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Energy efficiency: an environmental challenge for housing

Energy efficiency: an environmental challenge for housing

Tom. Content Writer, Nottingham

Guide written by:

Tom. Content Writer, Nottingham

5 guides

Making housing more energy efficient has a number of benefits from reducing your energy bills, enhancing comfort, adding value to your property and most importantly, to reducing your carbon footprint by cutting your energy consumption. Read on to find out more about energy efficiency and housing.

Making housing more energy efficient reduces energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK, residential buildings alone account for 20.8% of CO2 emissions, therefore highlighting the need to drastically improve this area if we are to reach carbon neutrality by 2050

There are 5 types of renovation work that can be done to buildings in order to improve their energy performance:

  • Heating systems
  • Water heating
  • Ventilation systems
  • Windows and doors
  • Insulation

By focussing on these important pillars of home renovation, 4 main advantages can be gained over the medium to long term:

  • Reduce your energy bills
  • Improve your comfort in the home
  • Add value to your property
  • Help protect the planet

Energy efficiency is on everyone's lips these days; it has become a vital topic in order to save energy and to reduce our carbon footprint. Out of the 28 million homes in the UK, only 8 million have the highest energy efficiency standards at present. In addition, housing represents 35% of the energy we consume in the UK, emitting 20.8% of carbon dioxide emissions.

Faced with this environmental challenge, where global average temperature increases are at 1.1°C compared to the pre-industrial era, and with an average sea level rise of 9 cm, 115 countries have aligned with each other to change the production, distribution and consumption of energy as part of the Energy Transition Index. The aim is to reduce our global carbon footprint and, more broadly, the impact of human activity on the environment.

Home energy efficiency refers to all building renovation work aimed at reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. It focuses on the main energy-consuming areas of buildings, such as loft and wall insulation, windows and installing energy efficient heating and water systems. 

More generally, home energy efficiency is the use of renewable energy sources in order to reduce fossil fuel consumption and lessen our carbon footprint.

Besides the environmental necessity of making energy efficient improvements to the home, for households there are 4 concrete advantages:

  1. Reduction in energy usage: a well-insulated home requires less heating as heat loss is minimal.
  2. Cost savings: heating your home better and for less time means your energy bills will be lower. 
  3. Better comfort: healthier air and a more stable temperature in the home ensures the well-being of your household.
  4. Adding value to your property: an energy-efficient home will make your home more attractive for potential buyers.

Making our homes more energy efficient is one of a number of factors that forms part of the energy transition

In real terms, the energy transition means:

  • Making the move towards renewable energy and sustainable materials in construction.
  • Providing support to improve household energy efficiency.
  • Increasing the role of local authorities with respect to energy efficiency.
The energy transition refers to all the changes in the system of production, distribution and consumption of energy on a global scale.

The Climate Change Act is part of the UK's approach to tackling climate change. It aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 100% of 1990 levels to achieve net zero by 2050. In 2021, the UK’s net zero strategy report was published setting out the government's objectives, which can be summarised in 6 main points: 

  • End the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030.
  • Power the UK entirely by clean electricity by 2035.
  • Invest in hydrogen production.
  • Ensure 10% of fuel used by airlines is sustainable by 2030.
  • Upgrade home heating systems from gas boilers to heat pumps.
  • Triple the rate of woodland creation in England.

Buildings play a significant role in ensuring that we can reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Housing represents:

  • 20.8% of the UK’s CO2 emissions.
  • 35% of total energy consumption.

Reducing energy bills

Carrying out renovation work to make your home more energy efficient has a tangible impact on the climate and your energy bills, while making your home more comfortable to live in. 

Only 8 million homes in the UK have the highest energy efficiency standards, while millions of households struggle to pay their energy bills.

Energy Performance Certificates give an indication of how energy-efficient a building is and are required whenever you decide to sell, rent or build a property in the UK. 

An EPC gives your home a rating from A to G, A being the most energy-efficient, G being the least. This will give you a clear idea of how expensive it is to heat and light your home at present and how you could make improvements to increase its EPC rating, which should provide you with cost savings in the long term. 

There are 5 main projects which help to make buildings more energy efficient. All of them are necessary, but not all have the same impact on the environment, comfort and energy consumption.

Insulation

Insulation is a key measure in order to make our homes more energy efficient. This includes attic, loft, wall and underfloor insulation. Heat loss associated with the roof is around 25% to 30%, 20% to 25% for the outer walls and 7% to 10% for the floors. 

Windows and doors

Windows, French doors and sliding patio doors can be renovated to be as energy-efficient as possible. Heat loss from windows and doors is estimated to be around 10% to 15%.

Water heating systems

Water heating accounts for approximately 20% of a home's total energy use. There are several energy-efficient options available from solar water heaters, thermodynamic water heaters and biomass systems.

Heating systems

Along with insulation, an effective heating system is essential for making your home more energy efficient. Heating accounts for about 50% of the total energy consumed by households in the UK, so the transition to heat pumps and biomass heating systems is necessary. 

Ventilation

Ventilation can play an important complementary role alongside other measures. In addition to eliminating excess humidity in the home, a well-designed ventilation system will remove stale indoor air which can represent up to 25% of heat loss. Mechanical Extract Ventilation (MEV) and Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery systems can therefore play an important role in making the home more energy efficient.

Home energy efficiency standards and certifications are essential for guaranteeing quality and performance for products, professionals and buildings. These can be administered by public or private bodies. 

Energy performance certificates are an example of a certification which ascertains the energy efficiency of a property.

Read our guide on standards and certifications

There are a number of government grants available in the UK to improve the energy efficiency of your home, depending on your financial status.

Read our guide on energy efficiency grants

Guide written by:

Tom. Content Writer, Nottingham, 5 guides

Tom. Content Writer, Nottingham

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