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12 top eco-friendly home improvements you can make

We’d just like to start with a big thank you for looking into making your home more eco-friendly and doing your bit for the environment.

Keep reading for eco-friendly home improvement tips and ideas that will help to reduce your impact on the environment, and hopefully save you money at the same time.

Whether you’re looking for small changes you can make, or bigger eco-friendly home upgrades, we’re here to show you how to make your home more eco-friendly.

Our 12 top eco-friendly home improvements

If you’re wondering what home improvements could make a house more eco-friendly, here are our top 12 eco-friendly home improvements to get you started.

Renewable electricity

Before you commit to a renewable electricity energy source, it’s important to make sure that it is compatible with your home and will meet all your needs.

Install solar panels

Solar panels are an incredibly popular long-term investment for improved energy usage in your home.

They’re an eco-friendly home upgrade that involves an initial outlay of money for their installation, but they can save you money over time and provide an excellent source of renewable electricity.

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

solar panels on eco home

Payback time (overall savings compared to the initial investment) can vary based on factors, such as electricity tariff, how you use the generated electricity (home use or export back to grid), size of the panel array/electricity generated, if your solar panel roof faces directly south or is partly shaded.

Generally, the payback time is expected to be 20 years, so it’s certainly not a quick win.

You are, however, ‘inflation-proofing’ – electricity prices are only expected to increase over the coming months and years.

Interested in solar panels?

If you’re considering renewable electricity and are interested in solar panels it’s important to note that there are two main types of solar panels.

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

Before deciding, get advice from a solar panel specialist to understand what will work best for your home and family.

Find out more, including how much solar panels cost in our cost guide.

Renewable heating

To help households to make the switch to renewable sources of heating, the government brought in the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

If you’re prepared to upgrade to an eco-friendly renewable heating system in your home, you have a number of options including:

Heat pumps

Air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps are both eco-friendly energy sources.

Air source heat pump cost

The typical payback time on a heat pump

It’s at least 10 years, but more realistically 20 years.

Several factors will affect this, such as what sort of system you’re upgrading from.

If you’re upgrading from oil sourced heating or electric storage heaters to a heat pump, the payback will be closer to 10 years.

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

Biomass boilers

These still emit carbon emissions from burning wood-based materials but create less carbon emissions than other non-renewable energy sources.

Potential savings

Biomass boilers typically cost £16,000 to install. If you replace an LPG heating system with a wood burning system you could save around £3,000 a year. If you’re replacing electric heating you might save over £1,500 per year.

However, if you currently have a modern condensing gas boiler, a biomass boiler is likely to cost you more to run than your current system.

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

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Invest in insulation for your home

Loft insulation for green homes

Alongside switching up your heating, insulation is one of the eco-friendly home improvements that works well with so many other eco home improvements.

  • Roof insulation will cost around £600 and save you roughly £300 per year.
  • Cavity wall insulation costs £1,500 and saves you roughly £300 per year.

You want your home to be as energy-efficient as possible, and that means keeping in the warmth so you don’t need to unnecessarily reheat or keep heating your rooms – and you’ll spend less on your energy bills.

A well-insulated house will have better all-round energy efficiency and minimise heat loss. You can even have eco-friendly insulation installed if you want to be even greener!

Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats

Smart heating controls can make your existing heating system more eco-friendly by controlling and reducing how much you use it.

With a connection to your boiler, smart thermostats can help to save energy by reducing the frequency of how often your boiler fires up, and help to keep your home at a steady temperature which is much more energy-efficient. It’s also a good idea to set your hot water thermostat to 60°C – the optimal temperature for hot water.

Did you know that turning your room thermostat down by 1°C could save you over £100 per year? And the bigger your home, the more you can save with a small temperature change.

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

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Window treatments

Install double glazing

tradesperson fitting a double glazing unit

In addition to insulation, double glazing is another common eco-friendly home improvement people do to boost their home’s energy efficiency.

To really see the benefit, investing in A-rated windows to replace your single glazed, rotten wooden framed windows is where you will see the best saving.

A set of A-rated windows for a semi-detached house will typically cost around £7,500. By installing A-rated double glazing to windows in an entirely single-glazed semi-detached gas heated property, you could save £145 a year. The payback is actually around 50 years!

It’s also important to replace double glazing to ensure it’s effective – on average most double glazing needs replacing every 20-30 years.

Check out the costs for installing new double glazing.

Eco home solutions

As well as the larger eco home improvements, you can also make smaller changes that have a small but also long term impact – small changes still make an eco-friendly contribution.

Swap to energy-efficient lighting

Let’s start with an easy eco-friendly upgrade you can make to your home – swapping to energy-efficient light bulbs.

LED light bulb replacements cost around £280 and could save you £150 per year.

They’ve been around for years, but the quality of the bulbs has noticeably improved in recent years and you can even connect them to a smart home system so they’re even easier to use.

Take control of the energy you use and be conscious of what you use

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

One of the greatest eco-friendly home improvements you can make is simply being conscious of how you use electricity and gas, and try to reduce it.

Some of the ways you can do that include:

  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room – this could save you £20 per year
  • Do a full load in the washing machine, and at a lower temperature – this could save you £28 per year
  • Only boil the amount of water that you need in the kettle – this could save you £11 per year

Hire local tradespeople

Hire a local tradesperson with Checkatrade

This isn’t an obvious eco-friendly home improvement, but it’s important. By hiring local tradespeople who live and work in your area, you’re minimising their travel time, fuel usage and pollution.

It’s better to hire a local tradesperson who’s just down the road, than to hire a national engineer who has to travel many more miles to get to you.

You can find a tradesperson that’s local here on Checkatrade. Search your postcode below and see renewable energy experts your neighbours recommend.

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Buy recycled or pre-loved 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 that’s been made of recycled materials.
  2. Preloved second-hand furniture. Both options will help reduce the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill.

If you’re interested in recycling furniture, check out the cost to reupholster your furniture.

Start a compost bin

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 then, over time, it will become a natural source of compost for your flower beds. Not only is it free, but it also avoids you having to use unnecessary chemicals.

Make key eco-friendly bathroom upgrades

By simply changing your toilet and shower head you 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 on a daily basis, which can save the average household over £90 per year on their water bill.

Buy eco-friendly cleaning products for the home

More and more brands are embracing a more eco-friendly approach to their businesses, so make conscious choices to buy eco-friendly products for the home.

From eco-friendly candles and soaps, to bamboo products instead of plastic – use your power as a consumer to support the brands who are dedicated to greener living.

Sustainable eco-housing and renovations

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

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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

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What others think of this article:

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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