The UK’s carbon emissions have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1800s, but eco-homes could go a step further to help the environment – as well as your pocket.
Out of the 403.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions produced by the UK (according to the most recent figures available from 2015), around 13% comes from residential properties – and the government wants to slash total emissions by more than half by 2030 compared to the country’s 1990 levels.
One way this ambitious goal could be achieved would be through building more eco-friendly, sustainable homes, a trend which has grown in popularity in recent years as people become more conscious of environmental issues, coupled with the fact that rising energy bills are a real concern for many.
A world first
Sustainable homes reduce bills by making effective use of natural resources. The world’s first zero-emission residential development, The Beacon in Hemel Hempstead, uses renewable energy to heat and power the building, meaning that residents have no energy bills to pay. It uses solar panels, a wind turbine, a sun lighting system, rainwater harvesting and a ground source heat pump to make it completely self-sufficient, as well as providing an electric car and bike share scheme to residents.
This is an extreme case, but on average eco homes can cut energy bills by around 30%, and more builders are looking at incorporating energy-efficient products into their projects as an added selling point.
Self-builds are also on the rise, giving people the opportunity to create homes to the exact specifications desired, and building an eco-friendly home from scratch makes sense to many.
One self-builder, Joshua Penk from Cornwall, spent around £81,800 building his own sustainable home near Bodmin, which has now been valued at £500,000. He built a single-storey, two-bedroom property using all natural and locally sourced materials, and the underfloor and water heating comes from a woodburning stove, backburner and oven.
“It’s very eco-friendly,” said Joshua. “There are no synthetic materials, so it’s extremely breathable.”
New EPC rules around the corner
In April this year, all properties listed for sale or rent will need to achieve minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings of E, a move which means as many as 300,000 landlords and homeowners will need to up their game to get their properties to the required standards. Those who violate the rules could face fines of up to £5,000.
David Smith of the Residential Landlords Association said: “Non-listed properties that do not meet the required efficiency standards will simply not be able to be rented out legally.
“We have been concerned at the substantial costs some landlords might have to incur to bring their properties to the required standard, when two thirds of them are only basic rate income tax payers.”
Ratings can be improved through relatively simple measures such as replacing existing bulbs, draught-proofing and adding secondary glazing. However, some homeowners may need to look into more costly measures such as replacing inefficient boilers, adding extra insulation and cavity walls, and replacing old windows in order to get their properties up to scratch – although occupiers will still save money in the long-term.