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Why our homes shouldn’t cost the earth

 

One in every four pounds spent on heating is wasted by inefficient homes. We could cut the waste and our carbon emissions by fitting insulation. So why isn’t the Government doing more to encourage this simple way to tackle climate change?

Energy is a precious resource. We go to extreme lengths to get the gas and oil that heats our homes: extracting it from thousands of metres below the cool waters of the North Sea or the baking sands of the Middle East. It’s then sent thousands of miles through a complex network of pipes, ships and lorries to reach the humble boiler in our homes. So it seems absurd to take this precious energy and put it into a leaky house where a third of it escapes straight out again. It’s like trying to collect rainwater with a sieve.

A row of terrace housesA row of terrace houses © Shutterstock

Unfortunately, four in five UK households do exactly that, with roofs, walls, windows and floors leaking energy into the air outside their homes. We’re needlessly paying the energy companies too much. And we’re producing easily avoided carbon emissions. The same carbon emissions that are driving climate change, which threatens 1 in 6 species.

Stop the leaks

Like many people, you’re probably wondering what you can do to help to protect our beautiful green and blue planet. One of the simplest and quickest ways to reduce your own carbon emissions is to make sure your home isn’t leaking energy like a sieve. Giving your home an energy makeover can have a big impact. If we insulated all of the UK’s homes to the right standard, we could reduce their emissions by 30% and shave £400 from the average home energy bill.

Heatmap of a cityHeatmap of a city showing heat loss through poor insulation © RLB / WWF-UK

Our homes currently account for 20% of the UK’s total carbon emissions, and that figure is rising because too few people are making energy improvements to their old and leaky homes. It’s also rising because the UK Government is still allowing builders to erect high-carbon new homes. That’s why WWF UK is calling on the Government to make homes a priority in its long-overdue plan to show how it’s going to tackle climate change.

What do we need to do?

Millions of households haven’t done the basics like adding a roll of insulation to their loft or filling their cavity walls. And those that have may still have leaky floors, doors and windows. And if your house was built before 1920, you can be almost certain that its leaky solid walls haven’t been insulated. As a nation we spend £7.5 billion every year on home improvements. Most of that goes on new kitchens and bathrooms rather than insulation. Many of us just aren’t aware of the money that we could be saving, and insulation just isn’t a routine part of the conversations we have with tradespeople.

But Government can help. It already offers free insulation to vulnerable households. But in 2012 it replaced incentives that were available to all with the Green Deal, which provided loans instead. Most home-owners can already borrow the required cash; the Green Deal offered no new incentive and few people took it up. The Green Deal lives on, doing a good job of providing loans to those who might not otherwise get them. But we need real incentives to grab people’s attention and get them thinking about insulation.

Our homes shouldn't cost the EarthOur homes shouldn’t cost the Earth

Loopy loopholes

Regulation also helps: one of the most successful carbon cutting policies in the UK was a Government mandated move to more efficient gas boilers. Rented homes are the leakiest of them all, and new regulations should prevent landlords in England and Wales from renting out the coldest properties from 2018. However, unless a loophole is fixed most landlords will be able to avoid making basic improvements.

Time to take action

Stopping energy from leaking out of our homes is the first step to reducing their emissions. That’s why we’re calling on the UK Government to make this a priority in its next plan to tackle climate change by:

  • Setting a target to bring all homes to Energy Performance Rating of C or above by 2035
  • Fixing the loophole that will allow landlords to avoid making improvements to the coldest properties
  • Ensuring that all new homes built after 2020 are ultra-low carbon

If you want to see the UK play its part in preventing climate change then please take a few minutes to tell your MP. You can even take a short quiz to find out what energy you could be saving at home!

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