A Green Deal for Home Insulation

The United Kingdom’s coalition government promised to be the greenest ever. A cynic might well argue that such a promise does not mean that the government will be very green; after all it will not take much to surpass the green measures of the last labour government and Mrs Thatcher still remains the person who did the most for the green cause by reducing the mount of coal burning, although I doubt if the environment was in her mind when she led the country in a dispute with the coal miners.

However there are green shoots of environmental measures and the latest took the shape of an announcement by Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary who promised support for insulation measures which dovetail into the announcement that there will be an incentive for those who take up renewable heat.

On average UK homes use nearly two thirds of their heat energy consumption on space heating, a third on water heating and the rest on heat for cooking. Insulation saves space heating energy and in effect prevents heat being wasted through the roof and through the walls of the home. The government’s plan is to allow householders (whether they own or rent the home) to buy insulation on a pay as you save basis. Eventually the insulation will pay for itself.

Of course saving energy is an important principle; the atmosphere is quite warm enough without humans adding extra heat from un-insulated homes. Good insulation will save energy and money and Mr Huhne’s announcement is very welcome, although we shall have to see the details of it.

The proposal is not part of the renewable heat incentive, but is part of a “Green Deal”. Insulation is complementary to renewable heat, rather than an end in itself.  Home insulation will do nothing to heat your water which accounts for a third of your home heat energy and twenty seven percent of the average home’s overall energy use.

The Renewable Heat Incentive (whose details have yet to be announced) will provide a subsidy for renewable heat. You can use thermal solar panels for both water and space heating. Most people will use them for water heating. However,if you do have an expanded solar panel system which provides renewable heat for your home’s space as well as water heating then it is very important to insulate well, otherwise you will be wasting renewable heat.

As society’s develop and become more prosperous they use more heat and almost all of the heat they use comes either from burning fossil fuel or burning wood. Either way, emissions of greenhouse gas and health harming gases occur. It is important to save these emissions and the Renewable Heat Incentive and the Green Deal should, if properly designed, become key policies in making our planet a safer and healthier place.

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