So where to start?

Using first-hand industry knowledge from our director and lead architect, we’re bringing you the top 5 improvements to make in your home to get the most ‘bang for your buck’.

These suggestions are just the start. If you’ve already done these and want to go further, you’ll need to look into more extensive works. We’ve listed our top suggestions in recommended order: the first two are cheap and easy and the last two come at a significant cost (but will also save more cash and carbon in the long term).

energy efficient lightbulbs

Wide range of LED lights now available to fit all fittings. Image by Wikipedia Commons.

1. Upgrade Lighting

This is the quickest, easiest and cheapest step, and of course is DIY. If you have the very old filament light bulbs (which are being phased out EU-wide because they’re so poor) this will have the most dramatic impact, but even if you have CFL lights it’s worth upgrading to LEDs.

For an average household, upgrading to LEDs can save you £30 per year. Plus they last for years – often more than a decade.

Sometimes people are put off LEDs because of the cool blue-ish tint many of them have. Luckily, you can now easily buy the warm yellow-tinted ones from all major retailers.

2. Draught Excluding

This is an important step which many people overlook. Most houses – particularly older ones – have many tiny gaps which let draughts in and make your house cold. Around doors and windows and around pipework are common problem areas. If all the tiny gaps in the average inefficient house were added up, it would be like having a door open at all times!

You can cheaply and easily fix this problem yourself with various kinds of adhesive strips and sealants. It’s particularly important to sort this out first if you’re going to consider insulation. The Energy Saving Trust has lots of useful actionable information, including a video explaining how to draught proof your home!

energy efficiency loft insulation

Loft insulation. Photo by Mike Carter (Creative Commons).

3. Loft Insulation

Insulating your loft is the cheapest and most effective form of insulation. As heat rises, uninsulated houses can lose up to a quarter of their heat through the roof! The payback period is only a couple of years and it works for about 40 years so this investment is a no-brainer.

Even if you already have some insulation, it can be topped up for better results. The recommended amount (now 270mm) is rising all the time, so state-of-the-art 10 years ago will be considered very inefficient now. Depending on your roof type and whether you have any damp problems, it can be a DIY job – otherwise you’ll need to get the pros which will cost you more.

After the loft, wall insulation is the next step. If you have cavity walls it will cost about the same as the loft, but the payback period is longer. If you have solid walls it will be more expensive and disruptive. Either way, it’s an effective way to conserve energy once you’ve taken the other steps on this list.

4. Upgrade Boiler

This requires forking out more in the short term, but will save you a lot in the long term, as most homes spend around two thirds of their energy on heating and hot water. The top of the range boilers are more than 95% efficient, while the best non-condensing boilers are around 80% and the oldest ones could be as poor as 65%.

A new boiler will need to be installed by a professional, and will cost a good couple of grand. The savings are substantial but not as quick as loft insulation. The Energy Saving Trust has useful estimates of savings here.

For the very eco-conscious among you, the energy you save means if your boiler is a few years old it’s always worth upgrading even if you take the embodied energy of manufacture into account.

5. Double Glazing

You could be losing as much as 20% of your heat through flimsy single glazed windows. How much you’ll save depends on the energy rating of the windows (obviously go for A if you can) and whether you’re terraced or detached, but around £80 per year can be expected.

As well as saving on your bills, other benefits of double glazed windows include blocking out noise from the street and reducing the risk of condensation.

This is a job for the professionals, and like upgrading your boiler it is a long term investment rather than a quick win. But if you’re a homeowner it’s always worth doing – it will add value to your property as well as cutting bills. The cost varies widely on the size and type of your house but you’ll probably have to shell out a few thousand pounds.

To learn more about how much heat you lose out the window, and the energy efficiency benefits of double glazing, see this helpful infographic by Bebington Glazing.

If you can’t afford that, prioritise and just get a few windows done, choosing the most lived-in rooms rather than the coldest. Alternatively you can cheaply add secondary glazing which sticks to the inside of the glass. It’s not as effective but it is cheap and could be the only option for listed buildings. Failing that, at the very least hang some extra-thick curtains!

These 5 changes will make your home snug and cosy, save you money on your utility bills, boost the value of your property and cut your carbon footprint.
That’s a win-win-win-win!


What are you doing to make your home more energy efficient? Tweet us at @KoruArchitects!
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