I was reading a newspaper article earlier which highlighted a 3 bed semi with annual energy consumption costs of £500. Our net energy consumption costs for my early ’70s 4 bed detached in 2015/6 was £400. That includes charging my electric car.
The house has:
- A-rated gas boiler (Dec 2015),
- A-rated double glazing throughout (prior owner),
- C-rated hot water cylinder with bottom-entry immersion heater and all accessible hot pipes insulated (Dec 2015),
- 7 day timer (prior owner) with Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) throughout (except hall and 2 towel rails – Dec 2015),
- Standard cavity fill and 4″ loft insulation (prior owner, now nearer 10″ but Oct 2016 installation outside 2015/6 data window),
- Almost 100% low energy bulbs (mostly Sep 2015),
- 4kWp solar panels (Sep 2015) with energy management system (Sep 2015) with remote monitoring (Mar 2016) directing surplus PV to car charger (Apr 2016) and/or hot water cylinder (Dec 2015), and
- Economy 7 electricity (Oct 2015).
I spent £1,000 on gas and electric in 2015/6 which was partially offset by £600 revenue from my solar PV giving net costs of £400. Given that some of the above were introduced during the year, a full year’s use should reduce consumption further.
Well, after nearly 20 years in the previous house the time came to move. What had started as “One man’s journey” became a couple’s journey and then a family’s journey and eventually the point was reached that enough was enough, or rather non-enough was not-enough when it came to space. A journey that started with my wife proposing a new conservatory (opposed by yours truly) ended up with a significantly larger house about a mile closer to the station. So far for the good news.
The bad news is that our new-to-us 1970s detached house was rated E52 (on the UK’s scale of A100 to G1 for environmental performance) on the seller’s Environmental Performance Certificate. Fortunately it did have a full set of 2-year-old double glazing but not much else – including it turned out an arthritic boiler that couldn’t heat all the radiators but did manage to heat both expansion tanks in the loft.
So, over the last few months, we’ve been sorting out a few things to improve our environmental credentials and, at the same time, reduce the energy costs estimated at £2,114 per annum (£176 per month) on the EPC.
One of the first things we added was 4kW of solar panels on our south-south-east facing roof. That wouldn’t necessarily have been my first priority as autumn headed for winter, but with a reduction in the feed-in tariffs imminent it seemed sensible to act sooner rather than later. To get the highest feed-in tariff rate it turned out that I also needed a ‘D’ so I switched to low energy bulbs (worth 2 points), fitted the panels (worth 6 points), all of which should have got me 8 points so a D60 and then ordered a new survey..
The new survey came in as a C73 rather more than the D that I’d expected. Key highlights in the different surveys were:
o Walls – from 2 stars to 4 stars as the new survey found evidence of existing cavity wall fill,
o Windows – from 3 to 4 stars after I showed evidence of the installation date,
o Main heating controls – declined from 4 to 3 stars as only 2 TRVs found,
o Lighting – from 1 to 5 stars with all my new low energy bulbs.
Subsequently we sorted out the boiler and controls, so picking up the points values of the latest EPC:
o Hot water cylinder thermostat (as we went from gravity hot water to pumped) – 3 points
o Heating controls (TRVs) – 1 point
o Replace boiler with new condensing boiler – 7 points
o Solar water heating – 1 point
That latest list amounts to 12 points which should have got us from E52 to B85.
Well like many UK homes our central heating and hot water is fuelled by natural gas. We also use natural gas for cooking on the stove top (the oven is however electric) and we have a gas fire in the living room, but these latter two uses are much less significant.
I’d lived here for 10 years before I started actively trying to reduce my energy consumption. During those 10 years I used an average of 562 units of gas annually.
Since then I’ve reduced my consumption by two routes, firstly to reduce heat loss so that less energy for heating was required, and secondly by replacing gas with renewable sources. It’s however also the case that my circumstances have not been constant during that time so, for example, when I started this I lived alone then 4 years or so ago I married and my wife joined me here; and now my wife is at home during the day with our baby daughter much of the time. Consequently the demand for hot water for washing and heating has increased.
The steps taken to reduce gas consumption include:
- Having insulation installed in the cavities of the house walls. Houses here conventionally have a double skin of brick or block and, when this house was built, the cavity between the inner and outer layers was usually left as an air gap. We’ve had that gap filled with insulation as you would find in newer homes.
- Increasing the thickness of insulation in the loft.
- Replacing the old wooden windows with new PVC ones with higher “A” grade insulation – most easily seen by the larger air gap in the sealed units.
- Installing solar water heating panels on the roof in conjunction with a larger hot water tank. In the summer these provide almost all our hot water (no heating is required), although at olther times of the heat they don’t provide enough heat alone for hot water they can help to pre-heat the cold water leaving the gas less work to do to achieve a usuable temperature.
We didn’t do this all at once, but if I compare the last 2 years to the original 10 year baseline then we’ve reduced average annual gas consumption by 23%. I think that the reduction would have been higher had our circumstances between constant.
Hello out there.
This is for the moment something of an experiment as this is my first attempt at creating a blog, so polished it ain’t but hopefully it will get better over time.
Like many people I’m concerned about the state of our planet. It would seem that those of us in the west need to make some significant changes to our lifestyles to try and stop catastrophic damage to our world. Some reports talk of global warming wiping out whole countries and creating hundreds of millions of refugees. Something needs to be done. Someone needs to do something.
Then it occurred to me, here I sit in the UK in one of the world’s wealthiest countries. I have a well paid job, and a nice home. If I can’t change my lifestyle for the better, then who can be expected to?
So over the coming months I’m going to be logging some of the changes that I’ve made. Some are quite big, and others are quite small, but among them there will be something that everyone can do, because even the longest journey is made one step at a time.
One of the easiest things that can be done to reduce the environmental impact of your home is to use renewable energy. You could of course buy your own wind turbine or cover the roof with photovoltaics, but those are both quite expensive and may not be appropriate for all homes. However that doesn’t stop you using renewable energy.
You might not be able to make your own, but why not buy it from someone else? Just as you can shop around to buy cheaper electricity you can also shop around for greener electricity. A service like Simply Switch can quickly find you a greener electricity supplier, and depending on who you buy your power from now it won’t necessarily be any more expensive.