When undertaking a new home improvement project, energy efficiency may not be at the top of your priorities, especially if your budget does not stretch particularly far. However, with many of us aiming to cut back on day-to-day expenses, and environmental issues becoming more important than ever, it is worthwhile to factor energy efficiency into your home improvement plans.
Whether or not you plan on becoming an eco-warrior, there are great benefits to investing in your home’s energy efficiency. By taking simple proactive steps to ensure that your home is as efficient as possible, you’ll not only reap the rewards of a warmer house and cheaper bills every year, but also add significant value to your home.
The good news is that having an energy-efficient home does not always mean knocking it down and starting from scratch. There are many home improvement jobs that you can undertake without it costing the earth, and still see a significant improvement.
Think About The Structure
If you are just moving into your home, or a complete redesign is in your plans, then it may be worth considering an open-plan living space. This especially applies to older houses that are made up of several small rooms, all of which need individual sources of heat and light in order to feel comfortable and livable.
Though knocking down walls is a slightly bigger job than just changing a lightbulb or painting a wall, the main consideration is simply whether it is load-bearing. For most walls, it should be possible to remove them with very few complications and no planning permission.
By creating an open-plan living space, you are ensuring that the rooms you use most regularly (such as kitchens and living rooms) are being lit and heated from as few sources as possible, rather than wasting valuable energy on a dozen radiators. Incorporating your kitchen area into your living space can also have a hidden advantage, as your daily use of ovens and stoves will act as a heat source without the need for an extra radiator.
The benefits of open-plan living don’t stop at saving energy. By opening up your home, you are allowing natural light that would otherwise be separated by concrete walls to flood in. Even the use of electrical sockets and electric lights is reduced when several functioning spaces are designed to work as one room.
If you home is due for a remodel, then open-plan living should definitely be a serious design consideration. Not only does it look stylish and modern, but the multifunctional nature of an open-plan space means that you could be saving energy without even realising it.
Replace Your Windows and Doors
Regardless of whether or not your home has an open-plan layout, windows and doors will play a large part in keeping your home as energy-efficient as possible. It is thought that windows alone can be responsible for up to 20% of the total heat lost from a home.
Though it may be tempting to opt for the cheapest possible windows in order to save money, it is advisable to invest in windows that will be durable as well as effective. Double glazing is a good start in insulating your home, but if your budget can stretch to it, triple glazing can have a much more significant effect on heat loss and noise reduction, creating a more pleasant atmosphere in the home.
For those thinking about extending into the attic space, ensuring that your roof windows are suitably glazed is vital, as your roof is also responsible for a significant amount of heat loss. With their sky facing orientation, roof windows can be an effective energy saving tool all on their own, as they allow the maximum amount of access to natural light. This is especially true if your property is south-facing, and has the benefit of direct sunlight all day long.
Even if you have no plans to convert your attic, replacing some of the regular windows in your home with roof windows can help to increase the amount of natural light in your home. This will significantly reduce your reliance on electric lights, especially if you already have the benefits of an open-plan living space.
Sweat the Small Stuff
Insulating your home and maximising natural light will significantly decrease the amount of heat and electric lights you need each day. However, this can all be for nothing if there are other things in your home that are old-fashioned and are wasting precious energy.
While you’re getting stuck into your next home improvement project, you should take the time to check that all the bulbs in your house are energy-efficient. Though natural light is preferable wherever possible, our lives no longer revolve around the rise and fall of the sun, and it is expected that electric lights will be used even during the day. Ensuring you have energy-efficient bulbs on hand will work wonders for your bills and give you peace of mind, even if you like to spend your evenings in the glow of a bedside lamp.
Your bathroom can also be a hidden trap when it comes to energy loss. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, leaks alone may cause 10,000 gallons of water per year in water waste. Fixing any neglected, leaking taps can be a quick and inexpensive home improvement job, but changing your bathroom fixtures altogether is also an efficient option. Investing in a low-flow shower head for example can drastically reduce your water usage, without necessarily sacrificing water pressure.
Even something as simple as investing in a smart thermostat can save a substantial amount on your heating bill - especially if you are guilty of leaving your heating or air conditioning running when you’re away from home. Smart technology is becoming a more integral part of our everyday lives, and the variety of smart thermostats on the market means that there is bound to be one that suits your budget. The EPA concluded that homes with a pre-programmed thermostat could save up to $180 a year on heating and cooling, meaning that if you are planning on staying in your home for the next few years, the investment would certainly pay for itself in the long run.
Whether it’s larger structural changes or simply using the right light bulb, there are always home improvement jobs and investments that can make the world of difference when it comes to how energy-efficient your home is. By doing a little research and knowing which solutions suit your circumstances, you can find yourself adding value to your home, living a more eco-friendly lifestyle, and saving money on your bills every year.
By changing your home little by little, you’ll find that making energy-efficient choices for your layout or appliances doesn’t just save you money -it can make for a far more comfortable and convenient environment for your whole family.