Energy efficiency of homes in the UK

UK housing stock is not energy efficient and that costs both the inhabitants and the planet. Energy inefficient homes cost more to heat. The cost of heating a home with poor wall insulation is likely to add £350 to a bill for the first quarter in 2023 (Resolution Foundation). Residential housing contributes around a fifth to our carbon emissions (Financial Times) and uses around a third of our gas consumption (UK Government).

The UK has some of the oldest and least energy efficient housing stock in Europe. One third of UK homes were built before 1946 (Resolution Foundation). All homes built before 1990 and 75% of houses built before 2010 are inefficient (Construction Carbon). This tallies with a European Commission report that 75% of housing stock in Europe is energy inefficient. 

In 2015, the UK government axed plans to make all new build homes carbon neutral (The Guardian). Since then 1 million new homes have been built that are not energy efficient (Financial Times). These homes will need to be retrofitted with measures to make them more energy efficient. The costs of retrofitting are up to 5 times higher (Committee on Climate Change – PDF). 

“The UK’s 28.6 million homes are among the least energy efficient in Europe and lose heat up to three times faster than on the continent, making people poorer and colder.”

Dr Salvador Acha, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London

A report by Imperial College found that the UK was falling behind other countries in Europe in planning for energy efficient housing (Decarbonising Buildings: Insights from across Europe – PDF published by the Grantham Institute in December 2022). Other countries like Germany and France had schemes to reduce energy consumption and costs. 

The report focuses on four main challenges based on information from the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC):

  • Improving efficiency standards, measures and methods
  • Decarbonising heating
  • Stimulating building energy renovations and
  • Fostering the required research, skills and training

The Resolution Foundation reported in December 2022 that one in four homes in England had walls rated as poor. That is 9 million homes. A staggering 64% of London homes had poor quality walls. Two in ten homes had inefficient roofs. One in ten homes had poorly graded windows. 

Homeowners tend to focus on easy options like improving loft insulation and windows. Wall insulation works are disruptive and expensive. The cost of wall insulation averages £8,000 making this a high cost improvement for a home-owner. 

The Resolution Foundation suggests the Government should adopt a carrot and stick approach. The stick involves mandates for energy efficiency standards. The carrot is funding for those on the lowest incomes. 

Blue Patch member the Energy Saving Trust has lots of information for home-owners on how to increase the energy efficiency of their homes. They break it down into four main areas:

  • Heating – improving or replacing an inefficient heating system
  • Renewables – generating renewable electricity for the home
  • Energy use – buying energy efficient domestic appliances & lighting
  • Insulation – reducing heat waste with insulation and draught proofing 

The Energy Saving Trust has guides for both cavity wall and solid wall insulation.

Elite Renewables, Borisa Ristic & Co, Shuttleworth Projects, Enbee Architecture & Design, U-Build and the Green Building Store can all advise on ways to improve the energy efficiency of your existing home or new building projects. If you are an architect or builder, renewable energy or self build consultant with sustainability knowledge, join our membership today.

Annette Clubley

Annette is a keen wildlife conservationist, mindful of sustainability and our impact on the environment. Outside of work, family is her focus and she loves teaching the next generation to enjoy the outdoors.