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Tips & Tricks

Top 10 tips for efficient homes and lowering bills

Mikael Kristianslund

A young woman in a nice apartment
August 18, 2023

Owning a home is a wonderful experience, but monthly bills can sometimes take the joy out of it. Thankfully, you don't have to resign yourself to those high energy costs.

We've put together a list of actionable steps that you can take to improve the efficiency of your home, reduce those bills, and do your bit for the environment!

1. Understand what consumes the most energy

Before diving into solutions, it's essential to have a clear picture of what's burning a hole in your pocket. The top culprits are usually:

  • Heating: Particularly in the UK, with our cold, damp winters, heating often takes the top spot. The majority of homes are still using gas as their primary heating source.
  • Appliances, lighting, and more: These can quickly add up, especially if they're older models that aren't energy-efficient.
  • Energy consumption breakdown of a typical UK home (%):
UK Household Energy Consumption

2. Lower indoor temperature

Now, don't get us wrong; we're not suggesting that you should be shivering in your living room. But, by reducing your thermostat by just 1°C, you can save up to 10% on your heating bill. A typical comfortable temperature sits between 18-21 degrees. If your home is set warmer than this, you could be missing out on savings. Here are some points to note:

  • Smart thermostats: A smart thermostat is more than just a gadget; it's an investment in efficient energy management. With features such as learning your daily routine, adjusting to weather forecasts, and allowing remote control via smartphones, they ensure your home's temperature is optimal without wasting energy.
  • Layer up: Before reaching for the thermostat, consider adding an extra layer of clothing. Sometimes, a warm sweater or a snug pair of socks is all you need to feel comfortable. This approach not only conserves energy but also encourages a more sustainable lifestyle.
  • Educate and involve the family: Each family member has their unique comfort zone when it comes to indoor temperature. Ensuring everyone in the household grasps the concept of energy conservation can be a bit like herding cats. However, with a bit of clear communication and setting some house rules, it's entirely doable.

3. Use cold and warm zones

Mapping out your home's temperature zones can be the secret weapon to efficient energy use. Here's how you can master it:

Warm zones:

  • Characteristics: These are spaces where the family often gathers and spends a significant chunk of time. You'd want these areas to be comfortable, and you don't want your guests to think you're stingy.
  • Examples: The living room, kitchen, or a home office. Given the amount of time you spend in these spaces, it makes sense to maintain a warmer, cosier temperature here.

Cold zones:

  • Characteristics: Rooms that aren't in constant use don't need to be heated all the time. Turning down the heat in these areas can lead to significant energy savings without sacrificing comfort.
  • Examples: Bedrooms are prime cold zone candidates. Not only is it practical to lower the temperature here during the day, but a cooler bedroom environment during the night has been shown to promote better, deeper sleep.

By deliberately setting and adjusting temperatures in these zones, you can achieve a harmonious balance of comfort and energy efficiency throughout your home.

4. Save hot water

Water heating can be another major cost. Here's what you can do:

  • Shorter showers: Even cutting just a few minutes can save both water and the energy required to heat it.
  • Efficient showerheads: They use less water, meaning you heat less, and yet, you still get a good pressure.
  • Fix drips and leaks: Sounds obvious, but a dripping tap can waste more hot water than you think. A leak of one drip per second actually wastes 1,661 gallons of water and can cost up to £35 per year.
  • Insulate your water heater and pipes: This can minimise heat loss, allowing your water heater to work more efficiently and thus use less energy. Insulating hot water pipes can also help deliver hot water to your taps more quickly, reducing the need to run the water while waiting for it to heat up.

5. Smart energy management

Simply put, smart energy management is the use of technology and insights to optimise how you consume energy. This might involve gadgets, systems, or just being savvy about your usage patterns.

Time-of-use tariffs:

  • Understanding the system: Some UK energy providers have designed tariff systems where electricity rates fluctuate based on demand—offering cheaper rates during off-peak hours.
  • Action Step: Check with your provider if they offer these tariffs. Then, plan high-energy activities, such as laundry or electric vehicle charging, for off-peak hours. Over time, this shift can lead to notable savings.

Home automation systems:

  • Beyond the basics: While turning off lights is a part of it, advanced home automation can manage heating, adjust blinds based on sunlight, or even shut down outlets to prevent standby energy consumption.
  • Action Step: Invest in a basic home automation kit. Start with automating your lighting, and then expand to things like adjusting blinds based on sunlight or cutting power to outlets when not in use. Not only will you save energy, but you'll also find daily life gets a bit more convenient.

Energy monitoring tools:

  • Gaining insight: Devices and apps now exist that can give you real-time feedback on your energy consumption patterns, highlighting areas of wastage or inefficiency.
  • Taking action: Armed with this data, you can make informed decisions about where adjustments are needed, whether that means replacing an old appliance or adopting new energy habits.

6. Use energy efficiency lights and appliances

It's a switch that's good for the planet and your wallet:

  • LED bulbs: They use up to 90% less energy than traditional bulbs and last longer too. These light bulbs can be a bit expensive but with the prolonged lifespan its definitely worth it over time.
  • Energy Star-rated appliances: When it's time to replace an appliance, consider ones with the Energy Star rating. They're designed to operate more efficiently.

7. Insulation, draft-Proofing, windows/doors

Safeguarding your home against the elements means ensuring that warmth stays in while the chilly breezes stay out. Here's how to achieve this thermal comfort:

Insulation:

Proper insulation acts like a thermal barrier, retaining warmth within your home while keeping the cold at bay. Prioritise loft insulation as heat rises and can easily escape from an uninsulated roof. Don't overlook wall and floor insulation either – they contribute significantly to maintaining a steady indoor temperature.

  • Action Step: Assess your home's current insulation state. If it's been a while since it was installed, or if you're uncertain about its effectiveness, consider getting an expert opinion.

Draft-proofing:

Even minuscule gaps can let in a surprising amount of cold air, undermining your heating efforts. Common culprits include window frames, door frames, and areas where utility lines enter your home.

  • Action Step: Conduct a draft audit. On a windy day, use your hand or a smoke stick to identify drafty areas, then seal them using draft strips or sealants.

Double glazing:

Single-pane windows can be a major source of heat loss, even if they're draft-proofed. Double glazed windows feature two panes of glass, creating an insulating barrier. They're remarkably effective in trapping warmth and can even offer soundproofing benefits.

  • Action Step: If you're still living with single-pane windows, consider this upgrade. Though it's an investment, the energy savings and added comfort can quickly offset the costs.

8. Switch from gas to heat pump

The UK has been very slow to adapt heat pumps compared to the rest of Europe. That might change soon, as the world of heat pumps has witnessed a significant evolution in recent years, with technological advancements making them more efficient than ever before.

There are two primary types - Air Source Heat Pumps, which extract heat from the ambient air, and Ground Source Heat Pumps that harness the stable temperatures beneath the earth's surface. Both offer unique advantages, tailored to various needs and geographical conditions.

So why should you consider switching?

  • Remarkable Efficiency: Traditional boilers typically operate at an efficiency rate of around 90%. That means 90% of the energy used is converted to heat, with the remaining 10% lost. Heat pumps, on the other hand, can operate at an astounding efficiency rate of 300-600%. They don’t generate heat but transfer it, allowing for such impressive efficiency figures. To put that into perspective, for every unit of electricity used by the heat pump, it can produce 3 to 6 units of heat.
  • Grants and Incentives: To further sweeten the deal, there are grants available for those considering the switch to heat pumps. The UK government, recognising the environmental benefits and the need to boost adoption rates, is offering financial incentives to ease the transition for homeowners.

9. Consider solar

The cost of solar technology is steadily dropping, making it more affordable than ever. Add to this the rising electricity prices, and it's clear that investing in solar offers great returns. Despite the UK's cloudy reputation, it's actually a suitable location for solar energy. Solar panels tend to be more efficient in cooler climates, as overheating can reduce their effectiveness. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Reduce energy costs: Solar panels can significantly decrease your electricity bills. Even on overcast days, they're able to generate power.
  • Sell back excess energy: If your system produces more energy than you need, many suppliers will buy it back. A win-win!
  • Environmentally friendly: You're reducing your carbon footprint, making our beautiful planet a tad greener.

Interested in making the switch? Cut up to 90% off your electricity bill with Sparkway solar.

10. Do an energy efficiency audit

It's like a health check-up but for your home's energy use:

  • Identify problem areas: An audit can pinpoint where you're losing the most energy. Once you know, you can take steps to rectify it.
  • Find the most impactful upgrades: Every home is unique, and so are its energy efficiency needs. An energy audit helps you discover the energy improvements that give you the most value for your money.
  • Professional advice: Experts can provide tailored recommendations, ensuring you're not missing out on any potential savings.

Considering an energy audit? Get a FREE energy audit with Sparkway (usually £249). Discover the steps to improve comfort, increase property value, and cut energy costs. You'll get a tailored upgrade plan with projected costs and value increase. No strings attached.

Summary

There you have it – our top 10 tips for a more efficient home and, most importantly, lowering those pesky bills. It's all about being mindful of how and when we use energy, making some strategic investments, and taking advantage of modern technology. But remember, it's not just about saving money (though that's a great perk). Every step you take towards a more energy-efficient home is a step towards a more sustainable future for us all.

Ready to transform your home's energy efficiency?