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10 key products for a modern eco home

Creating a modern eco-friendly home isn’t something you can necessarily do overnight. Although small changes and adopting more energy-efficient habits help, there are now some key home products and modern technologies on the market that can significantly offset your home’s carbon footprint. Installing solar panels, for instance, is an investment that will pay off significantly in the long run, both in terms of cost and carbon-reduction, but choosing renewable technology is not all you can do to improve energy-efficiency. Even something as simple as installing a smart meter can positively impact your CO2 footprint. 

In a survey of 2,000 people, conducted via OnePoll for Smart Energy GB, stats reflected that 81 per cent of Brits are making a conscious effort to be more energy efficient, with 28 per cent keen to make home energy management a top priority. If you’re suffering with a little green guilt and looking to be more sustainable, then rest assured that whether you’re retrofitting a period property or want to do more than maintain a healthy recycling routine in a newer build, we can help.

From low-budget choices, to bigger home improvements and investments that will pay off in energy consumption, and cash, over time, here are some key products to consider if you want to offset carbon dioxide in your home. 

1. Smart meters

Cost: Free

CO2 saving: 36.4 tonnes per household per year

Smart meters could save as much as 25 per cent CO2 by 2035 and they can be installed in as little as a couple of hours by your energy supplier to replace both traditional gas and electricity meters. They work by displaying how much energy you are using and how much it costs. This information makes it easier to track your usage so that you can control spending and energy consumption – 43 per cent of people say that their smart meter has helped them to be more energy efficient. The data is also fed into your energy supplier for accurate meter readings and bills.

“By moving to a smart, flexible energy system built on smart meters we can move beyond gas, and make more efficient use of renewables to help our country both meet increasing demands for electricity and reach net zero in a cost-effective way,” says Victoria Bacon, Director at Smart Energy GB.

2. Smarter large appliances

Cost: £349 – £1,599+

CO2 saving: 220kg+ per year

A rule of thumb when being greener is to repair before you buy again. But, if your washing machine or another important household appliance has well and truly past its glory days and needs replacing, look out for smart eco-friendly products with high energy ratings that are designed to reduce CO2. For a washing machine, this will mean reducing run times, therefore using less energy and water, and for a fridge-freezer, this will mean clever cold storage to reduce food waste and energy consumption. The typical household will use a washing machine around 220 times a year, which uses around 14 per cent of a household’s total energy output.

3. New windows

Cost: £1,300 (uPVC double-glazed windows for an average UK home)

CO2 saving: 405kg per year

It has been reported that 18 per cent of heat loss occurs through windows so replacing inefficient units (be they single-glazed or old double-glazed products) is one of the first elements of a home to address if you’re looking to become more energy-efficient. For those self-building their home, also consider installing more windows to off-set the need for artificial lighting — a well-considered design for larger windows also means you could benefit from passive heating, reducing reliance on radiators or underfloor heating, although watch out for overheating. Upgrading to double, or even triple glazing, will keep a home’s temperature better regulated throughout the year and offset your carbon footprint greatly. A++ rated double glazing specifically could see you saving 405kg of carbon dioxide per year as well as £235 in energy bills. 

If neither are an option, if you live in a listed building, for example, invest in secondary glazing, which isn’t quite as efficient as double glazing, but a great way of working with your home’s original features. 

4. Cavity wall insulation

Cost: £395 – £1,800

CO2 saving: 305kg – 1,200kg per year

Homes built after 1920 are likely to have cavity walls – a process in which a gap is left between the outer and inner walls – meaning you can fill the gap with insulating materials such as mineral wool or polystyrene beads. Cavity wall insulation is easily installed by a registered professional and it is a sound investment (from £395 for a mid-floor flat to £1,800 for a detached house) that could see you saving anything from £180 to £690 on energy bills.

cavity wall insulation being pumped into brick house
Cavity wall insulation is generally install during construction in modern homes but, for those with an empty void, the insulation can be pumped in through a small wall in the exterior mortar. (Image credit: Adobe)

5. Rainwater harvesting system

Cost: £2,000 – £3,000

CO2 saving: 5,387kg (based on toilet flushing of three-person household) per year

A rainwater harvesting system could see you almost half your mains water usage. There are a few different ways to collect rainwater. Installing a water butt in itself isn’t expensive, they can cost as little as £39.99, but it’s a little more expensive and technical to put the rainwater collected to good use around the home, for instance in toilets or in appliances such as washing machines. 

6. Solar thermal panels

Cost: £3,000 – £5,000

CO2 saving: 330kg (gas) and 290kg (electricity) per year

Solar thermal panels convert sunlight into hot water for domestic use. There are two types: evacuated tubes and flat plate collectors. Both can be fixed on roof tiles, but flat plate collectors can also be integrated into your roof for a sleeker finish. Although you will likely still need to rely on your boiler or immersion heater for part of the year, you could save as much as £160 on gas and £275 on electricity per year.

7. Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR)

Cost: £3,000 – £10,000

CO2 saving: 1,752kg per year

Many modern, efficient homes are now fitted with MVHR systems. These systems work with concealed piping to remove stale air and clear the indoor atmosphere of any damp and odours. A heat exchanger ensures that the indoor air remains a comfortable temperature without any heat loss. While they are quite expensive to install (and are not the simplest to retrofit), this type of system will save on heating bills compared with traditional trickle vents on windows or air bricks.

8. Solar PV panels

Install cost: £6,000

CO2 saving: 0.68 – 1 tonne per year

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels generate electricity from solar light – while they’re a big initial investment, not only could you save on CO2 but you will significantly reduce household bills, depending on your property type and location. You could even get money back for your eco efforts if you qualify for the smart energy guarantee (SEG), a type of solar panel grant that essentially pays you back every time you export excess energy produced into the national grid.

9. Heat pumps

Cost: £7,000 – £13,000

CO2 saving: 1,400kg+ per year

Air source heat pumps work by extracting heat from the air outside for use in the home, including central heating and hot water. Replacing an electric storage heater with an air source heat pump system could see a saving of 1,400kg CO2 per year. If you’re replacing an old gas boiler, you could swiftly bump your CO2 savings to 2,800kg per year. Ground source heat pumps are also a great addition as they are generally more efficient than air source designs (saving between 1,500kg and 7,000kg of CO2 per year), but they require a large amount of land for installation and can be prohibitively expensive (£8,000 to £18,000). 

Air source heat pumps are installed on the exterior of a property, while ground source heat pumps are submerged underground. (Image credit: Adobe)

10. Solid wall insulation

Cost: £8,500 – £12,000

CO2 saving: 910kg per year

Homes built before 1920 are likely to have solid walls. As a result, homeowners have to insulate internally (roughly £8,500) or externally (around £12,000) and, while this is more expensive than cavity wall insulation, the savings on heating bills and CO2 will be significantly larger. How much you save in CO2 and energy bills depends on your property type and the extent of the work carried out, but the average three-bedroom semi-detached home with gas central heating could save 910kg of CO2 a year by insulating their walls, as well as £540 in heating bills. 

How do I turn my house into an eco home?

Turning your house into an eco home should be considered incrementally alongside a realistic budget. Start by considering how to reduce energy consumption (such as smart meters and more efficient large appliances) and the longevity of products you’re purchasing. Choose items that are made from quality materials, that are sustainably sourced and designed to last. Invest in eco-friendly floor coverings like recycled carpet, or pile on rugs where you don’t want to cover up floor boards, to better regulate the temperature in your home. Look for FSC certified wood and low VOC paints when redecorating, and consider packaging, the transportation of goods and the supplier, to ensure your sustainability standards align.

For those with a little more budget to invest in going green, take on a so-called “fabric-first” approach. This means looking into the efficiency of the house itself. Loft, floor and wall insulation all play their part here, alongside more-efficient windows. This is often called an eco retrofit and some homes can reach a certification called EnerPhit, the equivalent of the ultra-eco Passivhaus standard for new-builds for existing houses. Investing in solar panels and insulation also safeguards your home against rising energy prices and saves on using fossil fuels. Heat pumps and MVHR units will be more effective when installed in less-draughty and more-efficient homes so remedial work will need to be undertaken beforehand.

Cam is an experienced writer and editor who has been creating content for more than 10 years. She studied English Language and Italian at The University of Manchester, where she started out blogging and copywriting on fashion and travel.

She’s worked for Groupon and its partnerships – including <em>The Guardian</em> UK and US, the <em>HuffPost</em>, and</i> – and has covered a plethora of topics, from kitchen design trends to the best ways to score a good deal on home insurance. S

Swifty tapping into her love for everything home decor-related, she moved into the interior design space and edited, part of Future plc, for three years, where she worked with a tonne of DIY and renovation experts.

She currently lives in North London and is passionate about helping others perfect their surroundings with stunning interiors and functional home additions, whether they own or rent.