Energy: why is it so important to conserve?

Saving energy is the best way to cut carbon emissions. Here, Heather Peacocke of the Energy Saving Trust gives practical advice for home, businesses and local authorities.

Carbon dioxide levels have already reached their highest for almost half a million years and are rising faster than ever before. Climate change is a real and immediate threat, yet few people recognise the role energy efficiency can play in reducing CO2 emissions. For the past 11 years, the Energy Saving Trust (EST) has been promoting energy efficiency to households, small business, national and local government.

Households are one of the biggest contributors to UK carbon dioxide emissions, responsible for a quarter of all emissions. EST estimates that the average UK household emits six tonnes of CO2 per year, but by following a few simple energy efficient measures, each household can cut its carbon emissions by two tonnes. Moreover, they can save £200 annually on fuel bills.

How can homes conserve energy?

There are a number of ways homeowners can do their bit to conserve energy and save money.

Cavity Wall Insulation (CWI) is one of the best ways to save money in the long run. This can reduce heat loss through the walls by up to 60% and save households up to £100 on their annual fuel bills. If every UK household capable of installing cavity wall insulation did so, we’d save £670 million a year – enough energy to heat and power 1.8 million homes for the same period.

Replacing an old boiler is another great way to conserve energy. The average household can save more than a fifth on its average fuel bill by opting for a condensing boiler. If everyone in the UK with gas central heating installed a condensing boiler, we’d save £1.3 billion of energy – enough to meet the energy needs of over 4 million homes a year.

Homeowners could also consider A-rated energy efficient domestic appliances. They use less energy and are cheaper to run than older, energy guzzling ones. EST’s distinctive blue and orange ‘Energy Efficiency Recommended’ logo helps consumers identify the best energy efficient appliances on the market. An Energy Efficiency Recommended fridge-freezer uses one-third of the energy of a ten-year old appliance. If everyone in the UK upgraded their cold appliance to an A-rated product, energy wastage would be cut by over two-thirds.

Cavity Wall Insulation: a family’s experience

Most people would agree that energy efficiency would be the furthest thing from your mind as you are about to give birth, but not so for Lynsey Davis.

When Lynsey went in to labour, she asked her husband Julian to get some necessities from her top drawer to take with her to hospital. The drawer fell off its runner and amongst the belongings was a pamphlet from the Energy Saving Trust which they thought they had lost.

The pamphlet outlined both the energy and financial savings of having cavity walls insulated. After the reminder, Lynsey announced that while she was in hospital, she wanted the house’s cavity walls to be insulated so she bought the baby back to a warm home.

Not wanting to disappoint his pregnant wife, Julian quickly contacted his local Energy Efficiency Advice Centre (EEAC). The EEAC got in contact with contractors who in turn looked into surveying and insulating the home before Lynsey returned home from hospital. It took just two days once the EEAC was contacted.

The Davis’ live in a two bedroom semi-detached house built in the 1950’s. They were eligible for a grant from local energy suppliers, meaning that half of the cost was covered. This cut the price of insulation from the average cost of £300 to £150.

Since the arrival of baby Jake, the Davis’ have been turning down the thermostat, rather than turning it up as the house now retains a warm, consistent temperature. The Davis’ are predicting that their bill will be cut dramatically, saving up to £100 a year.

During the recent cold snap, a warm house was a top priority for many householders throughout the United Kingdom.

Cavity insulation represents an annual heating bill saving of up to £100, year-on-year. The average cost of cavity wall insulation is around £300, an investment usually recovered within three years of installation – in the case of the Davis family, just 18 months.

Homeowners who get their cavity walls filled by a National Insulation Association installer (NIA) can be assured that the installer has been professionally trained. It will also mean that both the workmanship and the material are covered by a 25 year Cavity Insulation Guarantee Association (CIGA) guarantee.

Best Practice and energy efficiency

EST has developed an Energy Efficiency Best Practice in Housing Programme which provides tools and training for those involved in the design and construction of domestic housing. Specifically, the Programme details how you can go beyond the minimum requirements of Building Regulations.

The Programme provides:

  • Free, practical, relevant information on delivering the best in energy efficiency
  • Training to develop understanding of energy efficiency and renewable solutions
  • Advice from some of the UK’s leading experts on housing energy performance
  • Specialised, site-specific consultancy for larger development or refurbishment projects.

Why is Best Practice so important?

EST’s Best Practice Programme can help builders and architects prepare themselves for future changes to building regulations. More importantly, it can also give businesses the edge over competitors who are slow to recognise the importance of energy efficiency. A home built to Best Practice standards has higher SAP ratings and is therefore more marketable.

How can industry benefit from Best Practice?

Building to Best Practice standards can:

  • Increase customer goodwill and satisfaction, which in turn means more referrals
  • Add value to stock
  • Improve the SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure) profile of builders’ stock, helping to meet key Best Value performance measures
  • Make hard to let properties more attractive to prospective tenants

Best Practice Guide: Insulation Materials Chart

The Insulation Materials Chart is a good example of EST’s Best Practice publications. The chart looks at both synthetic and natural insulation alternatives, giving each material a ‘Green Guide’ rating which assesses the environmental impact of manufacturing and installing the product. A comparison of the thermal conductivity of the different materials is also possible. With details provided on the most common use of each material, this chart provides a practical aid to decision making for building professionals.

Practical help for Local Authorities

EST carries out numerous activities with Local Authorities and housing managers to help increase energy efficiency, encourage the use of renewable technologies and improve air quality. EST’s Practical help service offers Local Authorities information, support and funding, to help them implement sustainable energy and road transport policies.

Blackpool Borough Council is one great example of EST’s work in this area. The Council’s flagship Solaris project will soon complete the transformation of a derelict Art Deco promenade solarium into a state of the art showcase for sustainable building design.

The £1.75 million project is supported by a huge range of partners and will provide a satellite unit to the Lancaster University Centre for Environmental Action, a community exhibition centre, and business premises for local small and medium sized enterprises.

The sympathetically restored 1938 building now features an 18kWp solar PV roof part funded by the DTI’s Solar PV programmer, two 6kW wind turbines, a 5.5kWe CHP unit and a solar hot water heating system. Use has also been made of a variety of wider sustainable building techniques, such as natural ventilation.

In need of more information about EST and energy conservation?


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