Can Our Trains Be Powered By Solar and Wind?

High speed train

Solar has come a long way in the last couple of decades. You can hardly walk down a street in the UK nowadays without seeing at least one roof adorned with solar PV panels – nearly a million of us have them on our roofs.

Now a UK university and renewables charity are pairing up to see if solar PV can be used for running our trains.

Imperial College London and 10:10 are looking at whether it’s possible to connect the electric power lines that drive many of our train systems to solar panels. With the rail infrastructure slowly being changed from trains that run on fossil fuel diesel to those that are powered by electricity, it makes sense to find more eco-friendly ways to provide and produce that energy.

And with many rail systems around the world also following suit, the UK could be a leader in the use of solar power for this sector.

The charity 10:10 believes that we could completely decarbonise the rail system over the next thirty years. Research and development will first look at third rail systems where the power is supplied by cables close to the ground. The development will mean that our rail system could well be independent of the National Grid and the innovations in solar power storage over the next few years could also make a big difference. At the moment, peak solar production aligns quite well with the peak time for trains on the current rail network but there will still be a need for a good deal of storage.

According to the team at Imperial College there are a number of major issues to overcome in the meantime:

“Firstly, the third rail on most rail networks is also used for signalling purposes, so injecting power could lead to communications issues. There are also the issues around safety and integration of a secondary power source and managing how and when the solar power is being sent to the third rail.”

Of course, there are plenty of developments going on with renewables and how they can be used for our transport system in particular. In the Netherlands, the major train companies have worked hard to ensure that it’s trains are now powered entirely by wind energy. This has been led by NS who formed a partnership with energy company Eneco. At the beginning of this year, the company estimated that all of its customers were using a rail system that was entirely powered by wind.

This power is procured from newly built wind farms in the Netherlands, Belgium and Finland though there has been some debate about how the utility company can ensure this is actually the case. Eneco does it by obtaining what are called Guarantees of Origin which can be bought from countries where the production of renewables exceeds the local demand.

Where the Imperial College experiment might well differ is that we could see our rail lines connecting directly with solar panels that have been built for that specific purpose. Obviously, this will require a huge infrastructure change but the team believe that many of the current third rail systems are in locations where this is perfectly possible.

Will the Real Rick Perry Please Stand Up?

Rick Perry

If you haven’t been following the news in recent times, you may want to know that there’s a new president in the Whitehouse. Donald J Trump is the 45th and some would say the least illustrious. Just a few days into his tenure and there are real worries that he is going to have an adverse effect on the climate change agenda.

Indeed, shortly after his inauguration on Friday, news began to spread that the new team had taken down all mention of climate change from the government website. Murmurings of public officials working for energy complaining that they were being stopped from speaking out also began to surface. In fairness, the taking down of the Obama website was actually standard practice. The fact that it wasn’t replaced by something similar and mention climate change at all (as well as LGBT rights and equality) seemed to fuel nervousness among the country’s liberals even when an explanation was given.

The key issue, though, has been the selection of Rick Perry to be the Secretary for the Energy Department. When he was running for the nomination a few years back and was quizzed about which departments he would like to close, Perry listed energy among them. So, it makes perfect sense to put a man who wanted to get rid of the Energy Department in charge of it. Maybe it’s Trump’s idea of a joke.

But who exactly is Rick Perry?

Our outline below may not entirely instil you with confidence that this new administration is going to take climate change and renewables entirely seriously.

  • He is the Governor of Texas and is the longest serving one in the state, having been first elected way back in 2000 during the Bush era.
  • He has actually tried to run for President a couple of times, both, of course, unsuccessfully.
  • When Trump asked him to become Energy Secretary, he had no idea what the department actually did. He didn’t even know that part of its job is to maintain the nuclear arsenal.
  • Rick used to be a democrat but turned to the Dark Side when he was not successful. He subsequently became Governor as a Republican.
  • He was one of Trump’s biggest critics in the lead up to the nominations and endorsed Ted Cruz instead.
  • In the past he has been accused of being homophobic and the family hunting lodge is believed to have a racist name.
  • He’s also been accused of cronyism and corruption in the past – he is a politician after all.
  • He is on the board of Energy Transfer Partners who just happen to be building the controversial Dakota Pipeline where native Americans have been protesting in recent months. Trump also has a considerable number of shares in the company.
  • But here’s the kicker: He doesn’t think global warming is real and once said: ‘Calling CO2 a pollutant is doing a disservice to the country’, though no one was quite sure what he meant.

As of writing, Perry has yet to be approved by the Congressional Committee but most green activists aren’t holding their breath. The next few months may not only see Trump and his team building more pipelines, expanding fracking operations and looking for new oil sources, it could see him withdrawing from the global climate change deal. Perhaps the only chance is if the administration sees the potential for profit and job creation that the industry can deliver.

Which Home Heating is Supported by the RHI?

RHI Technologies

While the recent Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal in Northern Ireland may have put some people off, the scheme run in England, Scotland and Wales is still a pretty good option for green enthusiasts. In fact, there are increases to the amount being paid for the next year as the Government tries to convince more of us to switch to low carbon heating.

But which technologies are included in the list for the RHI?

Biomass or Wood Fuelled Boilers

Biomass boilers are designed to burn plant material such as wood in order to provide heat for a home. They can also be used to generate electricity in some cases, depending on the design. The heat travels up through a flue and then enters a heat exchanger which can then send it out to the property central heating system.

The most efficient fuel for biomass boilers is either wood chip or pellet. These are still considered renewable because the wood is obtained from sustainable sources where trees are replanted.

Biomass Pellet Stoves Integrated with a Boiler to Deliver Space Heating

You can get biomass pellet stoves that are able to operate on their own and many people have these in their home as a way of heating a particular room. When this kind of device is connected to a boiler it can be used to heat all spaces in a property. Once this is achieved, the technology is eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground source heat pumps involve a network of pipes that are dug into the garden surrounding a property. This array leads to an exchange mechanism that works just like a refrigerator but in reverse. The popularity of this kind of technology in Europe is now starting to catch on here. It works best with a property that is well insulated as the heating is supplied at a fairly low, but constant, level. New developments in recent times have seen heat pumps that can extract higher levels of warmth from the surrounding environment. For the purposes of the RHI, water source heat pumps are classed in a similar way to GSHPs.

Air Source Heat Pumps

Similar to ground source heat pumps, air source ones fit to the outside of a building and extract heat from the surrounding atmosphere. They are considered a little less efficient than GSHPs but are a lot cheaper to install as no building work is required.

Flat Plate and Evacuated Tube Solar Thermal Panels That Deliver Hot Water

Solar thermal panels work by attracting the heat from the sun and converting this to work with your central heating or hot water system. Solar thermal is a decent low cost solution with very little in the way of carbon emissions attached to it. They are also easy to maintain and have a fairly long operational life comparable to solar PV.

If you are considering upgrading your heating system this year and want to find a solution that is low carbon and easy to manage, then any of the solutions above are suitable. While the cost of installation may be more than your average gas boiler, the return on investment along with the RHI and reduced heating bills can make a huge difference.

Find out more about the RHI here.

10 Things You May Not Know About Heat Pumps

air source heat pump

This year will see increases in the RHI for heating technology, including heat pumps. The aim is to get us to stop using fossil fuels such as gas and oil and use other systems to keep ourselves warm. It also means that you can earn money from the Government if you install one of the named heating technologies and get a decent return on investment as well as lower fuel bills.

One these technologies is the heat pump. Here are just a few facts about them that may surprise you.

    1. The idea of heat pumps has been around for quite a while and the first ground source model was invented way back in the 1940s. Today, we have products on the market that are considered some of the most efficient heating systems on the planet.
    1. Heat pumps are not technically renewable – they use a small amount of electricity to work the pump mechanism but they do have the potential to save you a large amount on your heating bills.
    1. They’re currently more popular in places like Europe and the US but are starting to catch on here. Even regions where the temperature is cold, such as Norway, you can find heat pumps operating.
    1. You can get heat out of the ground, air or even water, practically any time of year. This is the part that people often find difficult to understand. Heat pumps draw the latent heat out of the surrounding area and use a kind of reverse refrigerator mechanism to increase the temperature.
    1. The great thing about heat pumps is that they produce much less in the way of CO2 emissions. In fact, a ground source heat pump gives off half of the emissions an oil heater does and beats a standard gas fired boiler by a third.
    1. Heat pumps are included in the Renewable Heat Incentive for both domestic and commercial properties. That means for every kWh of energy you produce, you get money back from the incentive. This is set to increase for domestic properties this year.
    1. The cost of a heat pump varies depending on the type you go for. Air sourced heat pumps are the cheapest because they don’t come with major installation issues. Ground source heat pumps require you dig up part or all of your garden to fit the pipe network so obviously cost more. They are, however, more efficient.
    1. If you are replacing an inefficient heating system with a heat pump you should make more savings. You also need to ensure that your building is well insulated as the heat is provided at a lower but more constant level than conventional gas central heating.
    1. Because they have few moving parts, heat pumps are actually pretty easy to maintain and you should expect your system to last a good deal longer than a conventional heating system.
  1. The return on investment for a heat pump will depend on what you are replacing and how energy efficient your home is. If you are changing from an old oil fired heater, you may realistically expect to save between £475 and £735 a year on fuel costs a year. For gas replacement, the savings could be considerably more, as much as £1,300 for a decent sized home.

Now is a great time to consider changing to low carbon heating that is backed by the Renewable Heat Incentive. Find out more about heat pumps here.

Could Ivanka Trump Save the US Climate Change Agenda?

Ivanka Trump Climate Help

Much has been said by President Elect Donald Trump about the world in general. What is more concerning to green advocates is his notion that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and his belief that the fossil fuel industry has received a bad shake in recent times.

It might be because Trump believes these things or the fact that he has considerable investment in fossil fuel companies which he naturally wants to protect. Whatever the reason, there is plenty to worry about if you believe in a clean future.

All this could mean dangerous times for the renewables industry particularly if Trump decides to pull back on some of the advances made by the Obama administration. His choice for energy secretary is Rick Perry, the Texas Governor who, when he was running for the nomination to be President, wanted to get rid of the energy department altogether.

According to the New York Times in December:

“In his 2010 book, “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington,” Mr. Perry called the established science of human-caused climate change a “contrived, phony mess.” His views align with those of Mr. Trump, who has called climate change a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.”

The good news is that there might be help from someone close to the new President. Ivanka Trump, it seems, is in favour of the green agenda. Of all the characters in the presidential party, Ivanka remains the most liberal in her world view, despite all the scepticism her father has shown over the years.

One big concern is Trump’s pledge to pull out of the COP21 agreement signed by 195 countries in 2015, including the USA. There have been subtle hints that the President may well roll back on his previous comments but his underlying belief that climate change is a hoax is going to be difficult to get over. There’s a possibility that his 35-year-old daughter may embrace green issues as part of her new higher profile and this could impact on how he reacts to this particular problem.

A recent Channel 4 Documentary entitled President Trump’s Dirty Secrets was less upbeat about the future of renewables and climate change. It pointed to the fact that many of Trump’s choices are either climate sceptics or have strong links to the fossil fuel industry. In particular danger is the current Clean Power Plan. When Mike McKenna, who advised Trump on energy, was asked if the transition meant the end of the plan and other initiatives, his reply was fairly unequivocal:

“I would expect that, it doesn’t really matter whether the president-elect withdraws officially or just ignores it, the practical effect is, is the same, right? So, I don’t, I don’t wanna say it’s a dead letter as far as the United States is concerned, but it’s pretty close to a dead letter.”

So, is it really left to the lone figure of Ivanka Trump to save the day when it comes to clean energy and climate change? With Republicans holding sway across much of the US government, there’s little hope that the climate sceptics and oil and coal barons won’t get their way to a good degree. Ivanka Trump may well be a thorn in their side and could champion a greener world but getting her voice heard is still going to be difficult. It will need green advocates across the country, and indeed around the world, to put pressure on the administration to behave.

How this is going to affect the rest of the world is one consideration we are all going to have to face. If the US basically ignores the climate change deal Obama signed and starts more aggressive investment in fossil fuels, where will that leave the rest of us? It’s not inconceivable that sanctions may well be introduced against America and that could have knock on effects not only for future relations between the US and the outside world but also impact on trade and other agreements.

There’s no doubt we are approaching a period of deep uncertainty. Most green advocates hope that the new administration will roll back on their rhetoric in recent times. They may, unfortunately, be hoping for far too much.

Northern Ireland, the RHI Scandal and What It Means for Renewable Heating

RHI

The Northern Ireland government is in turmoil. Accusations, resignations and the dissolution of parliament are partly the fault of a Renewable Heat Incentive scandal that will cost the Government and the general public over £1 billion in the next twenty years.

It’s a sign of what can go wrong when subsidies don’t have the restrictions in place that make it affordable for the rest of us who are paying. And could have a far-reaching impact not only on politics but the future of renewables in the UK and their uptake.

What is the RHI?

The Renewable Heat Incentive was introduced by the UK Government to encourage the uptake of heating such as biomass boilers and heat pumps. These technologies are considered a big part in helping the us reduce our carbon footprint in line with the international commitment agreed to in Paris 2015. In England, Scotland and Wales, the domestic RHI has been operating since 2014 and is due to see increases this year to further improve take up. In Northern Ireland, the government put in place their own RHI but without the rigour such schemes require.

How the RHI Scandal Happened

The RHI in Northern Ireland began for the businesses and public sector in 2012 and for domestic properties in 2014. The rates for payment were set by the then Department for Economy, Trade and Industry (DETI). The person in charge at the time was Arlene Foster, who is now Ireland’s First Minister.

The key reason for the incentive was to get businesses to move away from fossil fuels and use greener systems such as wood pellet burners and biomass boilers. The scheme initially offered a blanket £1.60 for every pound that was spent on heating but no one failed to see the obvious potential for widespread fraud.

By 2013, Arlene Foster had been contacted by a whistleblower about potential problems and abuse in the scheme. There was further worrying information in the following year and concerns were being voiced that Foster was ignoring civil servants who worried about how the scheme was being managed. News of an empty farm building heated simply to get the RHI soon came into the public domain and led to the scheme being committed to huge payments over the next 20 years.

An investigation into the scheme began and found that, of the 300 sites that benefited from RHI, nearly half had issues. There were specifically 14 identified sites that came with serious fraud issues. Applications for the RHI increased dramatically once it became public knowledge that the scheme was likely to close, adding to the commitment over the next 20 years.

In October 2016, The Belfast Telegraph reported:

“A botched renewable energy scheme that has left Stormont facing an overspend of hundreds of millions of pounds has been branded one of the biggest political scandals since devolution returned to Northern Ireland.”

Over a billion of public money is expected to be paid out over the next 20 years as a subsidy for successful applicants. £600 million of this is expected to come from the NI Treasury. The remaining £400 million will need to be paid out of a block grant.

A full timeline of the RHI scandal.

The Political Drama

There have been accusations in parliament about who is ultimately responsible. First Minister Arlene Foster and then DUP minister Jonathan Bell argued over who delayed closure of the scheme once the problems were identified. Bell appeared on a The Nolan Show and accused Foster of actively trying to prevent the closure and of attempting to get rid of evidence by destroying records. There has been increasing pressure for First Minister Foster to resign, including a failed no-confidence vote. It culminated in Sinn Fein Martin McGuinness resigning on 8th January as deputy First Minister. According to the rules at Stormont, this means Foster is no longer First Minister, and is now sparking the potential for a snap election. Foster is refusing to back down and is calling out Sinn Fein for trying to damage parliament. In turn, Sinn Fein are refusing to propose a replacement deputy First Minister unless Foster goes. Politically, it’s all become very messy.

The Future of RHI in the UK

First of all, the Northern Ireland RHI and the one operated in Great Britain are differently run schemes. There are safeguards in place for England, Scotland and Wales which means that we are less likely to see examples of fraud on the scale of the NI scheme. For instance, there was a degression clause introduced which meant the RHI could be reduced in response to demand. Along with tiered rates this has helped keep the scheme closely under control.

The RHI in Northern Ireland has now been closed but the rest of the UK is set to see rises in tariffs over the coming months to further encourage both domestic and business entities to take up low carbon heating technologies.

What the RHI scandal shows is the price that we pay for getting things wrong. While subsidies and other incentives are needed to boost the uptake of new ideas and technologies, not thinking it through and worse, not doing something about problems that occur, is not only damaging to the industry but cause for concern to anyone deciding to invest in it. People might be less willing to change to low carbon heating if they think that the rules on the RHI are going to change in the future, which they may well do in Northern Ireland. It erodes public confidence, as well as costing us money.

For the moment, though, if you live in England, Scotland or Wales, there’s some good news concerning low carbon heating over the next 12 months or so.

Glanrhyd Solar Village: Is it the future?

Glanrhyd Solar Village

With almost a quarter of the population in Wales technically living in fuel poverty, a small solar company has developed a way of building the greenest houses in the country. The location is Glanrhyd in the county of Pembrokeshire and the project comprises of six houses with eco-friendliness right at their core.

While the average home in the UK is spending up to £1,500 on their gas and electricity, the Glanrhyd homes promise utility bills at just £200. The homes will be made available to those on the council’s waiting list and their success could herald further, similar projects in the near future across the UK.

The Tŷ Solar project that started things off had two initial aims when the startup company Western Solar first began to imagine a new, greener future. The first was how they could build a low-cost house that was fit for purpose. The second was how they could lower the costs of living in that house with respect to the utilities they used.

The results far exceeded their expectations. The houses they have built are about half the cost of a normal brick structure – the buildings in Glanrhyd are made from good old fashioned wood. They are also extremely efficient, not only using less power but significantly lowering bills because of the inclusion of technologies such as solar PV.

These houses use 12% of the energy that normal properties do. Any excess power produced by the solar array can also be sold to the grid but there is also real potential for the homes to be energy independent if the latest new storage technology takes off.

In addition to being more energy efficient, the builders used local materials in the construction of the homes which greatly reduces the carbon footprint. Many of the other items such as the paper insulation is from recycled products and all the materials are non-toxic and have no adverse effect on the surrounding environment.

It wasn’t an easy path to success for this Welsh startup company – almost half of their budget went into the early stages of research and there were plenty of mistakes along the way until they came to the right solutions. This has the benefit, now that the Glanrhyd project is finished, of the company being in a position to mass produce the houses and replicate the village in other parts of the country. Over the next 3 years, Western Solar is looking to build some 50 homes across the region that will benefit residents on low incomes and provide them with a low-cost alternative to housing.

It’s not just the buildings that are giving many people much pause for thought. The company is looking to manualise the process of building, which includes employing and training locals to create these homes without using the large amount of heavy machinery often associated with construction companies.

The village at Glanrhyd will hopefully demonstrate to potential buyers and investors that this is a viable option for the future and could be replicated anywhere in the UK.

Could it solve the housing crisis?

According to Lesley Griffiths from the Department of Rural and Environmental Affairs:

“This scheme ticks so many boxes. We need more houses, we need more energy efficiency, we want to help people with fuel poverty. It’s been really good to hear how they have sourced local products. It’s great they’re using local people to build the houses.”

If we are looking to build homes that people can not only afford but afford to live in, this project may signal the way for future generations of builders.

Find out more about the initial Tŷ Solar project below:

Passive House

Passive House

About a Passive House

When it comes to planning to build a house, we tend to pay close attention to specific details. Things like the costs, architectural design, and also how comfortable and functional it will be on completion. However, more and more of us are also starting to add energy efficiency to that list. If you want a house that looks good, is comfortable, and energy efficient, then you might want to consider building (or transforming your current home into) a passive house.

But what exactly is a passive house? This is a building that, as a standard, is affordable, comfortable, but also energy efficient and environmentally friendly. This page will take you through information with regards to how you should proceed with regards to building a passive house, as well as the costs that are associated with construction, and even how you can benefit from a passive house. In addition to this, there are several other useful tips you can benefit from.

What Is a Passive House?

The concept of a passive house originated in Germany, where it is known as Passivhaus. It is important to note, at this point, that a passive house is not a brand name, but a concept within construction that can be applied by absolutely anyone, both commercially and residentially. A passive house is built so that it is comfortable and energy efficient all at once, and without using traditional heating systems or active cooling.

The passive house uses passive heat sources, so things like the energy from the sun, and the heat from running household appliances and the extracted air that comes from this. This allows most of the heating demands to be covered. The remaining energy needs in a passive house are usually supplied via renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or heat pumps. The active utilisation of this existing energy is one of the main things that are associated with a passive house. They also optimise thermal gain, while minimising thermal losses at the same time. By using existing temperature, the required energy for heating the home is 90% lower than that which is needed for a conventional house.

Requirements for a Passive House

There are certain specifications that a house needs to fill before it can be considered a passive house. The three basic requirements are as follows:

  • a passive house needs to have heating demands lower than 15 kWh per square meter annually (kWh/m²a)
  • a passive house needs to have primary energy demands (such as warm water, heating, house appliances) lower than 120 kWh/m²a
  • a passive house must pass a pressure test and the pressure must be limited to 50 Pascal’s with the pressure differential not exceeding 0.6 times a room’s volume per hour (n50 < 0.6 h-1)

In order for a passive house to be able to have such low energy demands, it needs to be constructed in a certain way. A passive house needs to have a high level of insulation, as well as thermal bridge free construction. This is where heat is transferred through a poorly insulated part of a wall, and it cannot happen in a passive house.

It needs to have airtight windows as well as doors, and a mechanical ventilation system that also uses heat recovery and heat efficiency. It also needs to make use of passive solar gains. In addition to this, a passive house should also have low energy appliances and energy efficient lights.

Why Build a Passive House?

By investing in a passive house, you will be able to benefit from reduced heating bills, and at the same time have a positive impact on the environment. A passive house is a sustainable construction, and it provides you with a 75% reduction in space heating requirements when compared to conventional households. Along with saving money on your heating bills, building a passive house means that you will not be using fossil fuels, which means a reduction in your carbon emissions. A passive house also provides you with a climate that is constant and spreads heat evenly.

Tips for Building a Passive House

A passive house is a sustainable construction that provides you with affordable, comfortable, and healthy living conditions in a high-quality building. However, it may seem a little tricky to build a passive house. With a set of basic rules that you should follow when you make plans to invest in a passive house, things become much easier. When building a passive house, it is important to keep the following in mind:

A passive house must be south facing due to the fact that a building like this requires solar energy as one of the main sources of heat. It is equally important to note that large windows should be installed on the south side of your house, with as little glazing towards the north as possible.

It is also important to ensure that no trees or chimneys cast any kind of shadow into your passive house, as it is very dependent on the heat generated by the sun’s energy.

There must be an excellent level of insulation in a passive house, and this is something that needs to be given close and careful attention. The proper insulation is what keeps the passive house warm during the winter months.

In addition to fantastic insulation, a passive house also requires an incredibly air-tight level of construction. Every element of a passive house ensures that the heat that is generated in the house is secured, and therefore you will have as little thermal loss through windows and doors as possible. Pressurisation tests are also able to determine whether or not our passive house has air-tight construction.

Following on from the concept of air-tight construction, it is also important to make sure that your passive house has triple glazed windows, doors, and roof lights with insulated frames.

Due to that fact that a passive house needs to be incredibly air-tight, you also need to make sure that it has the correct ventilation, ensuring a constant supply of fresh air. This can be achieved by installing a heat recovery ventilation system.

Thinking About Building a Passive House?

If you find the concept of a passive house intriguing, then it might be an idea to do a little more research into what it takes to build one. If you are thinking about doing this, then we can make the process a little easier for you. All you need to do is fill out the form on this page, and we will contact you with some of our best and most trusted suppliers. You will be able to discuss your needs with them, and they will help you through the process of planning your dream passive house. The service is obligation free, and incredibly easy.

Eco Homes

EcoHome

About Eco Homes

This page covers various topics regarding the subject of eco homes. It includes their construction, guidelines for eco-friendly homes, as well as benefits for various stakeholders that can benefit from an increased amount of eco homes.

What Are Eco Homes?

The concept of eco homes refers to an environmental rating scheme in the UK, and is has been put into commercial practice in the form of several different versions from the year 2000 until 2006. As of 2007, it has been replaced by a new scheme titled the Code of Sustainable Homes. This code, which is the process of certification for the performance pf homes throughout England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, compiles the key aspects of the eco homes scheme (including the major characteristics and implementations), as well as the benefits from each scheme – which can be used parallel to each other.

The rating scheme Eco Homes, implemented by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), was first developed and released in 2000 and since then it has gone through three revisions, leading to a total of four different versions:

The rating scheme that was used by eco homes was implemented by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), and was first developed and released in 2000. Since then, it has gone through three revisions, which led to a total of four different revisions, as seen below:

  • Eco Homes Pre-2002
  • Eco Homes 2003
  • Eco Homes 2005
  • Eco Homes 2006

Due to the major revisions that were made in each of these eco homes schemes, it is not possible to compare homes that have been built under different versions, as the standard that had to be achieved differs considerably in each version.

The Code for Sustainable Homes was officially launched in December 2006, and it replaced the eco homes scheme as an assessment method for new homes in Northern Ireland, Wales, and England. It also complements the Energy Performance Certificates for new households.

The Building Research Establishment, which initially developed the eco homes scheme, now also managed the technical content of the new code’s standards on behalf of the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). It also has some broader responsibilities.

How Does the Eco Homes Assessment Work?

The eco homes scheme awards new homes with ratings from 1 to 6, which are based on their performance in nine criteria that relate to sustainability. When combined, these criteria assess the environmental impact of the house. A rating of 1 refers to a level above the very basic and regular building standards. A rating of 6 is the highest possible, and states that the building is a superior development in terms of sustainability.

The nine sustainability criteria for the eco homes and the Code for Sustainable Home are:

  • Energy and CO2 Emissions
  • Water: Internal and external water savings
  • Materials: Sourcing and environmental impact of the materials used for building
  • Surface: Water run-off
  • Waste: Reducing, reusing or recycling of construction materials
  • Pollution: Using insulation materials and heating systems without adding to global warming
  • Health and Well-Being: Good daylight quality, sound insulation, private space, adaptability and accessibility
  • Management: Home User Guide
  • Ecology: Protecting and enhancing the ecology of the area

Although it is voluntary, the eco homes scheme encourages home builders to follow the principles that are set out within it, and the Code for Sustainable Homes has plans to make this a mandatory feature for builders in the near future. This is great news for the environment.

How Can I Turn My House into an Eco Home?

The requirements for your home to be considered an eco-home are actually quite demanding. Unfortunately, not everyone currently has the funds to build a house that meets the set requirements. However, there are a few things that everyone can do in order to make their homes a little more environmentally friendly. Small changes and improvements help towards the big picture, even if they won’t be recognised officially by the eco home scheme.

Insulate Your Home

Make sure that the insulation in your walls and windows is up to standard, and that if it needs replacing or improvement that you get it done. Insulation helps to reduce heating costs for your home.

Use Low Wattage Lightbulbs

Low wattage light bulbs, or eco-friendly lightbulbs as they are sometimes called, use a lot less energy and are just as bright as regular ones. They can take a couple of minutes to warm up, but they are far more energy efficient.

Use Motion Sensor Lightbulbs

Alternatively, you can use motion sensor light bulbs. It’s essential to turn off your lights when you are not in the room, but so many of us forget at some point. With motion sensor light bulbs, you’ll never have to worry about forgetting again.

Update Your Appliances

New fridges, ovens, and other appliances, tend to have been designed to be more environmentally friendly. So, if you have old appliances, it might be worth getting them recycled and buying yourself some new, energy efficient ones. That way you save on energy, and also help save the planet.

Install Skylights in the Roof

Allowing more natural sunlight to get into your home will render the usage of artificial light unnecessary in many situations, therefore saving a lot of energy.

Skylights not only look great, but they also help to brighten your home. The natural light pouring in will mean that you won’t have to use as much artificial light in order to see clearly. This can end up saving you a lot of energy.

Invest in Renewable Energies

By investing in renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, you can provide your home with energy, essentially, for free. This happens after the initial cost of investment, of course. Or you can use one of the many government schemes available.

What Are the Benefits of Eco Homes?

Eco Homes have several benefits, both for home builders, consumers, and of course the environment. The benefits of Eco Homes for different groups of stakeholders will be explained in more detail below.

There are several benefits that come with having an eco-home, and these are for both the builders and consumers – as well as the environment. The benefit of eco homes for different groups of stakeholders is explained in detail below.

Benefits of Eco Homes for Home Builders

  • Credibility and Increased Reputation

Those who are constructing eco home often receive excellent press and positive attention on social media (a hugely important business tool) for the efforts in protecting the environment. Eco homes also demonstrate how sustainable the houses are in terms of their design and construction, setting those who build them apart from the competition.

  • Flexibility and Innovation

Although the eco homes scheme measures the performance level for different categories, it does not set any rules for how this needs to be achieved. It leaves space for the builders to be creative and innovative so that they can come up with clever and cost-effective solutions to meet, or even exceed, the requirements set by the scheme.

Benefits of Eco Homes for Consumers

  • Improved Decision-Making

The ratings on eco homes give valuable information to consumers. This often makes it a lot easier for them to make decisions.

  • Reduced Carbon Footprint

Sustainable eco homes are effective when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint of their occupants, as well as their effect on the environment. At the same time, it also works to encourage more and more home builders so that they can focus on building eco-homes.

  • Reduced Costs

Eco homes have been built to be energy efficient when it comes to things like electricity and water. This then reduces the costs for consumers.

  • Improved Well-Being

Eco homes also provide a more pleasant atmosphere, as well as a healthy place for people to live.

Benefits of Eco Homes for the Environment

  • Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By focussing on renewable energies, eco homes are able to help reduce the ongoing threat of climate change and global warming.

  • Reduced Impact on the Environment in General

Eco homes also promote the use of materials that are less harmful to the environment and also create less pollution, to name a few. As a result, eco-homes have a 100% green approach when it comes to global warming.

Building Eco Homes

If you are looking to build an eco-home, or simply make your current one environmentally friendly, you can make good use of the form on this page. Simply fill it out (it only takes a moment) and we will get back to you with a number of trusted suppliers that can help you through your eco-home ideas. The service is free, fast, and obligation free.