Green upgrades for your home

From better insulation to solar grants and smart plugs, 2022 is all about energy efficiency

With energy costs spiralling, many of us are becoming more aware of our energy use than ever before. If you’re a homeowner, there are lots of ways you can increase the efficiency of your home and lower your monthly bills while reducing your carbon footprint.

Some of the bigger upgrades involve a significant investment upfront. But with the impact on your monthly outgoings apparent from day one of the improvements, you’ll start recouping some of that initial outlay immediately, and will reap greater rewards over the long term.

As an ethical lender, Great Western Credit Union supports initiatives that have a positive impact on the world we live in. It means we’re committed to funding eco-focused projects that benefit families and the environment.

Here are some ideas of how you can go greener as a homeowner, from large-scale changes to simple quick fixes.

Better insulation for a greener nation

We all want a warm home. One of the most effective ways to keep your living spaces at a comfortable temperature is to stop the heat escaping and at the same time, prevent cold air from coming in.

Insulation technology has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, making it possible to retrofit high quality insulation products without too much disruption.

Uninsulated walls are a huge source of heat loss. For cavity walls, you can have them injected with a special wall insulation via holes from the outside of the house, which are then sealed closed. If you have solid walls, you can have insulation boards attached to the inside or outside of your walls before being finished with plasterwork or render. Insulating your walls is a complex project that should be done by a professional. Prices vary widely, and it’s worth getting several quotes to make sure you’re getting a fair price.

As heat rises, a draughty loft space could also be letting lots of heat escape from your home. Insulating a loft is relatively cheap and easy to do, and involves laying rolls of insulation down, first between the joists and then a second layer over the top. Keen DIYers may be able to do this without paying for a pro.

Insulating the ground floor of your home can also make a difference. In an older home, installing insulation rolls between the underfloor joists will help to prevent draughts. A simpler, though less effective fix is to fill any gaps between floorboards with a sealant.
Going solar

Solar panels offer a way to make your own electricity via photovoltaic (PV) panels on your roof. They use the sun’s energy to generate electricity for you, reducing your need to pay for electricity from an energy supplier and in some cases, making you money by sending any excess power to a supplier.

The average cost of installing PV panels and a full system on a home is £6,500. You’ll need a decent amount of roof space to have solar panels fitted, and a south facing, unshaded roof is ideal, although an east or west facing roof may still work. Solar installation companies will be able to advise on the suitability of your home for the panels. Again, it’s a good idea to shop around for quotes to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

The lowdown on heat pumps

You may have heard of heat pumps – they’re a low-carbon alternative to heating your home with gas, LPG or any other system. With the government acting to phase out gas boilers to meet emissions targets, heat pumps will soon become a lot more common.

There are two types - air source heat pumps (ASHPs) and ground source heat pumps (GSHPs). They work by absorbing heat from either air drawn from outside or geothermal heat from the ground. They then compress it, which makes it warmer, and this is used to heat water which is then pumped through your radiators or underfloor heating.

Powered by electricity, they have the potential to make zero emissions if you opt for a renewable energy tariff, while running at a similar cost to other heating systems. The cost of the pump and installation generally adds up to between £5,000 and £10,000, and there are currently grants of up to £5,000 available from the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

Use energy ratings when buying new appliances

Buying a new fridge or washing machine? All appliances come with a star rating, telling you how efficient they are and giving you an idea of whether they’ll be adding a lot of cost to your energy bills.

An appliance with an A+++ rating is likely to cost more initially but save you a hefty chunk on your bills in the long term. From 2021, the energy label ratings have been re-classified A-G, the Energy Saving Trust has more information.

Three quick fixes to reduce your usage

Not all upgrades involve a big price tag. Smart plugs are an instant way to reduce the amount of electricity you’re using by switching off power at the wall. You can programme your smart plugs to do this on a schedule or you can control them remotely via an app, so you’ll no longer be wasting energy or money on any devices on standby or lights left on by accident.

In the kitchen, one of the most efficient ways to whip up hot meals is with a pressure cooker. A staple of 1970s life, they’re making a comeback, with newer models proving to be highly energy efficient.

Love to eat and socialise outdoors? Solar powered lights are brilliant for illuminating any evening get togethers, with only a few hours’ exposure to sunshine or daylight needed to charge them up.

An Advantage Loan can help you go greener

One of Great Western Credit Union’s guiding principles is to make our local economies and communities stronger. As well as fair lending, this includes a commitment to sustainability, whether that’s investing in local green initiatives, like the Bristol Energy Cooperative’s solar bond, installing solar panels to power our Bristol office or making personal loans available for your own energy-efficiency upgrades.

Our Advantage Loan is our lowest rate loan, offering homeowners the chance to borrow between £7,500 and £15,000. Use our loan calculator to see how you could use the Advantage Loan to fund your own green upgrades.

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Posted on
06 June 2022