Posted on 28th April 2021

A Call for Greener Homes after Home Working Energy Surge

Green Home

Although there have been many benefits from working from home during the global pandemic due to coronavirus, an increase in household energy use has not been one.

Prior to a time of lockdowns and restrictions, most households would go out to work or school, attend gyms, clubs and hobbies, eat out and socialise, however that all stopped during Spring 2020, when families were told that they must stay at home. The ultimate result of which was a surge in energy usage, including heating, which a study by Tado reported that UK households have used 14% more heating during the 2020/2021 winter.

Although there have been a range of government financial support packages put in place due to the pandemic, from furlough to tax relief for those working from home increasing to £6 per week, the concern is still that due to the rising costs of energy, most homes will be out of pocket due to lifestyle changes. OFTEC reported just last month that household energy bills have risen by around £45 a month due to lockdown, which will not be offset by any government funding.

During this article we will discuss the reasons behind the higher energy costs and the small changes that can be made to help save energy for households.


Why has the Typical UK Household used More Energy?

Apart from the obvious reason that we are all at home more, working, cooking and seeking our entertainment inside our homes, it is also worth exploring other reasons of why a
typical type of property within the UK would use more energy.

Tado’s study explored the additional household heating use this past winter across Europe, and although the UK didn’t fear the worst, a number of other EU countries managed to keep their excess usage lower including France and Belgium.  

One element that would have contributed to the additional usage is household insulation.  The best performing countries included Denmark and Sweden, where typically the properties are well insulated due to the cold winters, whereas the higher excess usage countries were Italy and Spain using over 20% more than their average winter energy usage, and where would generally have more mild winters.

In addition, OFTEC discussed that households suffering from the highest increase in energy costs tend to be rural households, located away from the mains gas supply and therefore use alternative heating sources such as oil and are then impacted by the fluctuation in oil prices directly at the time of purchasing the fuel.  Also, such rural properties often are poorly insulated and therefore heat is lost more easily.


Tips to Lower Household Energy Usage

There are a range of methods available for households to reduce their energy usage, from small changes to larger plans.  Some of the options are as follows:

Schedule Heating Programmes

Even though people are spending more time at home, the heating doesn’t need to be on continuously and therefore by setting a schedule to control when the heating and hot water are on, a household can reduce their energy usage.

Should you have the budget available to invest into a smart home thermostat that can be used automate the temperature set within a home both by a following a programme, as well as being controlled remotely via an app on a smart phone, further energy savings are possible.


Upgrade your Boiler

Modern boilers are much more energy efficient that those of yesteryear, in fact compared to G rated combi boilers that were in use over 15 years ago, modern A-rated combi boilers models are well over 90% efficient.

Check out some of the best combi boilers of 2021 here.


Heating Rooms as Required

Another way to reduce a household energy usage is to only heat the rooms needed.  This can be done either by turning down or off radiators in rooms that are not in use, or by the use of zoning or presence sensors with smart technology.


Turn off Appliances when not using them

To save energy household appliances and lights should be turned off when not in use.  Turning off electrical devices at the wall rather than leaving them on standby can help reduce energy wastage further.  


Upgrade Household Electrical Appliances

Should any of the household electrical appliances come to the end of their life, replacing them with more energy efficient appliances can help save energy.

Check out some of the best smart appliances of 2021 here.


Swap to Efficient Light Bulbs

A relatively low-cost improvement to reduce energy usage is to swap the light bulbs within a property to energy efficient LED light bulbs, which could save up to £40 a year on electricity bills.

Check out some of the best LED light bulbs of 2021 here.

Upgrade the insulation in a property

There are various methods that a property can add extra layers of insulation to protect from heat escaping including; cavity wall insulation, loft insulation, cladding or external wall insulation.  The costs will vary for each type of insulation as well as the property size and therefore an inspection visit will likely be required to obtain a quote for costs involved for your property.


Draughtproof the property

Another method of conserving energy is by draughtproofing the property with an aim to keeping the heat inside, and reduce any draughts coming into the property. The process will depend on the age and number of the windows and doors within a property, however, usually will include adding or replacing seals so that air cannot blow through gaps, letter boxes or hey holes.  

The costs will vary depending on the individual property’s requirements, however if you are DIY savvy some improvements can be completed by yourself by buying the materials and following online instructions to fit them.  There are professional companies on the market should you not feel comfortable with attempting draughtproofing yourself.


Green Homes Summary

As social distancing maybe here to stay for the foreseeable, calls for all office-based staff to return are likely to be put on hold for a while longer yet and therefore it is likely that home working, even on a part time basis is year to stay.  

As such, homeowners are likely to be interested in ways to use less energy within their homes, resulting in both reduced energy costs and a lower carbon footprint over time.

Also, don’t forget to check which energy and boiler grants you may be entitled to, as there are schemes available.

Whether a household budget can only stretch to small changes such as switching to LED lightbulbs and turning the thermostat, or more expensive measures such as installing a new heating system or adding insulation, every change can help to save energy and keep a cap on the bills.