As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, the size of potential energy bills is an important factor to consider when buying a home.
After all, what you pay for electricity and gas will be one of the largest regular household expenses. Even if you are buying the property as an investment for buy-to-let purposes, potential tenants will be looking for whatever savings they can make.
On top of that, as more people become aware of the impact of climate change, energy efficiency can add value to your property.
Fortunately, if you are buying a property, you can get a good idea of the energy efficiency of a property from the energy performance certificate (EPC). The seller is legally obliged to provide an EPC and you should receive it with any other information and documents sent through their solicitor.
In summary, the EPC will state:
- the efficiency rating of the property (A-F, with A for the most efficient building)
- an estimate of the current costs for lighting, heating and hot water
- a list of ways you can improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs once you buy the property
You can also find out how to improve the energy efficiency of the property by answering this questionnaire at GOV.UK.
Here are our energy-saving tips for now and in the longer term.
Switch off lights and appliances when not in use.
This one probably seems a bit obvious, but £4.4 billion a year is wasted by people leaving the lights on unnecessarily.
The same applies to electrical appliances such as computers, TVs and hair dryers being plugged in and left on standby. You could save up to £25 a year. Leaving an appliance on standby does reduce the amount of energy used compared to if it was fully on. Why should you pay for energy used while on standby when you pay nothing at all if you switch it off at the plug or shut it down completely?
Change to energy-saving light bulbs.
If you still have old-style incandescent light bulbs, then you are burning money. Only 10% of the electricity required to power these light bulbs goes into producing light.
By switching to low-energy light bulbs such as fluorescent or LED, you can have the same or more light in a room for a lot less electricity.
Turn down your thermostat.
Turning your thermostat down by 1º Celsius while you are at home could save you up to £100 a year.
However, there is a limit to how far you can turn down the thermostat.
According to the NHS, the ideal temperature range for both your health and your home is 18-21º Celsius. Of course, you can set your thermostat outside this range.
If your setting is too cold, the symptoms of colds and respiratory illnesses could be made worse. It could also cause dampness, mould, frozen pipes and boiler breakdowns, which are costly to remedy.
Turning down your thermostat or turning your heating off could help save money if your home is still comfortably warm. Otherwise, the cost could easily outweigh any savings you make on your energy bills.
When you do turn your heating on, you can reduce your bills by closing any radiators that are not needed at the time.
For example, if the family is relaxing in the living room watching a movie, there is no point in heating other rooms of the house.
A smart radiator valve could be helpful here. You can then open and close radiators in different rooms using your phone, laptop or virtual assistant device without needing to go to every room.
However, closing radiator valves only works if you have a modern condensing boiler (sold after 2005).
If you still have the old G-rated and non-condensing boiler, then closing the radiator valves could end up increasing your heating bills.
It is easy to find out whether you have a modern or older boiler. If there is a white pipe coming from the bottom of your boiler, it is a modern condensing boiler.
If you do have an older, non-condensing boiler, it may be time to think about upgrading it. You can upgrade to a condensing gas boiler. However, you may be able to apply for a government grant if you upgrade to a heating pump or biomass boiler.
Install curtains, double-glazing and insulation.
The difficulty with maintaining a comfortable temperature in your home is that so much heat can be lost through the windows, walls and roof. You are not paying to heat the house, just everything else.
The easiest way to stop heat from escaping at night is to draw the curtains and close the blinds, but make sure you open them again during the day so that any free heat from sunlight is captured.
Double and triple glazing will also help to reduce heat loss through windows and doors and could save you up to £200 a year in energy costs.
According to the magazine Which? loft insulation, which reduces heat loss through the roof, could save you up to £315 a year. Meanwhile, cavity wall insulation can reduce heat loss through walls by 33%, although properties built after 1990 already come with wall insulation.
Both double and triple glazing and insulation come with a large upfront cost, although you should see the benefits straight away in terms of lower energy bills. These should also be seen as investments as they add value to the property.