What we can do about climate change at home
When we think of climate change we think of factories and cars emitting pollution into the atmosphere. Few of us associate it with boiling the kettle, having a shower or running the washing machine. However, in one year our households emit more CO2 than the average car. Our homes are responsible for approximately one third of all climate change emissions. So if we can change the way we live in our homes, even in small ways, we can make a huge difference to climate change.
In the UK, our disposable income has increased by £162 billion in the last decade due to low interest rates. Household energy has never been cheaper due to privatisation of the energy industry. These two facts combine to result in a dangerous energy addiction that is increasing rapidly. We are experiencing an unprecedented boom of spending on electrical goods and other appliances for our homes. Electricity consumption by lighting and appliances has doubled since 1970. Domestic refrigeration appliances use nearly as much electricity as all UK offices. But it is not only electrical goods. Space heating accounts for over 60% of our total home energy use. The average temperature in our homes has increased resulting in an increase in energy use of 19% between 1990 and 2001.
Worryingly, this growth is only set to continue. Industry estimates that purchases of electrical equipment in the next decade, and therefore energy used and CO2 emitted, will triple. Electricity consumption through lighting is predicted to increase by 12% by the end of the decade.
The majority of our homes are highly energy inefficient. It is estimated that 75% of energy wastage in our homes is unavoidable. However, there are many simple steps that we can take to reduce the amount of energy wasted. For example, the amount of heat lost annually through our roofs and walls would be enough to heat 3 million homes for a year. This could easily be reduced through insulation.
There are a surprisingly large number of grants out there to improve the energy efficiency of the home. Some funding is available from Central Government, some from District Councils and some may also be available through your energy supplier. Not all grants are means tested (in other words you don’t necessarily have to receive benefit or be a certain age to qualify), some are based on postcode. Grants are available for insulation, improving or replacing heating systems and also to install renewable energy technologies. The best way to find out what grants are available to you is to contact the Energy Savings Trust by either visiting www.est.org.uk or call free on 0800 512012. The main Central Government grant is the Low Carbon Buildings Programme, call 0800 9150990 or visit www.lowcarbonbuildings.org.uk
Fewer houses are now heated with electricity as it has become expensive but it is used for lighting and appliances. Electricity produces two and half times the amount of CO2 of gas per unit. In the UK, the majority of electricity is generated by nuclear power stations and coal fired power stations. A far better option is renewable energy, such as wind, solar, biomass or hydro. Domestic users can support renewable energy by installing small scale equipment in their houses, or by opting for a green tariff or green fund through conventional energy suppliers. By opting for a green tariff, for every unit of electricity you use, your energy company will buy renewable energy to match it. A green fund will do the same, but will also invest money in new renewable energy projects.For more information about green tariffs, contact your energy supplier. Two green funds that are available at the moment are from Good Energy and Ecotricity
Good Energy (formerly Unit[e])
Gas has lower emissions of CO2 than electricity, oil or coal. However, unfortunately no energy supplier yet offers green tariffs or funds on gas. The best thing to do is to reduce your overall energy consumption. Also, if your boiler needs replacing consider a condensing boiler, which is the most efficient of any boiler, converting 88% of fuel to heat.