Last year the Government set out a Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, in order to eradicate the UK’s contribution to climate change by the year 2050. Within this plan, the Government detailed the need to decarbonise homes and public buildings by integrating energy-saving technologies such as heat pumps.
Building regulations are also frequently being updated to ensure new builds and renovation projects are carried out with the environment in mind. By incorporating energy-saving features into your new home or renovation now, you can help to futureproof it from coming changes to regulation.
We put together a handy guide on the best energy-saving solutions and features to include when building an eco-friendly house, or renovating your existing home.
Eco-friendly House Features
When designing a new build or renovation to be eco-friendly, there are some common features that you should consider.
As their names suggest, ASHPs extract heat from the air, whilst GSHPs extract heat from the ground. This heat can then be transferred to your home heating system. Heat pumps are one of the most recommended eco-friendly solutions as not only are they a renewable source of energy, helping to lower carbon emissions, but they also produce significantly more energy as heat than they consume in electricity, making them an efficient source of heat. Their efficiency can also help you to lower your energy usage overall.
Insulation is paramount for eco-friendly construction. The more heat you keep in your home, the less energy you will need to use. By restricting airflow, insulation can help your home to retain heat during the colder winter months and reduce the need to have your heating on constantly. Good insulation will also help to improve the efficiency of your heating system.
When choosing which insulation to use for your project there are numerous options available. Blanket insulation such as fibreglass is commonly used to insulate homes, however there are more eco-friendly solutions that are recyclable and require little energy for their production. Some environmentally friendly insulation options include cellulose, wood, cork, hemp and sheep’s wool.
Underfloor heating can also help you to lower energy usage and so incorporating this into your new build or renovation project can help to make it more eco-friendly. Electric UFH tends to use high amounts of electricity and is usually only recommended for use in single room projects. Warm water UFH heating on the other hand is energy-efficient, and is recommended for use in large scale projects such as new builds and renovations.
The main benefit of UFH is that it covers the whole floor surface, heating the room far more effectively and at much lower water temperatures than a radiator. By choosing to use radiators as your main source of heating, you may find that the room has cold spots and will likely take longer to reach a comfortable temperature. This means that you will need to have your heating on for longer periods of time, therefore increasing energy consumption. Whilst UFH can be seen as an energy-saving technology, it’s important to ensure that your property is well insulated for it to work efficiently. Check out our guide to underfloor heating insulation.
Solar thermal is another renewable source of energy that harnesses the power of the sun, in order to provide hot water. Solar thermal panels are attached to your roof, the heat from the sun will then warm fluid inside the panels which will be transferred to a coil at the bottom of a solar cylinder. A solar thermal system can produce as much as 100% of your domestic hot water demand in the summer and up to 60% year-round, making it a great energy saving solution.
Eco-technologies such as this help to lower your carbon emissions and will allow you to carry out your new build or renovation project in an environmentally friendly way.
Energy Saving Lightbulbs
Of course, it is not just the big things you should consider when trying to build an eco-friendly home; small things can make big difference. According to Energy Savings Trust, lighting makes up 20% of the average households electricity bill, so making the switch to energy efficient lightbulbs could save you money and help to reduce your carbon footprint.
Traditional filament lightbulbs convert only around 5% of the energy into light, and whilst halogen lightbulbs are slightly more efficient, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) use around 70% less energy than traditional bulbs and last up to 10x longer. That’s a big difference!
LED lights, however, tend to be the most eco-friendly option. They require low energy input, turn on at full brightness and can be fitted in almost any area of the home.
Even if you’re not in the process of building a new home, making changes such as this can be beneficial. Check out more of our energy saving tips for a eco-friendly house.
Environmentally Friendly Building Materials
Whilst energy saving technology can help in carrying out an environmentally friendly construction project, it can be easy to forget about the energy used before building has even begun. All manufactured products take energy to create. From heat needed to mould materials and electricity to power machinery to the transportation of products, energy is required. Not to mention, all of these processes will release emissions into the atmosphere. There is an alternative however!
Do you research and try to use products that require as little energy as possible to create. A great way to do this is by using recycled materials. Reclaimed wood and recycled steel are very common and generally quite easy to get hold of. Because they have already been manufactured and used, by choosing recycled building materials no more energy is needed to create them and therefore no extra emissions are released into the atmosphere (other than perhaps in transportation). To reduce transportation emissions, buy local and use the materials manufactured in your area.
You could also try using natural, renewable materials such as sheeps wool, straw or bamboo. They can generally be used in their natural form and are widely available.
How Much Does it Cost to Build an Eco-friendly House or Extension?
When designing a new home or renovation, cost is usually at the forefront of people’s minds. Sure, everybody would like to incorporate energy-saving solutions into their home, but is it feasible within a tight budget? This is one of the main concerns we get asked about.
Put simply, the answer is yes. Many energy-saving technologies, such as the ones mentioned above, can be more costly to install however, the costs will be recuperated in the long run as your energy bills are likely to decrease. If you are concerned about the initial cost of installing eco-friendly house features, there are government grants available to help!
Grants and Incentives
In line with the Government’s plan for a green industrial revolution, it’s possible to access grants to help fund the cost of making energy saving improvements to an existing or new home.
The Renewable Heat Incentive
If you qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), you will receive quarterly payments over a seven-year period, based on estimates of the property’s annual heating consumption and the amount of green energy produced. This is available on a wide range of low-carbon solutions, including heat pumps and solar thermal energy. In most cases, you will more than make back the money you spent on installation.
How Can Eco-friendly Construction Save You Money?
When building an eco-friendly house, you can save costs in a number of areas. The main way you can save money is via lower monthly bills. By their nature, environmentally friendly houses are energy efficient, this means that less energy will be needed to heat and power them. Insulation plays a large role in this, as well as the use of low-carbon heating systems such as heat pumps. All of these factors work together to lower your energy bills.
In addition to this, when choosing environmentally friendly building materials, you may find that you are able to save money. Products that need to be heavily manufactured require more time, energy and labour. All of these things will raise the cost.
Natural, renewable materials are more easily available and tend to require less manufacturing, resulting in a lower cost. You may even be able to get recycled materials for free. Reclaimed wood is often found or given away. In some cases you may be doing someone a favour as they won’t have to find a way to dispose of materials.
So there you have it… the best energy saving solutions for new builds and renovation projects. Create an eco-friendly house that is great for the environment and your bank balance.
We offer bespoke heating solutions for the home; our team of experts can answer any queries you may have and provide you with a tailored quote based on your specific requirements. For more information on installing a heat pump, underfloor heating or solar thermal panels in your property, get in touch.