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Energy Makeovers for UK Homes

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 20 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
Energy Efficiency Electricity Insulation

Early in 2009, the UK government announced that all homes in Britain were to get an energy makeover to bring them in line with requirements to reduce the amount of energy we used by 2030. The plans are intended to help cut down the amount of money we all spend on fuel bills and to reduce our carbon footprint.

The government targets mean that a quarter of all homes in the UK will have the energy makeover by 2020 and the rest by the final deadline of 2030. By 2020, this will enable the country as a whole to reduce the carbon footprint of households by 33%. Eventually, by 2050 the overall target is to reduce carbon emissions by four fifths of the current level.

What Will Makeovers Involve?

One of the first options that householders can take up for their energy makeover is to have loft insulation and cavity wall insulation fitted. This is now compulsory in all new houses but many older houses with cavity walls do not have internal wall foam insulation. This can be pumped in and makes a big difference to heating bills as far less of the heat in the house escapes through the walls. Over 400 000 homes in the UK should get new insulation fitted by 2015. Many people are eligible for this to be done free of charge – anyone over a certain age or who is in receipt of long-term benefits is able to apply.

Further steps will include offering householders subsidised fitting of solar panels, ground source heat pumps and more efficient boilers to enable them to have a far lower reliance on gas, oil or coal.

Why is it Necessary?

Fossil fuels are running out rapidly and every country in the world needs to make a big effort to reduce the amount of energy we waste and also to switch our reliance from fossil fuels to more renewable sources of energy, such as solar power and wind power. This will take time, but households are a big source of carbon emissions in the UK, accounting for over a quarter of the entire country’s emissions.

Although these steps are a start, some people are warning that the government seems to have no real sense of urgency about the energy problem that is facing us and the generation that will follow us.

Who is Paying?

The schemes that have been set up so far will be paid for partly by a tax on the gas and electricity companies. However, it is likely that these will respond by putting their prices up for householders, who will also have to bear some cost of the installation of new boilers and solar panels. It has been suggested that households who do take the plunge and fit generation equipment that make use of solar power and wind power, and who agree to send their excess energy into the national grid could receive payment for their contribution. This could at least offset some of the expense of ‘going green’.

Many experts think that, while the plan is a good one, it needs some hefty government investment to really get it going. Greenpeace has worked out that the cost of making changes to existing homes to make them more energy efficient could cost about £5 billion pounds each and every year from now until 2050. This is an enormous undertaking.

What Can You Do?

At the moment, the offer of free home insulation seems to be quite good and anyone who is eligible should request this service. Many homes have only thin, old loft insulation – having the roof space fully insulated with modern materials can really cut the amount of heat going through the roof. Cavity wall insulation causes very little disruption, and it is also fairly easy and quick to make sure letter boxes are draft proofed and holes in window frames are fixed. Other cheap quick fixes include fitting radiator valves with thermostats in each room and keeping doors closed. Drawing curtains at night also helps stop heat being lost through windows. Using energy saving light bulbs is also a sensible move that is quick and cheap to do.

Beyond that, for the long term, it makes sense to install the most efficient boiler that you can when your old one needs replacing, and to find out more information about the possibility of a solar powered or wind powered system. This could end your need for gas or oil completely and you could actually make money by being paid for the excess energy you produce.

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