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How can we reduce energy consumption through residential design?

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By EnviroVent Jan 18, 2023

Whether you are hoping to adapt your construction methods to appeal to a more environmentally conscious house buyer, have identified low energy consumption as a key selling point for buyers on a tight budget, or want to make your own contribution in the battle against climate change and pollution (or most likely a combination of all three), as a house builder, energy efficiency and environmentally friendly design are no doubt at the forefront of your concerns. In any case, with new government regulations aiming to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions, the matter has been taken out of our hands. In this article we will focus in on the main sources of energy consumption, comparing traditional means of reducing energy consumption with new and innovative solutions.

What are the main sources of energy consumption and waste?

According to a report from the Office for National Statistics on the Energy efficiency of housing in England and Wales[1], “England and Wales both have a median energy efficiency rating in band D, with scores of 67 and 65, respectively, where the most energy-efficient homes have an energy efficiency rating in band A and the least energy-efficient homes are in band G”. The report also states that median energy efficiency scores have been rising over time in both England and Wales. With fuel prices increasing, buyers electing to purchase a new build home not only expect a high energy efficiency rating, but in many cases place innovative, energy-saving solutions at the top of their wish lists. Home builders are therefore well advised to carefully consider how energy is consumed, and what strategies can be deployed to reduce energy consumption and waste. For a more detailed look at why energy efficiency is so vitally important, check out blog entry on the subject.

 

It is estimated that domestic buildings are responsible for 30-40% of primary energy use in the UK.[2] The energy saving trust reports that this consumption can be broken down as follows[3]:

1. Space heating – 61%

2. Water heating – 23%

3. Lighting and appliances – 13%

4. Cooking – 3%

With heating accounting for almost two thirds of our energy consumption, it is perhaps unsurprising that heat loss is also the main source of waste, with estimates suggesting that,

“in a typical British home up to one third of the heat produced by central heating systems is lost through the roof, walls, floor and windows”[1].

It is clear that the quest for a more energy-efficient home must therefore focus on limiting heat loss. With this in mind, we will now look briefly at some traditional methods by which to increase energy efficiency, before highlighting some of the more innovative solutions available…

Traditional options and their pros and cons

The desire to reduce heat loss and insulate our homes is not a new phenomenon, with traditional methods including:

 

  • Cavity wall insulation
  • Loft insulation
  • Draught-proofing chimneys
  • Double glazing
  • Thick curtains and door insulation
  • Draught excluders

 

What all of the above methods have in common is that, in seeking to prevent the escape of heat from our homes, they also prevent the circulation of air. Recent innovations, driven by an increased awareness of environmental issues, have sought to take this approach further still, attempting to limit heat loss through the development of airtight homes. This creates a need for improved ventilation, as otherwise problems may arise such as the formation of condensation, damp, mould, poor indoor air quality, and the circulation of allergens. The use of ventilation as a means by which to reduce carbon emissions has already been addressed in our article, here. In order for ventilation systems to be effective in fulfilling this role, they must be efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly (another subject previously discussed in detail), and it is here that EnviroVent comes into its own.

Innovative domestic ventilation systems as a means by which to reduce energy consumption

On account of the extent of refurbishment work required, the initial cost of installing new ventilation systems in existing homes may be prohibitive. Owners of existing homes may therefore have to content themselves with upgrading to new and more efficient extractor fans, or perhaps replacing doors and windows with new and more airtight models. However, when constructing a new home, there are a wide range of innovative and environmentally friendly design options available to you. These include:

- Mechanical extract ventilation systems, which can effectively be fitted and forgotten about, with little need for maintenance or configuration.

- MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery) systems, which offset heating costs as it both supplies and extracts air throughout a property. Heat recovery helps a to reduce the heating and cooling demands of buildings.

The latter system is an ideal means by which to facilitate the construction of a completely airtight home, while addressing the associated air quality issues. In addition to preventing heat loss, the system further offsets heating costs, as the warmed return air helps to create a more pleasant home environment. As a result, you can also offer buyers a home that is cost-effective to run, and that will also satisfy their desire to reduce their carbon emissions and environmental impact. These systems require a considerable degree of advance planning, particularly in terms of the routing of ducts and the dimensioning of the system to suit the property and the number of inhabitants. There are also a number of regulatory requirements to be fulfilled when building a completely (or almost completely) airtight house. However, you do not have to overcome these potential obstacles on your own…

...the Envirovent experts are on hand to assist.

Whether you are a seasoned user of energy-efficient mechanical ventilation systems and simply have a minor query, or require more in-depth advice on how to reduce the carbon consumption of your homes by integrating mechanical ventilation into your future developments, we at EnviroVent would be more than happy to assist you. We are on hand to help with product selection, as well as with the design and specification of your chosen system. Together, we can help address the issue of heat loss in domestic properties and pioneer new forms of low-emission residential design.


[1] https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/environment/climate-change/heat-loss-your-home

 

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/housing/articles/energyefficiencyofhousinginenglandandwales/2022#energy-efficiency-of-dwellings-in-england-and-wales

[2] https://www.thegreenage.co.uk/how-much-energy-does-my-home-use/

[3] http://www.energyenvoys.org.uk/sites/default/files/What%27s%20energy%20used%20for_0.pdf