Property ladder

All of us want to save energy and reduce our electricity and gas bills, but much of the advice and schemes that are available to help people do this are aimed at homeowners. These include free insulation schemes, boiler replacement offers, window improvement schemes and general advice surrounding improving the home to avoid draughts and leaks. Many tenants feel that they simply have to put up with whatever the landlord has provided and make savings where they can.

However changes are about to come into effect (from April 2018 for new builds and lets and for existing from 2020), that will make it a legal obligation for landlords to offer a minimum standard of energy performance for their properties. This will insist that a property must meet an Energy Performance Certificate level of E – giving tenants a standard that at least gives them something to rely on.

In the meantime, it is worth noting that from April 2016 it became illegal for a landlord to refuse to allow tenants to carry out energy savings improvements on their properties – as long as the tenant is willing to pay. A number of conditions have to be met, but if you are willing to get the work properly done, the landlord should agree.

The landlord can also take advantage of a number of relief schemes to allow them to have the property insulated and improved. This is set against their tax obligations and can improve their property enough to allow them to charge more rent. This may not seem like a win for you as a tenant, but is still an incentive for the landlord to have work carried out. The key here is to talk to your landlord and see what they are willing to do.

If all else fails, there are a number of things you can do that is cheap and will not materially change the structure of the home – ensuring you don’t cause damage that might end up costing you more.

● Use heavy drapes or curtains in the winter that fall all the way to the floor. These will keep out draughts from the windows.
● Invest in some rugs if you have wooden floors. Much of the heat lost in your home is due to leaky floors.
● Use all available systems to avoid using too much hot water or heating. This means thermostats and timers. If yours don’t work well, ask for them to be replaced.
● Ask your landlord if you can have a smart meter installed – this will help you to see the amount you are using
● Try adding reflective backing to your radiators to reflect heat into the room.
● Add removable secondary glazing to your windows. This is easily found in DIY stores and involves simple adhesive films that stick to the existing window frames.

Modern house with gold coins in property investment and business growth concept, Buying new home for big family

The New Year is a time for reflection – a chance for us to make changes to how we live or work and to decide what we might do to improve for the coming year. Many people make new Year resolutions and for many, these will surround saving money. One great way to save money is to reduce your energy use and to lower your bills.

Below is a list of resolutions that will both reduce the amount you spend on your energy bills, but will also save the planet by lowering your carbon footprint.

  • Change your lights – by replacing your old lightbulbs with energy-saving LEDs you can save as much as £75 over the life of the bulb and it will last longer.
  • Turn off your lights – don’t leave lights on that you are not using. Make it a habit to turn them off as soon as you leave the room.
  • Use a thermostat to control your boiler and use them on each radiator individually. You can then control the temperature in each room – turning down the heat in the rooms you don’t use so often.
  • Turn off the heating when you are out – use a timer to ensure that your heating is not coming on when you are at work. If you have a remote system such as NEST, you can even control your heating from wherever you are.
  • Cook efficiently – try to use the oven carefully and cook as many meals at one time as you can. An electric oven can be very costly to run.
  • Ask for a shower timer for Christmas and use it to ensure you never stand in the shower for longer than 5 minutes.
  • Invest in insulation or take advantage of one of the energy company schemes to get it for free.
  • Only heat your water when you know you’re going to need it. For example set it to start heating around one hour before your shower and for another hour in the evening.
  • If your supplier offers a smart meter – get one. This can allow you to track your usage and will give you a clear idea of what you are spending and how your savings efforts are going.
  • Switch energy companies at least yearly to take advantage of fixed deals that may be suitable for your needs.

There are so many ways to improve how you use energy around the house and the simple steps are often the best. If all else fails, invest in some warm blankets and cosy clothes and go to bed early. That sounds like a great way to avoid having the heating on and you get to enjoy a lovely early night.

glowing light bulb among many coins

Saving energy in our homes has long been an issue for most households and each new generation works hard to make energy saving a possibility for all. These days we use smart meters to monitor our usage, triple glazing to ensure we stay warm and carefully programmed central heating to give us the flexibility we need. In the days of our grandparent’s things may have been very different. They may not have had central heating, homes generally were single glazed and open fires were the norm.

While the way they lived then may have seemed quaint, they still had some excellent ideas for energy saving around the home that we can learn from today and in true old-fashioned money-saving style, they are usually not going to cost a fortune to implement.

Plug gaps

Even our modern homes are somewhat leaky. Windows and doors are the most obvious places where the warmth can get out and these gaps should be plugged if at all possible to keep the heat inside where you want it. Door snakes are a great idea that is easy to make and do a fantastic job at stopping draughts under doors. Simply take a length of material and sew it into a long sausage shape. Fill this with rags, old socks, and some bean bag beads for stability and then place along the bottom of the door. If you are especially crafty you can knit one that will fit in with your decor.

Other gaps can be filled with simple scrunched up newspaper, plastic sheeting and old clothes or material.

Close doors

Our homes these days are often open plan making it harder to heat our homes and impossible to shut off the room you are in. However, you should always close the doors of the rooms you can and do your best to keep the heat where you need it. In this way, you can use radiator thermostats to keep each room at the temperature you need and not heat those rooms that you are not using.

Cook wisely

By planning your cooking you can take advantage of having the oven on for several meals rather than just one. For example, if you are cooking a casserole and will have the oven on for a couple of hours, add a cake or a batch of muffins at the same time. This will depend on the size of your oven, but there’s a good chance you can fit in at least a couple of meals into one cooking session. And when the oven is cooling down leave the door open so that heat comes into the room.

We expect you know loads more old-fashioned money saving ideas – but these will certainly help when the weather gets cooler in the months to come.

 

Solar panel on a roof and wind turbins arround

Over recent years solar PV has become increasingly popular for homeowners, businesses, and energy generators due to falling PV costs and greater understanding of the technology. Even in the UK climate, solar energy is a great way to generate electricity. With the support from government schemes in both the UK and Germany, PV installations have soared which has aided the falling costs.

 

Financially how does PV stack up?

The surge in popularity of solar PV has led to many advancements and lower production costs for the system parts of around 40%. When this is coupled with the UK Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) scheme where homeowners receive an income for every kWh of electricity generated as well as an export fee. This has resulted in reduced payback period which can be as little as 12 years, for example, a system could cost £5,000, and could generate £250 FiT income, and £135 bill savings per year. These energy savings could be higher if you use more of the electricity that you generate during the day.

 

Looking towards 2018 and beyond

The cost of solar PV is likely to continue decline due to increased competition and further production efficiencies.

The government cut financial support for solar PV through the FiT by 65% in January 2016 as a result of the dramatic cost reduction in solar PV. They have also put mechanisms in place to enable further degression of the FiT if PV costs continue to fall. The government maintains its backing for renewable energy, as seen in the Clean Growth Strategy, although they have expressed that they want PV to start paying for itself in the commercial sector and have proposed no subsidies. This may also impact on the future of the FiT.

However, if you decide to invest in solar PV then the FiT at the time of installation of the system will be guaranteed for 20 years and linked to inflation. Also, any cuts to the FiT will be given advanced notice so there is time to install before the reduction or re-evaluate whether to proceed.

Much of Europe and the rest of the world are seeing renewable energy as the way forward to reduce carbon emissions and the cost of electricity production in the future. As a result, there is a lot of investment, including from the UK government, into advancements in renewable energy technology to reduce their costs and increase their efficiency; of which the PV industry will benefit and we should see further increased panel efficiency.

Advancements are also being made in energy storage with investment being made to speed up its development. Energy storage advancements will not only help the national grid manage fluctuations in energy generation and demand but it will also benefit homeowners with solar PV as they will be able to store the electricity they generate instead of exporting it to the grid, which will increase the savings on energy bills.

 

Considerations for purchasing PV

Firstly, if you want to take advantage of the FiT then you may need to make certain energy efficiency improvements to your property before installing your system, as you are required to have an EPC rating of D or above. However, it makes sense to invest in home energy efficiency measures as it will reduce your energy bills. Take a look at our guidance on loft and wall insulation to see what is suitable for your property if you haven’t already had them installed.

The location of your solar PV panels is essential in ensuring maximum gain, panels should ideally be south-facing but there are many other orientations that are viable for good levels of energy generation. They shouldn’t be located where they would be shaded or obstructed from getting sufficient UV exposure.
When selecting a solar PV system it is worth doing some research to find what panels offer the best efficiency and lifespan to ensure you get the maximum energy generation for your investment.

Once installed PV systems need little maintenance but it is worth factoring in the additional cost of a replacement inverter as they often need replacing during the lifespan of the system as warranties are for 10-15 years. It is also worth regularly checking the output to catch any reductions that indicate could issue with the system.

 

How to find an installer

When you are looking for an installer you need to find one that is MCS accredited for solar PV installations. It is also worth investigating which panels they install, their system costs, and reviews on their workmanship. To help owners to find the right installer we have a list of accredited and reputable installers.

So, if you haven’t got PV panels adorning your roof, is it time to seriously consider investing in them? Solar PV is no longer just an environmentalist’s household accessory but something that savvy homeowners across the country are adopting to reduce energy bills and generate an income.

Photovoltaic panels

You are considering putting solar panels on your home to produce electricity, but how does it work, and is your property right for solar panels?

 

How it works


A solar photovoltaic (PV) system is designed to turn UV light into electricity. The panels that are mounted to your roof are made up of a collection of cells that are formed from several thin layers of semi-conducting silicone that contain metal contacts that absorb UV light.
When UV light is absorbed it enables the electrons within the cells to move around and this movement generates electricity. The electricity generated by the panels is in DC (direct current) but the electrical grid and appliances in your home operate on AC (alternating current). To make the electricity generated compatible, the current is fed through an inverter which changes it into AC.

All solar PV systems also include a meter that allows you to track the amount of energy generated, used and exported to the grid. It is also connected to your consumer unit to allow the electricity to be exported.

 

Energy storage


The electricity generated by your solar panels will be produced during the day and unless you have a higher than average daytime consumption it is likely that a high proportion of the electricity will be exported to the grid.

Currently there are neither adequate nor cost-effective energy storage solutions for homeowners but advancements in this area have made the likelihood of this happening in the next decade much higher. So, whilst you won’t be able to initially store electricity for your own use, it is likely that during the lifetime of your system it could be possible to add storage to it.

 

UK conditions for solar PV


Although the UK doesn’t have the hottest of climates, this doesn’t massively reduce the appeal of solar panels, as the UK does have a significant number of daytime hours and UV exposure. The sun doesn’t necessarily need to be out in order for the panels to generate electricity, it is UV light that they require. However, the intensity of the light will impact on the amount of power produced. It is worth carefully accessing what level of electricity the system can generate before purchasing it.

 

Maximising electricity generated


The location, roof pitch, and shading in relation to the sun’s position throughout the day can greatly alter the amount of electricity generated. A technical survey would take into account these factors combined with the amount of light expected where you live and give an accurate picture of what the system could generate.

 

Financials


But don’t forget that it’s not just the electricity used that you save money on but that you also get a Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) for all electricity generated and an additional payment for electricity exported to the grid. In the current FIT scheme requirements the level of your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating impacts on the amount of generation tariff you receive so it’s worth improving the energy efficiency of your home first.