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Lowering your energy bills: lessons from science

Researchers from money.co.uk spoke to scientists to discover how the latest innovations can be used to retrofit older homes to lower energy bills.

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The battle against climate change means scientists across the globe are perfecting new ways to make homes more energy-efficient. The good news for homeowners is that everyone can reduce their energy bills by adopting some of the latest scientific innovations.

While rechargeable houses powered by cars may seem like the stuff of science fiction, such innovations are already a reality and are predicted to become commonplace over the coming years.

We spoke to the team behind one of the UK’s most innovative and experimental eco-housing schemes to find out how you can lower your energy bills by adopting some of the latest breakthroughs for your own home.

The Creative Energy Homes project at Nottingham University is a £2m scheme that has seen the construction of six ultra-efficient eco-homes including a replica of a standard 1930s semi-detached house.

The six buildings have allowed scientists to experiment with how best to conserve energy and make homes more efficient.

We spoke to Professor Mark Gillott, who leads the scheme, to find out which innovations can be adopted to retrofit a typical UK home and help you reduce your bills.

Here are ten top tips to transform your house into an eco-home today:

  1.  Make money. If you follow all the above measures you will have effectively turned your home into a tiny green power station. The good news is that you can cash in by selling some of your excess energy back to the grid. Vehicle to grid technology means even power stored in your car battery can be sold to the grid if it’s not needed.

  2. Team up with neighbours. If those around you share your green aspirations, talk to them about installing a community battery. These allow homes to plug in their electric vehicles and act as a power hub across several homes.

  3. Choose an air pump or underfloor heating. As your home moves towards net carbon zero, you will have less need for central heating. Instead, you should opt for an air source heat pump or underfloor heating which is much more efficient and helps a house to retain heat far longer.

  4. Install a bidirectional battery. It may sound like the stuff of science fiction but rechargeable homes are already a reality. By installing a bidirectional battery your home’s energy can be topped up from the battery of a compatible electric vehicle (EV). The home’s energy needs are then balanced between its solar array, battery and the grid.

  5. Fully insulate your home. It may sound obvious but Professor Gillott says there are still far too many homes in the UK with poor or even zero insulation. This is particularly true of older housing. Residents can easily improve their home’s efficiency by utilising aerogel technology devised by NASA and installing insulating panels to line their walls and loft spaces. Keeping heat inside the house is the simplest thing you can do to vastly improve energy efficiency – and reduce gas and electricity bills.

  6. Go triple glazed. Single pane windows used to be the norm and are still in place in thousands of older homes across the UK. But, while double glazing has become standard for all new homes, Prof Gillott believes we should go one step further if we want to be truly efficient. “Triple glazing will become the standard of the future,” he says. “It’s much more effective at stopping heat being lost from the home, thereby greatly reducing energy consumption.”

    “So the car will also get charged from the connection to the home – it’s all about timing and smart control of energy. Dishwasher and washing machines will receive signals from the electricity grid when they can turn on because the electricity is cheaper as there is an excess on the grid.”

  7. Get smart. Utilising smart technology in our homes lets us switch energy sources to ensure efficient management of energy flows from solar panels, the grid and from a connected EV. Professor Gillott explains: “If the grid is constrained, meaning not enough energy for the neighbourhood because of increased need from heating etc, the car can supply. The car is used as a balancing mechanism, it can discharge when extra is needed but then will be charged when there is an excess on the grid, typically from the solar energy or at night when we use less electricity as a nation.

  8. Go solar. Solar energy is abundant and photovoltaic panels and arrays have become increasingly cost-effective. Professor Gillott says all available roof space in Britain which is south or south-westerly facing should be utilised for solar energy.

  9. Use less gas. Households wishing to reduce their carbon footprint should find ways to use less gas and instead choose clean electricity as their preferred cooking and heating method.

  10. Let the light in. Consider a roof window, sun tunnel or find other creative ways to maximise natural light into your home. The more sunlight can find its way inside the less the need for both electric lighting and artificial heating.

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