/ Home & Energy

Home improvements – will the law force you to be green?

The decision to renovate your home could soon get trickier – the government’s mulling over regulations that would require you by law to make energy efficiency improvements to your home when you renovate.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is proposing that when you’re carrying out renovations or improvements to your home, you’ll be required to spend a percentage of the value of those works on what they term ‘consequential improvements’.

The requirements could extend to all improvements available through the new Green Deal scheme, such as a new boiler or solid wall insulation.

How much will it cost? Well, the proposals say that if you’re planning an extension you might have to spend up to, or even beyond, 10% of the cost of the planned works on extra energy efficiency improvements.

The proposed rules will also affect you if you’re planning on installing a new boiler or replacing some or all of your windows. Of course, these are already required by law to be energy efficient, but under the new rules you would trigger a requirement to install energy efficiency improvements too – loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, hot water cylinder insulation or draughtproofing.

A boost for the Green Deal

Such regulations already exist for extensions of 1,000 sq metres or more. That’s pretty massive, so doesn’t affect many renovation projects, but the new proposals would mean a much broader range of home improvements would be covered by this.

This could also push a lot of people to take up the Green Deal – the government’s plan to help people finance energy efficiency measures through loans paid back via energy bills. That scheme comes with its own set of challenges for consumers, such as early repayment penalties and potentially inaccurate assessment procedures.

We’re worried that making people carry out these ‘consequential improvements’ will put them off wanting to improve their home. In some cases this could be dangerous; for instance, if you chose not to replace an old boiler because you didn’t want to pay an extra 10% for energy efficiency improvements.

This isn’t small beer either, every year there are 1.4m boiler replacements, 1m homes that have windows replaced and 200,000 extensions or loft conversions.

Too heavy-handed?

Consumer research carried out for the Energy Saving Trust suggests that people will feel aggrieved at being forced to carry out extra energy efficiency work. We think there’s a place for a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to encouraging greener homes, but this seems to be a touch heavy handed and risks alienating people further from the very concept of energy efficiency.

We’re also concerned that the government hasn’t addressed the practicalities of the process for consumers. It will be far more complicated to arrange extra building works on top of the improvements they were originally planning.

Of course, energy efficiency is really important and can be a simple and effective way of saving money on your energy bills, but this kind of approach could undermine efforts in this area. There’s also the worry that it could force people into the hands of ‘cowboy’ builders.

So what do you make of these plans – are you planning an extension or a new boiler? Do you think it’s fair to expect people to do this, or would it put you off wanting to do it at all?

Les Ellis says:
14 April 2012

When will this government STOP interfering in our lives? I am so sick of them telling us what is good for us. Rules,rules & more rules! Everything they implement costs more money whether it is improving our home or having a leisurely cigarette & a drink at the weekend.

Forcing people is not the answer – schemes like funding loft and cavity wall insulation that are in place already; assistance for the elderly; energy efficient regulations for new builds are surely a better way forward. The government should also carry on educating people – both adults and children. If people can see they will save money; protect the environment and their home will be worth more when they sell it then they will want to improve their houses!

Ref: ‘energy effecient regulations for new builds are surely a better way forward’.

Newly built dwellings and commercial properties are already built to energy effeciency standards which far exceed the performance standards of the ‘average’ building. The standards for new buildings are set to increase further under the 2014 revision of Part L of the Building Reglations, and a carbon neutral standard for all new buildings is proposed under the 2016 revision of the regulation.

As such, there is little more that can be done for newly built properties in terms of energy effeciency. However, the quantity of new-build properties is a drop in the ocean when compared to the exisitng building stock. It is questionable if it it makes sense to make incredibly energy effeceint new buildings, at considerable expense, whilst neighboruging properties perform very poorly and could make considerable improvements through relatively low cost improvements.

The variation in running costs between new and old buildings is set to increase, which could result in a deeply segregated society. The energy effeciency of existing building stock will eventually require attention, but whether this is best managed through intrusive government policy is another matter.

I am personnally in the midst of a domestic refurbishment which has involved the addition of insulation to solid masonry walls, new under-floor insulation, a wood fired heating system and new windows. From experience, I can vouch that the process is highly disruptive. I would question if the majority of people would be prepared to tolerate such a level of disruption, which raises the question; just how will exisitng building stock maintain internal comfort standards which are considered acceptable, at a price which is affordable?

Roger L says:
15 April 2012

I am at present building a substantial extension to my own house and naturally have planned for all the eco measures I can reasonably take eg 4″ of cavity insulation, condensing boiler, double glazing etc. I am also including a comprehensive gray water system because I can do that on a DIY basis.
The other possibilities like solar panels are not on because they do not pay for themselves in 10 years (particularly with the reduced FIT rates).
It’s reasonable for the government to raise expectations that all new building work should be as green as posible and to subsidise to get eco balls rolling but legislation forcing the issue is unlikely to be efective.
I belong to the energy group of Transition Town Letchworth and it is becoming increasingly clear that micro energy generation is the future where it’s cost effective, not only making towns self sufficient in energy but also streets self sufficient.
Does your town plan to be self sufficient by 2030?
Is your town a transition town – findout – just type Transition Towns into Google
(Transition Towns is a green movement to cope with peak oil and climate change)
The government should be educating, encouraging and subsidising those technologies which although not cost effective at present will be in the future not just passing dictatorial laws.
The domestic PV roof panel industry has successfully taken off (allbeit with trauma) now how about subsidising digesters which turn scrap wood, pollarded wood and energy crops into heat, electricity and bio fuels. One for every town?

How about makingt it compulsory for all new housing to have roof panels? Than follow on for all other appropriate housing to do the same with some real incentive to do it. If each house is self sufficent in energy terms then that is a real saving that everybody will be aware of.

Are you aware that building societies are warning that houses with solar panels based on the renting out of the roof to a 3rd party are unlikely to get a mortgage and therefore become unsaleable.

The regulations concerning new central heating boilers are ridiculous, and not based on real instaltions. As an example, if I follow the regs, a new boiler will cost over £6,500. To be allowed to install a new boiler in the center of the house to replace the existing one will cost around £800. Where is the sense in that?

@Bert – If you have a Baxi Bermuda back boiler you may be interested in this – http://www.baxi.co.uk/products/bbu.htm – they have an A rated room sealed replacement for the Baxi, the Gas fire however will need to be replaced with an electric. Price about £1000 + labour for a 1 to 1.5 days (2 people).

Re baxi, I am expecting British Gas to quote me for a replacement of mine in a couple of weeks, I know the costs and what is reasonable for a couple of days work.

If I remember or someone prompts me I will update this thread.

Got the quote, are you sitting comfortably?

£5800 for a £1000 boiler!!!!

Thanks for the information, but it is not quite what I need. It is electic, and is combined with a radiant heater. The existing one is a gas fuelled unit, now 42 years old. It is located in the middle of the house.
The so called “wasted heat” is not wasted as professed. It stays in the house, and the chimney also warms the house including the loft space. If I replace the boiler with a new one I will have to install extra rediators to compensate for this “lost heat”. The only heat wasted is the small amount that exits the chimney in the exhaust gas that finally leaves the flue.
The whole basis of fuel cost savings in wrong, being estimated on the lab tests on boilers in isolation, assuming the heat energy radiated from the boiler and that lost oin the flue gas is lost, which it isn’t. The whole thing os a massive con.
I contacted Which? some time ago and unfortunately they did not undertsand what I was talking about until I explained it directly and personally, but so far there has been no correction to their report..

Does anybody know where i can find information on whether Consequential improvments had any benefits when it was first introduced? And what was the exent of buildings changes that came under the old legislation?

If I had a condensing boiler installed for say £2,000 and the proposed regulations were enforced, and 10% is the correct amount, then £200 for updating insulation isn’t too bad. However, who decides what the £200 is spent on? I am not in favour of cavity wall insulation in houses the age of mine circa 1906, I have heard of too many problems. I have even read of people having it removed!
The danger might be that the goverment becomes too heavy handed and insists on a minimum insulation level that people just cannot afford to finance. What if someone finds they have a flat felt roof with no insulation, are they expected to rip it off and have a new roof, the cost would be huge. I believe that before the building regulations were changed (2006 I think) to enforce insulation to flat roofs, many people did not have insulation installed.
Also what about elderly people with limited incomes, if their boilers die are they going to have no hot water and heating because they cannot afford to pay for improvements. Also how long will it take to make insulation improvements, they cannot be expected to go weeks without hot water and heat. I think it is just too heavy handed. People who bought houses 30 years ago and are retired on low incomes could not foresee these changes, so should not be forced to improve their property if they don’t want to. If I am missing something, then I am open to being educated on the subject!

The new regulations concerning domestic heating should be either modified, scrapped, or at least not applied to older houses retrospectively. They are a money making scam for the industry, and good for the GDP. None of the claims on efficiency savings/return on investment, are valid.