Oh the weather outside is frightful… Well, it is December. And while it's probably a little late to make the changes that can reduce your fuel bills and your carbon footprint for this winter, if you're planning to move house in 2018, it's certainly worth starting to do your homework now on how to improve your next home's eco credentials.
Every home that goes on the market for sale or rent has to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) that outlines the building's energy efficiency and highlights where cost-effective savings can be made. An EPC is valid for 10 years from issue. You can check a property's EPC on the Domestic Energy Performance Certificate Register.
So where could you look to save potentially hundreds of pounds on fuel bills in your next home?
Remember when you were a kid and you were told to put a hat on because "you lose half your body heat through your head"? That might have been debunked by science, but think of your loft as your head, or something like that, and all that lovely heat rising and rising and rising - right out of the roof. Installing insulation at least 270mm in the loft of an average three-bed semi will cost around £300 but save around £100 on heating bills.
Cavity wall insulation
Around a third of all heat lost from a house that is not insulated properly is disappearing through its four walls. Most property built in the UK since 1990 has cavity wall insulation, but if your chosen home was built earlier, check the EPC for confirmation it has had cavity wall insulation done. If not, it's worth investing the £475 that Which? reckons it would cost to insulate the average three-bed semi. With potential savings of £150 a year, you'll have your money back in jig time.
Replace the boiler
Modern central heating boilers are incredibly efficient and much better at burning fuel effectively than old-style boilers. If the boiler in your new home is more than a decade old, consider investing in a new one. A regular boiler works with a water cylinder and may be more practical for bigger households. A combi boiler doesn't need a water cylinder and takes up less room, but it may not provide the amount of hot water you need.
Keeping cold air out and hot air in is the basic premise of draught proofing. Poorly-fitting doors and windows are the main culprits, but floorboards, loft hatches, letterboxes and even holes drilled for cables are all potentially draught spots. And draught proofing is in the main a job you can do yourself with a trip to the DIY store, saving up to £35 a year on your fuel bills.
Solar water heating
At a cost of between £4,000 and £6,000, installing solar water heating is not a cheap option. But the eco benefits are huge. A solar thermal system uses the heat from the sun to warm your water, with a conventional boiler or immersion heater used to make the water hotter or provide hot water in winter. It's a renewable, all-year-round system that will reduce your heating bills and reduce your carbon footprint. If your house has a combi boiler installed, it is not compatible with solar water heating.
Energy efficient lightbulbs
We spend about 15 percent of our household electricity bills on lighting, so it makes sense to use bulbs that are energy efficient. Spend around £20 on bulbs for the whole house and you'll save around £90 in three years.