From light bulbs to heat pumps, an energy efficient house means lower bills, and we all know how crucial it is to keep bills as low as possible. However, what’s the best way to achieve this, and how can government grants help?

What is an energy efficient house?

An energy efficient home is well insulated, has a well-functioning heating system, and is filled with appliances that use very little electricity. It should feature low-flow accessories to reduce water consumption, with occupants who use electricity sparingly and keep the internal temperatures reasonable.

What is an Energy Performance Certificate?

An EPC also includes information on what upgrades would increase your property’s energy efficiency and how much money they would save you.

An EPC also includes information on what upgrades would increase your property’s energy efficiency and how much money they would save you. (Image credit: adobe)

The energy efficiency of a building is rated on a scale, much like household appliances.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) grade houses between A – very efficient and G  – inefficient, with the average UK home being rated D. The scale takes into account the carbon dioxide your home emits and how much it costs to run – the more efficient your home is the cheaper your bills will be. EPCs are valid for 10 years. 

An EPC also includes information on what upgrades would increase your property’s energy efficiency and how much money they would save you. Even if you rent your home, there are improvements you can make. 

Any home, no matter how old, can be energy efficient. The UK’s modern construction standards produce houses with greater energy efficiency, while older properties can have their performances improved. However, according to Which?, only one-third of owner-occupied UK homes achieve the most efficient energy performance ratings.

As part of its commitment to reducing carbon emissions, the UK Government plans to have at least 15 million owner-occupied homes with an EPC rating of C or above by 2035, with homes that are considered fuel or energy poor to reach this rating by 2030. Data from Halifax indicates this will involve 60% of homes in England and Wales requiring work to achieve that rating.

How do I make my house energy efficient?

The first step to improving your home’s energy efficiency is to check its EPC rating and see the recommended improvements. 

If your house has been marketed for sale or rent since 2008, it should have an EPC listed on the government website. If it’s expired or you’ve made recent changes to your property, a new one can be ordered for between £60 and £120, depending on the size of your house.

Carrying out a DIY energy audit

It is perfectly possible to carry out your own energy efficiency check. Whilst it won’t be as thorough as an official EPC, it will give you a good idea of what needs improving. 

Do a slow and careful walk-through of your house, noting where you think energy is wasted. 

  • Draught proofing – Check around windows and doors for any draughts, and remember to check letter boxes, keyholes and the loft hatch.
  • Insulation – Inspect the loft and the inside of the roof for insulation. Check around pipes and the hot water tank, if you have one.
  • Lighting  – Make sure all your light bulbs are energy efficient LED ones, including any exterior and security lighting.
  • Heating  – Check that your boiler and radiators are working well. Inspect all the heating controls, thermostats and timers for correct settings.

Draught proofing my home

If your windows are only single glazed, it’s well worth considering having double glazing installed. This will reduce your carbon footprint and bring down your heating bills. Having double glazing fitted for an average family home can reduce energy bills by up to £50 per year. 

With single glazed units or secondary glazing, draughts are more likely to get in, so check around each one for entry points. You can buy easy-to-apply insulating tape from most DIY retailers that will draught proof your windows in minutes. Far less effective than double glazing, it will none the less make a difference to your annual heating bill.

Adding draught excluders and insulated winter curtains will prevent the heat from escaping under and around doors, allowing you to shave a little more off your bill.

Insulating my home

Loft insulation is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce your energy bills.

Loft insulation is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce your energy bills. (Image credit: Adobe)

Heat can escape from anywhere there are gaps, and the loft is one such place. Heat rises, so it won’t take long for it to find the holes. 

Loft insulation is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce your energy bills. According to the Energy Saving Trust, a layer of at least 270mm is perfect for most homes and can save as much as £580 annually. Many types of loft insulation must be installed by an appropriately qualified professional and are not appropriate for DIY projects. Make sure you consult a professional installer about your options and installation methods. 

Floors, too, can lose a lot of heat, with up to 15% escaping through the ground floor space. If you have a suspended floor that rests on joists, the resulting empty space can be filled with insulation foam or insulating boards. Solid floors require a layer of rigid insulation laid on top. 

Homes can lose more than a third of their heat by having uninsulated external walls, so this is an important area to consider. If your home was constructed between 1920 and 1990, it’s likely to have an empty cavity between two walls of bricks. Prior to this, buildings were built without cavities, and modern homes should already have their walls insulated. 

Retrofitted cavity wall insulation is a job for professionals and involves drilling tiny holes through the wall into the cavity and puffing insulating foam inside. It’s quick and usually leaves no mess behind.

Remember that heat can also be lost through pipes and the hot water tank, so these should be given a covering of insulation foam or an insulating sleeve to prevent this from happening. 

Lighting my home

Electric LED Lightbulb Change In Light At Home

Upgrading your lightbulbs to LED bulbs is one of the easiest ways to make your home more energy-efficient. (Image credit: Adobe)

Energy efficient LED light bulbs use about 90% less energy and can last more than 40 times longer than conventional bulbs. Although they are more expensive to purchase initially, they make up for it in savings and are a simple change that anyone can do.

Heating my home

A well-insulated, draught-free home will go a long way to having an energy efficient house, but replacing a fuel-hungry boiler will also make a big difference. 

A typical household will spend over half its income on fuel bills for heating and hot water, so a system that’s designed to be as efficient as possible is the next thing to consider. 

Low carbon systems such as ground and air source heat pumps are becoming more popular for their reduced emissions and their efficiency in heating homes. Modern combi boilers are another popular upgrade, using as much as 90% less energy than a traditional boiler. 

As part of the UK Government’s commitment toward net zero carbon emissions by 2050, many grants are available to help homeowners afford to upgrade from older heating systems to a new energy efficient design.

Can I get a green energy grant to help pay for my energy efficient improvements?

There are several government grants and loans available to help people pay for any energy efficient home improvements. 

boiler technician installing a boiler

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme is a grant-based home improvement scheme. (Image credit: Adobe)

Boiler Upgrade Scheme

Only applicable to boilers and heat pumps, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) is a grant-based home improvement scheme. The installer applies for the grant with the money deducted from the cost of the upgrade. 

You may qualify for a BUS if you:

  • Live in England or Wales
  • Own your property 
  • Are a private landlord or second-home owner
  • Have not already received government funding for a heat pump or biomass boiler 

Green Deal loan

The Green Deal loan can help reduce the cost of installing energy efficient home improvements, but unfortunately isn’t available in Northern Ireland. Repayment of the loan is via a charge that’s added to your electricity bill for as long as you live in the property, and benefit from the upgrade. The loan is deducted from your top-ups if you have a prepayment meter. 

The funding can be used for a variety of improvements, including: 

  • Boiler upgrading
  • Heat pumps
  • Draught proofing
  • Double glazing
  • Insulation

Energy Company Obligation 

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) ensures that any suppliers signed up to the scheme only recommend energy efficient home improvements, installing and funding them themselves. The scheme is for various enhancements, including new boilers, solar panels and double glazing. 

To qualify for an ECO you need to receive one or more of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Benefit
  • Tax Credits (Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits)
  • Pension Guarantee Credit
  • Pension credit saving credit
  • Warm Home Discount Scheme 
  • Live in a property with an EPC of D or lower

Contact your local council to find out if any other funding is available for your area. 

Related content

If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, then you can get some advice in our guide: How to get energy bills help.

If you do have some money to invest in energy-efficient home improvements, then solar panels could be a good option for you. Read our guide to solar panels to find out more.