/ 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?

Comments
Member

If the government were serious about Green Energy then it would seem that the way forward is to insist that every new house/building is built with its own solar panels.

Then it should subsidise properties already built, so that they contribute to the energy bank

The energy produced would give the householder free energy and the excess energy could be fed back into the energy system. The excess energy could be sold to the energy suppliers and the resulting revenue could offset the local Council Tax.

I am sure that this is a cheaper method of producing energy and woukld certainly stop our landscapes from being eyesores.

As an after thought. The excess energy revenue could be used to build water resevoirs and pipelines to water shortage areas and the water sold on to the water companies.

Member

If the government gave very cheap loans for loft insulation and solar power panels, plus all new buildings to have solar panels, then self sufficiency would be an attainable goal and cut drastically our need to rely on imported gas.

If the government allowed a 10 to 20% build in every village and hamlet in the UK this would generate work at the very grass roots level of society. and relieve some of the countryside housing shortage

Member

Home improvement schemes are just tinkering with the problem and ensuring a massive bureacratic fest. They sound good to government but it’s addled thinking – or desperation stakes by governernment

Member

Again, penalise the consumers, rather than the industries.

I’ve just bought a new house and the only thing you are guaranteed of is insulation.

If builders aren’t required to do anything more than to just build it with insulation, why should the owners of older properties be forced to make changes?

It’s their property, they bought it, it’s their decision what they do with it, not the governments

Member
Andrew Warren says:
10 April 2012

This is simply not true. If it meets the official minimum requirements, a new home will have standards set for lighting , heating equipment like boilers and controls and glazing – as well as insulation for floors, walls and roofs.

The key word is “if”. The last full study of new houses found that approaching half failed to incorporate the minimum energy saving requirements. But no builder has ever been prosecuted for such failures to comply.I wonder why?

Member

My point is that it relates to the sale. Builders would never be able to sell a house without insulation, they still need to offer gifted deposits and assisted moves in order to shift them anyway.

The insulation is the most effective, along with double-glazing I’ll give you that.

Any sensible person, when performing home improvements would insulate first, why does there need to be a government “initiative” to force this through? If it’s not insulated and with double glazing then they’re not going to be able to shift it unless it’s in a specific conservation area.

One also looks at our boiler setup and has to conclude, is this really the most efficient way?

We have a great big boiler downstairs and a huge tank upstairs. The boiler appears to be almost always on (heating the water) but we haven’t had a bill yet so can’t really check.

However, you are incorrect insofar as no-one polices this. The NHBC polices these policies and provides a certificate to prove it. However, when you see this in action, we have had to have a bar put over the bottom of the window sills so that “kids don’t fall out of the window”.

What I’m saying is that they go too far in interfering with peoples properties, the points you mentioned are something that no-one in their right mind would buy without, what their new “standards” should be focussing on are things like Water butts, solar panels, intake pipe turbines and the like.

Member

Not sure about this.

Much better to make the building industry take on new approaches. For example fit rain water butts as standard. Install led lighting.

Member
Andrew Warren says:
10 April 2012

A basic numerical error: you begin the second section of your report by stating that “such regulations already exist for extensions of 10,000 square metres or more”. The correct figure is actually 1,000 sq metres or more- a rather fundamental difference!

Curiously, you omit to inform anybody that this is entirely due to the requirement to implement the Energy Performance of Buildings directive, originally passed in 2002. That directive has been revised and updated. So , under Article 7 of the new directive, from January 2013 that size restriction disappears.

Rather a crucial point, don’t you think?