Save money through reducing energy usage and bills – and even make a profit

While the cost of installing new energy sources might seem high, with average annual household bills predicted to hit £4,500 this year, Associate Partner Pippa Jacob looks at the various ways you can reduce your bills – and even generate income.

Our work includes a wide range of projects – from historical conversions to home renovations and new builds to extensions, but whatever project we are involved in we are always shouldering the responsibility to factor in the environment.

Every effort must be made to reduce the environmental impact of the building and there is more emphasis now that ever before on designing homes with the latest in renewable technology. Doing so gives the property the best chance of remaining as eco-friendly as possible and avoiding making comprehensive improvements in future.

There’s a general misconception that environmentally friendly technology such as solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, solar heating and electric car charging points are only really used in new build homes that can accommodate more modern additions. But its actually historical properties that suffer most from the extraordinary costs of heating, lack of efficient insulation or antiquated heating systems that have not been upgraded for some time. And there are always ways for us to integrate new technology within old settings – without deviating from the boundaries of grade listings or damage from original features.

Take the longest barn in East Anglia as an example.
This client came to us with the conundrum of finding an efficient system to heat her Grade II listed medieval barn, and there were several issues that needed to be addressed, the main one being the capital cost of a new heating system. In isolation the initial cost of heating of the medieval barn was uneconomic, however through further study the need for a new modern grain drying facility was also identified.

This solution required a different approach to the normal solution of a local heating source and we suggested a solution of a commercial woodchip biomass boiler; a solution that we had developed for other country estates.

This client, who we had worked with previously restoring her 16th Century moated manor Crows Hall, was keen to adopt a renewable energy system, and the local authority and English Heritage were approached for their consent, particularly given the historical nature of the site, with the main hall being Grade II* and the barns being Grade II listed.

It was very important to ensure that sensitive archaeology remained undisturbed but once all of the consents had been gained and the conditions satisfied the project went ahead with superb results.

Being eco-friendly in your approach to designing, building, renovating or refurbishing a property not only helps you contribute to a sustainable environment, it can also save you money.

Take geothermal heat pumps for example, which are soon to become a more regular feature, especially in new build homes. Geothermal heat pumps harness the heat from under the ground to provide heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. They are far friendlier for the environment since they don’t primarily run on an external fuel source. What’s more, geothermal heat pumps also generate far lower energy bills.

Solar panels – and the newer concept of roof tiles – meanwhile can actually make you money. They have long been the gold standard for renewable energy, particularly in older homes. And while they may set you back an average of £6,500, under the smart export guarantee (SEG) scheme which launched in January 2020, households get paid for solar energy they ‘export’. This is electricity you generate, but don’t use yourself, which is then pumped back into the national energy grid.

First and foremost, you can use the electricity your panels generate, and so reduce your bills. Savings depend on system size, electricity use, whether you’re at home during the day to use the energy you’re producing and other factors. But based on Energy Saving Trust estimates, a typical household with a 4.2 kilowatt-peak system can knock between £210 and £514/year off bills at the upcoming October price cap rates. Meanwhile, the Trust estimates a typical household based roughly in the middle of the country could make between £80 and £110/year (based on a rate of 3.99p per kWh).

Roofs aren’t just capable of heating our rooms but our water too. Solar water heating can either be supplied by evacuated tubes that are placed over the existing roof tiles or fixed place collectors, which can also be placed on the roof or integrated into the roof space itself.  And what if you don’t want to fork out a fortune but still need to make cost savings on heating your property?

Firstly, get yourself a smart meter. These can be programmed to only turn on at certain times of day, for example just before you get home from work. They are a must for anybody looking to reduce their carbon footprint and lower their energy bills. You can also invest in energy efficient lightbulbs which use less electricity and last longer too and look at your insulation. This is easily one of the smartest ways to improve your home’s eco-friendliness and ensure that you use as little energy as possible.

Good insulation helps hold in the heat, meaning you don’t need to burn energy reheating the home all the time. There are numerous places that can be insulated, such as within the walls and the roof.

In November, the Government announced its new ECO+ scheme to make homes more energy efficient and reduce energy bills by helping people to insulate their properties. The scheme is aimed at low income and vulnerable households, including those in houses with poor energy efficiency, with an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of D or below and those in low council tax bands.

Set to launch in April this year, it is likely residents will apply for a grant via their energy supplier, and more information is set to be announced soon.

It can be smart to consider double glazing any windows that don’t already have it as well.

They are no longer the eyesore they used to be and there’s really no reason (outside of certain listed building requirements) not to have them anymore. You can forget UPVC too, which can emit toxic compounds. Sustainable wood can be durable, attractive and double glazed.

To find out how we can help you make your home more eco-friendly, call us on 01473 221150 or contact us here.