Whether it’s to save money or save the planet, most Londoners want to be energy efficient. Unfortunately, some ways of making your home more eco-friendly are nigh on impossible if you rent. Even if you own your home, installing solar panels or improving the building’s insulation isn’t going to be easy if you, like many Londoners, live in a leasehold flat.
But there is still a lot you can do. These energy-saving tips are aimed at renters, but homeowners might learn something too. They are all easy, landlord-friendly and, of course, cheapo. Read on if you want to reduce your energy bills and become more environmentally friendly in the process
1) Put double glazing film on your windows
In an ideal world, your windows would have double or triple glazing. Heat is lost through single glazing about twice as fast as through double glazing, so if your windows are single glazed you are losing precious warmth.
However, if double glazing isn’t on the cards right now, there’s a cheap alternative. Putting double glazing film on your windows will help insulate your home. It’s easy to do and will come right off in the summer, or when you move out.
You can get 6m2 of Stormguard’s Seasonal Double Glazing Film for £12.00 at Homebase. That should be enough for four windows, and what London renter has more than four windows anyway?
2) Install radiator foil behind your radiator
Installing radiator foil behind your radiator helps prevent the radiator’s heat output from escaping into the wall behind it. This is particularly useful when your walls are old or just aren’t that well insulated.
ThermaWrap General Purpose Foil Insulation is going for £11.40 at Homebase, and the manufacturers claim it can improve heat retention by up to 50%. All you will need to install it is some scissors and something to measure your radiator.
Of course, as a renter, you will need to be careful with what you use to fix the foil to the wall, but another advantage of radiator foil is that it goes behind the radiator, so it’s not super visible. It won’t upset your shabby chic décor scheme, and any accidental marks from when you take it off will be out of sight.
3) Bleed your radiators
Speaking of radiators, you should be bleeding them regularly.
If you’re like me and more into horror films than DIY, the phrase “bleed your radiators” sounds pretty scary. Turns out, “bleeding radiators” doesn’t mean that our homes are heated with the blood of lost souls, rather, it’s the process of releasing air that has become trapped inside your heating system.
Radiators are filled with hot water that comes from your boiler, but excess air can leave them with cold spots. These make it take longer to heat up your home. Even if your radiators are working well, bleeding them once a year is an important part of being energy efficient. If your radiators are not heating up properly or they are making weird sounds, bleeding them yourself is a simple thing to try before you call the landlord.
To bleed a radiator you’ll need a cloth to catch excess water and a radiator key, which you can buy from any DIY shop (this one is £0.69 from Screwfix). There’s loads of info about the process online, including this nice guide from Southwark council.
4) Use smart light bulbs
Smart home technology is not only convenient, but it can also save you energy. Some smart home tech is not feasible for renters though, as the installation involves making permanent changes to the flat.
Smart lightbulbs, however, are an easy win; easy to set up, and you can take them with you when you move. Depending on the brand and whether they require a hub, the initial investment will be between £20.00 and £200.00 but they should last at least 15,000 hours.
The vast majority of smart lights use energy-saving LED bulbs, and you can make more eco savings by turning them all off at once and setting a lighting schedule for when you’re out.
Good ol’ Argos has a decent selection.
5) Get a smart meter. Use this if you can’t
Let’s get one thing straight, you should probably have a smart meter. In July 2020, the UK government announced plans to install smart meters in every home in the UK and with good reason. Used mindfully, smart meters can save you up to £250.00 on your energy bills per year, and the rollout is cutting carbon emissions on a national level.
If you are a renter and you are the account holder with your supplier (meaning your name is on the energy bills) you can get a smart meter and you don’t need to ask your landlord’s permission. However, if the landlord is the account holder, installing a smart meter is up to them.
If, for whatever reason, you can’t get a smart meter, there are options. Plug Energine’s Energy Saving Power Meter into the mains then plug your device (TV/computer/anything you want to track the energy usage of) in on top of that. It allows you to discover which appliances are the worst energy offenders, so you can then find out ways to limit their usage.
6) Get an eco showerhead
Many of us want to be more eco but just don’t have the willpower to limit ourselves to a short, weak shower. An eco shower head can create the feeling of high pressure without using too much water. Electric showers are usually on the efficient side anyway, so eco showerheads are especially recommended for mixer and power showers.
The right eco showerhead will depend on your needs and the type of shower you have, but this one by Mira costs £35.00 at Screwfix.
7) Use a hot water cylinder jacket
Know what a hot water cylinder is? I didn’t, because my flat is too small to have one, but if you’re lucky enough to live in a larger house in London, you might.
Hot water cylinders are tanks that store hot water for later use. Modern ones should be pre-insulated, but exposed ones need a cosy jacket to help them stay warm. If they lose heat, they take more energy to reheat, which is a cost to you and the planet.
Jackets have the added advantage of reducing the heat emitted from the cylinder in the summer, too. This one is £16.00 from Screwfix.
8) Get a draft excluder
Even if your home is well insulated, drafts can still get in through external doors and windows and leave you reaching for the thermostat on those cold winter nights. Prevent this with a good old fashioned draft excluder.
You can go in two directions. You can get a cute fabric draft excluder, there are plenty of these on Etsy. These aren’t just for show, they will block drafts to an extent, though it can be difficult to find one that fits your door exactly. There is also potential for “user error” in the sense that you will dislodge it from prime position when you open the door or window and have to remember to put it back.
Though they are less aesthetic, PVC or EPDM draft excluders usually do a better job at preventing heat loss. You can fit them to gaps in doors and windows where they’ll stay until it’s time to move out. This EPDM draft excluder from EcoSavers costs £6.99.
9) Know your rights and talk to your landlord (if you can)
These energy-saving tips will help a lot, but your landlord has to do their part too. All rental properties must have an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate), which measures the energy efficiency of a property on a scale from A to G. You can ask your landlord to show it to you, or you can use Gov.uk’s EPC searching tool, all you need is the address. Be aware though, that the searching tool is not always entirely up to date (for example, if your landlord has made recent improvements they may not show up yet), so better to ask your landlord. In fact it’s best practice to ask to the the EPC before you move in.
As a tenant, the property’s EPC is useful because you can not only predict how expensive your energy bill will be but you can also ask to make energy performance improvements based on the EPC. Since 2018, the Minimum Level of Energy Efficiency Standard states that a property must be at least EPC E.
10) Follow these energy-saving tips, but see the bigger picture
Last but not least, the cheapest of all our energy-savings tips. While your individual efforts to reduce your carbon footprint are important, changes on the national and international levels have a far bigger impact. So don’t beat yourself up too much if your meter shows you use more than you intended. Vote with the environment in mind, write to your MP on green issues, and consider supporting organisations that campaign for eco policies.
Still, energy saving at home is a sweet spot where you can do your part for the planet AND save money. So enjoy that warm feeling that comes with seeing your usage go down, literally and emotionally.