It should come as no shock that sustainable homes are on the rise. Domestic property alone makes up for a large percentage of the UK's carbon emissions - and with more and more people living conscious lifestyles, awareness around the green-factor of our homes (or lack of) is only set to boom. What's more, taking the time to make your house more energy-efficient will not only help the environment, but save you money too.
That said, installing a full set of solar panels or building a new abode out of bio-degradable materials is hardly accessible for everyone - but there are plenty of ways to make your home a little more planet-friendly without breaking the bank or starting over completely. Read on to find out how…
Manage heat loss
The best way to instantly improve your home's energy-efficiency status is to check your roof, walls and floors are properly insulated - combined, they can account for a huge amount of heat loss, and thus higher bills to pay. Equally, draughts are common culprits for this, so fit excluders around doors, windows and letterboxes.
Upgrade your windows
Wooden window frames are far more environmentally-friendly than any other material. They are more insulating, long-lasting and less polluting than the more common options such as UPVC, which emit toxic compounds. Opt for double-glazing too, if you can, and if you're really serious, thick curtains, to conserve further energy.
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Consider a heat control system
With temperature under control, you can now use energy much more effectively - so you might want to try getting a remote control system such as Nest or Hive. Once in place you can control the temperature of your home wherever you are, from your smartphone, so you only need turn the heating on when necessary - and you can specify the temperature easily.
Check your appliances
Make sure you check your boiler is an energy-efficient model, and consider upgrading it if not. You should look at getting a new one every ten years or so, as a guideline. Badly-maintained gas ovens, fireplaces and heaters can emit a cocktail of pollutants if not checked properly too - so make sure they are regularly seen to by a certified engineer.
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Hire the right help
When renovating, choose local tradesmen and builders, and source locally-supplied materials - it's far better to employ someone from around the corner than someone who has to travel and cause further pollution (not to mention the benefits of supporting local businesses). Ask your builders to recycle too, rather than sending material to landfill.
wood-burning stoves are one of the worst offenders for toxic gases, making up 10 per cent of the air pollution in London alone! If you do have one, only burn dry, unpainted, untreated wood - and don't burn rubbish or packaging as this can create harmful substances. If you're thinking of buying one, opt for a low-emissions model, and always have chimneys inspected and swept regularly by a HETAS-approved chimney sweep to prevent dangerous gases from escaping.
Clean up your act
Did you know mainstream household cleaning products are packed with nasty gases? Switch to eco-friendly brands for a toxin-free deep clean - we like Ecover and Method. Air fresheners (aerosols in particular) are especially harmful to the atmosphere, so try a natural alternative such as a charcoal air purifier or a natural spray.
Buy a house plant
It really is as simple as that - a recent study found that having a leafy plant in your house can help to absorb harmful volatile organic compounds (or VOCs - one of the main categories of pollutant gases). The most effective is the bromeliad, which removes over 80 per cent of nasties in the air - luckily, they look pretty too.
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