Ways to reduce energy bills: Eco-friendly home improvements costing from £20

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House of Hackney launched its first eco paint range, The Art of Nature, earlier in April  (Mark Cocksedge)
House of Hackney launched its first eco paint range, The Art of Nature, earlier in April (Mark Cocksedge)

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has today announced a £15 billion package to help households tackle the cost of living crisis.

Energy bills rose by an average £693 in April which pushed the Consumer Prices Index — the headline measure of inflation — to nine per cent. A level not seen for 40 years.

And, when Ofgem raises its energy price cap from £1,971 to £2,800 in October, energy bills are expected to rise by a further £800 for millions of British households.

The new Government support package is to replace the previously announced energy bill rebate which would have seen £200 cut from bills in October but then repaid over five years. The new support plan will see that amount doubled to £400 which households will not have to repay. There are additional support measures for the country’s most vulnerable households.

Despite the doubling of support for all UK households, energy bills will have risen by a staggering 119 per cent in the year to October 2022 - an average increase of £1,493.

Taking into account the support announced by the Chancellor today, that’s still an increase of £1,000 per household.

Eco upgrades are popular with millions of home renovators trying to cut energy costs each year, but they can come at a high initial expense and Government schemes like the Green Homes Grant proved complex and difficult to access.

In March the Chancellor announced that VAT on the installation of energy-efficient materials in homes such as solar panels, heat pumps and insulation is to be cut from five per cent to zero. Solar panels come with a high initial cost of between £4,000 and £8,000 but the incentives for installing the panels include reduced electricity bills and a lower carbon footprint — with any extra electricity generated then sold back to energy suppliers.

For households not in a position to make big energy-efficient improvements this year, but who still want to make a difference to their homes — and their bills amid the current cost of living crisis— here are seven impactful, quick and budget-friendly interiors upgrades to consider.

Fillings gaps between floorboards

While it won’t necessarily make a big difference to usage, filling gaps between floorboards is one of a few inexpensive measures to consider to make your home less draughty and more energy efficient.

Glue wood slivers between floorboards, or look into making your own glue-sawdust filler. The expected cost is around £30 for a pack of 50 pieces.

Window seal replacement

Often overlooked in favour of bigger projects, intact window seals prevent draughts and maintain the energy efficiency of your home.

Temperature changes cause window seals to expand and contract, so it’s a good idea to inspect and even replace them every five to 10 years.

“The cost of materials is relatively low, only costing between £5 to £10 per window for good quality silicone sealant,” says Mike Fairman of tradespeople directory Checkatrade.

“In terms of labour, you can expect to pay around £20 to £70 per window.”

If in doubt as to whether you need to replace window seals, look out for the following tell-tale signs: condensation on your windows, mould on the seals and draughts coming from around your windows.

Get smart: people are thought to be more likely to turn down thermostats by a degree or two, and save energy, via an app rather than manally (Nest)
Get smart: people are thought to be more likely to turn down thermostats by a degree or two, and save energy, via an app rather than manally (Nest)

Smart thermostats

Being able to control your heating remotely means forgetting to turn the heat off when you go away or evening plans change is a thing of the past.

People are also thought to be more inclined to turn down their thermostats by a degree or two via an app rather than manually.

The cost of a smart thermostat can range from £120 to £220, depending on the make and model that you choose, says Fairman.

“You also have to factor in the smart thermostat installation cost, which is usually around £30 to £80 based on one to two hours of labour for an electrician.”

Have your boiler serviced

The more efficient your boiler is, the less energy it will need to run. A service checks that your boiler is running efficiently, upgrading your boiler is often the most energy-efficient course of action yet can cost anywhere between £500 for the most basic option and £13,000 for a biomass model. Installation costs will be extra.

"An annual boiler service cost can either come in the form of a one-off fee of around £80 for a 30-minute service or an annual charge for insurance," says Fairman.

"On average, boiler and central heating cover costs fall between £180 and £300, but this will cover you for any breakdowns.

"Paying a one-off fee should work out cheaper, but the yearly cover will give you full peace of mind."

Loft insulation

Loft insulation is a great way to cut energy bills and keep your home warm.

"It is also a required building regulation for extensions or loft conversions," says Fairman.

The average blanket loft insulation cost for a detached house, including labour, is £600.

Blanket insulation is the cheapest per m2 (£5), followed by loose fill (£7.50), sheet insulation (£10), and spray foam (£55). The average roof insulation labour cost is £175.

Switch showerheads

Consider replacing your rainfall showerhead with a water-saving model. With more holes, they have a mist-like spray effect rather than pumping out litres of wasted water.

This model from Amane promises to double shower power while saving up to 35 per cent of the water usually used in an eight-minute shower. It costs around £115.

Pipe insulation

Spending less money heating water up, keeping hot water hotter for longer, and avoiding frozen – or worse, burst – pipes in winter is always a good idea.

The cost comes from hiring professional help, as some pipes may be hard to reach, but they should be able to do the job in just a few hours. The insulation itself should be priced from around £20.

“Insulating pipes around your home correctly can be a hassle,” says Fairman, “The right type and size of lagging are essential for each individual pipe in order for it to be 100 per cent effective.”

Make smart paint choices

While eco-friendly paint won’t decrease your energy bills, it’s an easy, impactful interiors update that doesn’t cost the earth.

Avoid paints that contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), as high levels can trigger asthma, nausea or other allergic reactions. Instead, look for limewash, clay, plant-based or mineral paint.

Brands to check out include COAT, Earthborn Paints, Edward Bulmer Natural Paints, Auro, Lick, Farrow & Ball low-VOC ranges, Fired Earth and Little Greene.

Earthborn ‘Ladybug’ paint (Handout)
Earthborn ‘Ladybug’ paint (Handout)

House of Hackney has launched its first eco paint range, The Art of Nature, which is inspired by the palette of the natural world and the idea of home as a sanctuary.

There are 42 colours in the collection, all based on minerals, roots, rocks and berries. They have extremely low VOC levels, come with a wooden stirrer made from by-products, and the exterior packaging and tin are recyclable. For every tin sold, HoH buys and protects 35 square metres of forest.

However, this is a high-end choice, with prices starting at £65 for a 2.5-litre tin. For a more affordable option, try Frenchic Paint, Lakeland Paints, Victory Colours or Linda Barker Paints.

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