The energy-saving upgrades that are actually worth it

·7-min read
energy bills going up home upgrades investment energy crisis heat pumps insulation solar panels
energy bills going up home upgrades investment energy crisis heat pumps insulation solar panels

While the temperature is still in the mid-20s, and our autumn clothes remain furloughed in the wardrobe, it’s hard to imagine the sensation of shivering in the cold. But winter is coming and, with it, the much discussed – and dreaded – energy bill increases.

Energy industry regulator Ofgem has made its latest announcement about the energy price cap – the maximum the average British household should pay per year.

Prices will soar with the average bill reaching £3,549 from October. Additional forecasts are grim and the typical UK household could be paying £4,266 a year for energy in January – that’s 116pc more than the current £1,971. There are fears the situation will only get worse if Russia shuts off gas supplies to Europe.

Most families are simply expected to swallow this huge rise, with the aid of a £400 handout for every household from the Government.

But the good news is that we don’t merely have to sit and wait to be hit by the encroaching bills. There are things we can do now – for a small outlay – to invest in energy-saving upgrades to our homes that will last for this winter, and beyond.

Make hay while the sun shines

You can generate your own energy if you install solar electricity panels on your roof. The average system costs £5,400, according to environmental advisory group The Eco Experts. This will currently save a typical three-bedroom home £474 a year by creating free energy and also selling any excess power back to an energy supplier. This saving will rise to around £780 a year in October, and to £900 a year from January. The panels should last 25 years.

Heat pump savings (in some cases)

An air source heat pump can cost between £7,000 and £13,000, but extra costs could apply, such as upgrading your home’s radiators, installing a hot water storage tank or putting in extra insulation. Homes need to be well insulated for heat pumps to be effective.

The Government is offering households in England and Wales grants of £5,000 to help them switch to heat pumps which are part of the “Boiler Upgrade Scheme” – however only some homes are eligible and they won’t necessarily save you money. Under normal circumstances, in a typical home a heat pump will be £400 to £465 cheaper to run each year than an old, inefficient gas boiler. Yet A-rated gas boilers are still around £35 to £55 cheaper to run each year than a heat pump.

This should change. The Government plans to move green energy surcharges, which are currently applied to household electricity bills, onto gas bills – but this is expected to be phased in over a period of up to 10 years.

Almost all houses can accommodate an air source heat pump, but a ground source pump requires more land. Ground source heat pumps can cost between £15,000 and £35,000, but The Eco Experts warn that they yield savings of only £14 per year.

Boost your boiler

Buying and installing an A-rated condensing boiler, with a thermostat and thermostatic radiator controls, costs about £4,000. If it replaces a D-rated boiler, the energy savings would be £380 a year. This sum is expected to rise to £691 in October and £822 in January.

Wrap your house up warm

Some 28pc of UK homes have solid walls, according to the National Energy Foundation. Insulating them costs about £12,000 for a three-bedroom semi-detached home, resulting in savings of £390 a year – more than any other kind of insulation, according to The Eco Experts. The savings are expected to go up to £709 in October and £844 in January.

Insulating cavity walls, which have a gap inside that can be filled with foam, is much cheaper, at about £1,200 for the same sized home. The energy savings to be had are £285 a year now, £518 from October and £617 from January.

The average household can expect to pay around £530 for roof and loft insulation, for savings of £255 a year. From October, the bill reduction will rise to £463 a year, going up to £552 in January.

Replacing old kitchen appliances

Choosing an energy efficient washing machine will save you money on both electricity and water. Replacing a D-rated machine with an A-rated one costs £800, according to The Eco Experts. The savings amount to around £50 a year, going up to £100 and £119 in October and January respectively. The appliance should last about 11 years.

Replacing a D-rated tumble dryer with an A+++ rated one will set you back £700, shaving £36 a year off bills. This sum is forecast to go up to £65 a year from October and £77 a year from January. Some come with sensors that indicate when the clothes inside are dry.

The cost of replacing an F-rated fridge freezer with a D-rated one is £900, resulting in bill reductions of £55 a year, according to The Eco Experts. The figure goes up to £100 a year from October and £119 from January.

A new A+++ rated dishwasher sells for about £800, leading to just £9 a year off energy bills. This is expected to increase to £16 from October and £19 from January.

A more efficient electric oven will cost £220 and save you £40 a year, according to Which?, or £86 from next year. This is based on using the oven for about five hours a week at 170C, which currently costs about £53.

Boiling water on tap

An instant boiling water tap is more energy efficient than a kettle, but the cost of having one is far greater than what the average household would save in bills, according to the consumer group Which?.

The cheapest option will set you back more than £500, while premium models cost as much as £1,000. There are additional installation costs that are sometimes not included in the price, and a new filter needs to be purchased every three or four years, at a typical cost of £30. It costs 3p a day to keep the tap on standby, according to manufacturer Quooker.

The cost of boiling a kettle is also about 3p, according to Which?. If you boil a kettle three times a day, you would save £22 a year if you instead used a boiling water tap. This would rise to £41 from October and £47 from January.

Keep the heat in

Making windows more energy efficient has the added bonus of reducing the noise levels from outside. A single 100cm x 100cm double glazed window will cost £560 on average if it is made out of PVC, with the prices for wood and steel at £600 and £720 respectively, according to The Eco Experts.

The yearly savings to be had if all of a home’s single glazed windows are replaced are £145. This is expected to go up to £264 a year from October and £314 in January. An even more effective option is to choose A++ double glazing, which costs £600 for the same sized window, rising to £640 for wood and £760 for steel. The savings amount to £175 a year in today’s prices, rising to £318 in October and £379 in January.

Get smart with thermostats

A smart thermostat can be controlled remotely from your mobile phone and typically costs between £150 and £300, but can cut energy bills by 14pc, according to Scottish Power. This means savings of £275 a year at today’s prices, £501 from October and £597 from January. However, most will not work with storage heaters or heat pumps. The device allows you to schedule your heating and adjusts the temperature of your home based on when you are there.