Guide to energy auditing your house
Whether oil prices are rising or falling, energy bills can still eat through a substantial chunk of a UK household’s income. This combined, with the growing concern for the environment, means that more families are looking to conserve energy by making their homes more efficient.
Doing an energy audit is the most effective way to see how much energy the property is using every day, week, month, or year. It will also be able to provide other valuation information, such as the amount of energy being lost or wasted.
Check your energy bills
The first step is to collate energy bills from the past few years and look at how much you are spending over 12 months. The typical home spends £700 on gas and £450 on electricity a year, so if the bills amount to much more than that, it is likely that a few changes could reduce annual outgoings.
Checking bills also gives opportunity to look for trends in the household’s energy usage. Some trends, such as increased usage in the winter months, are to be expected as families’ will need more gas or electricity to heat their homes. However, there may be some unusual trends; perhaps energy usage spikes at night, or on a Wednesday.
Check your insulation
Older properties, such as those built in the Victorian or Edwardian eras, are the most likely to have poor insulation and solid walls. Those built after the 1930s should have cavity walls, but won’t necessarily have cavity wall insulation. Homes built in the UK post-2001 should already have good wall, loft, and floor insulation, and double-glazed windows.
However, no matter whether the property is old or new, it’s possible that there are still improvements to be made.
Loft and wall insulation should be at least 120mm, but for optimum efficiency, it’s recommended that it is topped up to 270mm. When insulation is installed in the cavity walls, there will be small holes in intervals around the outside wall of the home.
Most homes in the UK are now fitted with double-glazing, but there are still some with original single-glazed windows, which will be losing a huge amount of heat.
Upgrading windows to double or even triple glazing will make the home much more energy efficient, and in turn bring down those bills. The actual window frame can also make a difference, as metal frames will increase heat loss, so opt for PVC or wood.
One of the biggest causes of lost energy is holes and cracks around the window and door frames. Air leaks may also be found near pipes, electrical outlets, in corners and around chimneys, around letter boxes, and at the skirting board.
Walk around the home to feel for these leaks, and where possible fill in the holes and cracks with caulk or expandable foam. This is a relatively cheap and quick solution that will make a significant difference to the warmth of the property.
The wrong lighting can send energy bills soaring, so it’s important to check that you are not uses high energy lightbulbs. Replace these with either a lower wattage, such as 60 watts instead of 75 or 100, or even better, with LED lightbulbs.
LED bills can last for up to 60,000 hours, compared to 1,500 hours with a standard bulb. This will not only reduce costs in terms of replacing bulbs, but will also bring down energy bills, as they use around 75% less energy.
Old kitchen appliances can be a huge drain on energy, so if the refrigerator, dishwasher, and washing machine are more than 10 years old, it’s time to think about replacing them. When buying new appliances, look for the EU energy label which helps customers see how energy efficient the applicate is. A+++ is the best rating, and D the worst.
Even modern appliances can sap energy resources if they aren’t maintained properly. Vacuuming refrigerator coils and adjusting the temperature inside the fridge can reduce consumption. Also, remember to unplug other devices and appliances when they are not in use.
As the boiler accounts for more than half of the amount spent on energy bills in a year, it’s worth having an energy efficient model. As with kitchen appliances, if the boiler is more than 10 years old, it’s time to upgrade.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, replacing an old gas boiler with an A-rated condensing one with heating controls can save more than £300 a year. While replacing the boiler is a significant outlay upfront, it won’t take long the recoup what has been spent with savings like that.