Energy Efficient Home Improvements for 2021

Energy-efficient home improvements have become increasingly popular as awareness grows of the need to cut individual carbon footprints. This type of home renovation usually isn’t cheap, but you’ll reap the benefit in improved performance and reduced bills long-term. Plus, you could be eligible for £5000 towards the cost under the Green Homes Grant scheme until March 2022 provided the contractor you use is registered.  

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4 Energy Efficient Home Improvements

There are lots of energy saving home improvements you can make, from installing new windows and doors to adding internal or external insulation. Another option is to overhaul your heating by changing the boiler or installing underfloor heating.

Let’s review 4 popular home improvements you can do to make your home more energy efficient.

1. New Windows and Doors

This usually means upgrading from single to double or even triple glazing and a better fit to reduce heat loss.  

For windows, energy performance depends on the type of glass and frame. Look for: 

  • A high rating: A+++ is best, E is lowest.  
  • Low u-value, a measure of how much heat passes through. 
  • Low emissivity (low-E) glass with a thin internal coating of metal oxide to reflect heat back into the house.  
  • A 16mm gap between panes, the ideal size for best performance (bigger isn’t necessarily better). Gaps filled with inert gas also insulate better than air.  
  • Pane spacers with minimal metal for maximum efficiency. 

Energy Efficient Home Improvements for 2021

For both windows and doors, the design and frame materials also matter, but most modern uPVC, wood, aluminium or composite frames perform well. Wood is a particularly good insulator but requires more maintenance than other materials. 

Any changes must comply with building regulations and you must check whether planning permission is required for the front of the house, a listed building or a conservation area. 

2. Internal and External Insulation

Older homes tend to have solid (rather than cavity) walls, which lose a lot of heat. If this is your case, you can improve energy efficiency by installing external or internal insulation. 

Internal insulation usually involves fixing rigid plasterboard or stud walls to existing ones. Studs involve a timber frame filled with insulation and plastered and are stronger, so better for attaching heavy kitchen or bathroom fixtures. 

Internal insulation is cheaper than external but it’s a disruptive installation and does eat into internal space.  

Energy Efficient Home Improvements for 2021

External insulation involves attaching insulating material to the outside of the building before covering it with render. The pros of external insulation is that it is less disruptive and it improves soundproofing, weatherproofing and appearance. Cons are that it is more expensive than internal insulation, and there is a chance you may require planning permission. 

Your roof is another major source of heat loss so installing loft insulation is essential. In a detached house, this can usually be done for around £600, saving you £240-£265 a year, depending on the thickness. Simple installations have DIY potential. 

3. New Heating System

Heating your home eats up almost 50% of your energy bill so upgrading your heating system can bring major savings. 

If your boiler is over 15 years old, replacing it with a more efficient condensing boiler—which recovers more heat from the gas while emitting less—will cost around £2300 and bring significant  improvements.  

When choosing a new boiler, think about how much hot water you need. Most older regular boilers have a separate hot water cylinder, while combi boilers provide hot water directly but are less suitable for big families. In general, regulars are more efficient but do lose some heat from the cylinder. 

4. Underfloor Heating

This has improved a lot lately and its luxurious underfoot feel makes it a popular home renovation trend. It distributes heat more evenly and works at a lower temperature than radiators, so it’s more energy efficient and cheaper to run. 

There are two basic systems: electric mats and wires or water pipes. Both are suitable for installation under a range of flooring and can be fitted in the whole house or selected rooms. Water is a more disruptive installation, so better for new-builds, or if you’re completely gutting the house. Otherwise, electric is an easier retrofit but more expensive to run and not as good for large areas. 

Both need very little maintenance, work under a range of flooring and don’t usually need planning permission. It is slower to heat up, though, so you need to program it to come on before you need it. 

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