Cutting household emissions through eco-homes

When it comes to climate action - starting at home may yield the best results

When we think about the emissions we’re responsible for, our minds tend to turn to the choices we make on an everyday basis. The petrol we burn through on long car journeys; the meat we consume every night; the paper we fail to recycle.

But amidst this, there’s another (quite major) source of emissions that tends to get overlooked – that produced by our own homes.

Carbon-heavy natural gas still heats 85% of UK homes, accounting for 64 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – around 14% of the country’s total emissions. If we don’t do something about it, the UK’s prospects of hitting its lofty climate change goals look bleak.

So let’s do something about it. But, ah…what, exactly?

That’s where eco-homes come in.

What is an Eco-Home?

An eco-home is a house which relies on renewable, rather than carbon-based forms of energy. Eco-homes eschew natural gas, radiators, and paper-thin walls for a set of eight key carbon-saving domestic technologies:

  • Double glazing
  • Cavity wall insulation
  • Roof insulation
  • Air source heat pump
  • Electric vehicle charger
  • Solar panels
  • Smart thermostat
  • Storage battery

With all eight technologies implemented, you’ll be scaling back your emissions in a way that’s far more palatable than canning your next overseas trip – or overhauling your diet.

So how many emissions, exactly, does your eco-home stand to cut?

How Many Emissions Can You Cut With an Eco-Home?

Recent research from The Eco Experts sheds some light on that question. Based on the UK’s most common property type – the semi-detached three-bedroom house that almost one-third of our population lives in – they crunched the numbers around exactly how many emissions eco-homes can avert.

Of the eight carbon-cutting technologies described above, the biggest emission-reducers are:

  • Air source heat pump (2.5 tonnes per year)
  • Solar panels and storage battery (1.59 tonnes per year)
  • Cavity wall insulation (0.66 tonnes)

Roof insulation (0.58 tonnes per year), a smart thermostat (0.5 tonnes per year), and double glazing (0.33 per year) will also reduce the size of your home’s carbon footprint – and are all relatively easy to source and install to boot.

With all eight of the above eco-home technologies in place, a single eco-home can cut 6.12 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. Stretch that out to a 20-year period, and one eco-home alone can prevent a staggering 123.2 tonnes of CO2 reaching our ozone layer.

That’s around the amount of emissions you’d save by not driving…for 79 years.

But let’s think even bigger picture. Scale the impact of one eco-home up to all the eligible households in the UK, and we’d be stopping 46 million tonnes of CO2 – equivalent to 75% of the UK’s household emissions – from being released into the atmosphere.

Through this lens, eco-homes aren’t simply a wise investment – they’re a vital one. So how much is one going to cost you?

How Much Does it Cost to Cut Emissions Through an Eco-Home – and What Can You Save?

Eco-homes are good: for your planet, your wallet, and your future. And, like all good things, they require work (and more often than not, money, too!).

The Eco Experts’ research estimates the cost for the average eco-home (again for a three-bedroom, semi-detached house) to be a fairly high cost of £26,415.

But stay with us. Because – though the initial outlay involved with completely refitting and reinvigorating your home is a little punchy – it’ll save you money in the long-run.

According to the data, one eco-home can account for £1,450 per year. Extrapolate that out to 20 years, and it represents £27,350 of savings – more than enough to cover your original spend.

If those savings don’t seem big enough, let’s not forget that this data takes in the cost of energy right now. From 1st April 2022 – just over a week from today – energy regulator Ofgem will raise the price cap for suppliers from £1,277 to £1,971 (a 54% increase).

That’ll equate to an extra £693 per year that the average energy-consuming Briton will have to pay – just to keep the lights on at night, or to enjoy a hot shower in the morning.

Oh, and that’s not even taking into account the effect of global crises. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine causing a 28% hike in wholesale gas prices – causing analysts to posit that household electricity and gas bills could balloon by another £600 to £1,000 per year – flux appears to be the rule, rather than exception.

With this in mind, eco-homes represent the most logical way forward. You’re not just insulating your roof, after all. You’re insulating your home from dependence on the grid – not to mention the global hike of the cost of fossil fuels.

Plus, energy costs aren’t the only thing you’ll save money on when you ‘eco-fy’ your house. One study suggests that solar panels add an average of 4.1% to a home’s value – or around £9,500 for a typical UK domicile. And, if a home has wall insulation, that value increase can be over 25%.

As far as long-term investments go, you could do a lot worse!

When’s the Best Time to Start Cutting Emissions Through an Eco-Home?

They say there’s no time like the present. But when it comes to eco-homes, that old saying is particularly true – because there has, quite literally, never been a better time to give your house a green makeover.

That’s because, from April 2022, the UK’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme kicks in. Through it, 90,000 homeowners across England and Wales will be able to claim £5,000 off a new air source heat pump, and up to £6,000 off a ground air source heat pump.

Plus, the UK government’s Smart Export Guarantee means you’ll be paid for any solar-generated electricity you supply to the grid. It pays to be an Eco-Hustler!

Eco-Homes: Asking the Question

Going forward, the question isn’t whether you should turn your house into an eco-home (you should), or when you should do it (now). Heck, the question isn't even how much it’ll save you (lots).

Nope – the question is only how much you can do to do your bit to cut your emissions, and help the UK (and the planet) hit its climate change targets.

Your front room is a pretty good place to start.