How green is your home?

Caroline Cassidy

There are two very good reasons to make your home more eco-friendly - the environment and money. We hear more and more about climate change and carbon footprints, while few of us have escaped the rising cost of fuel bills.

eco friendly home improvements
eco friendly home improvements

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So what can you do to make your home greener and more energy efficient? Simple lifestyle changes that can make your home run more energy efficiently, such as switching off instead of leaving on standby and buying energy efficient appliances, will obviously help but there are a number of home improvements and eco-friendly products available that can really make a difference.

Making the most of what you have
It is all very well thinking about generating your own electricity, but if your home is not properly insulated you'll be wasting money and energy.

An uninsulated home loses a third of its heat through the walls, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Though installing insulation if you have solid walls can be expensive (up to £13,000 depending on whether it is external or internal), cavity wall insulation costs around £350 to install, so it is a relatively easy way to make your home more energy efficient.

Loft insulation is similarly reasonable in terms of price and, since it won't need replacing for at least 40 years and can keep in the heat lost through the roof (an estimated 25 per cent) - again, well worth looking into.

If you are in need of a new boiler, ensure that it is a condensing model - they are more energy efficient and could cut your gas bills by up to £300 a year.

Investigate double glazing (or secondary glazing for a cheaper option) and draught exclusion, as well as insulation for your hot water tank and pipes, to ensure your home is as snug and warm as it should be.

Eco-friendly home improvements
With your home properly insulated, it's time to consider the next step in turning your house into an eco-friendly home.

Solar panels are becoming more and more popular in the UK as they reduce your carbon footprint and these days they are less reliant on sunshine. Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, for instance, still generate electricity when the sun is hiding behind clouds so you can rest easy in the knowledge that you are using renewable energy.

If you are planning an extension or replacing the roof, solar tiles or slates (where the solar panels are built in) are an excellent idea, though they can work out more expensive than panel systems.

Those living in an exposed spot should consider 'microwind' turbines, which can harness the power of the British breeze to generate electricity.

Solar panels and wind turbines are beneficial in more ways than one - thanks to the Feed-in Tariffs scheme, any electricity you generate but don't use can be 'sold' to the local grid.

To further reduce carbon emissions, a ground source pump will provide heat for radiators and hot water. Pipes are buried in the garden and extracts heat from the ground, which maintains a relatively consistent temperature throughout the year - a pump then circulates water through the pipes and into the home. Using the natural heat of the earth... what could be more eco-friendly than that?

There are grants available for eco-friendly home improvements (as well as insulation etc) which can contribute to the cost of installation - to see whether you qualify, visit the Energy Saving Trust's website.

Buying a green home
If you are determined to become as green as possible, it may be worth buying an eco-friendly home of your own. With carbon emissions the big issue of the day, new homes are often greener and with energy efficiency ratings now essential for anyone selling a house, it is easy to see how green your potential new home really is.

Going one step further, a number of new developments have embraced eco-friendly living and consequently a number of property websites have sprung up to help you find them, among them and so if you are searching for the ultimate green home, it is worth checking what is available and where.