Opportunities to make your home greener

Being able to spot ways to make a property more energy efficient when you’re viewing a house could save you a lot of money over time and be better for the environment. The timing couldn't be better either - insulation, solar panels and heat pumps bought and installed before 31 March 2027 are VAT free.

So, whether you’re saving money or helping to save the planet, check our list next time you view a property to see if you can find ways to make it greener.

Is it insulated?

A quarter of heat is lost through the roof in an uninsulated house and about a third through the walls, so insulation is at the top of our list.

  • If your loft space is converted, roof insulation fills the gaps between the outer and inner parts of the roof to prevent heat escaping. If it isn't used as a living space, loft insulation usually involves rolling mineral wool fibre across the floor space to minimise heat loss from the house below. According to the Energy Saving Trust, loft insulation could save you up to £355* a year on heating bills.

  • Cavity wall insulation also comes in different types, from expanding foam to sheep’s wool. The typical cost for a semi-detached house is around £1000 but could save you as much as £395* per year.

  • Solid wall insulation can be fitted either inside the property with thermal lining, or outside as a layer that’s fixed to the external wall then rendered. Costs vary depending on the type and age of the property.

man putting insulation in wall

Can you feel a draught?

A property can lose energy from heat escaping through windows and doors. Check for breezes to see where gaps need to be filled and potentially reduce your bills by around £60 a year (based on a typical gas-fuelled semi-detached property in England, Wales or Scotland).

  • It can cost around £225* to draught-proof an average semi-detached, but there are cheaper DIY options available like stick-on insulation strips, which can be fitted to doors and windows. A heavy curtain hung over draughty doors can also prevent heat escaping.

  • Double- or triple-glazed windows are more energy-efficient than single-glazing. You could opt for glazing that’s recommended by the Energy Saving Trust, like windows with a low-emissivity (low-e) glass, which have a coating that reflects heat back into the room. It’s a bigger up-front cost but the long-term savings could really mount up.

What’s the boiler rating?

Boilers are rated on a scale of A to G, with A being the most efficient and G being the least. The cost of replacing an old boiler will vary, but a straightforward gas boiler replacement plus thermostatic radiator valves will typically cost around £4,000, according to the Energy Saving Trust. But if that's not in your budget, there are a couple of things you can do to reduce costs one you move in.

  • Turn off radiators in rooms that aren’t being used. You can replace old radiator valves with new ones if the old ones don’t work.

  • Turning down the heating by just one degree can save on average £145 a year according to the Energy Saving Trust.

What’s the property’s EPC rating?

EPC stands for Energy Performance Certificate. The property’s EPC is rated from A to G, with A being the most efficient. Generally, the better the rating, the cheaper the energy bills are likely to be. Improving your home's EPC rating can sometimes reduce the carbon emissions as well, although not all energy efficient measures are equally effective at reducing your carbon footprint. EPCs are still catching up with newer low-carbon technologies (e.g. heat pumps and battery storage). An EPC shows potential home buyers or tenants how energy efficient the home is and provides recommendations for green upgrades which could help improve its rating in the future.

If you are a member of Skipton Building Society and own a home over 10 years old, you are eligible for our free EPC Plus Home Energy Report from Vibrant.

shower head on wall running water

Bath vs. shower

A shower uses less energy than a bath and, according to the Energy Saving Trust if you swapped one bath a week with a four minute shower, you could save around £12 a year. The average shower head uses 12 litres of water a minute, so you could install a low-flow aerated shower head too, which will reduce the amount of water you use while maintaining the pressure.

Is the loo low flow?

Flushing the toilet accounts for around 30% of water used in a household, but you can buy low-flow alternatives. Upgrading to a more efficient loo can save up to 9 litres per flush compared to a standard toilet.

Rainwater harvesting

There’s no shortage of rain in the UK, so rainwater harvesting could be a great way to save on water usage and cut those bills. Rainwater can be used in toilets and washing machines and, because it’s not treated with chemicals, it’s more environmentally friendly too. A system can be fitted above or below ground and can cost on average between £2,000 and £3,000.

man on roof installing solar panels

Could you switch to a renewable heating system?

The UK government plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. As part of those plans, gas and oil boilers will be banned from new builds from 2025. So, if you’re viewing a property with an old boiler that needs changing anyway, it’s worth thinking about greener alternatives

  • Solar Panels convert sun into electricity through panels attached to the roof. The average cost of solar panels in the UK is £7,860 for a three-bedroom house. If you live in England, Scotland, or Wales and you have solar panels, you could benefit from the government’s Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), which requires most energy suppliers to pay you for excess electricity that’s exported back to them. Solar energy converted to electricity could also be used to charge an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle.
  • Air-source heat pumps extract heat from the air and convert it into energy that can be used to heat the home through radiators and underfloor heating. They’re one of the most common types of heat pump in the UK. They cost around £7,000 - £13,000 and are usually fitted to external walls or roof spaces. There is currently a £5000 government grant available if you purchase an air-source heat pump as part of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme which runs until 2028.
  • Ground source heat pumps extract heat from the ground and turn it into energy that can be used to heat a home. The system is buried under ground and the cost is influenced by things like the size and age of the property, the type of pump, how it’s installed etc, and could cost anywhere between £24,000 to £49,000. The UK Boiler Upgrade Scheme also offers a £6000 grant towards ground source heat pumps.
  • Domestic wind turbines come in two types – pole-mounted, which are planted in the ground, and building-mounted, which are attached to the property. Installation and equipment for a pole mounted turbine can cost around £31,000. The benefits are reduced electricity bills and, if your home isn’t connected to the grid and you have battery storage, the ability to store electricity on non-windy days.

Bear in mind that even though all these heating systems have their own environmental and cost-saving benefits, they won’t be effective if the property isn’t properly insulated.

This article has been created with the help of the following sources:

*Figures for a typical semi-detached property in England, Scotland or Wales. Based on fuel prices under the Energy Price Guarantee running from April 2023 to the end of June 2023.

Free EPC Plus Report

We’ve teamed up with Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) provider, Vibrant, to give our home-owning members a comprehensive EPC Plus Home Energy Report for their property – for FREE. For homes constructed more than 10 years ago. T&Cs apply.

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