Green your home – without wasting money
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 balloonstore.co.uk; 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