Fuel prices are rising, could a low carbon home save you money?
26th October 2021
We're all aware that climate change is happening. The environment was voted the third most important issue facing the country in a recent YouGov poll. The need to do more both individually and as a society to prevent reaching catastrophic tipping points is in the news every day and is not going away. The UN's Climate Change Conference (COP26) starts this Sunday and is heralded as the world's last best chance to reach net-zero by 2050, and although it feels like the climate emergency has been with us for a long time, the truth is it's not going anywhere. The question of how to live our lives in an environmentally sustainable way will be a constant one for all present generations.
While the planet's future is debated on the international stage, you may well ask: What effect can my actions have? However, moving the needle on carbon emissions will be the cumulative result of many individual actions. Around a fifth of carbon emissions come from household energy usage in our homes in the UK, the lion's share of which is generated by household heating. Addressing the heat efficiency of your home is the single most significant change you can make to reduce your carbon footprint.
The green argument for household energy efficiency is clear, and there's an economic case to be made too. In the UK, a perfect storm of market conditions has pushed up the price of natural gas, with costs rising 250% in 2021 alone. A price cap has protected most consumers from the brunt of this (whilst incidentally pushing smaller energy suppliers to the wall). When the price cap updates in April 2022, UK consumers will find the cost of heating their homes has risen significantly. Future-proofing by moving away from fossil fuels is, therefore, a smart move.
So what's the alternative? At Autograph, we're building homes that are much more fuel-efficient to heat through a range of innovative technologies, abandoning traditional gas boilers in favour of air source heat pumps. This system uses electricity to extract heat from the air and is ideally paired with underfloor heating for maximum fuel efficiency.
Environmentally, ASHPs are great. They use electricity which can come from off-grid renewable sources such as solar or on-grid green energy suppliers, but unfortunately, they currently require a significant upfront investment. Recently the government announced grants of £5000 that homeowners can add towards the cost of installing a heat pump. However, the average price ranges from £6,000 - £18,000, plus they work best with underfloor heating, which also increases the cost of retrofitting, meaning homeowners may only see a modest, if any, return on their investment over the life of the pump.
It's not all doom and gloom, in a new build home, an ASHP can be incorporated into the design from the get-go, cutting the financial burden drastically. In addition, by including an ASHP during the build, the onus is on the developer, rather than the buyer, to provide a reasonably priced home for the market, reducing the risk for homeowners of investing in green technologies that may not yield a return on sale. Combined with the enhanced thermal efficiencies on new build homes (for example, our houses at Viewpoint@Totterdown are in the top 1% of new builds nationwide for energy efficiency) choosing a lower carbon home can be good not only for your carbon footprint but also for your long-term bank balance.