Top 20 tips to make your home more eco-friendly

I enjoyed reading Max Davidson’s article on the Daily Telegraph’s website that he posted on 12th August 2010. It was entitled “Green Property: Charles Clarke’s Top 20 ways to make to make your property eco-friendly.” It proposed “a few simple changes can help save the planet and cut your energy bills too”, says Max Davidson.

“There is a perception that eco-designed homes are newbuilds, with a lot of hi-tech modern features. But all homes need to become eco-homes if we are to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Kyoto Protocol. Just think how much energy — and money, when it comes to fuel bills — can be saved with roof insulation and double-glazing alone,” Charles Clark says. Here are his top 20 ways to make your home more eco-friendly:

1) Install underfloor heating: As an architect who likes using space efficiently, Clarke detests wall radiators. “They don’t just look ugly, they are energy-inefficient,” he says. Underfloor heating tends to be associated with newbuild homes, but it can be installed to good effect in older properties. It is particularly suited to bathrooms.

(What Charles Clarke does not tell you mind, is that underfloor heating costs an absolute fortune to run, especially if in a conservatory)

2) Insulate your loft: — using natural or recycled materials where possible “I’m amazed by how many people have still not insulated their lofts,” says Clarke. We all know that heat rises, but how many of us blind ourselves to the consequences? And you won’t have to wait long to see the benefits. Clarke says homeowners should recoup the cost of loft insulation, about £250-£300 in a standard house, within two to three years.

3) Use locally sourced or supplied building materials and local tradesmen where possible: This is a good example of Clarke’s holistic approach to housing. We all know that an English-grown apple is better for the planet than an apple flown in from New Zealand. Why can’t we see that a builder who lives in the next street is better for the planet than one who has driven 20 miles around the M25?

4) Buy furniture made from recycled materials: It is common sense really, but how many people remember the importance of recycling when they are haring around Ikea on a Saturday afternoon looking for cheap chairs? More furniture made from recycled materials is coming on the market.

5) Use water-based paints with natural pigments: “It is a small point, but one which a lot of people miss,” says Clarke. “Most paints used in homes are oil-based and therefore less energy-efficient.” Water-based paints using natural pigments can also be much more aesthetically attractive.

6) If renovating or building, insist that your builder reduces waste and recycles rather than sending material to landfill: Another example of consumer power in action. We place greater and greater demands on restaurant owners, so why not do the same with builders, rewarding ones who follow good practice and vetoing those who throw everything into a skip?

7) Fill cavity walls with insulation: Next time you are staring in disbelief at your gas bill, remember how much energy gets wasted in homes that were built before energy-saving became a priority. Uninsulated cavity walls can be almost as wasteful as uninsulated lofts.

8 Consider investing in solar panels: They can be expensive to install, but make long-term savings. You can also use the energy generated in your home but, under a “tariff” system, sell it on to the National Grid.

9) Replace single-glazed windows with double-glazed ones: “It’s a shame double-glazing salesmen have given the industry such a bad reputation,” says Clarke. “When you look at the potential energy savings, every house in the country ought to be double-glazed.” And that applies to old houses as much as new ones. Clarke’s Edwardian house in Notting Hill Gate in London is double-glazed from top to bottom. Double-glazing can be ugly, but doesn’t have to be, he says.

10) Choose wood-framed windows rather than UPVC or metal: They are easier to repair, more insulating, last a lifetime and are less polluting than the cheaper UPVC (unplasticised poly vinyl chloride), from which many domestic window frames are made, which emits toxic compounds.

(I have no idea why Charles Clarke does not mention aluminium windows and doors, as aluminium frames can be 100% re-cycled time and time again, plus don’t need painting, so vitually maintenance free and environmentally friendly. Aluminium frames are not only available in any RAL colour, but also in hardwearing realistic wood grain effect finishes, plus offer far better security, have aesthetically pleasing sightlines and will not rot like wooden windows.)

11) Keep your boiler serviced and upgrade it to a more efficient model when you can: “Older boilers are incredibly inefficient compared with the latest models,” says Clarke. “You should think of renewing your boiler every 10 years or so.”

12) Replace old-style bulbs with energy-saving ones: “Energy-saving bulbs used to have a reputation for looking cold and unattractive,” he adds. “But the newer ones have got around that. In terms of energy consumption, they are many times more efficient than filament bulbs.”

13) Add thick curtains at windows or doors: They may look cumbersome and, if you are not careful, your bedroom will end up looking like something from Wuthering Heights. But if you are serious about conserving energy, you should ditch blinds and buy something more substantial.

14) Monitor your electricity consumption: “If people could see with their own eyes how much electrical appliances cost them, they would be less wasteful,” says Clarke. It is possible to buy digital displays that enable you to monitor your electricity consumption as easily as watching the meter in a taxi. An educational experience.

15) Investigate sources of second-hand furniture and fittings such as eBay and charity shops: Why does everything have to be new, new, new? “People used to take it for granted that their homes would contain a mixture of new and second-hand items,” Clarke says.

16) Lower your thermostat and check the temperature of your hot water: Have you ever turned on your hot tap and scalded yourself? “Many people have their water temperature set too high without thinking about it,” says Clarke. Just reducing the thermostat setting by a few degrees can lead to significant savings. He reckons you can save about £60 a year by turning down your thermostat by one degree Celsius.

17) When buying or renting a new house, check its Energy Performance Certificate (EPC): An EPC gives you information on the house’s energy use and CO2 emissions. EPCs grade properties from A (most energy-efficient) to G (least energy-efficient) and give house-hunters the tool to make informed choices. The average score is currently D.

18) Block draughts around doors, chimneys and windows: If there is a howling draught coming down your chimney, then energy is being wasted. How many front doors are so badly fitted that you could slide a telephone directory under them? Padded draught-excluders may not look sexy, but they do their job.

19) Buy an eco-kettle: “Most kettles use a ridiculous amount of electricity,” says Clarke. “People don’t stop to think. They will boil enough water to make six cups of tea when they only need one.” Eco-kettles are more energy-efficient and, if you are a compulsive tea-guzzler who feels emotionally bereft without your cuppa, they can beneficially impact on your electricity bills.

20) Fit a water-saving showerhead: How many people give themselves ecological brownie points for taking a shower rather than a bath, then undo all the good work by installing power showers that spew out more water than an American car-wash? You will save more energy if you opt for an aerated or low-flow showerhead. And don’t loiter. A 10-minute shower is a luxury

On the whole Charles Clarke’s twenty eco-friendly tips offer helpful and sound home improvement advice, which if properly implemented will help reduce one’s carbon footprint, save energy and money. Hazlemere Window Company are aluminium manufacturers and installers who pride themselves in how environmentally friendly aluminium is as a re-usable sustainable raw material. Find out more and request Hazlemere’s Eco Friendly Windows and Doors Brochure

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