Going Green In Your Home

An Advertising Feature

While most of us want to be more environmentally friendly in our everyday lives, there is a widely held misconception that going green is going to cost us the earth.

However, there are plenty of simple energy-saving steps you can take that will not only help to save the planet, but could also help save you pounds too – and many won’t cost you a penny.

Over the years, I’ve gradually made green improvements to my home, and the key areas to concentrate on are insulation, running your heating efficiently, and conserving energy and water.

Insulate your home

The better insulated your home, the less energy you need to keep it warm, and the more money you’ll save, so, if you have a loft, then you need to make sure the insulation is topped up to the recommended 270mm thickness.

Cavity walls can also be insulated to cut your annual heating costs and windows replaced with double or triple glazing.

Although these steps will lower your bills in the long term, they can be relatively expensive; cheaper suggestions include purchasing a jacket for your hot water cylinder and putting draught excluders around your doors and frames.

Change your boiler

Until recently, I’d battled with an old boiler which was not only unreliable but also extremely energy inefficient. Earlier this year, I finally decided to take the plunge, and splashed out on a new condensing combi model which is far more fuel-efficient and costs less to run.

With the initial outlay approaching £2,000, changing my boiler certainly wasn’t cheap, but I’m already making savings on my bills, and know that I will get a return on my investment.

I also got a thermostat fitted which allows me to take control of the heating, and by turning it down one degree I should soon chop a few pounds off my bill; the same applies if you lower the temperature at which you wash your clothes.

Make some basic changes

A really quick and easy way of saving both money and energy is by switching your standard light-bulbs for energy-saving ones. They use far less electricity and last up to 10 times as long, and many electricity suppliers currently have free samples to give away.

It’s good to get into the habit of always switching appliances off at the plug, and switching lights off when you leave a room; further savings can be made by only boiling the amount of water you need in the kettle.

Government help

Encouragingly, in May 2009 the Government announced proposals to fit all homes with ‘smart meters’ during the next decade; as these devices show you exactly how much energy you are using, this should help households curb unnecessary usage, use energy at off-peak times – and make some significant savings.

In fact, energy provider First:utility already offers free installation of smart meters to all new customers who take out its standard energy plan, while other energy-saving monitors which clamp on to the wires at your meter and send a signal on usage to a monitor can be bought for as little as £30.

Cut your water bills

I admit that I love taking a bath from time to time, but try to keep this to a minimum as it’s so much better for the environment to shower instead.

Better still, why not fit a low-flow shower head in your bathroom, as this uses 70% less water than a standard one – and fit a device known as a “hippo” into your existing toilet to save about a litre per flush.

You may also be able to save money by getting a water meter installed – especially if there are more bedrooms than people in your household – as this means paying only for the water you use, rather than a fixed charge based upon the rateable value of your home.

I’ve also been eyeing up some of the funky water butts now on offer to collect the roof water which can then be used to wash the car.

Gadgets and grants

Speak to your local council to find out if they are offering free or discounted composting bins, and check with your water company to see if they are giving away any free water-saving gadgets.

Energy companies must offer grants to enable householders to make their homes more energy-efficient in order to hit carbon emission reduction targets under a government initiative, the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (Cert).

There are, in fact, a whole host of grants available to help you cut costs when investing in energy-saving improvements, such as the Warm Front scheme (www.warmfront.co.uk) for pensioners and households on certain benefits (this scheme is only available in England).

For more details of the grants available, and to be put in touch with a local energy adviser in your area go to http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk or call 0800 512 012.

After looking at ways to possibly save energy, you might also want to make sure that you’re not left out of pocket should anything happen to your home. When looking online for a home insurance quote, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re getting the right level of cover at a good price.