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Energy Efficiency – staying warm without turning up the thermostat

by Gordon Miller

Now the weather has turned cold in the UK, our thoughts have turned to how we can keep warm – indoors as well as outdoors.  For many of us that simply means turning up the thermostat another notch.  But with reports of fuel price hikes of 7% and higher imminent, suddenly energy efficiency has become an even hotter topic.

MGM builds highly insulated apartments and chalets in the snowy French Alps

Starting with our existing homes, the key word is insulation. The idea is to keep the heat in and the cold out. 25% goes out the roof – so lay up to 270mm of insulation; 35% escapes through the walls.  Combat this by having cavity wall insulation.  If you have one of the 6 million solid brick wall homes, consider dry wall lining.

Windows and draughts account for 25% of heat loss in our homes.  So plug the gaps with filler, use draught excluders on your exterior doors (and don’t forget the letter box).  If you can afford it, think about double (or even triple) glazing.  If that’s too costly, secondary glazing is a cheaper alternative.

Next, find out how much electricity you use (or waste).  Buy, or rent from your local library, an electricity monitor.  These clever gadgets show you how much electricity you are using in the home. Flick the kettle on and you’ll see it costs a shocking 25p to boil water if it was to be left on continuously for one hour.  So fill the kettle only with the amount of water you need and don’t boil, walk away and then have to reboil.

loft insulation is an impoertant form of insulationLook at what you leave on standby overnight – do you need to?  Get a standby isolator or switch the items off at the wall (except the Sky box, which would then need reprogramming).  Don’t leave old style mobiles charging overnight as these ‘vampire’ gadgets continue to suck electricity even once the battery is fully charged.

Or take a look at a more permanent electricity reduction solution.  The VPhase is a new device that through independent testing has been shown to cut electricity bills (typically by 10%), reduce energy use and lower carbon emissions.  Find out how much money and CO2 you could save with the interactive tool at www.vphase.co.uk

VPhase uses voltage optimisation technology to reduce and manage the voltage coming into your home, making your electrical appliances use less electricity and cost less to run.  Unlike smart meters which require a change in behavior, the VPhase device works immediately, without any need for a change in lifestyle.

The unit costs around £250 installed when fitted at the same time as a fuse box, and can be quickly and easily fitted by a qualified electrician. The VPhase has a five-year warranty and with payback periods typically less than this it represents a risk free green investment.

If you’re considering buying a new house in the UK, you’ll find that they are at least 25% more energy efficient than houses build pre-2006 (and at least 50% more than a Victorian property and probably more) through legislation.  Housebuilders are achieving such greater efficiency by using better insulants when building,

sealing gaps better and by preventing thermal ‘bridging’, which allows the cold to travel from the outside in via metal pins or ties.

In some cases, the net result is homes that require little or no heating – even in winter.  The latest built homes don’t even have radiators installed.  Generally, energy efficient under-floor heating provides what heating they do require.  In other examples, mechanical heat ventilation recovery units recirculate rising hot air to keep the homes warm at ground level.

The homes at AlmaVerde, on Portugal’s Algarve, have been built to a year-round 26C interior temperature

In more temperate foreign countries, where many Britons choose to buy a holiday home, or retirement property, the same technology that provides heating in winter is reversed to provide air-conditioned cooling in summer.  If the electricity required is generated from a renewable energy source, such as solar, there is no in-use CO2 impact, and electricity bills can be negligible.

The housebuilders and developers who are the members of Sustain Worldwide (www.sustainworldwide.com) are each building homes, resorts and communities around the world where energy efficient, eco-friendly and sustainably constructed properties and communities are the norm.

Sustain Worldwide Chief Executive Anwar Harland-Khan said: “The energy-efficient homes of today are stylish, beautifully finished, invariably with warm and light spaces for living. It comes as no surprise that sustainably built homes are now standing tallest of all, while the walls of conventionally built homes are starting to show cracks.”

This article was contributed by Gordon Miller, sustainability and communications director of Sustain Worldwide. +44 (0)20 7754 5557  www.sustainworldwide.com/

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