Green your home – with­out wast­ing money

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

sim­ply be­cause their fuel use was al­ready near its low­est pos­si­ble level.

It’s a good habit to read your own gas and elec­tric­ity me­ters – prefer­ably ev­ery month – and use the read­ings to see how much fuel you are get­ting through over the course of the year. The price per kWh or “unit” of gas and elec­tric­ity will be writ­ten in your bills. Don’t con­fuse this with the amount your en­ergy sup­plier is tak­ing from your bank ac­count in di­rect deb­its – if you are on a monthly “bud­get” scheme, this could quite pos­si­bly be more than you are ac­tu­ally us­ing. Un­less you are a

style gourmet and home baker, al­most all of your gas bill will go to­wards wa­ter heat­ing and space heat­ing. If you don’t have mains gas and rely on elec­tric heat­ing, you’ll have to es­ti­mate how much elec­tric­ity you use for non­heat­ing pur­poses. Wash­ing ma­chines, dish­wash­ers, dig­i­tal tele­vi­sion and com­put­ers all use quite a bit of power, but you can prob­a­bly as­sume that about 60 per cent to 70 per cent of your elec­tric­ity is used for heat­ing.

If you live in a de­tached house and are spend­ing less than £2,000 a year in to­tal, you are do­ing well, and it is un­likely that most “green” mea­sures will re­duce your bills by more than they cost to in­stall and run. About £1,600 for a semi-de­tached and £1,350 for a mid-ter­race are also rea­son­able. With flats, it de­pends on the lay­out, and the area of ex­posed ex­ter­nal walls and ceil­ings.

The point I’m try­ing to make is that we all have to spend a cer­tain amount of money to heat our homes. This is not nec­es­sar­ily be­cause our homes are in­ef­fi­cient – it’s be­cause fuel is now very ex­pen­sive, not least be­cause of the Cli­mate Change Levy (CCL) added to all our bills at a rate of 0.55p for ev­ery unit of elec­tric­ity we use, and 0.19p per unit of gas.

So, is it worth spend­ing money on home im­prove­ments, to try to re­duce your fuel bills? And if so, how much should you spend, and how soon might you ex­pect to see a re­turn on your in­vest­ment? A use­ful bench­mark fig­ure for the lat­ter would be seven years, as this is the av­er­age time that Bri­tish peo­ple spend in a home be­fore mov­ing. Draught-proof­ing win­dows and ex­ter­nal doors is by far the sim­plest and most cost­ef­fec­tive en­ergy-sav­ing mea­sure. About £10 worth of self-ad­he­sive foam-rub­ber draught strip­ping will give in­stant re­sults, and prob­a­bly pay for it­self in­side a few months. If you have an open fire that you use oc­ca­sion­ally and don’t want to close off, then you can stop valu­able heat es­cap­ing up the flue with a chim­ney bal­loon. It al­lows a trickle of air to es­cape up the flue to keep the stack ven­ti­lated. About £20 from chim­ney bal­loon­; 020 8133 9002. It’s likely to pay for it­self within a year or two. For years, a mod­est layer of fi­bre­glass quilt above the topfloor ceil­ings was the only form of in­su­la­tion in Bri­tish homes. It worked well, although it seems to break down and col­lapse un­der its own weight af­ter 15 to 20 years or so. Prob­lems have arisen now that much thicker lay­ers have been spec­i­fied – up to 250mm (10in) – which makes the loft space it­self much cooler than be­fore, caus­ing con­den­sa­tion to form on the sark­ing felt and rafters.

A com­mon prob­lem is that in­stall­ers stuff the in­su­la­tion tight into the eaves, cut­ting off nat­u­ral ven­ti­la­tion. But as long as in­stall­ers and

Spend to save: from top, so­lar pho­to­voltaic pan­els gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity – and in­come; loft in­su­la­tion can save en­ergy, but be­ware of con­den­sa­tion

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