Energy Conservation

A Guide to energy conservation in home improvements


If you are undertaking home improvements or renovations it presents an ideal opportunity to incorporate energy efficiency measures into your property. Installing such measures while undertaking other works can often reduce their cost. Energy efficiency measures not only save energy but lead to reductions in your fuel bills, make your home more comfortable and help the environment.

Double-glazing has become the norm in newly built properties. By creating a vacuum between two panes of glass, double glazing creates an insulating barrier Not only does it reduce heat loss, it will also reduce noise while possibly increasing the value and safety of your home. Better still, new energy efficient glass technology (low emissivity or K glass) can reduce heat loss even further. Low emissivity glass (low-E) has a special coating on one side of the pane, which reflects heat back into the room but will allow heat from the sun through. 15% of heat in your home is lost through draughts.

All houses need a certain amount of controllable ventilation, for example, to avoid condensation, remove unwanted smells and to keep air fresh. However, unwanted or excessive ventilation in the form of draughts can be dealt with easily through draught proofing. Before draught proofing, ensure that there is adequate ventilation for any fuel burning appliances in the home. There are several types of materials available - from brushes, foams and sealants to strips and shaped rubber or plastic. Remember to ft draught proofing to letterboxes and loft hatches.


Appliances

All white goods must now be sold with an energy efficiency rating. The new European Union Energy Label is designed to inform consumers of the energy efficiency of these appliances. The scale rates products, with 'A' rated goods proving most efficient and 'G' indicating least efficient products. When changing appliances purchase a model with the highest rating you can afford. When purchasing new products also look for the Energy Efficiency Recommended logo, which helps you to identify and buy energy efficient products.


Lighting

Energy efficient bulbs are well worth considering for all rooms especially where lights are likely to be switched on for long periods as they use about 1/5 of the electricity and last up to twelve times longer than conventional bulbs. Energy efficient light bulbs are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and wattages from local DIY suppliers and supermarkets. If you are changing your light fittings, it is possible to get bulbs which ft electric sensors, dimmers and timers from specialised suppliers.


Renewable Electricity

Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) offers customers the opportunity to support local renewable energy development through its green tariff scheme, Eco Energy. You can contribute to carbon dioxide reduction by using electricity generated from renewable energy. There is no extra cost to customers. See www.nie.co.uk for more information on Eco Energy.


Water Conservation

In Northern Ireland the average household uses around 145 litres of dean treated water each day. It takes a lot of energy to treat this water and pump it to our homes. Flushing the toilet is the main source of water consumption in the home. If you are purchasing a new bathroom suite, why not consider purchasing a new low water use model. Alternatively, if you have an older toilet with a larger cistern, water hippos, which reduce water use, can be easily installed. Other water efficient devices, such as those for use in the garden e.g. water butts or trigger nozzles, are widely available from commercial outlets.


Recycling & Waste Minimisation

Waste represents the squandering of natural resources and energy, its removal and disposal is costly and it is harmful to the environment. The Environment and Heritage Service's current 'Wake up to Waste' campaign highlights the importance of recycling and waste minimisation. The aim is to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. For information on recycling provisions in your area contact your local council office or visit www.wakeuptowaste.org. If you are putting in a new kitchen consider planning extra room for recycling bins.


Renewable Energy

The term 'renewable energy' covers energy sources such as those listed below. The installation of any of these technologies will be more cost-effective if carried out during initial building or home improvements. Wind power offers great potential in Northern Ireland. Contact an approved installer to arrange a site survey in order to assess the suitability of your location for a domestic wind turbine, Solar water heating systems are the main form of solar power used in domestic properties in Northern Ireland. They can actively contribute up to 50% of the hot water needs of your property and even work on a cloudy day! Photovoltaic (or PV) systems convert light energy into electricity and acts as a non-polluting energy source.

Ground source heat pumps can be used to extract heat from the ground and pump it into a building to provide space heating, and to pre-heat domestic hot water. Hydroelectricity is one of the oldest methods of generating renewable energy. The potential energy stored in water, at a height, is converted into kinetic energy to turn a turbine and produce electricity.

Biomass is the term used to refer to dry plant materials. One of the most common biomass resources in Northern Ireland is wood. If you are considering installing a renewable technology on your property you must contact the Building Control office at your local Council for approval. You should also always consult your local planning office as planning permission may or may not be required depending on factors such as location and nature of scheme.


Information And Advice

Energy Efficiency Advice Centres are a UK wide network of 52 centres, offering an extensive range of experience and expertise in energy efficiency. The Energy Efficiency Advice Centre can provide you with a tailored report on how to improve energy efficiency in your home. They can also provide up-to-date information on energy efficiency grants and cash backs. Under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) funded Clear Skies programme, home owners and community groups are now able to apply for grants of £500 to £5000 for the installation of certain renewable energy technologies. Further information can be obtained from their website www.clear-skies.org. A grant is available from the DTI Major Photovoltaic Demonstration Programme. Further information can be obtained from their website www.energysavingtrust.org.uk. Contact the Energy Efficiency Advice Centre to keep up-to-date on energy efficiency grants and cash backs.

If you are thinking of making any changes to a property, including installing a renewable technology, you may need to apply for building control approval. Local Councils have a statutory duty to enforce Building Regulations and they do this through their Building Control departments. Approval is required for the installation of heating systems, cavity wall insulation, hot water heating systems and ground source heat pump, it may also be required for other technologies, such as wind turbines and photovoltaic. Contact your local Council to find out if you need approval.


Recycling & Waste Minimisation

Waste represents the squandering of natural resources and energy, its removal and disposal is costly and it is harmful to the environment. The Environment and Heritage Service's current 'Wake up to Waste' campaign highlights the importance of recycling and waste minimisation. The aim is to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. For information on recycling provisions in your area contact your local council office or visit www.wakeuptowaste.org. If you are putting in a new kitchen consider planning extra room for recycling bins.

Cavity Wall Insulation: up to 35% of the heat loss from a typical house occurs through uninsulated walls. Cavity wall insulation is one of the most cost-effective energy efficiency measures available.

Work should be carried out by a professional installer and usually takes around one day.
•Loft Insulation: up to 25% of heat loss occurs through the roof so your loft should be well insulated. The current minimum standard for loft insulation stands at 200 mm (8"). Your property may benefit from full installation or an additional top up. If you wish, you can go beyond minimum standards for even greater comfort!

•Hot Water Cylinder Insulation: hot water cylinders should be fitted with an insulating jacket available from DIY stores. They are designed to keep water in your cylinder hot for longer. Pipes running to and from the cylinder should also be lagged.

If you are making changes to your insulation contact your local Council to find out if you need Building Control approval.


Heating

The type of boiler you install can have a big impact on the amount of fuel you use. A condensing gas boiler is more efficient than a conventional boiler. Although more expensive, they use less fuel than conventional boilers. However, you should seek advice about whether or not a condensing boiler is appropriate for your circumstances. Other high efficiency boilers may be more suitable. Replacing a 15 year old boiler could save you over 20% on your fuel bills, around 32% if you install a condensing boiler and up to 40% if you also install the right heating controls. Does your heating system have the following heating controls? If not, it could be wasting energy and money.

A programmer timer is probably the most useful heating control as it automatically controls the times at which the central heating and hot water systems are switched on and off.

A room thermostat automatically switches your heating off once it reaches your chosen temperature, and back on again if it drops below your own comfort level.

Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRV's) incorporate a thermostat, which senses water temperature in the radiator. They can be set to a required temperature and will work automatically to maintain that temperature.

A cylinder thermostat controls the temperature of your hot water and should normally be set at 60°C.

* If you are making changes to your heating system contact your Local Council to find out if you need building control approval