How to renovate sustainably

Charlie Luxton

Sustainable Renovations to make your home a green healthy living machine by Charlie Luxton

There has never been a year like 2020 for staying at home. As a result our relationship to where we live has undergone something of a paradigm shift with new research from E.ON1 confirming this.

Over the past few years there has been a growing awareness about the value of sustainability features that can create efficient, easy to heat, healthy homes. Lockdown has turbocharged this trend with 89% of people asked in E.ON’s survey saying they would prioritise sustainable features in choosing a new home, higher than any other factor including gardens (80%) or an en-suite bathroom (50%).

This change in attitude and demand for sustainable features is both timely and necessary.

Energy use in our homes is responsible for a fifth of all CO2 the UK economy produces each year2 when within reason it could, and by 2050 must, be almost nothing. It has seemed to me that the missing piece in this puzzle has been widespread demand from homeowners, perhaps, as the research shows, this is no longer.

In order to get our country towards zero carbon we need to transform how we power our lives. How we power our homes is going to play a significant role in this revolution. Solar panels with battery storage systems are already playing a crucial role in making our homes more energy efficient, allowing homeowners to create a low carbon, self-reliant and greener energy helping to power their lighting, heating and driving needs both day and night.

As E.ON’s research clearly shows, people are starting to prioritise sustainable features in their homes, impacting desirability and therefore value. 

How can I make my home more sustainable?

Well there are many ways to do this, but the hierarchy is pretty much the same; insulate, reduce draughts whilst ensuring good ventilation and stop wasting energy. Whilst some renovation tips are big and require investment, others can be small and more cost effective. Both will be transformative in terms of sustainability and energy use.

I’ve outlined my favourites below.

Quick and easy:
  • Switch to an energy provider with electricity backed by 100% renewable sources like E.ON
  • LED bulbs are available for a wide range of light fittings and they no longer give a cold harsh light. Every one of your bulbs should be replaced with an LED bulb (unless your lighting fixture says you shouldn’t) as they are more energy efficient and help you save on your energy bills… but be sure to turn off the lights when not in use
  • Think about changing your showerhead to a low flow aerating one. These add air into the water flow and can significantly reduce the amount of water used in a shower without impacting on your enjoyment. To also help reduce water waste at home change your loo cistern to a low flush version or if you have an older loo you can retrofit a dual flush
  • Install a smart meter. They come with an in-home display that shows you how much energy you’re using. This is a great way to track your energy so you can adapt and become more efficient. Be warned – watching the little screen can become addictive! 

Long term success:

  • It is important to have the right insulation to ensure you are effectively heating your home year-round. In a typical home the biggest area of heat loss is through the walls. By insulating externally or internally – either of which may have a slight impact on the size of some rooms – you will transform the warmth and comfort of your home.
  • Here are my favourite insulation tips when renovating a house to consider:
    • Space heating uses about 60% of energy4 in a typical home so if you can get that right down you are well on your way
    • 300mm of loft insulation is a great starting point – this is a cheap and easy solution to efficiently retaining warmth
    • Modern houses may have 50mm of insulation, but at least 100mm of wall insulation is optimum
  • If you’re replacing windows go for high performance triple glazing where possible. These will help to insulate your home, be draught free and will feature noise reduction qualities
  • Seal up all the unwanted cracks and holes in your home, as this is the next largest culprit of heat loss. Look around windows, doors, floors walls and roofs – these are key areas that need to be sealed to maintain proper levels of ventilation. To create an even healthier home, you could consider installing a Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery (MVHR) to clean pre-warmed air to your living spaces and extract any stale or damp air
  • To generate low carbon energy for your home, consider installing solar PV (photovoltaics) panels on your roof. Solar panels use the sun’s energy to power your home, helping you to be more sustainable while also helping the planet. They are especially useful if you are planning on investing in an electric vehicle or home battery storage
  • If your boiler is over 12 years old, it is likely time to consider a replacement. New boilers are much more energy efficient, meaning there is less waste coming from your home – benefitting the planet and your wallet. 

At this point your home should be a more affordable, warmer healthier place to live (what’s not to like). Being sustainable and energy efficient can be done with both big and small changes. Now is the time to start on the journey to making your home a green healthy living machine.

1. Research conducted by Censuswide between 27.08.20 – 02.09.20 with 1,000 UK respondents who are thinking of buying a new home in the next two years.

2. 2019 Greenhouse Gas Emissions, provisional figures - Department Business Energy and Industrial Strategy

3.  Electricity sourced from E.ON’s renewable generation assets, supply agreements with independent UK wind generators and the purchase of renewable electricity certificates. The electricity supplied to your homes comes from the National Grid. Find out more at eonenergy.com/renewable.

4. Energy Envoys: Energy Tutorial - Energy and Sustainability - What’s energy used for?