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Environmental Living: A Guide For A Greener And More Energy Efficient Home

 3rd August 2015

If you're looking for ways to improve your home and give you a greener conscience at the same time, it makes sense to look at the environmental impact your property is having on the world. With owners now having to provide Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) when they come to sell their homes, having energy efficient systems installed will not only save you money in the long run, but will make your property much more attractive to potential purchasers.

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Recent research published by the Energy Saving Trust, based on a survey of over 2000 homeowners, revealed that over 50% of buyers said that they would be prepared to pay up to £3,350 extra for a 'greener' home; with over three quarters of them saying that they'd try to haggle down the price if the property had a 'poor' rating on their EPC.

As fuel prices continue to rise, it makes sense to invest in energy saving home improvements, so if you're thinking of improving your home, here's some things that you might want to consider.

The energy efficiency of your home

When it's time to sell your home, it will be assessed by a Domestic Energy Assessor, who will then prepare your Energy Performance Certificate. The grades run from A - G, with A being the most efficient. Currently the average score for existing homes is a low D or high E rating, which equates to a score of 46.

How is your home assessed?

When completing an EPC the assessor will look at the following things:

  • Walls and wall insulation
  • Roofs
  • Windows
  • Heating and hot water
  • Secondary heating
  • Lighting

While doing so he'll be looking for levels of insulation, double glazing, thermostatic radiator valves, the age of the boiler, and use of energy efficient light bulbs.

Insulation in your home

The assessor will check to see whether you have solid walls or cavity walls. Most houses were built after 1925 with cavity walls, and the insulating properties of such walls can be improved. If you suspect you need extra insulation in your cavity walls, grants are available through the Energy Saving Trust or your gas supplier. Benefits of good cavity wall insulation will be felt immediately as it's possible to lose up to a third of your home's heat through un-insulated walls.

While solid walls are more difficult and more expensive to insulate, adding insulation has the potential to upgrade your EPC score from poor to good.

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It's also worth checking your roof insulation, as the recommended thickness of insulation has increased over the last decade. This is a relatively cheap way to improve the heat retention in your home and boost your EPC points.

Window glazing

If your home still has single glazing, it's likely to receive a poor EPC score. However, while investing in double glazing will definitely up your points, if you choose cheap units, or units which don't complement your home, your home will probably lose value based on its looks, especially if you live in a period home.

Installing energy efficient boilers

If your boiler is more than 15 years old, it will automatically be rated as poor, so it's really worth considering investing in a new energy efficient boiler. By law, any new boiler fitted must be one of the new condensing boilers. Although these are expensive to fit, possibly around £1500 for a top of the range boiler, they do have the potential to reduce your energy bills by up to £240 per annum.

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It's also recommended to fit thermostatic valves to your radiators, as it gives you more precise control over each individual room in the house. These are relatively cheap to fit, and will improve your EPC score.

More ways to make your home a greener place

There are many other minor adjustments you can make in your home to improve its environmental impact. One of the easiest is to replace all your old bulbs with new energy efficiency bulbs. While these are not cheap, they last for years. Any old tungsten bulbs in your property will result in you being marked down on your EPC.

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Replacing the jacket on your hot water cylinder is also another easy way to up your score, and keep your water hotter for longer. Make sure that it's at least 75mm thick.

Finally, in keeping with current trends, wood burning stoves not only look good, but they're super efficient. As secondary sources of heating, they'll add to your EPC, but it will also be a great selling point when it comes to putting your house on the market.

Of course, there are many other 'green' features that you can add into your home, such as solar panels on your roof, ground source heat pumps, grey water recycling systems and water butts in your garden, but the costs of most of these would have to be weighed up against their return, especially if you're planning on selling your home in the not too distant future.

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