Do we need more low energy homes?

Could low energy homes be the answer to our climate crisis? Picture: Getty Images

Could low energy homes be the answer to our climate crisis? Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

As our awareness around climate change increases, Ron Beattie discusses why low energy homes might be the answer.

The world is in the midst of a climate emergency. Just recently, we've seen Greta Thunberg lead climate marches across the world, and we are seeing more and more people demanding change. Calls are being made for people and governments around the world to do far more to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) giving us only 12 years to act to avoid irreversible climate damage, we need to start immediately - environmental impact must be factored in to every decision we make.

The built environment in the UK is responsible for vast quantities of CO2 emissions - traditional houses account for around 30pc of the UK's total energy use, 27pc of CO2 and 24pc of greenhouse gas emissions. Most of the energy used in homes is used for space and water heating.

The government has taken notice and introduced a raft of new legislation aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of UK housing - a new Green standard has been introduced for all new build homes, fossil fuel heating systems such as gas boilers will be banned from new homes by 2025 and replaced with green solutions, such as air source heat pumps and solar panels. What's more, the government has pledged to a nationwide net zero emissions target by 2050. As it could cost at least £17,000 to retrofit a traditional house to low energy standards, and upwards of £50,000 to retrofit to zero carbon, it pays to build your new home right first time.

One of the first steps to achieving zero carbon is to consider a Fabric First approach to construction, this means that the walls, roof and ground floor all deliver very high thermal efficiency with incredibly low U-values. This is supported by high quality insulation and excellent airtightness to make homes draught free.

Building your new home to, for example Passivhaus standard, offers an effective, tried and tested way to build a home that requires minimal heating and helps you greatly decrease carbon emissions. There are several elements to a Passivhaus build that help to dramatically reduce the energy requirements for heating and hence the carbon footprint of the building, but that is just one way to preserve energy and lower your carbon footprint.

It goes without saying but green energy solutions like solar panels can power your home without the need for fossil fuels, while technology like Sunamp's compact heat batteries (built using recyclable materials) will let you store that energy to use later, as required. For example, a thermal battery can replace traditional water cylinders as a method of thermal storage for space heating and hot water, reducing your reliance on both gas-fired boilers and the national grid, hence reducing your carbon footprint.

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The green revolution is gaining momentum, and by being at the forefront when building your own home, you can reap incredible rewards in terms of money and energy savings, all while doing your bit to protect the natural environment at the same time!

This column is sponsored by Beattie Passive.

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