18th Nov 2022 -

An eco-friendly home is a home that minimises its impact on the environment. Investing in eco-friendly features and smart technology at home can have serious benefits in the long run. This will help your budget and, most importantly, the planet. You do not have to start from scratch and build a house yourself (although that is certainly an option).

There are lots of changes you can make in your current home. For example, changing the insulation in the walls and the window glazing. But there are easier things which can make a difference such as switching your energy provider and reducing your consumption of heating, hot water and electricity.

The impact of home life on the environment

We often hear the words “climate change” in news reports. Climate change refers to the increase in the Earth’s average temperature. Human activities produce carbon dioxide emissions, which scientists believe are retained within the atmosphere and re-emitted in all directions, causing temperatures to rise. This is sometimes known as the greenhouse effect. It is easy not to think about how you affect the planet when you are caught up in busy day-to-day life. But home life can have a significant impact on these emissions and, by extension, the environment. 

How to improve sustainability in the home

It might feel a bit daunting to think about sustainability in your home as a whole. However, it becomes a lot more manageable when you break it down into categories and focus on each one in turn. Start by dividing your plans into two: smart technology and eco-friendly technology. They are both eco-friendly, but smart technology has specific features that set it apart.

Within these groups, you might include the following categories: insulation, heating, energy (electricity, gas, solar power or wind power), lighting and water. Make your sustainability improvements step-by-step, as time and budget allow. That way, the process will be less overwhelming.

What is smart technology?

There is not a single definition of smart technology. ‘Smart’ was originally an acronym: Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology. However, since the word ‘smart’ means clever, it has also become a way to describe technology that can guide our behaviour. Smart technology is automated in some way and can be programmed by the user to do something at a specific time or for a specific reason.

For example, you might programme a smart bulb to turn it off if you forget to do it manually. You could also turn it on and off at set times while you are away. Some devices can be controlled remotely through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Set up smart technology in your home and you can reduce your energy consumption with very little effort. It is much more affordable these days, too.

Smart technology at home

Smart lighting

With smart lighting is controlled using an app. You can turn the lights on and off, change the brightness of the bulbs and if the bulbs have coloured LEDs, you can change the colour too. You can also programme the system to match your routine, with one setting for early mornings, another for during the day, and one for the evenings. It is entirely dependent on your needs and preferences. Smart lighting can also turn off lights you have forgotten about, saving energy and money.

It also works by using a system called mesh networking. Each bulb has a wireless connection to the one closest to it, with the network controlled by a hub plugged into your router. You can connect your phone or tablet (any device with the app or a virtual assistant) to this network and use it to control the bulbs.

Smart thermostats

A white smart thermostat with blue and black electronic front.

Smart thermostats regulate the temperature in your home. They can change the temperature throughout the day according to your routine. For example, you could keep it low or turn it off while you are at work, then schedule it to heat up again while you are on the way home. You will come back to a warm house and you will save money and energy too. The Committee on Climate Change recommends keeping the thermostat set to 19˚C. Smart thermostats connect your heating to the internet.

Similar to smart lighting, you can use your phone or tablet to control the heating via an app or virtual assistant. The system will prompt you with reminders if you’ve left your heating on when it typically is not, too. You set up the smart thermostat yourself, so you do not need to change your energy supplier (unless you want to). They cost between £150 and £280, plus £50 - £100 if you decide you would rather get it installed by a professional.

Smart plugs

Smart plugs fit into your sockets as normal, then your non-smart devices can be plugged in. The smart plugs have a direct Wi-Fi connection, which integrates them into your smart network and gives you more options for customising your normal devices. They can also connect to a bridge or dongle that is plugged into your router. You can control your smart plugs and the devices linked to them via an app or a virtual assistant.

Use timers to turn them on or off at specific times, track your energy use, and set your plugs to prevent devices from using too much energy when they are turned off. Some smart plugs offer the ability to show you your energy usage when devices are in use and on standby. You will be able to see if you have items plugged in that rarely get used, but use a lot of energy. Then set those plugs to be switched off by default (unless they are required).

Eco-friendly technology

Something eco-friendly reduces or completely cuts out any harm done to the environment. When we apply this to the home, it means using fewer resources and reducing energy use.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy is energy produced by sources that replenish themselves naturally, such as wind, rain, tides, waves, sunlight, and geothermal heat. It is possible to use renewable energy to power your home, whether that is energy harnessed from wind turbines, solar panels, a biomass boiler, or a heat pump. Installing this kind of technology often has a large upfront cost, but you will save money over time.

Wind turbines

The wind turns the blades of a wind turbine around a rotor, which in turn spins a generator, creating electricity. You can take advantage of this by switching to a renewable energy supplier. 

Solar panels and solar thermal systems

Alternatively, you could install solar panels or a solar thermal system to generate your renewable electricity or heat. These are expensive to install (£2,500-£4,500) but only cost around £10 per year to maintain, and they work even on cloudy days.

Biomass boilers

Biomass boilers are similar to gas boilers in that they use combustion to provide heating and hot water for your home. However, they use sustainably-sourced wood pellets to produce this heat and must be emptied of ash every month or so. This can be put on a compost heap and you can also use logs. Often, the wood would have had to go to a landfill. Turning it into pellets reduces waste, and since the wood will have already absorbed carbon dioxide while it was a tree, it is also carbon neutral. Because of this, there is no net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Heat pumps

There are two types of heat pumps. Ground source heat pumps circulate water and antifreeze using a series of pipes, with heat from the ground absorbed into the fluid. This mixture passes through a heat exchanger and heat pump and can be used in radiators, underfloor heating or for hot water. The temperature below ground stays the same all year round, so you can rely on this method throughout every season. Air source heat pumps extract heat from the outside air.

This heat is absorbed into a fluid, which passes through a compressor that increases the temperature. You can use an air-to-air heat pump for heating, or an air-to-water pump for hot water. Using a heat pump could make you eligible for the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (Domestic RHI). If you join and adhere to the guidelines, you will receive quarterly payments for seven years, based on the amount of renewable heat your system produces.


An apartment building with windows and clouds in the sky.

Insulation is the most effective way to prevent your home from losing heat unnecessarily, which cuts your carbon emissions and your energy bills.

Big changes

  • Insulation in the walls: The number of non-toxic, renewable and biodegradable alternatives to traditional insulation materials has increased. Cotton, cork, sheep wool and recycled items like plastic, denim and newspaper are all being used in conjunction with others as cavity wall insulation. Solid walls can be insulated from the inside or the outside, although this is often an expensive job.
  • Roofing: New sustainable roof designs incorporate technology that reflects heat and sunlight away, regulating the temperature of your home.
  • Windows glazing: Double or triple glazing reduces heat loss through windows, reduces condensation, and has the bonus of shutting out noise pollution. If you only have single glazing, you can have another pane of glass added to the existing one (known as secondary glazing). Installing energy-efficient windows could save you between £30 and £120, depending on where you live.

Smaller changes

  • Draught-proofing: A surprising amount of energy is lost through gaps in the home, especially in old houses. Finding and filling these gaps can have a significant impact on the warmth inside your house, even if you just buy some draught excluders.
  • Thermal wallpaper: Up to 35% of the heat in your home can be lost through the walls. Homes built after 1935 can easily retain heat with cavity wall insulation. But homes built before then have solid walls that are more difficult to insulate. If you cannot afford internal or external insulation, you can still make a difference by using thermal wallpaper, also known as thermal liner. It is made from a woven mix of wood fibres and textile fabrics. Thermal wallpaper can be attached to your walls and painted the same way regular wallpaper can.
  • Thermal curtains: They create a pocket of air between the curtain and the window. This prevents warmth from escaping the room, which means you can set the thermostat to a lower temperature, saving energy and money.
  • Swap old light bulbs for LEDs: LED bulbs are more affordable than they used to be, with most available for under £10, and they require very little energy to work. Unlike traditional energy-saving bulbs, they are bright as soon as you switch them on. According to Which?, LED bulbs use 90% less energy than traditional bulbs and last up to 30 years.

Water conservation

The average household uses 349 litres of water every day. But there are ways to reduce this consumption – both big projects and smaller ones you can install yourself.

Rainwater harvesting systems

We get plenty of rain in the UK. Installing a harvesting system is one way of putting this to good use. The rainwater is collected from the roof, filtered, and stored in a tank underground. You can use the water you collect to wash the car, water the garden, or even top up the toilet cistern. Using a rainwater harvesting system decreases your reliance on water from the mains. This makes use of water that would otherwise be wasted and can reduce your bills if you use a meter.

Water-saving devices

Changing to low-flow aerators in your taps or a low-flow showerhead can save a significant amount of water. Think about how many times you use the taps every day, or how long you spend in the shower. You could even install automatic shut-off devices that stop the shower after a certain time or once you’ve used a specific amount of water.

Energy-efficient appliances

Domestic appliances use a significant amount of energy. But you can reduce this not only by buying efficient models but by altering the way you use them. Look for an Energy Star label. This means the Environmental Protection Agency has rated the appliance as energy efficient.


Dishwashers can use less water than washing up in a sink if you buy a model with good green credentials and running costs. But only use it when it is full, use a shorter, eco-friendly setting, and scrape any food waste into a food bin first, instead of rinsing plates under the tap. 

Washing machines

We all need to get our laundry done. Luckily, you can do this and still reduce your energy and water use by:

  • Buying a model with good green credentials and running costs.
  • Using a cooler setting. Most items can be washed on a 30℃ cycle (lower temperatures use less energy).
  • Only using your machine when you have a full load to put on.
  • Only washing items once they need to be cleaned.

It is also worth buying a laundry bag to put clothing made from synthetic materials in while you wash them. This will catch any microplastics and microfibres, preventing them from getting into our water systems.

Fridges and freezers

Fridges and freezers have become a lot more efficient over the past twenty years or so. It may be worth upgrading to a newer model if yours is old, making sure you recycle your old one responsibly. Always keep them away from your oven and out of direct sunlight. Also, do not forget to defrost fridges every six months if they do not do it automatically.

Ovens and hobs

Induction hobs use the least energy out of all the different variations. Be sure to look out for one when you buy your next model. Avoid self-cleaning ovens, which use a lot of energy for a job that most people can easily do themselves.

Get further help to make eco-friendly changes

The government has introduced the Green Deal, which helps you make energy-saving changes to your home and find the best way to pay for them. If you use or plan to use some of the eco-friendly methods listed above, you could be eligible.