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First-time buyers: why it pays to go green (Part 2)

Many of us take a first step on the housing ladder with a ‘fixer-upper’ – the sort of property that raises a few questions about how you will keep warm as winter sets in and might even have you wondering why you bought a house with so many charming original features.

Heat loss is likely to be your main concern. Nooks and crannies in old buildings cause a lot of energy waste and with just a little bit of maintenance work you can prevent heat escaping with very low cost. Many home improvements measures have an energy saving benefit, saving you money and making your home warmer and more comfortable.


So what are the ‘low cost’ options?

1. Draught proofing

Draught proofing can provide instant improvements in warmth and comfort. First, check for gaps around doors, windows and the chimney (if the home has one) then assess what would be the best way to tackle them. There are basic cheap and free options such as blocking draughts with rolled-up towels etc, but basic draught exclusion materials come cheap in DIY shops. For more serious draught issues, a professional job may be required - but this naturally comes with a greater cost. Full draught-proofing of windows, doors and chimney will set you back around £200.

Other measures you might want to consider:

  • Buy thick curtains 
  • Make most of the sunlight
  • Stop heat being lost up the chimney


2. Lighting

You can now get LED spotlights that are bright enough to replace halogens, as well as regular energy saving bulbs (‘compact fluorescent lamps’ or CFLs). They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and fittings.

If the average household replaced all of their remaining old-fashioned bulbs with CFLs, and all of their halogens with LEDs, it would cost about £100 and save about £35 a year on bills.


3. Get a shower head

If you’ve got a shower that takes hot water straight from your boiler or hot water tank (rather than an electric shower), fit a water efficient shower head. This will reduce your hot water usage while retaining the sensation of a powerful shower.

A water efficient shower head could save a four person household (eg a family of four or even a shared student flat) around £65 a year on gas for water heating, as well as a further £100 on water bills if they have a water meter.[1]

Water efficient shower heads can save you a significant amount - up to £65 on water heating for a four-person household, plus a £100 water bill reduction - but are sometimes overlooked as a great option to get sorted quickly and easily. They are usually very easy to fit, but are not compatible with every shower, so that’s something to check before you buy.


4. Boiler service

Getting the heating system serviced is also a good idea - and an opportunity to seek professional advice if you’re still struggling to get to grips with the controls.

This is recommended every year and will help maintain the performance of the heating system. This usually costs around £100, but those living in rented accommodation should have this paid-for by the landlord. If the heating system isn’t performing effectively then it would be worth reminding the landlord about the boiler service as part of the annual safety check.


Next steps?

You’ve come this far, and you’re already making savings to your bill. Next we will look at improvement measures that require an investment to the fabric of the building, looking at how you generate and keep heat in your home.


[1] Calculation is based on the assumption that the family takes just under 20 showers a week and replaces a 13 litre/minute power-shower head with a 7.7 litre / min water efficient shower head, and the family are charged £3.01 per cubic meter of water used (includes sewage charge).

Richard is the Communications Manager at the Energy Saving Trust.
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