Save energy – buy a new build

Small changes can make a difference to energy bills and saving energy, but we mustn’t lose sight of the fundamental issues with the UK’s housing stock. John Anderson, CEO Allison Group, reminds us that it might be time to buy new.

Upgrading appliances, hanging thicker curtains, adjusting thermostats, and wearing more jumpers. There is plenty of sound advice around to help people do everything they can to keep energy bills down. Of course, in the current climate, every action to cut energy use can make a difference, no matter how small. If we are to learn anything from this period, it is to be more mindful about the energy we use. But focusing on relatively small individual changes does mean we could lose sight of the bigger picture.

The UK’s housing stock is some of the oldest and leakiest in Europe. Successive government policies have placed the onus to deliver against net zero targets firmly on new homes builders, a challenge the industry has risen to with innovation and adoption of new technologies and construction methods. The result being that the gulf in energy efficiency between older and new housing is growing rapidly.

The Home Builders Federation (HBF)’s latest report – Watt a Save – has quantified this. The report’s findings show that new build homes save residents an average of £2,000 a year on their energy bills – this is even more if you look at just houses rather than include flats and bungalows. The report also suggests that fewer than four per cent of existing dwellings can match the EPC B rating or higher that new builds, Allison Homes included, commonly achieve.

It’s not just individuals who are benefitting from new build homes’ energy efficiency. Collectively, new builds are reducing carbon emissions by 500 million tonnes a year. Again from the HBF’s report, older properties generate almost three times as much carbon as the equivalently sized new build.

Some of the measures for saving energy being recommended for households make excellent sense, for a matter of a few pounds, draughts can be excluded, radiators made more efficient and heat loss reduced. Upgrading to more energy-efficient cookers, hobs, washing machines and tumble dryers can also cut spending on bills but those savings must be weighed against the capital outlay of the new purchases. Long term though, the fundamental issues remain, older homes simply cannot compete against new builds in terms of both energy bills for the individual and the cost to the planet from carbon emissions.

Buying a new home might seem like a drastic response to a winter of high bills but there are no quick fixes to the energy crisis. Buyers and owners would be wise to look beyond the immediate and start planning for a more energy-efficient future.