The Times (Bricks & Mortar) (Images courtesy of guardian.co.uk)
Back in November 2007, the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, announced that homeowners across the country would have access to a one-stop shop service to help make their homes greener and save on utility bills. The Government’s Green Homes Service is due to be launched on April 1st this year, so what can homeowners expect from it?
The government’s plan is to provide a nationwide network of shops, providing a green homes service, by the year 2011. It has pledged to invest £100m in the service and it is envisaged to include:
• a green home health check, providing advice on energy and water saving, recycling and green travel options
• information on offers and discounts available from energy suppliers on energy saving products such as wall and cavity insulation
• a range of financial support packages for householders
• targeting of people buying and selling homes with a poor energy rating to advise them on grants and other financial assistance available for green products
• a green home makeover service
Realistically, this service is nothing new. It is already largely in place in the shape of several Energy Saving Trust advice centres which provide information on energy saving measures, grants available for them and suitable tradesmen. The key difference is that at the moment, the Energy Saving Trust only provides a reactive service; i.e. they provide the information after you have contacted them. From April 1st, the government funding will be a proactive service that will go out to your door.
Cavity wall insulation is said to cut heating costs by up to £120 per year but the work is expensive; around £500 for the average dwelling. There are grants available but don’t expect too much help unless you’re a low earner. Loft insulation is something well within the grasp of most would-be DIYers and could save up to £110 per year. Be advised, however, that you are advised to insulate to a depth of 270mm for it to do the job properly.
Fitting low energy light bulbs requires little outlay (around £3 each) and will save around £16 per year on electricity bills. Combination and condenser boilers save on the amount of gas that you use, knocking the annual bill down by around £100 but costing anything up to £2000 to be fitted. Significantly, from a HIP (Home Information Pack) point of view these two measures put together will be likely to improve your property’s EPC (Energy Performing Certificate) by a whole category.
It’s not clear how far the government will go in giving homeowners the incentive to install their own renewable energy technologies but a new carbon emissions reduction target (CERT) has paved the way for energy companies to go increasingly down that route. Some 7.9% of CO2 gasses come from residential and commercial buildings with the energy saving trust stating that they have saved over 23m tonnes of CO2 since their creation in 1996.
Renewable energy technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines and biomass heaters are gaining in popularity but none of them come cheap. The figure for a wind turbine (1kW model) is £1,500 plus VAT with no real indication of how much that will save. A 2kWp solar photovoltaic system could cost as much as £18,000 and will only save around one third of your electricity bill. Obviously the amount of renewable energy generated by these devices depends on their location but an added bonus is that if they are grid-connected, you can sell excess electricity back to the energy-providing company.
If you live in London and can’t wait for the government’s green homes initiative to get off the ground, there is a service available now that will ease your green conscience and help you save money on utility bills. It’s called the Green Homes Concierge Service and was implemented by the London Development Agency. For £199 they will pay you a visit and perform a number of tests such as taking pictures with a thermal imaging camera to establish where your home loses heat. The service will provide you with a standard government EPC, a more detailed assessment and then a follow up service 12 months later.
How eco-friendly is your house? Do you feel like you’re the energy-provider’s best customer or have you managed to cut your bills? Feel free to contact us on any of the topics covered above – we’d love to hear about your experiences.