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News: Householders in carbon neutral price shock

Mon, 26 Nov 07

Making a three-bedroom, semi-detached home more carbon neutral can cost up to £9,000, new research from Alliance & Leicester Personal Loans reveals. But the investment could soon reap dividends with big savings on electricity and gas bills - and help the environment...

The first steps on the way to helping make a home carbon neutral is fitting energy-saving light bulbs and ensuring it is insulated properly. Energy-saving bulbs last around 12 times longer, use 75% less power and are estimated to save around £65 during each bulb’s lifespan.

An estimated 5 million homes already have cavity wall insulation which cuts the amount of energy needed to heat a home. The insulation is injected between the inner and outer sections of brickwork and acts as a barrier to heat loss. The average family home could see heating costs slashed by 15% - or £100 to £120 per year*. Given the work costs around £500,** it won’t take long to make savings.

Boiler replacement

Loft insulation can also help cut heating bills further by saving around £110 per year.* It acts as a blanket, trapping heat rising from the floors below. According to the Energy Saving Trust, if everyone in the UK topped up their loft insulation to a depth of 270mm, nearly £400 million would be saved every year. Loft insulation costs around £300** for the recommended thickness.

The most effective way of reducing energy bills further is to replace boilers that are more than 15 years old. Modern systems are designed to be far more efficient and need less fuel to run, with many condensing boilers using 30 to 40% less energy.  An efficient condensing boiler costs around £500 and could save around £240 per year, according to Energy Saving Advice. It means homeowners could easily cover the cost of their boiler within three years.    

Double glazing prevents further heat loss through windows and is an effective way of making more savings on fuel bills. Homes can be double-glazed from as little as £1,400 for six windows.***

While the idea of investing in wind turbines may sound expensive, they can help reduce a property’s carbon footprint by using wind power first, before drawing on the supply from the National Grid. Turbines can be bought from £1,500, plus additional installation costs.

Plug into solar power

Homeowners can also go one step further in their quest to become carbon neutral by plugging into solar electricity, which uses energy from the sun in order to generate electricity. Most systems simply require daylight – rather than direct sunlight - to create electricity, which means Britain’s weather need not deter homeowners from investing in solar electricity. But it does come at a price, as systems start from £5,000, although estimates suggest it will wipe around £200 off annual electricity bills.

Estimated costs of helping create a greener home:

A greener home

Estimated cost

Cavity wall insulation

£500

Loft insulation

£370

Energy efficient boiler

£500

Double glazing

£1,400

Wind turbine

£1,500

Solar electricity

£5,000

TOTAL

£9,270

Richard Al-Dabbagh, Senior Personal Loans Manager at Alliance & Leicester, says: “Becoming carbon neutral will not happen overnight. Nowadays more and more people are giving environmental considerations and their carbon footprints a higher priority. This includes trying to make their homes as energy efficiency as possible. There are lots of diverse ways homeowners can try and make their homes greener but it all depends on how much people want to spend.

Environment Agency Chairman Sir John Harman says: “Climate change is happening. Decades of unsustainable development have placed significant pressure on the environment. How we adapt to it is the challenge facing homeowners, planners, architects, developers, construction engineers and innovators.

 “The good news is energy efficiency standards for new homes are 40% better than those built before 2002 and 70% better than in 1990. But there is still some way to go before the UK matches Europe’s best, and really starts to move towards zero carbon buildings. Currently 70 per cent of homeowners claim to know little or nothing at all about sustainable homes. However, research shows they are becoming increasingly interested in the subject.”

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