You don't have to spend a lot of money having an energy efficient home, there are some simple things you can do to increase the efficiency of your home.
If you have an older home, drafts are one of the issues. Do you feel a draft around your windows or doors? Seal these up they can make a big difference.
Do you have a chimney? It is believed that up to 80 to 85% of the heat in a room can be lost through an open fireplace
In the past when chimneys were used with fires, the chimney stack would create a draw which naturally caused warm flue gases to flow up the chimney, out through the pots and away. Now the same thing still happens as the whole height of the flue is heated from the ambient heat of the house, warm air travels up in a column and out of the chimney pots driven by what is known as “the stack effect”. If you ever get the chance on a cold, still day, stand by a flue pot and you can easily feel the warm air rising from it – it’s quite considerable. If you cover a fireplace with a thin piece of cardboard or paper, you will hear and see it flex as warm air is drawn up the chimney clearly showing how easily air moves up it by this method, on windy days it can blow both up and down the flue. A chimney balloon is a good remedy for this.
A NOTE ON SEALING OFF THE CHIMNEY WITHOUT VENTILATION: If you just cap off the top and insulate the bottom, “pumping” will happen. This is where in an closed off chimney the top gets very cold, condensation occurs and the cold air falls down the chimney, warm moist air rises, this tends to dry the chimney breasts and indeed the house but dumps water in the form of condensation in the top of the chimney, saturating it until it can take no more at which point it starts dripping or running down the flue. This is akin to tropical rain forest except colder and not good. Adding loose fill insulation will not reduce this pumping action. Chimneys can act like dehumidifiers with or without air movement condensation is drawn to the coldest points, the pot and the flaunching and can literally rain or run down the flue. An air vent does not stop this but it stops it being quite so bad and then once the sun comes out and warms the loft (most days) the whole thing dries out with warmed dry air flowing up the flue. This isn’t covered in literature, but in reality happens a lot if chimneys so please keep yours well ventilated.
Internal Chimneys: Our advice for these is to seal them up internally, seal at first floor ceiling level and ventilate from there up, insulating them is an option but not necessary. This applies to all chimneys on internal walls, i.e. fully within the building, we do not believe that an air brick is any longer required at the bottom, not having one will both reduce draughts and save energy, as explained you must ventilate the top part of the chimney above your first floor ceiling.
Is your home insulated? Loft and Cavity Wall insulation are key. Neither of these are expensive and in most areas there are ECO schemes running where you can have them fitted at no cost. You could save hundreds of pounds a year having this done.
For Solid brick properties, external / internal wall insulation can be used, this is much more costly however for listed buildings internal wall insulation is typically the only thing that can be used.
The next thing to look at is your boiler and heating controls. A condensing combi boiler is your best bet. Boilers typically have a life of 12 years however the older they are, the less efficient. It may work fine however it is the technology of the boiler that may be out dated. Heating controls are key, ideally what you want is a programmer, room thermostat and TRV valves. The Nest and Hive systems are great and you can operate them from your smart phone or tablet. These systems are not expensive and soon make up the cost of having them fitted.
Hot Water Cylinders, be sure these are insulated even if they have the factory foam insulation, add a jacket! While you are storing hot water, if they are not insulated that water will cool down and you will have to pay to heat it again. Keep it warm the first time!
Then you can look at air source heat pumps/ ground source heat pumps (if you have the land for it) solar panels and solar hot water. If in doubt about any of this have an EPC done on the property, talk to the surveyor and get the guidance you need.
Make your home energy efficient and save money!