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“UK unlikely to meet climate target by 2050” – what can we do?

Homes account for 20% of the UK’s carbon emissions so energy efficiency is critically important

A new report released today by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has warned that the UK is likely to fail to meet its net-zero carbon emission target by 2050 as it has set out to do. More investment is required by the government and the report is critical of the scaling back of the Green Homes Grant that was launched in September.

Homes account for a fifth of emissions

Households contribute 20% of the UK’s total carbon emissions which are largely due to burning fossil fuels and energy inefficiencies. While it’s clear that we need to find alternative ways of heating our homes (we spoke about this during Gas Safety Week last year) the kind of measures that will make the greatest impact are major projects (such as converting to renewable energy systems) and/or emerging technology that isn’t readily available yet (such as hydrogen boilers) but does that mean that we just wait and carry on regardless?

Just because we can’t all get a hydrogen boiler installed next week, doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do, and we all have a responsibility to play our part in improving our home’s energy efficiency – even if we don’t have the budget to undertake expensive home improvements.

5 ways of improving energy efficiency that don’t cost the earth

Small energy efficiency measures on their own won’t meet the ambitious net-zero targets that have been set but they can certainly help and give us a positive contribution to make. Plus, they can also save you money on your bills. Here are 5 ways of reducing your energy consumption that most can implement easily and at low or no cost.

1. Turning the heating off after winter

It’s now officially spring and many of us will be considering when to turn the heating off. Statistically, the most popular date for going ‘heat-free’ is 14th March but it’s now a week after that date (at time of writing) and the weather can still be pretty chilly on an evening and first thing in the morning. Choosing when to turn it off will depend on a couple of things: how well insulated your home is and how much people feel the cold. To be more energy efficient, you could turn it off now and just wearing warmer clothes for a few weeks while it’s still a little nippy. Or maybe you’d prefer a compromise: reducing the temperature and duration of heating gradually? Most people tend to have their heating on a fixed timer all winter and then just turn it off in the spring but if you’re not quite ready to relinquish all heating, how about adjusting it to reduce the number of hours you have it on for (eg just an hour on a morning, rather than two) and turn it down a few degrees?

2. Be smarter with energy

39% of households now have a smart meter installed, but are they all maximising their potential? Yes, having one means that you don’t have to submit meter readings but there is a lot more to them that that. Use them to see where you are consuming the most energy and use this data to help you reduce it. Maybe it’s the boiling a full kettle of water for one cup of tea (and perhaps even several times as you get distracted before making it?), or perhaps having multiple phone chargers plugged in all the time? It could be leaving TVs on stand-by or having laptops or computers on all day long, even when not actually working (with many of us working from home now, this has become a big use of energy). You can make many adjustments that don’t make any real difference to convenience but will reduce consumption quite a bit. Not got a smart meter yet? Most energy providers will install them for free and are doing so again now that lockdown restrictions are changing. You can see the pros and cons of a smart meter here.

Smart energy systems such as Hive or Nest can also help manage energy use better.

3. Maximise your radiators

If you do still have the heating on, allow your radiators to be as efficient as possible. This can include things as simple as just giving them some space – not draping washing on them (this can create damp conditions as well as compromise heat output) and not placing furniture in front of them which can block heat from circulating round the room (no point spending money on heating just to warm up the back of the sofa!). Bleeding them periodically is always worth doing, or you can have self-bleeding valves installed, and use thermostatic radiator valves to vary the temperature in each room, according to use. Why not do some of this maintenance over the summer when the heating is off, ready for autumn?

4. Stop heat escaping

It is inefficient to heat your home, only for much of it to leak out. The main areas that heat escapes are the windows, doors, and roof. Clearly, an effective way to prevent this happening is to have good insulation, and good quality double glazed windows and doors. However, if this is beyond your budget at the moment, there are more basic steps you can take to minimise heat loss. Your windows and doors are prime culprits so heavy curtains will help and closing them as soon as it gets dark is also advised. Likewise, carpets retain heat better than hard floors and you can plug up gaps underneath doors by using draught excluders. Rugs can also help to trap heat.

5. Keep your boiler working efficiently

Reducing consumption and retaining heat are two elements of the ‘holy trinity’ of energy efficiency; the third lies with the heat source itself. The biggest source of carbon emissions is most likely to be your boiler and the burning of gas, a fossil fuel. Older, or poorly maintained boilers, often have to burn more gas to achieve the same level of heat. You don’t necessarily have to invest in a new boiler (unless yours is very old and/or inefficient), just ensure that it is maintained well. That means annual servicing, proactive measures like adding inhibitor, and periodic powerflushing and filter cleaning to keep sludge build up at bay. The cost of getting a heating engineer in to do these things is more than paid for by savings in energy costs plus the extension of the boiler’s lifespan.

Energy efficiency is something that is very close to our hearts at and we write about it often. You can see a range of content about energy efficiency by following the Energy Efficiency tag.

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