How to make your home more energy efficient
A more energy efficient home means cheaper bills and a reduction in your carbon footprint. From loft insulation to low carbon heating, we look at the most effective options, how much they cost, and the potential downsides. Here's how to make your home more energy efficient.
There are several reasons to make your home more energy efficient. It will save you money on your bills and reduce your carbon footprint and impact on climate change. And with government plans to ensure as many homes as possible reach an EPC rating of C by 2035, investing in making your home more energy efficient will stand you in good stead for the future.
And in the Spring Statement 2022, the Chancellor announced VAT will be scrapped for homeowners installing energy efficient measures such as solar panels, heat pumps, or insulation – for the next five years.
How to save energy at home
Whether you live in an older home or a relatively new one, there are many simple and relatively inexpensive ways to save energy. These include turning down your thermostat by 1 degree, draught-proofing around windows and doors, and insulating your hot water tank. Lifestyle changes like turning off electrical devices on stand-by and having short showers rather than baths also play a part. For more easy tips and to find out how much you can save, read our guide Top 10 Energy Saving Tips.
This guide will look at more extensive energy efficient measures you can invest in for more significant improvements. But before you start, you’ll want to know how energy efficient your home currently is.
How energy efficient is my home?
To find out how energy efficient your home is simply look for the rating listed on your most recent Environmental Performance Certificate or EPC. You can check you have a valid EPC and/or find a copy of yours instantly by visiting the government’s EPC register.
EPCs are valid for 10 years, so if the EPC has expired or if there isn’t one for your property, you can arrange to have one completed. Then once your improvement works have been completed you can get another EPC to check your project has improved the energy efficiency in your home. Your new, improved EPC rating will be an important selling point for future home buyers. In the meantime, it could help you access competitive green mortgage rates.
An EPC costs between £60 and £120, depending on your property size and other factors. You can find EPC assessors and compare quotes from energy assessors near you to get the best deal. And their report will also give recommendations for improvements which could help you decide what energy efficient home improvements to invest in.
How to make an old home more energy efficient
Considering which energy efficiency improvement(s) to undertake may seem rather daunting, especially if you live in an older property that is draughty, dated and could benefit from lots of different possible measures. The key is to research and evaluate all the options available to you before deciding. You’ll want to get a good idea of what any improvement work involves, the costs, the potential savings on energy bills per year, as well as understand what can go wrong.
It’s also worth noting that retrofitting an older property nearly always comes with risks and compromises. You, and the professionals you hire to install eco measures, are unlikely to know everything there is to know about your property, and the materials and building techniques used at the time it was constructed. And this introduces an element of risk. So always allow a little extra in your budget to cover the unexpected. Find out more in our guide how to fund your home improvement project.
How to make your home more energy efficient: What are my options?
1. Loft insulation
When you’re asking how to make your home more energy efficient, there are lots of reasons why people start at the top – literally – with loft insulation. This is because it’s reasonably priced, effective and involves the least disruption to your home. Plus, Energy Saving Trust says a quarter of heat is lost through the roof in an uninsulated home. And so insulating your loft, flat roof or attic is an effective way to reduce heat loss and cut your heating bills.
It typically involves using rolls of mineral wool insulation, with the bottom layer laid between the joists and a further layer to cover the joists.
What’s the cost of loft insulation?
According to Checkatrade, the average cost of labour and materials to insulate your loft is £500. Although this ranges from £400 for a mid-terraced house to £600 for a detached house or bungalow. While the potential savings on energy bills are around £380 a year on average for a detached home, with mid-terraces typically saving £150 annually, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
What are the downsides of loft insulation?
Loft insulation needs to be quite thick, with most homes needing between 12cm and 30cm thickness of insulation.
And when it’s laid, you can’t just squash it down with boards. Instead you need to create a new floor. That’s beyond a lot of homeowners’ DIY skills, so experts may need to be called in, adding to the costs. You should also be aware that this new, higher floor will reduce headroom in the loft too.
There is also the risk of damp. This is because preventing hot air from escaping your home will make your loft cooler. And so this could introduce or worsen existing damp or condensation problems. If you are installing loft insulation yourself, you may need to increase ventilation. And if damp is already an issue, get professional advice before installing insulation to see if you can fix the damp problems first.
Ventilation is something all homeowners need to consider, regardless of whether your home has damp problems. A good installer will make sure they don’t block or seal any intentional ventilation. If you’re installing the insulation yourself, ensure you don’t cover any vents, grilles or airbricks.
You can find a local loft insulation fitter using our Checkatrade tool.
2. Double glazing
There are definite energy saving advantages in upgrading single glazed windows to double glazing. Replacing windows is not very disruptive and the benefits to the look and feel of your home are instant. Home buyers often expect double glazing, so it’s an advantage when it comes to selling your home too. And it can reduce noise from road traffic or neighbours. All these factors make it an obvious choice for making your home more energy efficient.
Is it worth replacing dated double glazed windows? Not necessarily. You’ll want to compare the energy values on your existing windows with what’s available now. It may also be cheaper and just as effective to replace the glass units rather than the whole frame. Get advice from your EPC assessor, a trusted builder and a window fitter, bearing in mind the latter will be looking for a sale.
What’s the cost of double glazing?
The cost of double glazing will vary depending on the type of windows you have and how many. For example, replacing PVC windows will be much cheaper than wooden sash windows.
According to Energy Saving Trust, fitting PVC windows in a typical semi-detached house would cost around £4,250 on average (approximately £325 per PVC window). This compares to around £15,000 for hardwood windows (£1500 per timber sash window). Fitting double glazing could save the typical home around £95 per year on energy bills.
For more detailed costs to replace your windows read What to expect when replacing windows.
What are the downsides of double glazing?
Double glazing is expensive. And you must use a FENSA accredited window installer as well, as Building Regulations apply when replacing any windows.
Another factor to consider is the fit with the property. If you have a period property with sash windows, you’ll want to replace like for like to preserve the charm which so many future home buyers will be looking for.
Most window suppliers will do a double glazed and well-sealed version of wooden sash windows. These can come in wood-effect uPVC to reduce costs. But they are still very expensive to replace. Despite energy savings to be had, the charm of original windows means it’s understandable why homeowners aren’t rushing out to replace them at great expense. Most will look at secondary glazing and repairs to existing frames first.
3. Cavity wall insulation
Around a third of a home’s heat is lost through the walls, according to Energy Saving Trust. So if you get cavity wall insulation, this can reduce how much heat you lose through your walls. Therefore if you’re looking at how to make your home more energy efficient and if you have cavity walls, this could be worth looking into.
Houses built after the 1920s are more likely to have cavity walls. While those constructed earlier are more likely to have solid walls.
With cavity walls, two walls are built with a gap in between them known as a cavity wall. The external wall is typically brick while the internal wall is either brick or concrete.
And with cavity wall insulation, a specialist company will drill holes in the outside walls and inject insulation material into the cavity. They’ll then seal the holes with cement.
How much does cavity wall insulation cost?
The cost of cavity wall insulation will vary depending on the size of your house, how accessible the walls are and the type of insulation used. However, generally speaking, Checkatrade says you should expect to pay around £22-£26 per square metre. This is based on polyurethane foam. However, glass wool will be cheaper at around £13 – £18 per square metre.
Checkatrade says the average cost for installing cavity wall insulation in a detached house is £725, while for a mid-terrace the average cost is £370.
Make sure to use a CIGA (the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency) accredited provider. You can check the provider is CIGA accredited. Get advice and do your research before committing.
What are the downsides of cavity wall insulation?
In some cases, cavity wall insulation can cause problems such as damp and mould. However, providing you’ve used a CIGA-accredited provider, you’ll have a guarantee to protect you against damage resulting from failures in workmanship or materials when it comes to cavity wall insulation. So make sure you contact them if you have any problems.
And it’s important to deal with any damp issues before you get cavity wall insulation. To find out more, read our guide on how to spot and get rid of damp.
4. Internal wall insulation
If your home has solid walls– and therefore you can’t install cavity wall insulation – and you’re wondering how to make your home more energy efficient, internal wall insulation may be an option. Internal wall insulation involves fitting insulation boards to the walls inside your home. Or by fitting a stud wall filled with insulation material.
It’s more expensive than cavity wall insulation.
How much does internal wall insulation cost?
The cost of internal wall insulation depends on how many rooms you are renovating, the size of the walls and the type of material being used.
But to illustrate the potential costs involved, Energy Saving Trust estimates the cost to install internal wall insulation in a typical three-bedroom semi-detached home would be around £8,200. And the average household could expect to save £210 annually on energy bills as a result.
What are the downsides of internal wall insulation?
Fitting internal wall insulation means you will have less floor space in your rooms as the thickness of the insulation is around 10cm, according to Energy Saving Trust.
And the upheaval is significant. Fittings such as radiators, skirting boards and plug sockets will need to be removed and reattached afterwards. This may involve re-wiring and re-piping, which may increase the costs. Plus you’ll also need to redecorate too.
As with cavity wall insulation, it also brings with it the risk of damp too. So it’s important to make sure you get expert advice.
Want to know how to find the best tradespeople? Read our guide.
5. Heat pumps
If you want to try to cut your energy bills and your carbon footprint, another option is to upgrade to an eco-friendly heating system such as an air or ground source heat pump. Heat pumps capture heat from the outside and move it into your home. And while it uses electricity to do this, the amount of heat it provides your home should be much greater than the amount of electricity the system uses.
Because heat pumps use heat that’s already present in the environment, the system doesn’t burn any fuel. This means it emits no carbon dioxide.
What is the cost of heat pumps?
The average cost of supplying and installing an air source heat pump is between £3,000 and £18,000, says Checkatrade. While installing the average ground source heat pump in a typical house costs between £13,000 and £35,000, it says.
What are the downsides of heat pumps?
It’s important to bear in mind the installation is likely to cause quite major disruption in your home and garden. And there have been reports that they aren’t as effective as traditional boilers at heating your home. They’re also known to be less efficient in winter. So you’ll often need to run them constantly throughout the colder months which will also reduce any savings. Plus, you’ll need a highly insulated house to get the benefits in full.
6. Solar panels
Solar electricity panels, also known as photovoltaics (PV), capture energy from the sun and convert it into electricity that you can use in your home. So by installing solar panels, you can generate your own renewable electricity. And while installing solar panels is expensive, if you can afford it and have the space it’s one of the most effective ways to reduce how much energy you need to buy.
How much does installing solar panels cost?
The cost of installing solar panels has come down in price compared to previous years. According to OVO Energy, it typically costs between £2,500 and £8,000 to install solar panels, depending on the number of panels and the size of your roof. OVO Energy estimates that a 3.5kW panel in southern England will give around a £300 return in the first year.
What are the downsides?
As well as the high initial costs involved and the space required, if you live somewhere that’s particularly shaded it can make it hard for the solar cells to collect energy. And in some instances, installing them on older homes can be difficult.
7. External wall insulation
External wall insulation involves fixing a layer of insulation material on your home’s exterior walls, then covering it with a special type of plasterwork or cladding.
The final finish can be textured, smooth, painted, tiled, pebble-dashed, panelled or finished with brick slips.
How much does external wall insulation cost?
While external wall insulation has lots of advantages, it is very expensive. The cost of external wall insulation depends on whether your home has solid walls or not. And if it requires scaffolding. According to Checkatrade, the cost of external wall insulation is usually around £100 per sq m. And the average cost ranges from £8,000 for a small flat, rising to £22,000 for a large detached house. Use our tool to find rated wall insulation providers and obtain quotes.
What are the downsides of external wall insulation?
Just like with internal wall insulation, if you have solid walls you’ll need to ensure they can breathe, otherwise you’re at risk of damp issues.
You’ll also need to consider the cost of adjusting fixtures and fittings that sit on the wall, such as drain pipes and boiler flues.
If you live in an older home with period features, these may be lost or expensive to retain.
8. Floor insulation
Installing floor insulation is another way to reduce draughts at ground level and cut your energy bills.
If you have solid concrete flooring, which became typical from the late 1930s, the insulation will be laid on top before you apply a new floor covering. Older homes will usually have suspended timber floors. These can be insulated by lifting the floorboards and laying mineral wool insulation, held in place by netting between the joists.
What are the costs of floor insulation?
If you have solid concrete floors you should expect to pay between £950 and £2,200 per room for floor insulation, according to Checkatrade.
While insulating under a suspended timber floor typically costs between £300 and £750 per room.
And insulating under the floorboards on the ground floor could save you about £50 a year in an average property. Or up to £85 if you live in a detached house, according to Energy Saving Trust.
But when you’re doing your calculations don’t forget the costs of re-flooring and/or re-carpeting.
What are the downsides of floor insulation?
As well as the potential for needing to re-floor the rooms, you’ll also need to clear furniture out too while it’s being fitted. If you have suspended timber floors, it’s likely that your floorboards will need to be lifted in order to insulate underneath. This may mean you need to get any gaps re-filled afterwards. You’ll also need to ensure any air vents underneath aren’t blocked as this could lead to damp or your floorboards rotting.
Home energy efficiency grants
Before paying to install any energy efficiency measures, find out if you can get a grant to help pay for things like loft and cavity wall insulation.
See our advice guide for how to finance improvements in your home.