Upgrade your home: the complete guide to green and eco-friendly renovations for homeowners
How to renovate your home sustainably
Looking to upgrade your home? Here are some great ways to do it without it costing the earth.
1. Insulate your home
This is the single most important thing you can do to lower your energy bills – along with your impact on the planet. There are a number of different types of insulation you can install, depending on what type of property you live in:
- Cavity wall insulation
If your home was built before 1990, there’s a fairly strong chance it won’t have any wall insulation. This is important as, according to Energy Saving Trust, around a third of all heat lost escapes through the walls.
- Floor insulation
If you live on the ground floor or above an unheated space like a garage, you could find it’s worth insulating your floor space. You can insulate both concrete and timber floors, helping you use less energy and save money on your annual bills.
- Roof and loft insulation
Uninsulated homes lose a quarter of their heat through the roof, according to the Energy Saving Trust, which makes insulating your loft a no-brainer. And if you can easily access your loft, there’s no reason you can’t do it yourself.
- Solid wall insulation
Depending on your property’s age, it may have solid external walls. These are more expensive to insulate than cavity walls but it’s still possible to have it done.
- Insulating pipes, radiators and hot-water tanks
Insulating your radiators, pipes and hot-water tank will go a long way towards preventing them losing heat, so you use less energy heating your hot water. If you’re handy around the house, there’s no need to call the professionals either – you can pick up the insulation cheaply at your local DIY store.
Draught-proofing your home could help you lower your carbon footprint and your bills. That means blocking any gaps that let cold air in and warm air out. One of the easiest ways to do this is to buy a chimney balloon. Your granny’s draught excluders will also do the trick.
2. Buy reclaimed furniture
Buying second-hand or reclaimed furniture is a much more sustainable way to shop. Using salvaged wood for your flooring or kitchen cabinets means less ends up being burned or put in landfill, as well helping to prevent more logging. And it doesn’t hurt that it looks great, too.
3. Install water-saving taps
Installing efficient water-saving taps and showers is a great way to reduce your water use. If you can’t afford to replace all your sanitaryware, a cheaper option is to install aerating taps. These combine air with the water, allowing you to use less without feeling the difference.
4. Swap traditional bulbs for LED lighting
Not only will this save you money on your energy bills, but it’ll also mean you’re using a more sustainable form of power in your home. Traditional bulbs are highly inefficient, converting only about 5% of the electricity they use into light, according to the Energy Saving Trust. As lighting makes up around 11% of your household energy consumption, that’s an awful lot of wasted energy.
If you’re worried that LED lighting can look a bit cold, opt for soft or ‘warm white’ bulbs.
5. Use eco-friendly paint
When it comes to protecting the environment, not all paints are created equal. Several brands on the market offer eco-friendly alternatives that don’t contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds – the toxic chemicals added to many paints).
If you prefer wallpaper to paint, look to those companies that offer Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wallpaper. This means the materials come from well-managed forests or are recycled.
6. Get a heat pump
Heat pumps are a low-carbon alternative to gas central heating. While installing one is expensive (it could cost between £12,000 and £17,000, depending on your home), it could ultimately save you a lot of money on your energy bills.
The government is now offering £5,000 grants to encourage homeowners to invest in low-carbon heating systems, so if you take the plunge you could receive a big discount. For details, visit the government’s website.
7. Install a green roof
Adding a green roof to your shed, bike store or garage can have all sorts of benefits – and not just for wildlife. It could improve air quality and help rainwater run-off, preventing flooding. And, in some cases, adding plants and greenery could increase the lifespan of your roof.
8. Install sun tunnels
If areas of your home are dark and gloomy, there’s no need to increase your carbon footprint by installing extra lighting. An affordable, eco-friendly alternative is to get a sun tunnel.
These are light tubes that bring natural daylight to dark rooms. This makes them a great way to bring the seasons to bathrooms, hallways, kitchens – anywhere you feel could benefit from more light.
9. Invest in solar panels
High energy bills may mean you might be one of the many people now contemplating solar panels. These connect to your home’s electricity system so they can power your appliances. You can also buy solar batteries that store energy you can then use later. And most panels don’t need direct sunlight to create energy, which means they’ll still work on cloudy days.
10. Donate unwanted items
Whatever you’re getting rid of – whether it’s clothes, furniture, or appliances – it’s likely that someone, somewhere will want it. By donating it, you’re helping to reduce, reuse and recycle, saving both energy and natural resources. This means there’s less need to manufacture new products, which creates greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need to tell my insurance provider that I’m renovating my home?
If you’re carrying out home renovations, you should let your insurance provider know. Your home improvements may affect your contents and buildings insurance and you might need to upgrade your policy.
Can I get a loan to carry out home improvements?
Yes. A home improvement loan lets you borrow a set amount to fund your renovation project.
Should I remortgage or get a loan to fund my home improvements?
Whether you should remortgage or get a loan will depend on your personal circumstances. You’ll need to add up the interest payments and costs of each, and work out what’s affordable for you.
Government study into the effect of EPC ratings on house prices:
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:
An overview of eco-friendly insulation options:
Energy Saving Trust – In-depth guide to Heat Pumps:
Energy Saving Trust – Solar Panel Guide:
Energy Saving Trust – Windows and Doors guide:
About the Forest Stewardship Council:
Government’s plan for lowering the cost of clean heat: