Making Changes to Save Energy
These pages provide information on how to go about making changes to your home to improve its energy efficiency.
Changes can range from low cost easy to install measures that provide a quick pay-back, to more costly complex changes that require careful planning, design and integration with your home to avoid problems.
The first step is to identify potential opportunities for making energy savings and any constraints. You can carry out your own assessment for quick low cost fixes but you may need expert advice for larger scale improvements.
Quick low cost fixes
Opportunities for simple cost-effective low risk improvements can be identified relatively easily.
Quick fixes which will make a difference:
- Change how you use energy in your home
- Carry out basic maintenance
A faulty gutter or high external ground levels can lead to damp walls, which will then reduce their energy efficiency.
- Stopping draughts
Draughts can be a significant cause of heat loss as well as contributing to discomfort. Timber windows and doors can easily be draught-proofed as well as suspended timber floors and chimneys.
- Install or increase roof insulation
Roof insulation at ceiling level is a quick and cheap way of improving the energy efficiency of your home. Even if you have already had it installed it is worth checking to make sure its deep enough and there are no gaps at the edges.
- Upgrade heating systems and controls
Modern condensing boilers are much more energy efficient than boilers even 10 years ago. Use intelligent thermostats or thermostatic radiator valves to control the levels of heating in different rooms.
Larger scale work
If you want to save more energy there are further steps you can take. However, these are often only cost-effective if carried out as part of other repair works, for example if roofs are being repaired or replaced, it would be a good opportunity to add insulation at rafter level.
Larger scale work usually requires some planning and design which can be divided into five stages:
- Assessment - understanding the building and its context
- Setting objectives and planning improvements
- Detailed design and specification
- Use, review and maintenance
Assessment - understanding your house and its context
A good assessment will consider a ranges of issues and then identify potential opportunities for improvements. This is done by gathering information about the building and the behaviours and needs of its occupants, as well as current modes and levels of energy consumption and the constraints affecting the feasibility of improvements.
Although you could carry out a do-it-yourself appraisal, a more detailed home energy assessment can give a clearer picture of how you use energy and how improvements might be made to meet your specific needs and budget.
Domestic Energy Assessors (DEAs) can provide Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) but this type of assessment does not provide a detailed energy audit. EPCs use assumptions about occupancy and do not measure actual energy use. Although an EPC makes some recommendations which can be useful, these might not necessarily be the most suitable for your property as the EPC survey is very limited in scope.
A comprehensive home energy assessment would be a next step on from having an EPC and would be out carried out by an independent specialist assessor who should consider issues such as:
- The heritage significance of your home
- The local climate, orientation and exposure
- The energy performance of your home including the building envelope (walls, roof, windows and doors)
- The condition of your home
- How well building services such as heating and lighting perform
- The levels of energy use related to how the home is used and how often it is occupied
From this information a detailed energy plan could be established.
There is no ‘home energy advice profession’ but there are suitably qualified independent assessors around the country.
This ‘whole house approach’ is explained in Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: How to Improve Energy Efficiency.
Setting objectives and planning improvements
Once the necessary information has been gathered in the assessment, it's time to draw up a plan. This will set out short and long term objectives for the project and identify the measures likely to be appropriate and practicable. It will also help to ensure that measures are properly integrated and technically compatible.
The plan should:
- Include the requirements, aspirations and aims of the occupants
- List the opportunities, constraints, and budget
- Identify areas for improvement
- Consider the options
- Work out priorities
Our publication Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: How to Improve Energy Efficiency provides further advice on working out your options and priorities. The guidance looks at heating systems, cooling systems, ventilation systems, lighting, hot water systems, appliances, and comfort levels needed, and how to improve thermal performance of roofs, walls, windows and doors, and floors.
Detailed design and specification
In this stage the preliminary energy plan is developed in detail. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, detailed design drawings and the specifications will be required to enable the necessary consents to be obtained and the works procured.
Our series of guidance includes advice on the principles, risks, materials and methods of making changes to:
Roofs, chimneys and flues:
- Insulating pitched roofs at rafter level- warm roofs
- Insulating pitched roofs at ceiling level-cold roofs
- Insulating flat roofs
- Insulating thatched roofs
- Open fires, chimneys and flues
Windows and Doors:
Planning permissions and listed building consents
Applications to the local planning authority for planning permission and/or listed building consent may be required for certain energy efficiency measures such as changes to windows and walls. More information is available from our web page on permissions.
More detailed site-specific advice will be available from the local planning authority.
In some circumstances, proposed energy efficiency measures will require approval under the building regulations (from either the local authority’s Building Control team or an approved inspector). Whichever route for approval is taken, early consultation can help to ensure that works are appropriate for the building in question. Approved Documents Part L1B and L2B give practical guidance on meeting requirements for the conservation of fuel and power in both existing dwellings and non-residential buildings. Approval is needed where substantial alterations to thermal elements (such as windows and walls) or controlled fittings or services are to be made, or extensions or changes of use are proposed.
However, listed buildings and buildings in conservation areas are exempted from the need to comply with energy efficiency requirements where compliance would unacceptably alter their character or appearance. In addition, ‘special considerations’ apply to buildings that are locally listed, in national parks or other designated historic areas. Special considerations also apply to buildings of traditional construction which have solid walls or timber framed construction. Historic England has published detailed: Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings; Application of Part L of the Building Regulations to historic and traditionally constructed buildings.
Your installer should have sufficient training, expertise and interest in the whole building approach. An experienced installer will be able to contribute valuable specialist practical knowledge to a project. Maintaining good communications between the installer, and the designer, assessor and client is a key factor in ensuring the outcome of the project is successful. Also, it is important that the project is priced on the basis of a whole building approach and allows for adequate levels of supervision, checks, testing and feedback as the work proceeds.
Before starting installation works, make sure that all necessary permissions have been obtained and any conditions complied with. If something unexpected is found as the work proceeds or a design detail does not work, report this back to the assessor and designer so they can make suitable modifications. Good levels of site supervision will help to ensure that works are carried out to the required standards. Where fabric improvements have been carried out, the quality of completed work can be checked using thermal imaging and air pressurisation tests.
Use, review and maintenance
When the installer arranges handover you need to ensure that building services are properly commissioned, and that you understand what has been done, how it is intended to work, and how it should be maintained. Ask them to provide advice on the importance of ventilation in reducing the risks of condensation and maintaining good indoor air quality.
After handover, energy efficiency improvements should be checked and reviewed to make sure everything is working as planned. Energy bills can be used to compare levels of energy use before and after improvements. And where fabric improvements have been carried out, (such as added insulation to roof, walls and floors), inspections should be made annually to check for signs of condensation, mould or decay.
More detailed information on all these stages can be found in our guidance as well as checklist of the type of measures that might be considered with their comparative costs and risks.