We Suck At Home Energy Efficiency

thermal image of house heat loss

I don’t know about you but I’ve had to get some of my winter clothes out of their “hibernation” because of this rather shitty weather we’re experiencing now and all hope of an Indian summer is long gone as far as I’m concerned.

This will be the first time I’ve had to face cold weather in my latest flat (I’ve moved twice since my very first post about keeping warm in winter) and while last year I was treated to the untold luxury of a pretty darn warm property, I’ve already concluded that my latest place of residence is not up to scratch.

And no bloody wonder when you look at the Energy Performance Certificate:

energy efficiency certificate

My flat’s energy efficiency rating is just 44/100 and even worse is the CO2 rating which is way down at 36/100. The certificate also shows that both of these figures could potentially be higher at 68 and 57 respectively but herein lies a problem: because I am a tenant, there is no incentive for my landlord to make the flat any more efficient than it already is – I am, after all, the one paying the bills (old storage heaters are killers when it comes to electricity use).

Looking at all my previous flats, I don’t have a good record of picking efficient (and more importantly warm) places to live. The energy efficiency scores of all 6 flats I’ve lived in are/were: 23, 68, 12, 19, 79 and 44 so clearly I’ve lived in some awfully inefficient properties in my time.

Tip: if you want to find out the energy efficiency rating of your own home, you can search by postcode here (if your home hasn’t been assessed, you may be able to find a nearby property of the same or similar construction):

https://www.epcregister.com/reportSearchAddressByPostcode.html

This problem isn’t restricted to rental properties and thanks to this white paper from the government, I can say that 85% of all domestic properties have an energy efficiency rating of D or worse (band D has an upper score of 68).

Ineffective Green Deal?

Statistics released in August showed that more than 58,000 households have had a Green Deal assessment which highlight potential improvements that can make a property more energy efficient but the same report revealed that only 133 have actually signed up with a further 286 apparently willing to rubber stamp their deals.

I think confusion is one thing that comes to mind with the Green Deal because there are a lot of unknowns and subtle nuances that people (me included) find it hard to get their heads around. Like just what is the overall cost? What happens when you move? Does it affect house prices? Are assessors trustworthy or just another salesperson trying to get money out of me?

I’m no expert but if the scheme is government backed and the government can currently borrow at a rate of 3.69% over 30 years (a length of time that would cover all Green Deal loans) then why does the Green Deal Finance Company lend to providers at 6.96% which then leaves customers paying anything up to 11%?

Surely, if the government wanted a high take-up of the plans they would finance the providers directly and cap what they can charge householders at say 5%? This wouldn’t increase government spending a single penny as the providers would effectively be covering the interest repayments to the financial markets (subject to providers going bust etc).

To me, this would be a far more effective use of taxpayer money than the billions that go into subsidising energy production (both renewables and fossil fuels) each year.

Caveat: extensive research is needed into the ‘rebound effect’ which suggests that, for example, households who save money on their heating bills thanks to efficiency measures are likely to turn their thermostats up slightly to benefit from a more comfortable home with no extra cost compared to what they were paying pre-efficiency. This would thus lessen any emission reductions being achieved. The UK Energy Research Centre released a study back in 2007 which confirmed this as not only a possibility but a probable scenario.

Quality Of Life

In my mind, a government’s main goal must be to increase people’s current and future quality of life and being able to live in comfortably (not excessively) well heated homes is fundamental to achieving this.

Therefore, efficiency measures and low cost energy production must be implemented as a matter of urgency because on current trends, more and more households will fall into fuel poverty as energy prices rise.

Solutions?

There is nothing trivial about this whole situation – yes we have woefully inefficient housing stock in the UK but putting this right has been proving difficult as is highlighted by the Green Deal flop seen so far.

As with many things, I believe that people, in this case property owners, need more incentive to improve their houses and flats. Ignore the issues of landlords for a second and you still come up against delayed gratification and opportunity cost issues.

By this I mean that if someone can afford energy efficiency measures for their property, they have to understand and accept that the gratification they receive (in the form of a warm home and lower energy bills) will come over many years or decades AND they have to be willing to forfeit any benefits they might have received by spending the same money in another way.

An incentive, in one form or another, can give some instant gratification for carrying out the efficiency improvements and can reduce the opportunity costs incurred.

The government do offer some incentives which have been taken up by a small number of households – this takes the form of cashback on certain energy efficient measures and the budget is some £125 million but I’m not convinced that this has been structured correctly.

The Green Deal is a good solution in many ways but again there is scope to improve it which might then increase it’s take-up across the country.

And something has to be done for the 36% of people who rent their home in the UK.

Half of this is down to local governments as social housing accounts for 18% of residential occupancy so there must be a huge drive to bring every single one of these properties up to a good level of efficiency (I’m sure local governments could use more budget to help them achieve this).

The other 18% are privately rented properties and somehow landlords must be forced to meet minimum efficiency ratings or be faced with some sort of penalty. It might be a bureaucratic nightmare but maybe the level of income tax a landlord pays on what he makes from the property should reflect the efficiency rating the property has. So a property rated at over 92% efficiency (A rated) might attract a tax rate of just 5% whereas right at the bottom, those below 20% efficiency could result in a higher tax rate of 40%.

What do you think? Has your home got a high efficiency rating and if not, what might convince you to improve the situation? Leave a comment below.

P.S. my previous posts reviewing Radflek radiator panels and the Dreamland Intelliheat mattress protector might interest you if you want to save money on your bills this winter.

Steve (156 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

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