As Energy Efficiency Week gets underway, Christen Pears finds out how far one couple have gone to make their home more environmentally friendly.

WHILE most people have a satellite dish on the side of their houses, Alice Wood has a solar panel. There's a wind turbine in her garden too.

She is one of the growing number of house owners who are making their homes energy efficient.

Alice and her partner Mark Schiff live in a three-bedroomed 1930s semi in Middlesbrough. When they bought the house a year ago, it was in need of serious renovation.

"We didn't want to spend a lot of money so we started looking at the cheapest ways of it doing it. It turned out that the cheapest way was also the most energy efficient," explains Alice.

They began by making major changes, including installing double glazing and loft insulation. They received an energy grant for the insulation, which meant it only cost £100, and it will cut the couple's energy bills over the long-term.

But, says Alice, it's the small things that really help save money.

"Most curtains these days are lined but we add an extra lining so it doesn't let the heat out. We use energy efficient light bulbs. They last longer than ordinary ones and they save you a lot of money when you add them up."

The couple have also reflectors for behind their radiators - cardboard and kitchen foil. It may sound Blue Peter-ish but, according to Alice, it makes an enormous difference, by reflecting the heat into the room rather than into the wall.

The latest addition to the house is rather more hi-tech - a solar panel. They hope to add three or four others next year and, along with the wind turbine, this should generate 50 per cent of their electricity.

"It can be a big outlay if you do it all at once, which is why we're doing it gradually, but there are government grants available for people who don't have a lot of money."

Alice doesn't work and Mark only works part-time at a call centre. It means they only have £5,000 a year annual income and Alice admits financial considerations were a major factor behind their energy efficiency drive.

When they first moved in, their combined gas and electricity bill was around £50. They've now slashed it to £15 and hope to lower it even further during the next year. But Alice is also interested in green issues. She says: "Obviously it makes sense from a money point of view but I soon realised that it fitted in with my environmental issues as well. You are saving money but looking after the planet at the same time. It's actually individual households that throw out the most carbon dioxide and contribute most to environmental problems. We should be doing all we can to prevent that."

Energy Efficiency Week encourages people to across Britain to make their homes more energy efficient. This year's event runs until September 28. Organised by the Energy Saving Trust, it is endorsed by the Government and is part of an ongoing campaign to promote the efficient use of all forms of energy.

In the North-East, the campaign is being spearheaded by Tees and Durham Energy Advice (TADEA). Funded by the Energy Saving Trust, a Government backed non-profit making organisation, it has been set up to provide free and impartial advice to householders and small businesses to help them save money, energy and the environment.

The Energy Saving Trust has a comprehensive database which includes details of all the various grants on offer to householders and small businesses from the Government, energy suppliers and local authorities.

Help is available to co-finance energy efficient domestic appliances, heating, lightbulbs, draught-proofing and cavity wall and loft insulation. Grants are also available to help people install solar panels on their houses. Current government initiatives pay up to 65 per cent of the total installation cost.

Philip Sellwood, CEO of the Energy Saving Trust, says: "We're consuming more energy in the home than ever before - the more we use, the more it costs us, and the more we damage our environment. Faced with global environmental problems, people can often feel powerless to make a difference. The truth is that we can, and we'd like to rally people into action by adopting at least one energy saving tip. Remember the associated costs are one-offs, whereas you'll enjoy savings on your energy bills every year while doing your bit for the environment".


Look for cavities

UP to 33 per cent of the heat lost in your home is through the walls, so insulating them can be the most cost-effective way to save energy in the home - you could save £100 on your annual heating bills.


IF your boiler is more than 15 years old, it's probably time you gave it the elbow and replaced it with a new, energy efficient one.

Condensing boilers are the most energy efficient and will save you around a third on your heating bills straight away.

Fridge freezers

FRIDGE freezers are the most hardworking appliances in our kitchens. To help cut costs, don't leave the door open longer than necessary as cold air will escape and it will take several minutes to regain its temperature.

Avoid putting hot food into the fridge, defrost the freezer regularly and check the door seals are working properly.

Look out for the logo

THE Energy Efficiency Recommended Logo when you're buying new electrical appliances. It is appearing on a growing range of appliances that will cost you less to run than an older one.

Treat your tank

AN insulating jacket for hot water tanks only costs a few pounds and pays for itself within months.

Fit one that's at least 7.6cm (3ins) thick and you could save around £20 a year.

Close your curtains

AS the days get chillier, closing your curtains at dusk will stop heat escaping through windows and save you around £15 a year.

A bright idea

AS the days get dimmer, we'll be relying on our lights more so now's the time to trade up our ordinary lightbulbs for energy saving ones.

Costing from just £4, energy efficient lightbulbs last 12 times longer and for each bulb you fit, you can save up to £10 on your annual electricity bill.

Take to the floor

STOP draughts and heat escaping by filling gaps under skirting boards with newspaper, beading or mastic sealant.

See double

DOUBLE-glazing cuts heat loss through windows by 50 per cent and could cut your heating bill by up to £40 a year.

Home Energy Check

FOR a personal report on how much energy can be saved in your own home, log on to and take a Virtual Energy Wastage Tour. Alternatively, call the Energy Efficiency Advice Centre on 0800 512 012 for free, impartial advice on how to make your home more energy efficient. Your trained advisor will also be able to inform you of the grants available in your area to help you save energy and money.