5 Ways that you can demonstrate your green credentials when it comes to heating your home

One in five British homes exist in a state of fuel poverty, meaning they spend more than 10% of their income on heating their homes in winter. Even colder northern European countries like Finland experience lower fuel poverty levels, where only 1 in 7 homes live in such a state.

When compared on poor insulation and other signs of poor construction quality, Britain is bottom of the heap in Europe - 1 in 3 British homes experience extreme levels of heat waste due to poor insulation. In virtually every other European country, poor insulation is only seen in around 1 in 6 homes. Part of the reason why British homes have poor insulation is that they are among the oldest in Europe and it can be more difficult and more expensive to insulate homes with solid brick walls than to insulate modern cavity walls.

Inadequate insulation doesn’t just make homes expensive to heat, it is also bad for the environment. Homes with poor insulation end up wasting as much as 30% of their heat. Thrifty and environmentally conscious homeowners need to approach their heating requirements in two ways - they need to find energy-efficient heating technology for their homes and they need to insulate their homes properly so that significantly less heat is wasted.

Insulating your home better

Home insulation can be expensive. Installing cavity wall and loft insulation in the average 3-bedroom house can cost as much as £700. While the initial costs can seem prohibitive, making do without insulation isn't a viable long-term alternative. The average home can save as much as £140 on its energy bills each year when it is properly insulated. The payback time on a £700 investment is no more than 4 or 5 years.

If you can't afford to pay the full price of insulation, many energy providers offer discounts. You can save a few hundred pounds if you qualify. Applying for the government's Green Deal energy efficiency financing scheme may also be a good idea. You can get a loan to cover the cost of any energy efficiency treatment or equipment. These loans are easy to qualify for and come with long, 25-year payback periods with the idea being that the money you’re saving on your energy costs covers the repayments.

Finding better, energy-efficient heating equipment is your next step

New, energy-efficient heating equipment is expensive. A new condensing boiler, for instance, can cost as much as £2,300. If you wish to install a heat pump or a solar unit, it can cost you even more. Fortunately, the government is serious about helping people invest in energy-efficient heating equipment. You can get help from the Green Deal and the Renewable Heat Initiative. If you decide to invest in more energy-efficient heating equipment, here are some options:

Heat pumps

Heat pumps are like air-conditioners, except that they work in reverse - they pump cold air out and they blow warm air in. A number of variations on the basic heat pump design system exist. A reverse cycle chiller is a regular heat pump that's connected to an insulated water tank. It efficiently heats the water in the tank and uses it to feed your central heating system.

Whatever variant you choose, heat pumps are highly energy-efficient. With a competitively-priced electricity contract (which you can find through an energy comparison service such as UK Power), heat pumps can easily be as efficient as gas-fired condensing boilers.

A solar thermal system

A solar thermal system is a solar boiler. It uses energy from photovoltaic panels to heat water in a boiler that is then circulated through the home's central heating system. Solar thermal systems are space-efficient - you need about 2 square meters of roof space for each person in the household.

A biomass boiler

Biomass boilers burn renewable fuels like wood pellets. They are considered green because they don't use up non-renewable fossil fuels. The wood for the pellets that these boilers burn comes from timber-processing waste. While biomass boilers used to be large and messy, modern designs are computer-controlled and automated and don’t cause much mess at all,

Scott Byrom has a passion for practical green living and energy saving. He regularly writes about reducing energy costs and managing energy usage and has previously appeared on the BBC’s Watchdog programme to advise UK households how they can reduce their gas and electricity consumption.