The effects of climate change are becoming a significant concern for eco-conscious consumers. Many people have recycled for years, they switch off lights when they leave rooms and reduce the amount of meat they eat. But what about the environmental cost of your home?
According the UK Green Building Council, the built environment (such as housing and roads) accounts for around 40% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. So, if you are moving in 2021, you may be concerned about making your new home as sustainable as possible.
Nowadays, local councils and home builders are required to plan new housing developments in a way that can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, although new builds tend to be more environmentally friendly, buying one is not an option for everyone.
Making an older property more efficient can also be expensive, and government policies aimed at helping owners improve the energy efficiency of their homes have been significantly scaled back in recent years.
So, for many, the best option is to check whether a potential new home has eco-friendly features, such as good insulation, solar panels and double glazing, before making an offer.
Here, we set out 6 simple tips for the eco-conscious home buyer to help get your home search off to the best possible start.
1. What does the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) say?
When buying a home, the seller has to provide the buyer with an EPC. Many property sites will make this available, otherwise don’t be afraid to ask the estate agent.
An EPC is a document that ranks your home on a scale of A to G in terms of energy efficiency. A property ranked A is very efficient. Properties ranked F and G are inefficient and, if you are looking for a buy to let investment, you cannot rent out a property ranked this low.
The EPC can give you an idea of how much work you may need to do on a property to make it more energy efficient. As well as showing you the current efficiency ranking, the document will also give you a ‘potential’ ranking – the ranking the property could achieve if certain improvements were implemented – along with estimated costs and savings for making these changes.
2. Look for solar panels and other renewable energy technology
Solar panels, solar thermal panels and other renewable energy technologies are greener and often cheaper ways to power and heat your home.
Once installed, renewable technology is often relatively cheap to run (although there will be maintenance costs) and you can often benefit from lower energy bills. The government also runs the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which gives people who have installed renewable technology in their homes payments for seven years. The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) also ensures you are paid for any excess power your export to the national grid.
However, renewable technology can be very expensive to install, especially as the government has closed incentives on installing solar panels. If you are moving to a home that has existing renewable energy technology and is accredited to the RHI scheme, you need to make sure that you apply to take over the payments within 12 months.
Before making any decision, it is vital to do a cost-benefit analysis of installing and running renewable energy technology. We recommend that you always do independent research and speak to an energy specialist for advice.
3. Is the property well insulated?
Insulation is one of the best ways you can improve the energy efficiency of your home and help you save on your energy bills. The EPC can give you some information about insulation, such as whether the property has cavity walls and whether they have ever been filled. It will also usually say whether the loft has been insulated.
4. Be aware of draughts
Feeling cold breezes around windows, doors, through the floors, by fireplaces and other places where there may be gaps could suggest poor insulation and general energy inefficiency.
If some rooms are colder than others or the internal walls feel cold to the touch, it may also suggest poor insulation.
5. Does the property have double or triple glazing?
Double or triple glazing offers a wide range of benefits, including security and sound insulation. Double and triple glazing also help with thermal efficiency, saving money and heat loss.
As you might expect, triple glazing is more energy efficient than double glazing, but is less common and can be expensive to install. At the very least, look for double glazing in your new home. New builds will have double glazing as standard, but many older homes will also have had the windows replaced in the past.
6. Are there good public transport links?
Road traffic is one of the main contributors to climate change. So, thinking about where you buy your home could be just as important as the features the home has.
There are many ways you can reduce your own road traffic emissions, even if you need a car. Much of the UK’s harmful road traffic emissions arise from short car journeys of about 1-2 miles. So, buying your home in an area that eliminates the need to take such journeys is great for the environment. For example:
- Check the local public transport links. Could you commute to work by bus or train instead of driving?
- Are the roads cyclist-friendly?
- Could your children walk, cycle or get public transport to school instead of needing a lift?
- Are your local amenities, such as post office, doctors surgery and vets within walking distance?
- Do you have local green spaces?
Of course, whether you can get the bus instead of driving will probably not be the deciding factor in your home purchase but is an important consideration.
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