For Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud, good home design is always a balance of beauty, innovation and sustainability – and right now, the cost of living crisis can’t be ignored.
“I think what’s missing at the moment is sensible advice,” says the presenter. “Aesthetics and the joy that a beautiful environment brings are really important – why not invest in beauty? But I think now it’s not so much a question of cost, it’s a question of value.
“Well-made things, and the well-designed house that’s eco-efficient and sustainable and low-energy, are becoming much more desirable, and I think the cost implications of the cost of living crisis have tipped the balance. It’s like – it’s all very well my house being beautiful, but if I can’t afford to heat the water, what’s the point?’”
It’s something we can expect to see a lot of at Grand Designs Live (granddesignslive.com), which returns to NEC Birmingham from October 5-9.
Here, McCloud outlines 10 ways households can help save energy and reduce their bills this winter and beyond…
1. Add extra insulation
There’s no point letting any money you’ve spent on heating seep out through walls, windows and doors – which is where good insulation comes in. “The first Green Living pillar of wisdom is insulation,” says McCloud. “Under floors, wall insulation, which should be considered, and of course loft insulation, which is completely critical.
“In my own experience, just add another four inches of insulation to your attic. Many people have already got eight inches in there, but if you add another four, you’ll really feel the benefit.”
2. Opt for carpet
Carpets will help keep heat in too. “If you’re putting insulation underneath a draughty floor, think about carpeting that floor, rather than having it as bare boards,” McCloud suggests.
3. Deal with draughts
Another place heat escapes easily is through doors. In fact, the Energy Saving Trust estimates draught-proofing around windows and doors could save around £45 a year.
McCloud notes you can buy stick-on draught-excluding rubber rolls from DIY stores and online retailers. “And then of course there’s the long sausage dog that goes at the bottom of the door, like my grandad used to have – I’ve got two of those.”
4. Be window wise
Make sure any gaps around windows are plugged up too. McCloud says other energy-efficient window measures, which require more investment than simple draught-proofing, include installing thermal-efficient glazing, or secondary glazing, where another slim-line window is added to existing windows.
5. Consider thermal plaster
“If you can’t do everything, then think about using an insulated plaster or board on your walls,” suggests McCloud. This includes plaster-like mixtures infused with insulative materials, which don’t let heat escape as much as standard plaster does.
6. Invest in a heat pump
“All of a sudden, everybody’s saying things like they’ve got a gas boiler and they’re not happy,” says McCloud. “I think we’ve been banging a drum for a very long time and suddenly the market is very hungry for everything we’ve been working towards. Get a heat pump as opposed to a boiler – of course that involves some investment.”
7. Super solar
Another eco-friendly heating solution is solar panels, although McCloud warns: “They heat well, but do involve some investment.”
8. Get a smart meter
McCloud advises getting a smart meter installed to track household energy spending more efficiently.
9. Intelligent water tanks
Smart water tanks have sensors to monitor your home’s hot water levels, so only what’s needed will get heated. Energy company Centrica says this can help save more than 10 per cent on hot water bills annually.
10. Every small step counts
As well as all the ‘big’ energy saving measures, there are plenty of clever little ways householders can help reduce energy use. “Should I turn the tap off when I’m brushing my teeth? Should I boil just enough water in the kettle? Should I put the dishwasher on at night on the economy setting? Should I wait ’til I’ve got a proper full load of washing before I put the machine on? Yes to all of these things,” says McCloud. “They’re not going to make a huge difference, but every little helps.
“One of the most interesting things that will make quite a significant difference to most people is turning machines off at the socket when you’re not using them – things like televisions and microwaves,” he adds. “I read that the total saving by not keeping a machine on standby, by turning it off at the plug, works out in the average house at about £150 a year. It’s quite a lot, and it’s a really good discipline to get into.”