Tips on ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home
Transitioning to a greener way of living should not be thought about twice - it should be second nature to everyone to play their part in reducing the overall carbon footprint of the human population.
Recent scientific articles have stated at least 40 to 70% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by 2050 to avoid irreversible climate damage.
In this article, we explore various ways to reduce residential energy consumption and tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint while making your house more efficient.
Table of Contents
How to reduce your carbon footprint
You may have implemented some of the energy saving home improvements mentioned below. However, you may find out a new idea or two from the tips which we have compiled on how to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint at home:
We've divided the changes into three categories;
Simple, easy steps to improve your energy efficiency
Not only will the points below improve the energy efficiency of your property, but you will also see a monthly saving on your electricity and energy bills.
- Don't leave the lights on when not in the room
- Draught excluders - Draught proofing windows and doors is a fairly cheap solution but will greatly reduce heat loss in your property
- Don't over-heat your house. We know it can get chilly in the winter, but keeping the heating blazing during winter is inefficient and costly. Layer up on clothes and cut down the time your heating is on.
- Shower instead of using the bath. A 10 minute shower will use around 55% of water compared to running a bath.
- Don't have excessively long showers. This not only cuts down on water usage, but also electricity as less water is heated and pumped.
- Don't leave appliances on standby. It is estimated that each individual uses £30 of electricity per year from appliances on standby. While this may not sound like much, this equates to over £1 billion for the UK alone.
- Don't overfill the kettle when making a tea or coffee. Kettles consume a fairly high amount of electricity and unnecessary extra use will significantly increase your electricity bill over time.
- Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth
- Use a dishwasher rather than a sink to clean the dishes (if possible). Despite what many believe, a dishwasher actually uses less water than washing up in a sink.
- Only put the dishwasher on when its completely full
- Use the washing machine on a low temperature and only when it is near to a full load.
Small property upgrades to reduce carbon emissions
Below are 9 energy saving home improvements which are not too expensive to implement but when combined, will reduce your monthly electricity and energy bills and the overall efficiency of your property.
Simply replacing all the fluorescent bulbs in your house with low energy LEDs can save a large amount on your annual electricity bill. Swapping 10 fluorescent bulbs for LEDs will of course have an upfront cost, however can save up to £250 per year.
Ensuring you have sufficient insulation in your house is vital. It is estimated around 25% of the heat in the property will escape through the roof and around 35% through the walls.
Wickes estimate that nearly 3 million tonnes of CO2 would be saved every year if everyone in the UK installed 270mm loft insulation. For the entire UK population, this amounts to £520 million saved in heating costs per year!
An efficient heating system is also another major element in reducing your energy consumption. In general, heating a house with electric heaters will cost more in the long run than a gas central heating system.
Ideally, you should look at fitting a combi-boiler, which will heat both the central heating and the hot water, on demand.
Your boiler and all of the hot water pipes should also be sufficiently lagged to further reduce heat loss. Depending on the size of the property and hot water consumption, a combi boiler could save you £50 - £450 per year.
- Smart meters
Many people are installing smart meters in their homes. A smart meter allows you to easily see how much electricity you are using at any one time. Having this awareness helps you to focus on reducing your electricity and gas usage.
On average, a smart meter user saves between £10 and £35 per year and are often installed by energy suppliers at no cost.
- Water use
The average toilet uses around 1.5 gallons of water each flush. To reduce this, you can install a low-flush system, which will have two options - full flush or small flush.
Installing spray head taps can significantly reduce water use. Some spray heads will cut water consumption by up to 80%!
Consider intalling a rainwater harvesting barrel. It may be expensive to include a filtration system, however if you live in a rainy country, such as the UK, you could save a fairly high amount on water during the wet season.
Ensuring all of your windows are double glazed or triple glazed will significantly reduce escaping heat from your property whilst also reducing condensation.
Even if you have double glazed windows installed, you should check that there are no draughts around the edges of the frame. Again, depending on the size of the property, you can expect to save between £50 and £130 per window per year by installing double glazed windows.
- Replace old appliances with energy efficient ones
Old appliances are notorious for being inefficient. The majority of modern appliances such as fridges and cookers are now A rated or above in terms of efficiency. If you have any old appliances, you should consider an upgrade.
Gas cookers are more efficient than electric cookers, however you can go a step further and consider purchasing an induction cooker. These create minimal waste heat compared to traditional gas and electric hobs.
The average energy consumption of an induction cooker is around 0.5 kWh, whereas a gas cooker is around 0.9 kWh.
- Renewable technology
If you have the available funds, installing renewable technology to your property is a great idea.
Depending on where you live, you could install solar panels, solar water heaters, solar air-conditioning, geothermal heating and an air-source heat pump. Read more about renewable technologies below.
- Install a Tesla Powerwall
If you already have, or are going to have, solar panels on your property, purchasing a Tesla Powerwall would be a great idea, especially if you're not at home during the day to use the excess generated solar power.
A Powerwall is basically a high capacity battery that will store the electricity generated from your solar panels, which can then be used as needed.
Renewable systems for properties
If you are looking at constructing a new property and aim to make it as energy efficient as possible, or are simply looking for some more energy saving home improvements, you may like to consider some of the other options below:
- Solar panels
While no longer an investment opportunity, solar panels do however provide a means of cheap, environmentally friendly electricity to your property.
- Solar air-conditioning
These systems can provide hot water, cooling and heating in an all-in-one unit.
- Cool roofs
Materials are installed into your roof which have a high solar-reflectance that stop the suns rays from over-heating properties during the summer whilst reflecting warm heat back into the property during winter.
- Heat recovery ventilation
These systems reduce the power requirement for heating during the winter months and provide efficient cooling during summer months.
- Ground source heat pump (GSHPs)
Also known as a geothermal heat pump work by extracting heat from the ground. GSHPs are able to efficiently heat your home and water supply, requiring no other fuel such as gas or firewood.
- Air source heat pump (ASHPs)
ASHPs extract heat from the outside air and are able to work effectively in outdoor temperatures as low as -15 degrees! As well as warming up the interior of your property, ASHPs are able to heat your water supply.
- Biomass boiler
A biomass boiler burns wood pellets, chippings or logs in order to provide central heating and hot water. They are effectively carbon neutral if the trees used as fuel are replaced with a new plantation.
- Combined heat and power (CHP) units
While not a renewable system, these systems have a high efficiency.
CHP systems generate electricity through combustion of a fossil fuel - coal, oil or gas. One of the by-products of the electricity generation is heat, which is used to heat up a water supply.
- Thermal store
A thermal store is a large, insulated water tank which can hold warmth for up to a few days.
These systems are effective when combined with other efficient heating sources such as solar heating cells and biomass boilers. Thermal stores are also compatible with other traditional sources of heating.
- Water recycling
There are two forms of water recycling; Rainwater and greywater.
Rainwater is collected and can be used for various applications, such as outdoor gardening and toilet flushing. Greywater is the water used for showering, washing up etc. It is collected, filtered and reused.
The average household can reduce water consumption by around 50% from these methods.
Are solar panels worth it?
Although the cost of solar panels are not recouped from electricity savings during their lifetime, if you have the available funds to initially install them on your property, you will effectively be one step closer to having a fully self sufficient energy supply to your property.
The solar panel grants which were once available, provided property owners with a discounted method of installation whilst also paying them for electricity supplied back into the grid, on what is known as the Feed in Tariff (FiT).
Although installing solar panels no longer provides an income to property owners, they do however provide peace of mind due to the fact you are not relying on fossil fuel generated electricity.
When combined with other renewable forms of electricity generation, provided you have sufficient capital, solar panels will allow you to become self sufficient.
On a side note, solar panels for heating water may be eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.
Switching energy suppliers
A really simple and easy way of playing your part for the environment is to switch energy suppliers. There are a number of suppliers who provide 100% green electricity.
Bulb are among one of these suppliers. Their generators provide 100% renewable electricity and 10% green gas. The generators which they acquire electricity from are a mixture of Hydroelectric, solar and anaerobic digestion stations. Find out more about Bulb.
Another renewable energy supplier to consider is Green Energy UK. This supplier also has a 100% renewable energy supply of electricity along with 100% green gas. Similar to Bulb, Green Energy UK use hydroelectric, solar and biomass generators along with wind and waste power. Read more about Green Energy UK here.
Only 10% of the population
The savings mentioned in the points above may not sound like much per household.
However, when you consider the number of households in the UK is around 27 million, if only 10% of these households made the savings, it would amount to a huge annual electricity saving.
Although the government have two schemes which can help you financially to install renewable systems, it should not entirely be up to the governments to make the required changes to meet global carbon emissions.
If every household, one by one converts to renewable sources, carbon emission targets will soon be reached.
Fuel poverty and severely cold property
It is estimated that around 4 million households in the UK are living with fuel poverty. In the winter of 2017/18, over 17,000 people in the UK died due to severe cold in their property - nearly double the number of the previous year.
Undoubtedly, these properties will not have a high EPC rating. If you're a landlord, you must ensure your property is well insulated and heating appliances are of high standard and don't cost an excessive amount for the tenants to run.
There are various options you have if you are effected by fuel poverty, such as the government scheme - the Warm Home Discount.
For further support in accessing the scheme, changing energy suppliers to a cheaper tariff or other support, visit NEA Action for Warm Homes.
Green energy Schemes
There are two main energy efficiency grants/schemes currently available in the UK: The Renewable Heat Incentive and the Feed-In-Tariff Scheme. Below, we have included some information on both of these schemes.
Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)
Launched in April 2014, the RHI government scheme was set up to encourage households and businesses to install renewable heat generation technologies in order to meet their 2020 goal: 12% of heat generation produced from renewable sources.
There are various systems which are eligible for cash payments over a seven year period under the RHI scheme.
The government also have an online calculator which you can use to determine how much money you could earn under the scheme.
Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) scheme
Similar to the RHI, the FiT scheme provides a monetary incentive for homeowners to generate their own renewable energy, however the FiT scheme is ending on the 31st of March 2019, with some exceptions.
Existing members will also still benefit from the scheme after the closing date. For further information on the FiT scheme, visit this documentation by Ofgem.
What to look out for when viewing a property
When searching for a new property, either to buy or to rent, there are certain attributes of the property you should look out for and take note of, as they can drastically affect your monthly energy bills.
Over 50% of carbon emissions from residential properties are generated from the process heating living spaces and water and air conditioning.
- How is the property heated - Standard electric heaters will cost more each month than a gas central heating system. You should also check the age and condition of the central heating system - if it has one.
- The boiler - How efficient is the current boiler? Is the hot water storage tank well insulated? Does it only heat up the hot water? Or is it a combi boiler which heats water and central heating on demand?
- Windows - Are they double glazed or even triple glazed? Single glazed windows will greatly reduce the heating efficiency of the property.
- Loft insulation - Is the loft insulation sufficient? Or could it do with an upgrade of added new materials.
- Wall insulation - New-build properties should already be fairly well insulated. However you should take note of whether the walls have cavity insulation or not.
- Solar panels - If the property has solar panels or solar heating, ensure they are included in the deeds of the property.
- Ask the current owner or agent what energy efficiency improvements have already been made and if there are any partially-completed improvements.
- Thoroughly inspect the EPC of the property. If it is graded A, B or C you don't have much to be concerned about. D grades are also not too much to be concerned about, although you'll be able to make improvements when you buy the property. If it is graded E, F or G then you may want to reconsider purchasing - it may be costly to significantly improve the rating.
Sustainable living developments
Interested in learning more about energy efficient homes which incorporate many of the systems mentioned in this article? Below we discuss some of the key players in the development of green property construction.
LivEco construct sustainable residential properties of high standard, along with refurbishment projects in various locations. The eco-developments create a happy community of like-minded people who are able to live in a sustainable environment.
LivEco have completed two developments to date, which are located in St Fagans, Wales and Haywards Heath, England.
The development in St Fagans is now undergoing phase 2, which will add another 10 eco properties to the site. Along with the new development, Wesse Garages and Nissan have partnered with them to offer a deal on electric cars.
To find out more about LivEco and their future eco-property developments, click here.
WeberHaus have been constructing prefabricated energy efficient homes since 1960, and to date have built over 36,000 homes.
By purchasing a prefabricated home from WeberHaus, your eco-house will come with underfloor heating, a heat ventilation system, an insulated, breathable wall system and triple-glazed windows, as standard.
WeberHaus state that the Passive Haus they offer consumes less than a quarter of the energy than a standard residential home.
For more information on WeberHaus' sustainable houses, click here.
Citu are a property development company which offer built-to-order, carbon-negative properties constructed from timber. The eco-properties are stated to be up to 10 times as efficient as standard homes.
When purchasing a property from Citu, you can expect to have a number of eco-friendly technologies integrated in your home, such as a heat recovery system, green roofs, solar panels and water recycling.
Prices start from around £150,000 for the built to order eco-properties and are eligible for the Help-to-Buy scheme.
To read further about Citu, visit this link.
If all of the points which we covered in this article were considered by even a quarter of the UK population, the carbon emission targets set by the Climate Change Act 2008 would be met extremely quickly.
Some of the energy saving tips mentioned in this article are extremely easy to implement. By 2050, greenhouse gas emissions in the UK must be cut by at least 80% compared to the 1990 baseline.
While installing renewable systems in your property can be fairly expensive, there are government energy grants which can aid with the upfront cost of installing the renewable energy sources, such as the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.
As mentioned in the article, there are around 4 million households in the UK that suffer during the winter months. If you are a landlord, we encourage you to do your upmost in ensuring your tenants property is well insulated and includes an effective heating system which is not overly expensive to run.
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Infographic: Tips to reduce your carbon footprint at home