By making just a few simple adjustments, we can make a contribution to help reverse the effects of climate change, save money and even increase our chances of selling our homes.
Being green is obviously helpful in protecting the environment, but it can also translate into cost savings too. But how can you start to make a positive change? Just changing standard light bulbs to energy efficient ones can cut the average home's carbon emissions by up to half a tonne in just one year. Impressive. So what else can you do?
Even making small changes to the way you heat your home can make a difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving you money.
Turn down heating and hot water temperature settings
Just by turning down heating and hot water temperatures by a degree, you can save approximately £15-£40 on your bills each year as well as significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Insulate your tank
An uninsulated hot water tank is a massive drain on energy as it takes a lot longer to heat the water, so insulate it and save money and energy.
Add foil reflectors
Instead of letting the heat generated by your radiators go into the walls behind them, put foil reflectors on the areas behind them and the heat will reflect back into the room.
Draw the curtains
Something as simple as drawing the curtains can save energy, by stopping the heat escaping through the windows, especially if you don't have double glazing.
Don't heat unoccupied rooms
Adjust the thermostat on individual radiators, so that when the heating goes on, you are only heating rooms that you use.
Gas is one of the better heating fuels and it is more efficient than coal, oil or electricity. Combination boilers heat water on demand and are more efficient and cheaper than having a boiler that heats up a hot water tank. Having a combi boiler also does away with the need for a hot water tank so it is also good for saving space. If you are renewing your heating system and updating to a combi boiler, it is a good idea to make sure it is Energy Efficiency Recommended.
Solar water heating
This is generally a roof-mounted solar collector panel which channels the heat from the sun into a hot water tank. The solar panel can also be channelled through some combi boilers. They can be cost effective for those with electric heating systems but can be quite expensive to install.
Ground source heat pumps
These pumps store heat from the ground. A length of plastic pipe is filled with a mixture of water and anti-freeze and buried in the ground. This then absorbs the heat and an electric compressor raises the temperature to a useful level and it is then transferred to the home as under floor heating and to the radiators. The electric compressor can be made completely renewable by installing a small wind turbine. It is generally more cost effective to have a smaller system with a gas driven immersion system in times of peak demand. This is a costly option but you could save up to two thirds on your energy bills. You will also need a good level of insulation.
Improving your home's insulation can be cheaper and have a greater impact than installing a solar panel.
Double glazing is the best form of insulation. However, changing your windows from single to double glazing can be costly. The best frames are wooden, but they should be from a sustainable forest. PVC is the worst material because it cannot be recycled. If you do have single glazing and aren't in a position to change your windows, the next best thing is to draft proof them.
Current building regulations require that the minimum thickness of insulation in new buildings is 20cm. If yours is less than 10cm, you should seriously consider adding to it. Materials such as wool or flax are more energy efficient than many non-renewable materials.
If your home has cavity walls (most homes built after 1930 do), it would be a good idea to fill the cavity with an insulating material - either foam or mineral wool, depending on your budget. You may also like to consider internal or external insulation, though this is relatively costly and does require redecoration.
There are various ways to generate 'green electricity' and cut back on your usage.
Green electricity tariffs
You can ask your power supplier or a specialist company to supply you with a green electricity tariff. However, it does not make you carbon neutral and suppliers may use your tariff to meet their legal obligation to purchase a certain proportion of their power from renewable resources.
There are two different kinds of wind turbines: stand-alones (which are raised on a mast) and smaller ones designed to be mounted on buildings. The power output depends on wind speed, wind obstructions (other buildings) and the length of the blades. Turbines mounted on buildings can provide up to 20 per cent of a household's needs. A stand-alone turbine can generate up to twice the amount a typical household would need. This can then be fed back into the National Grid. For more information, visit the British Wind Energy Association.
This is the process of generating electricity from sunlight. Sunlight systems are expensive to install, although the government could contribute to as much as half of the cost.
Cut back your electricity use
There are plenty of other ways to make small changes to the way you consume electricity that can make a difference.
Minimise the time the fridge door is open and try to defrost freezers regularly. Keep the grille at the back clean at all times to keep it running efficiently.
Always buy a washing machine with the highest energy efficiency rating. Most of the energy used is for heating the water, so select a lower temperature and a shorter cycle wherever possible.
Like a washing machine, you should opt for the coolest washing setting that will still get the job done. Try to avoid using your dishwasher until it's completely full.
Energy efficient fluorescent bulbs reduce energy waste by up to 75 per cent and they last longer. Halogen lighting is not quite as efficient as fluorescent lighting, but is twice as efficient as incandescent lighting. Don't light empty rooms. When you leave a room, turn off the light!
Turn off any electrical equipment that has a standby button, such as TVs, videos, DVD players, stereos and computers. Most of this equipment uses as much energy on standby as it does when turned on. A microwave uses more energy lighting up its clock than it does cooking food!
Only boil as much water as you need to use, don't fill the kettle right up to make one cup of tea.
Always unplug your mobile phone charger once it's fully charged. You can save up to £4 a year just by doing this.
You will be amazed at how much you can save, just by making a few minor adjustments to the way you live at home. In addition, these small steps collectively can also help reduce your carbon footprint. Read our article on How to reduce your carbon footprint to give you some more ideas on what you can do to help the environment.
You can sign up to the free Friends of the Earth 'green your lifestyle' emails, which will automatically send tips on how to save energy and live a greener life, straight to your inbox.
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