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What can I do to make my home more energy efficient?

The government has launched a scheme to help households insulate their homes, potentially saving up to £300 a year. Find out more and discover other ways to reduce your fuel bills.

Guest Author
Words by: Nicky Burridge

Contributing Editor

The government has launched a £1 billion scheme to help hundreds of thousands of people make their homes more energy efficient.

Launched as ECO+ in spring 2023, it has since been renamed the Great British Insulation Scheme and is now managed by Ofgem.

Set to run until March 2026, the scheme will pay for loft and cavity wall insulation for households who do not currently benefit from other government support to upgrade their homes.

It's estimated that improvements funded through the initiative will save the average household £310 a year in energy bills.

Around 80% of the scheme’s funding will go to households living in the least energy-efficient properties, namely those with an Energy Performance Certificate of D or below, as well as those in homes in lower council tax bands.

Around a fifth of the fund will also target the most vulnerable, such as people on means tested benefits or those living in fuel poverty.

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The scheme is being backed by an £18 million campaign giving advice on how people can reduce their energy bills without sacrificing their comfort.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said at the time: “Our scheme will help hundreds of thousands of people across the UK to better insulate their homes to reduce consumption, with the added benefit of saving families hundreds of pounds each year.”

The latest measures build on the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) schemes, under which energy suppliers help people on low incomes make their homes more energy efficient.

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What else can I do to reduce my energy bills?

Solar panels

Average cost to install: around £5,500

A solar PV system is a big investment, and beyond buying the panels themselves, you will also have to pay to have them installed.

But once they are in place, they can be big money savers, potentially reducing your energy bills by up to £500 a year.

The benefits don’t end there, as if you are able to generate more electricity than you need, you can sell it back to the grid through the Smart Export Guarantee scheme.

You could make around £110 a year doing this.

To generate the most electricity, you will need to live in a part of the country that gets a lot of sun, typically somewhere in the south, and have a south-facing roof with a good tilt that's free from shade for most of the day.

Are solar panels worth the money?

Cavity wall insulation

Average cost to install: around £1,000 for a semi-detached property

With a third of all heat lost through a building’s walls, installing cavity wall insulation is a good way of cutting your energy bills.

You'll quickly earn back your investment too, as it saves around £395 a year if you live in a semi-detached property.

In general, homes built after the 1920s but before the 1990s may benefit from cavity wall installation.

Carrying out the work is best left to the professionals, but you may be able to get some help with the cost under the ECO and ECO+ schemes.

Regarding the ECO scheme, all the energy companies have different policies, but broadly speaking, you are likely to be eligible if you or someone you live with claims certain benefits, such as universal credit, pension credit, income support, disability living allowance, child tax credit, and child benefit.

Loft insulation

Average cost to install: £640 for a semi-detached house

Around a quarter of a home’s heat is lost through the roof, so having loft insulation installed is a great way to make your home more energy efficient.

Good insulation could save you up to £355 a year on energy bills if you live in a semi-detached home, meaning the upgrade would pay for itself in less than two years.

You may also be able to get help with the initial outlay through the ECO+ scheme, which applies to both homeowners and renters, as long as they have their landlords’ permission.

If your loft is easy to access and has no problems with damp or condensation, this is an improvement you can do yourself, using rolls of mineral wool insulation.

Double glazing

Average cost to install: £7,500 for a semi-detached house

Around 18% of heat loss occurs through windows, and double glazing can help to prevent this.

The savings aren’t huge at around £235 a year, but with double glazing lasting for around 20 years, you should make your money back over the longer term.

Look for windows that have an energy rating of A++, the highest rating available, as these will save you the most money.

Energy efficient boilers

Average cost to install: from £4,000

Heating and hot water account for more than half of the typical energy bill.

Replacing an old gas boiler with an A-rated condensing boiler could knock between £300 and £540 a year off your fuel bill, depending on how efficient your previous boiler was.

If you are interested in buying and installing an air source heat pump or biomass boiler to replace a fossil fuel one, you may be able to get £5,000 towards the cost under the government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

To qualify, your home must be in England or Wales and have a valid energy performance certificate.

In addition, there must be no outstanding recommendations for loft or cavity wall insulation on your home.

Draught excluders

Average cost to install: free – if you get creative

The cheapest and easiest solution of all, reducing the drafts around windows and doors can save you around £60 a year.

While having a professional do draft proofing will cost around £225 for a house, you can easily do the work yourself by identifying any gaps in windows and doors that are letting cold air in.

Just be careful not to block anything that's needed for ventilation, such as underfloor grills, air bricks or wall vents.

For draft-proofing windows, you can buy inexpensive self-adhesive foam strips, and for doors, you can get plastic strips with brushes attached.

Alternatively, you can create DIY solutions, such as cutting off the leg of an old pair of trousers or the arm off a jumper, filling it and sewing up the ends for an easy win.

Radiator thermostats 

Average cost to install: £400-£500, plus £25 per radiator thermostat

Thermostatic radiator valves (TVRs) help you to reduce the cost of heating your home by giving you more control over how you heat each room.

For example, you may want to keep your lounge warm, but are happier to have a cooler bedroom. 

TVRs work by controlling the flow of hot water through the radiator they are fitted to. They typically have a scale of 0 to 6, with 0 being off and 6 being fully open.

They can be fitted to radiators in any room, except those where the main thermostat is located, but installation is best done by a professional, so budget a further £400 to £500 for this.

The amount they reduce your energy bill by will vary according to how you use them, but manufacturers claim they can cut your heating costs by up to 30% to 40%.

Energy efficient light bulbs

Average cost to install: £4.50 per bulb

With lighting accounting for around 11% of the typical electricity bill, replacing traditional incandescent lightbulbs bulbs with LED lighting can be an easy way to save money.

For example, switching from a 75 watt incandescent bulb to LEDs can save you around £10 per bulb per year.

This is an easy one to do with no installation costs, just look for LEDs with Edison or bayonet fittings.

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