Many of us see the benefits of being environmentally friendly. And as we change our shopping habits and adapt our lifestyles to incorporate eco-friendlier behaviours, we're also incentivising businesses and industries to go greener, too. Our homes are a great place to start. We all have some degree of control over our living spaces even if we're renting and even small changes add up. It's a process. One that not only helps the environment but can save you money, too. We've put together 9 tips on how to make your home eco-friendlier.
9 Tips to Make Your Home Eco-Friendlier
Installing solar panels is one of the more obvious choices for homeowners. Solar arrays generate clean power by turning sunlight into electricity. Generating your own power in this way can cut your electricity bill by up to £400. Customers can also sell excess power back to the grid and support the local network during peak periods. There are around 825,000 solar panels in the UK which accounts for about 2.8% of homes.
It's now far more affordable for homeowners to install the arrays. Payback periods are now around ten years. Back in the early 1990s, the ROI was about sixty years. With 60% of UK homeowners living in the same house for 15 or more years, it's now seen as a more practical investment. There are disadvantages, however. Not everyone can afford to pay for solar panels upfront. Those choosing to lease them (rather than to buy them outright) may find it harder to sell the house later on. And whilst solar panels do generate electricity even on cloudy days, the property's position in relation to direct sunlight will dictate how much power can be produced.
Switch to an Eco-Friendly Energy Supplier
Green tariffs are becoming more popular but it's not always as straightforward as it sounds. There's only one national grid. There's not one for clean and one for 'dirty' energy. It all gets lumped together. According to Money Saving Expert, when you're on a green tariff your energy provider will 'match your use, so the net effect of you using a 100% renewable supplier is as if all your energy was renewable.' The more clean energy that the UK generates, the more that the national grid will be able to draw from.
Currently, the UK generates around 42% of its power from clean sources. Power companies may also choose to offset the use of carbon by planting trees or investing in renewable energy projects. Green energy tariffs are an easy way of making your home eco-friendlier. It's a simple switch and is often only marginally more expensive than a standard energy tariff. Most providers now offer them. One word of warning, however. Some companies are taking advantage of the green certification system designed to prove the clean credentials of bulk energy purchases.
We covered this on the energy justification page on the Energym website. Some electricity companies will buy green certificates and then assign them to their 'dirty' energy purchases. This makes the energy company look greener than they are. Do your research before switching to a green tariff to ensure that the company you're with isn't greenwashing its credentials. If you want to make your home eco-friendlier, then make sure you're not being fooled by companies that you trust to be ethical.
Take Care of Your Electrical Items (and If It's Broken - Fix it!)
We're still living in a disposable culture. The default position of most people is that when something breaks you throw it out and replace it. This isn't always the best option. It's also rarely the most convenient or affordable means of dealing with broken appliances or electronics. And even when an item is beyond repair, there are still better ways of dealing with these things than just sending them to a landfill.
According to the Restart Project, the UK is the world's second-highest producer of electronic waste. Use the internet for tutorials and walk-throughs on some of the simple fixes to common devices and appliances. YouTube is a good place to begin. Google, too. Find local businesses who'll come out and fix it for a fee. The repair could even save you money. According to Fix.com, the rule of thumb is that if you can repair the machine for 50% or less than the cost of a replacement, then it's a cost-effective repair. The website also points out that consumers can now directly contact suppliers for specific parts. You no longer have to go via an engineer. If you can afford to buy better quality electronics and appliances, then do so. Find one with a comprehensive warranty, too. Read through the product manual thoroughly when you get the appliance or device. Complete any general maintenance or upkeep to ensure it stays running better for longer. If you're dead set on upgrading, then sell the old appliance or offer it to someone else for free. There are companies and local organisations that will even come and collect it for you.
Buy Electricity Generating Gym Equipment to Make Your Home Eco-Friendlier
If you exercise regularly, you can also generate clean energy using a energy-generating indoor cycling bike. The RE:GEN captures and converts the power from your workout and turns it into clean useable electricity. Stored inside a portable battery unit called the Ohm, this clean energy can then be used to charge electronic devices. You'll find more information about the RE:GEN on the Energym website.
Weather Proofing Your Windows and Insulating Your Home
Windows are responsible for around 18% of heat loss in houses. One UK window installer writes that the average gas-heated semi-detached home could save between £120-£155 per year by installing double. Sealing any drafts around the window frames can help, too. Blackout curtains are also a simple means of helping insulate rooms during bouts of hot or wintry weather. Making the inside of your home more energy efficient will make your house a more comfortable place to live in and it saves you money. Homeowners will additionally benefit from flooring, wall, or loft insulation.
Switch to LED lightbulbs
This is one of the simplest swaps to make your home eco-friendlier. LED lightbulbs last longer than their more traditional counterparts and could save you up to £168 over a lightbulb's lifetime. The Energy Saving trust breaks this down further. It writes that switching to LED lightbulbs could save you up to £35 per year on your electricity bill. LEDs turn around 70% of their energy into light. Other bulbs are less efficient because they lose energy as heat. This makes LEDs safer for children as they aren't hot to touch. What's more, LEDs are also recyclable. As the popularity of LEDs has grown, the cost of buying them has dropped. You can now find them in any store selling lightbulbs.
Use a Programmable Thermostat
Technology now means that it's much easier to regulate the temperature in our homes. This can help reduce a homeowner's carbon footprint as well as helping them save money. Temperature control is now far easier and more energy-efficient. It's also more convenient. Thermostats can account for individual rooms. Some you can even connect to an app allowing you to regulate the temperature of your home even when there's no one there. This is great for households without a consistent schedule or routine. Understanding your thermostat is also important. Whilst they're usually straightforward to use and programme, some may have additional features and functions worth investigating and using.
Wash and Dry Your Clothes More Efficiently
Re-wearing clothes more than one is an easy way to make laundry eco-friendlier. It's unnecessary to wash clothing after every use. Although as Treehugger points out that the rule doesn't apply to underwear! They write that even Levis recommend only washing jeans every two weeks. You can now buy eco-friendly laundry detergent in most supermarkets. Products like this mean that fewer chemicals end up going back into the water system. Washing clothes at 30 degrees rather than 40 degrees uses less energy. Ninety percent of the energy used to wash clothes is wasted on heating the water. Most modern washing machines will still clean clothes effectively at a lower temperature, according to This is Money, but higher temperatures may be necessary to kill more serious germs in a household where someone has been ill or has a compromised immune system. Look for plant-based detergents using recyclable packaging, too. When you buy a new washing machine or dryer check the energy efficiency rating. This will tell you how eco-friendly (or not) the appliance is.
Conduct a Home Energy Audit
Carbon audits are a great way to assess your carbon footprint. They can help you understand how to be more energy efficient. They're popular in the business world. Often an external auditor comes in to take an unbiased look at the operations and day-to-day running of a company, but you can also do one yourself in your home. Using an external company will cost more money but you'll have a more detailed and actionable report to work from. There are also lots of tips on the internet to help you set up an audit.