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The National Skills Academy’s New Booklet on Energy Efficiency - Part two of three

David Thomas

THIS, THE second part of our summary of Creating an efficient and sustainable home will focus on the fundamentals behind retrofitting a property, making it less costly to heat, retain its heat more efficiently, and help to improve the quality of life for those who live there.

In this, part 2/3, there will be advice taken from the National Skills Academy, one of the leading authorities of training and accreditation across the building and renewables industries.

“Improving the energy efficiency of your home really will make a considerable dent in fuel bills, something I’m sure everyone is keen to do as the cost of living, particularly utilities, continue to rise. If you have a basic understanding of these measures before you talk to a trained installer, you can be confident of the questions you need to ask and the advice they’re giving.” – Cathryn Hickey, executive director for the National Skills Academy.

The front cover of Creating an Energy Efficient and Sustainable Home

The three-step method recommended by the National Skills Academy

The National Skills Academy recommends the following approach:

1. Reduce energy demand

2. Improve energy efficiency

3. Install environmental technology systems.

(There is no benefit in attempting point three if the property leaks heat.

1 Ways to reduce energy demand

Appliances – Switch off, don’t leave on standby

Chimneys – seal any chimneys that are not in use

Energy – fit an energy monitor to understand your usage

Heating controls – set them to activate only when needed

Laundry – wash at thirty degrees, not higher

Lights – turn off when not needed

Shower – baths waste water

Windows and doors – keep shut to retain heat

2 Ways to improve energy efficiency

Appliances – find the most efficient appliances available

Boiler – an A grade boiler can save you hundreds of pounds per year

Draught proofing – definitely a good idea

Heating controls – upgrade to a better model

Insulate – much heat escapes through your roof, floor and walls.

LED lights – regular bulbs use much more energy

Water-saving taps – they’re a good idea too

3 Installing environmental technologies

Air source and ground source heat pump systems

Heat pumps work like refrigerators in reverse, converting low temperature heat to a higher temperature, suitable for heating and hot water.


Considered carbon neutral and environmentally friendly compared with fossil fuels because the carbon dioxide released during the combustion process is about the same as the carbon dioxide absorbed during the tree growing process.

Biomass appliances include stoves and boilers and are fuelled by logs, wood pellets or wood chips.

Rainwater harvesting and greywater reuse systems

‘Grey’ water means water that’s been flushed, and is reused for toilet flushing, car washing, watering the garden and maybe more purposes. Storage tanks can be located above or below ground.

Micro-combined heat and power systems (Micro-CHP)

A micro-combined heat and power (micro-CHP) unit looks like a boiler and runs off an engine and sometimes a fuel cell. Micro-CHP systems generate either heat with electricity as a by-product or electricity with heat as a by-product, used for space and water heating. They do run on fossil fuels but are much more efficient (around 85% compared with 35% for a coal-fired power station.)

Micro hydro-power

A micro-hydro turbine uses moving water to generate electricity.

Hydro turbines can either be connected to the national grid (‘on-grid’) or storage batteries (‘off-grid).

Micro-wind turbines

Micro turbines use the ‘lift’ and ‘drag’ effect of wind to generate electricity.

Wind turbines can either be connected to the national grid or storage batteries.

Micro-ventilation heat recovery systems

Mechanical ventilation and heat recovery (MVHR) systems use the warm air from rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms to heat fresh outside air, and distribute it in bedrooms and living rooms.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems

A solar photovoltaic (PV) system converts light into electricity. As with micro-hydro and wind, there are ‘on-grid’ or ‘off-grid’ systems, with some combining the two.

Solar thermal hot water systems

Solar thermal hot water systems absorb heat energy from the sun and transfer the heat into a hot water tank. Both solar PV and solar thermal function in cold weather as well as warm weather, so long as there’s sunlight.

The Green Deal

Creating energy efficiency legislation that scales up to improve an entire nation, and work for everybody, was always going to be a difficult task.

Launching the Green Deal has taken longer than expected, and there have been frustrations along the way. The important thing is, it’s underway now, the gears are turning, and a big conversation about energy efficiency has begun.

The conversation is happening in communities across the UK.

During the first full month of the Green Deal, February saw 1,803 properties booked in for an assessment for Green Deal measures and almost £30m of property improvements were signed through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). Secretary of State for the Department of Energy, Climate and Change Ed Davey MP, has called it, “an excellent start.”

The information in the National Skills Academy’s booklet, Creating an energy efficient and sustainable home, gives information on the various Government initiatives, retrofit measures, and tips on how to go about making your property more efficient.

(Thank you to the National Skills Academy for sharing their guide with us. To purchase a copy of ‘Creating an energy efficient and sustainable home’, which is priced at £5.99, click here.)

*All information in this article has been taken with the approval from the National Skills Academy, but appears here in our own words.