This week is Energy Saving Week and while most areas of the country have seen minus temperatures, many households are reluctant to turn the heating up because of rising energy costs. The government has bold ambitions to increase the energy performance of Britain’s housing stock, but some buildings will struggle to meet ambitious targets. The CLA therefore has some energy saving tips for rural property owners.
The government (for England and Wales) has a target for all domestic buildings to have an Energy Performance Certificate rating of ‘C’ by 2035. Some sectors, like the private rented sector, are seen as a priority and some properties may need to meet EPC ‘C’ even earlier. The motivation for government is both to reduce energy costs for households and to reduce the carbon impact of our homes. Part of meeting this target is a proposal to phase out fossil fuels in off-gas grid properties from 2026, but reducing carbon impact and reducing costs are not always compatible.
Electric heating is seen as the number one alternative to fossil fuels by government; this would of course be an important part of our transition to net zero but would not reduce the energy bills of most households while electricity is so expensive. We also know that electric heating, like heat pumps, is not always the right option for rural homes, not least because the electrical grid infrastructure could not cope. So, what is the future heating alternative for CLA members? The government’s alternative for rural homes is biomass; this of course also has its challenges, not least reliability and storage. Some CLA members have also found biofuels a suitable alternative to fossil fuels and electric heating.
The current minus temperatures won’t motivate most people to change their entire heating system, but there are a few other measures rural property owners can do to reduce their energy usage:
Living in a draughty house might be something we get used to, but draughtproofing can improve comfort to such an extent that we put the heating on less. Proper draughtproofing, not just a sausage dog at the door, by hiring a consultant to assess the whole property, can be hugely effective to reduce heating costs. It’s important to remember traditional buildings are designed to breathe so draughtproofing must be done sensibly. Spending £100 on draughtproofing could cut energy bills by £300 or more a year just through behavioural changes.
Loft and roof insulation
At least 300mm of insulation in a loft space will almost always be cost-effective. There are sustainable options on the market, but if using natural and traditional methods like sheepswool, always make sure it has been fire and insect proofed.
Curtains, shutters and secondary glazing
An Energy Performance Certificate will nearly always recommend modern double, or even triple-glazing. But thick curtains and shutters are usually cheaper, more appropriate for some buildings, and can last longer. Secondary glazing can be sheets of clear plastic fixed inside the window casement or sash with magnets or screws, it can also be professionally custom built. Secondary glazing can be hugely effective at reducing heat loss and is generally suitable for most buildings (including listed buildings if reversibly installed).
Our housing stock overtime will need to be refurbished to reduce its carbon impact, but in the meantime while this is difficult and expensive to do, there are measures rural property owners can take to increase comfort and reduce energy bills. The CLA has a guidance note on reducing heating costs in heritage buildings which covers all available options, this can be read here.