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14 eco-friendly home improvements: Top green tips

There are lots of ways to makes your home more eco-friendly – big or small – and we're here to guide you through all kinds of green home improvements.

Whether you’re a green energy advocate or looking to save money using eco-friendly home improvements (or both!), we’re here to show you how to upgrade to a more sustainable abode.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a total newbie, our practical tips and creative ideas are for everyone. From simple swaps like LED lighting to more ambitious projects like installing solar panels, we’ll cover all options.

So grab a cuppa, and let’s start creating a home that’s as eco-conscious as it is stylish!

Please note the potential savings in this guide are based on the October 2023 price cap for a typical three-bedroom, gas-heated home in Great Britain.

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Our top 14 eco-friendly green home improvements

If you’re wondering what green home improvements could make your home more eco-friendly, here are our top 14 tips to get you started.

1. Embrace the elements with renewable electricity

Solar panels being installed

Before committing to a renewable electricity energy source, you’ll need to make sure it’s compatible with your home and meets all your needs. For example, you need to understand your home’s average energy demands to make sure any renewable source you choose generates enough power to meet your needs. Otherwise, a hybrid solution might be more beneficial.

Install solar panels

Solar panels are a popular yet long-term investment for those looking to improve their home’s energy usage. Consider installing solar panels to generate your own electricity and reduce your reliance on the grid. As there’s an option to store excess energy in batteries, you can make the most of the sun’s power – even on cloudy days.

What’s the ‘payback’ time for solar panels?

Installing this green home improvement does involve some upfront costs. However, over the long term, solar panels are an excellent way to save money.

Payback time (i.e., overall savings compared to the initial investment) varies depending on your electricity tariff, how you use the generated electricity (home use or export back to the grid), the size of the panel array/electricity generated, and whether your solar panel roof faces directly south or is partially shaded.

All considered, there is an expected payback time of 20 years, so it’s certainly not a quick win. However, solar panels do render you ‘inflation-proof,’ which is a huge perk considering electricity prices are expected to increase over the coming months and years.

Are you interested in solar panels?

If you’re considering this green home improvement and want to learn more about solar panels, it’s important to note that there are two main types:

  • Photovoltaic (PV), which are used for converting sunlight into electricity
  • Solar thermal panels, which use sunlight to provide energy to heat water and for central heating systems

Before deciding, it’s worth getting advice from a solar panel specialist to understand what will work best for your home and family.

Related content: Learn how much solar panels cost in our helpful guide.

2. Harness the earth’s natural resources with renewable heating

Air source heat pump for renewable energy - eco friendly green home improvements

To help households make the switch to renewable heating sources, the government has introduced the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS).

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) is a government grant, designed to encourage property owners to install low-carbon heating systems. Biomass boilers and air source heat pumps are costly to buy and install, so the BUS grant offers monetary relief to make this new technology more affordable.

The scheme is set to run from 2022 to 2025. It’s open to domestic and small non-domestic properties in England and Wales, and the grants available under the BUS scheme are:

If you’re prepared to upgrade to an eco-friendly renewable heating system in your home, there are several options, including:

Heat pumps

Air-source heat pumps and ground-source heat pumps are both eco-friendly energy sources. They use the earth’s natural resources to generate electricity through a clever network of pipes and technology.

The typical payback time on a heat pump

Investing in a heat pump might seem pricey upfront, but it can lead to significant savings on your energy bills in the future. Generous payback estimates start at around 10 years. However, it’s more realistic to expect 20 years.

Of course, several factors will affect this, such as what sort of system you’re upgrading from. For example, if it’s from oil-sourced heating or electric storage heaters, the payback time on switching to a heat pump will be closer to 10 years.

On the contrary, if the upgrade to a heat pump is from a modern gas boiler, the payback will be closer to 20 years.

Biomass boilers

Biomass boilers still emit carbon emissions due to burning wood-based materials. However, they create fewer carbon emissions compared to other non-renewable energy sources.

Potential savings

Biomass boilers typically cost £19,000 to install. If you replace an LPG heating system with a wood burning system you could save around £3,000 a year. However, if you’re replacing electric heating, you might save over £1,500 per year.

NB: If you currently have a modern condensing gas boiler, a biomass boiler will likely cost you more to run than your current system.

Related content: To learn more about heat pumps and biomass boilers check out our renewable heating guide.

3. Give your home an eco-friendly hug

Loft insulation for green homes

Invest in insulation for your home

Alongside switching up your heating, installing the right insulation is one of the most important eco-friendly home improvements. Whether it’s insulating your walls, floors, or loft, there are plenty of options.

Insulating pipes and draught-proofing your windows can also make a big difference. And there’s no need to worry about breaking the bank – you could even tackle some of these tasks yourself with materials from your local DIY store.

A well-insulated house will have better all-round energy efficiency and minimise heat loss. Installing eco-friendly insulation will give you greater greener credentials!

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4. Modernise your home with smart solutions

Smart thermostats - eco-friendly home improvements

Smart thermostats

Smart heating controls are an eco-friendly home improvement. They make your existing heating system more efficient, giving you full control of when you do and don’t use your heating.

Connected to your boiler, smart thermostats help you save energy by reducing how often you fire up your boiler, which keeps your home at an even temperature. One top tip is to set your hot water thermostat to 60°C —the optimal temperature for hot water.

Plus, did you know that turning your room thermostat down by 1°C could save you around £107 a year? The bigger your home, the more you can save, even with such a small temperature change.

Smart taps

Upgrade your taps and showers to water-saving versions (without sacrificing performance) to cut down on your water usage. Aerating taps are a budget-friendly option that mixes air with water, ensuring you still get a refreshing flow.

Related content: For more information on smart thermostats and to compare prices, take a look at our smart thermostat cost guide.

5. Refresh your windows with eco-friendly treatments

tradesperson fitting a double glazing unit - eco-friendly home improvements

Install double glazing

Double glazing is another popular and effective eco-friendly home improvement. It’s one of the best ways to boost your home’s efficiency, locking in the heat and dampening external noise.

To maximise the benefits, replace your single-glazed windows with A-rated double-glazing alternatives. If you’re replacing rotten wood-framed windows, you’ll be delighted by the savings.

For a home with 8 windows and 2 uPVC doors, the average cost will be about £6,000 – £15,000.

Related content: Check out the costs for installing new double glazing.

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6. Swap to energy-efficient lighting

new light bulb to replace halogen

Make the switch to LED bulbs for brighter and more energy-efficient lighting. Not only will this save you money in the long run, but it’s also a greener choice for your home.

Replacing the bulbs in your house with LEDs can cost around £280, but save you around £153 a year.

Although they’ve been around for years, the quality of the bulbs have noticeably improved. You can even connect them to a smart home system, making them turn on and off with nothing but the sound of your voice.

7. Take control of the energy you use and be conscious of costs

How to make your home more energy efficient - Hands holding an efficiency chart

As we mentioned above, a good way to control how much energy you use is to install a smart thermostat in your home.

However, one of the greatest eco-friendly home improvements you can make is awareness. Being more conscious of how you use electricity and gas – and trying to reduce it – is a money-saving habit worth embracing.

Some of the ways you can do that include:

  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room. This could save you around £19 per year
  • Do a full load in the washing machine, and at a lower temperature. This could save you around £27 a year
  • Only boil the amount of water that you need in the kettle. This could save you around £11 a year

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8. Hire local tradespeople

Hire a local tradesperson with Checkatrade

This isn’t an obvious eco-friendly home improvement, but it’s an important one. By hiring local tradespeople who live and work in your area, you’ll reduce their impact on the environment whilst supporting a local business. Benefits include:

A reduced carbon footprint

By choosing local tradespeople, you’ll reduce the distance the materials for your project need to travel and the emissions generated during their transport. This will help minimise the carbon footprint of your renovation project.

You’re supporting your local economy

Investing in local tradespeople supports small businesses and stimulates economic growth in your community. Not only does this create job opportunities, but it also fosters a sense of community pride and solidarity.

Local knowledge is more sustainable

Local trades are often familiar with regional materials and suppliers, which can lead to more sustainable choices. They may also have insights into eco-friendly alternatives that are specific to your area. This will help you make informed decisions about materials and resources.

You’ll get a personalised service

Working with local trades means better communication and a more personalised approach to your project. You can collaborate closely with contractors while sharing your vision and values for an eco-friendly renovation tailored to your needs.

You’ll build lasting relationships

Establishing relationships with local tradespeople fosters trust and reliability. You can rely on their expertise for future projects and maintenance, creating a sustainable partnership that benefits you both.

You can find a local tradesperson here on Checkatrade. Alternatively, pop in your postcode below and view a list of renewable energy experts near you.

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9. Add some green to your roof

Green roof cost - eco-friendly green home improvements

Boost your home’s eco-credentials by installing a green roof. Not only do they provide insulation, but they also help with rainwater runoff and can even prolong the life of your roof.

There are two types of green roofs with their own pros and cons:

Intensive green roofs: Similar to traditional gardens, these roofs have a deeper soil layer that can support a wide range of plants, such as shrubs, trees, and even small vegetable gardens. While they offer greater aesthetic and recreational value, they require more maintenance and structural support to maintain.

Extensive green roofs: These are lighter and less complex roofs. They tend to have a shallow layer of soil that supports low-growing plants such as sedums, grasses, and mosses. Extensive green roofs are easier to install and maintain, making them a popular choice for residential properties.

Whatever you choose, make sure you understand the maintenance needs, the structural support required, and whether your local weather patterns support the type of green roof you want to install.

Related content: Read our green roof cost guide for more information.

10. Decorate with eco-friendly decor

upcycled cottage bedroom furniture

Recycled or upcycled furniture

Instead of buying brand new furniture made from new materials for your home, make the more eco-friendly choice of buying either:

  1. Furniture made with recycled materials
  2. Preloved second-hand furniture

Both options will help reduce the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill.

Eco-friendly paint

It’s also worth choosing eco-friendly paint to give your walls a fresh coat of planet-loving colour, free from harmful chemicals. Look for paints with low or no VOCs for a healthier indoor environment.

Related content: If you’re interested in recycling furniture, check out the cost of reupholstering your furniture.

11. Eco-friendly home improvements level up with compost bins

Compost bin - eco-friendly home improvements

Turn your food scraps into nutrient-rich compost for your garden. All you need to do is start collecting your kitchen food scraps in a composter, and over time, they will become a natural source of compost for your flower beds. Not only is it free, but it also avoids having to use unnecessary chemicals.

Read our guide to learn how to build a compost bin in 4 easy steps. If you want to repurpose the compost, read our guide on how to make compost.

12. Make key eco-friendly bathroom upgrades

Cheap towel storage ideas

There are several green home renovation ideas for your bathroom. For an eco-friendly transformation, consider the following tips:

  • Changing your toilet and shower head can reduce your water waste by over 60%
  • Installing a low-flow toilet and a low-flow showerhead will drastically reduce how much water you use daily
  • Eco-friendly flooring materials such as bamboo, cork, or reclaimed wood are more sustainable and stylish
  • Opt for shower curtains made from eco-friendly, natural materials such as organic cotton, hemp, or bamboo
  • Replace old, inefficient light fixtures with energy-saving LED bulbs to brighten up your bathroom

13. Buy eco-friendly cleaning products for the home

cleaning caddy

As more and more brands are embracing eco-friendly alternatives to improve their businesses, make a conscious choice to buy eco-friendly products for your home.

Switch to non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products, such as eco-friendly candles and soaps and bamboo products instead of plastic, to keep your bathroom sparkling clean without harming the environment.

Many conventional cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that can pollute waterways and harm aquatic life. Look for eco-friendly alternatives made from plant-based ingredients and use your power as a consumer to support the brands dedicated to greener living.

If you’re hiring a professional cleaner, be sure to ask what products they are using.

14. Look for sustainable eco-housing and renovations

Eco-friendly house design

If you’re buying a new property, ask local property developers or estate agents about any sustainable eco-housing in your area. If you’re planning any house renovations, speak to local tradespeople about the eco-friendly home improvements available.

It’s up to us to make greener and more sustainable homes a trend that never goes away.

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FAQs

What are some eco-friendly building techniques?

Sustainable and eco-friendly building techniques are becoming more popular as property developers are encouraged to embrace new materials, technology and practices to build greener homes. Some of the eco-friendly building techniques include:

  • Integrated automated building systems
  • Synthetic roof underlayment
  • Green roofs
  • Grid hybrid system
  • Passive solar energy
  • Greywater plumbing systems
  • Electrochromic glass
  • Solar thermal cladding
  • Self-healing concrete

How do I make my house greener?

If you’re serious about making your house more eco-friendly and sustainable, the best ways to go about it are to:

  • Become more conscious of how much energy you use and actively reduce your usage (through smart controls, reduced temperatures and mindful usage of electrical appliances)
  • Swap regular bulbs for energy-saving lighting
  • Improve your home’s insulation
  • Consider upgrading or introducing a source of sustainable energy, such as solar panels or heat pumps
  • Buy eco-friendly home products
  • Switch to an energy supplier that uses 100% renewable sources

Did you find this eco-friendly home improvements blog useful? For more content like this, check out our blog.

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What others think of this article:

Pamela Roberts

Very informative ,and good to know your options to make informative choices .

Erika kulig

Great tips especially in these awful times.

Jill Richardson-Jones

I am an 85 year-old disabled OAP. I live in a small terraced cottage style house, with only one outside wall. I have double glazing, a small conservatory provides extra heat conservation. Heating, by gas, is kept at minimum and is on only twice a day.... Extra clothing and additional warm bed clothes ensure a good night's sleep! Thank you for the advice, very helpful

Richard Morgan

Wonderfully informative! Thanks for this brilliant initiative.

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