Home energy efficiency has mass market appeal, says report

Thermal image of a typical UK home

A year-long study into improving the energy efficiency of homes concludes that there is a mass market in the UK ready and waiting to be tapped.

The 21st Century Living Project, a collaboration between DIY retailer Homebase, The Eden Project, Acona and the Universities of Surrey and Plymouth, gave 100 nationally representative homes £500 to spend on environmental improvements and surveyed the participants on their actions, the outcomes and any practical problems they faced.

Over 80% of households took at least one energy-saving measure over the course of the scheme, saving 10% on average. And it wasn’t just green-minded middle class households that got involved, in fact, lower income groups on average took the most action.

Swapping inefficient incandescent light bulbs for low-energy alternatives and improving or installing loft insulation were the most popular actions for over half of participants. And nearly a quarter replaced white goods for more efficient models.

Interestingly, the gift of £500 led to over 60% of households spending £500 or more of their own money on energy efficiency measures.

But moving beyond simple measures proved more difficult. Only 11% of participants installed cavity wall insulation, with over half of efforts failing because of a lack of response from providers or advise that installation would be too difficult or make homes damp.

Many participants said they would be interested in installing small-scale renewables, but were put off by the expense and a lack of specific, independent advice and recommendations.

Information is key to the success of greening homes, says the report. Tailored advice is vital and many participants responded positively to thermal imaging of their homes. Electricity energy monitors also worked well driving changes in behaviour, says the report, and could easily be made standard for all homes.

But most of all, the report calls for an overhaul of utility bills to provide information in a standard format that can be easily compared to past consumption to show the results of taking energy efficiency measures.

According to the report, project staff were unable to get hold of simple data to indicate whether households in the scheme were cutting their energy use. “The average householder stands no chance,” says the report.

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Related stories:
UK Government sets out plans to cut household emissions by a third (3-Mar)
Vast gulf between policy and building industry skills, says report (20-Jan)
UK needs big push on energy efficiency in wake of Copenhagen, says CBI (5-Jan)

26 March 2010