Fuel poverty hit the headlines again this week with This is Money amongst others reporting that the government is seeking to change the definition of the key measure of ‘fuel poverty’.
The number of ‘fuel poor’ households could rise to 8.1m by 2016, according to a Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) consultation document. Using the new measure for fuel poverty, this figure would be cut to 2.9m households.
Is this yet another example of the government’s seeming inability to tackle the problem of fuel poverty head on? Rather than another attempt to massage the figures, why not do something practical, like doing away with harmful initiatives that are causing consumer heating bills to soar rather than fall. Energy labelling standards is a case in point.
A recent exposé by the BBC’s Rip-Off Britain series revealed how vulnerable residents on two UK housing developments saw their energy bills escalate as a result of the energy standards approved heating system in place.
According to the BBC report, the residents had been advised that energy bills would be lower due to the NIBE exhaust air source heat pump system in place, a renewable technology that works by pumping waste air back into the heating and hot water system.
The programme showed how residents across the two estates soon received energy bills four times the predicted amount which they struggled to pay. During the investigation, the manufacturers insisted that the blame lay not on the product but on poor specification, installation and usage.
The air source heat pump was backed by an Energy Performance Certificate. And there’s the rub. The energy labelling of this product had misled the housing associations as to its real life energy saving benefits in a new build development. The air source heat pump was insufficiently large to heat the houses, which meant that it needed to rely on the immersion heater backup to provide the heat. So instead of providing adequate energy efficient, affordable heating by itself, the heat pump system depended on the support of expensive electricity, hence the astronomically high bills.
Rather than taking vulnerable residents out of fuel poverty, the energy standards approved heat pump was placing people in deeper financial difficulties. For one resident the situation became so severe that she was reduced to making a stark decision between buying food or keeping warm.
The question the BBC and we should be asking is, why bother creating an energy efficiency standard if the product will not be capable of operating to a high efficiency level in real life, real world situations? If the standard promotes idealised rather than real world efficiencies, then it’s of no benefit to the consumer; it’s skewed to work in the interest of the manufacturer. The silver spoon it appears to offer might well turn out to be wooden after all.
Back on the housing estates, the solution reached by one of the housing associations was to rip out the air source heat pumps and replace them with gas condensing boilers. Fuel bills went down immediately. The condensing boiler is a tried and tested heating solution. Fitting a boiler with a passive flue gas heat recovery device like the Zenex GasSaver reduces bills still further.
Yet from 2016, government legislation will make it illegal to fit a gas boiler into a new build property. And many London boroughs in control of local authority district housing schemes are already blocking gas boilers in favour of air source heat pumps. According to Rip-off Britain, an estimated 15,000 of these systems have been fitted across the country to date, as developers seek to make new build developments ‘greener’ in line with government targets.
Someone should advise them to watch Rip-off Britain as a matter of urgency.
The UK government knows that energy labels are misleading the public. It’s not just heat pumps, but all manner of ‘renewable’ or low-carbon products that on one hand achieve the highest energy efficiency rating, but on the other are penalised in UK Building Regulations for being, well, less efficient. How is the consumer or, for that matter, the professional employed in the building industry supposed to deal with this? It seems that as long as the government keeps on subsidising and promoting these misleading positions then both the consumer and the industry will be virtually powerless to change tack.
Tackling the government over these issues isn’t easy as the standard response is to state the fact that energy labels are the responsibility of European legislation. From my experience, the European Commission is more interested in claiming carbon savings than energy savings, conveniently focusing on idealised test standards that operate outside of the frame of reference for standard efficiency products or that of consumer needs.
Take for example gas boilers that under newly proposed European test standards Lot1, ERP (Energy Related Products) will be tested at between 30-36°C when the boiler is at low gas/fan rates, effectively showing the boiler at its highest possible efficiency but not one that a consumer can benefit from. The inevitable result from this sort of situation is that the science of fact eventually creeps in, in this case, SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure) where currently A-rated gas boilers are de-rated to band B and in reality should be a C. Perhaps this is a step too far for the government and regulators to defend…
At some point there will need to be a correction, just as in the case of the recent GCSE exams. However, as we have seen, changing the marking system mid stream can be extremely unpopular with voters and the industry alike.
Consumers face real world experiences such as the conflict between the misleading energy labelling and unnecessarily high energy bills. Isn’t it time that the government took a serious look at what the European Commission is trying to impose on the UK? Unless we get this sorted we will never be able to revert the course of rising fuel poverty.
Rather than changing the goal posts on fuel poverty to make the statistics look better, the government should make a stand and address energy labelling standards as a matter of urgency, changing them to benefit consumers. And we too must act now and respond to the DECC consultation by 30 November.
It’s time to stop this UK rip-off energy business now.
Chris Farrell is the managing director of Zenex Technologies, a British company founded in 2003 specialising in innovative energy saving products for both the domestic and commercial markets. This post originally featured on his blog, The Green Entrepreneur.
How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018
Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.
Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:
1. Energy – produce it, save it
If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.
It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.
While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.
Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!
2. Don’t be just another tourist
Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.
3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly
We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.
To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.
It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.
4. Know thy recycling
People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.
People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.
5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool
Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.
All in all
The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.
Top 5 Changes You can Make in Your Life to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
In a world, where war rages and global warming threatens our very existence, the inhabitants of earth need to be extra vigilant in their efforts to go green. This includes reducing your carbon footprint on the earth and leading a more sustainable life.
Many homeowners feel perplexed by all of the options available to reduce their carbon footprint. They may even feel (falsely) that making their household more green will fail to make that much of a difference in the fight to save our planet.
Even a single home going green has a massive impact on the environment. We can win this battle on home at a time. If you’re interested in accepting the challenge of making your household a green home, read on below for a few of the top changes you can make in your life to reduce your carbon footprint. We all stand to benefit from making the earth safer for future generations – and your wallet won’t complain when you start to see the savings in annual energy costs.
Switch From Dirty Energy to Clean Solar
The ION Solar reviews tell it all–solar is the best way to go. Whether your goal is to slash your energy bills, or to reduce your carbon footprint, the sun is a fantastic source of renewable energy.
It’s important to get past the hype from solar installers. Instead, listen to the plethora of impartial customer reviews that mention everything from a $20 energy bill, to the incredible feeling of knowing that you are doing your part by going green and minimizing harmful emissions in to our atmosphere.
The average investment is $15,000 to $30,000 for installation and purchase of solar panels. Optional battery power packs can help provide consistent power during both night and day. And many government agencies provide federal, state or local grants to help offset upfront investments in clean energy.
Depending on which installed you choose, your household may qualify for low-interest or zero interest loans to cover the up-front cost of your installation. And the loan payments are usually less than your current monthly power bill.
It really is a win-win, as home buyers are looking for homes that feature this technology – meaning solar power installation improves the resale value of your property.
And there are a number of additional home modifications that can help improve the energy efficiency of your home. A programmable thermostat can better manage energy consumption from home cooling and heating systems while you’re away from home. And weather stripping your doors can help keep cool air in during the summer, and warm air in during the winter.
Of course, energy conservation starts at home. And this includes setting a powerful example for your kids. Teach your children how to close windows, strategically keep doors open or closed based on airflow, and encourage them to leave the thermostat alone – opting for adding or removing layers of clothing instead.
Unplug Appliances and Shut Off Electronics
Unplugging your appliances when they aren’t in use, such as the toaster and the coffee maker, has more of an impact than you might think. Set your TVs and stereos on sleep timers, instead of letting them run around the clock. The cumulative impact of wasteful electronic device usage is horrible for our environment – putting unnecessary strain on our electrical grid.
One of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by recycling. You are already throwing this stuff away anyway, right? It doesn’t take much more effort to just put recyclables in a separate container to be recycled, now does it?
Oh, and did I mention that you can earn money for recycling? Yes! Many cities and towns have recycling centers that will purchase your clean plastic and glass bottles for reuse.
Minimize Your Water Usage
Water is one of the easiest things to forget about when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint. Preserve water by turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Shorten your shower by a few minutes and turn down the heat on that water heater. You’ll be surprised at how much lower your water bill and your energy bill will be.
Saving money and reducing your carbon footprint? What isn’t to love?
These are just a few of the top ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint and start living a greener lifestyle. And we aren’t factoring in all of the advantages that we’ll reap from public investments in a smarter energy grid.
From decreasing your water usage, to switching to solar for your home’s energy needs, you will feel good at the end of the day knowing you are doing your part to save the future of this planet for generations to come!
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