How to cut your carbon footprint and your energy bills

We’re all more aware than ever how changing energy prices can affect our everyday bills.

Fortunately, there are ways to break away from the worrying fluctuations in fossil fuel costs, as well as to reduce the amount of energy you need to use at home and at work.

Here are some of the best ways to lower your energy bills while also cutting your carbon footprint…


Insulate yourself

Many British homes are, unfortunately, not very well insulated. This means that the heat that you pay for can escape through the walls, doors, window and roof of your home or business… meaning you need to crank up the heating and use more energy to stay warm. 

Insulating a building means that you can lower your energy use, and save on your bills in the long-run. Some options are quick and cheaper to install, like draught proofing around windows and doors, whereas some require more of an investment, like cavity wall insulation and loft insulation.

To find out how long it will take for an upgrade to your insulation to pay for itself, divide the estimated installation cost by your average annual energy bill, to see how many years it’ll take to see the savings. 

Reduce your use

Of course, one of the easiest ways to lower your bills is by being mindful of how much energy you use, as well as how much is being wasted without you needing it. 

Appliances like your washing machine, tumble drier, oven, dishwasher and shower all use a large proportion of the energy in your home. Installing a smart meter can help you to keep an eye on any daily spikes in energy use, and cut down on those power-hungry devices.

Drying clothes outside, having shorter showers and not overfilling the kettle are all small energy savings that can up day-to-day.

Upgrade your heating system

You might have heard the buzz about heat pumps recently, and in the right circumstance they can be a great way to heat your home without burning fossil fuels. 

Heat pumps use a small amount of electricity to extract warmth from the outside air and use it to heat your home. Since they’re able to convert 1kWh of electricity into up to 4kWh of heat, they’re four times more efficient than a traditional gas, electric or oil boiler, cutting your carbon emissions by 75%. 

However, it’s important to be aware that heat pumps are not currently an effective option for many UK buildings. Other green heating options like upgrading to a more efficient or lower-carbon boiler may be more suitable for your needs.

Harness solar energy

Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic (PV) panels, allow you to convert the energy from the sun into renewable electricity to power your home or business. Not only will this cut your electricity bills, it also slashes your carbon footprint - a typical home solar system could save around one tonne of carbon per year.

To install solar panels, you’ll need a fair amount of unshaded roof space, ideally facing South. Most energy is generated during peak daylight hours, so setting your energy-thrifty appliances like the washing machine and dishwasher to run during the day is a great way to make the most of your solar power. This also makes solar panels especially suitable for businesses, where most of the energy consumption happens during peak daylight hours, and are a great partner when it comes to charging electric vehicles. 

The Smart Export Guarantee allows you to sell any excess electricity that you generate back to the grid, helping your solar panels to pay for themselves more quickly. 

Collaborate as a community

A growing number of communities across the UK are coming together to tackle climate change through local action, with over 5000 community groups launching new energy initiatives in the last five years. 

Examples of community group action include installing community-owned solar panels, wind turbines and hydroelectric generators, collectively switching to greener energy suppliers, and mass installation of renewable heating options and insulation. 

South West Net Zero Hub offers advice for low carbon energy projects across the region, as well as providing guidance on feasibility, planning applications and funding available for community projects.

Bath & West Community Energy is a member organisation which aims to develop clean local energy projects to benefit communities in Bath and the surrounding area, such as solar power for schools and community groups - find out more about the fund and apply here.

You can also read more about a real-life example of community energy with our inspiring story on Ambition Lawrence Weston, who have worked together to fund a community-owned onshore wind turbine.


Switch to green energy providers

While switching to a greener energy provider might not lower your bills, it’s a very cost-effective way to reduce your impact on the planet, and shift your support away from  fossil fuel suppliers.

Many energy suppliers now offer ‘green tariffs’, which usually mean they commit to either generating the same amount of renewable energy as you consume, or donating to environmental schemes on your behalf. Choosing a green tariff sends a clear message to the energy industry that you support renewable energy generation, and the move away from fossil fuels, as well as funding cleaner energy sources for our future.

However, the exact green credentials can be confusing, so it’s important to check exactly how your energy is being generated and what your green tariff is paying for to avoid greenwashing.

Read more about checking the source of your energy supply here.

In the current fluctuating market, the general advice is to remain with your current supplier until energy prices return to normal levels. Comparison services like Big Clean Switch offer a quick and easy way to compare your provider options, and swap to a renewable energy provider.

Funding and resources

The government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme provides up to £5,000 towards a new air source heat pump or biomass boiler, or £6,000 towards a new ground source heat pump. This scheme is designed to encourage the switch away from older, less efficient gas or oil boilers to heat buildings across the UK, by making renewable heat options more affordable. The Green Deal also helps you to find and pay for energy-saving improvements to your home.

West of England Combined Authority is currently offering its Innovative Local Energy Scheme, designed to support renewable energy projects in communities across the region. 

SMEs in the West of England can claim a free carbon survey to better understand your energy use - find out more and apply here.


How to get started

If you’re interested in how to retrofit your home to make it more energy efficient, Centre for Sustainable Energy is currently offering a full survey and retrofit plan, where a qualified retrofit surveyor will create a bespoke report detailing your upgrade options.

You can learn more about retrofitting your home here.

The Heating Hub also offer a consultation service to guide you through your home heating options, including whether a heat pump or boiler upgrade could work for your home, and how to find a great local installer for your project.