Light Reflective Paint – Better, Brighter, -But How?

I recently attended a conference with Akzo Nobel, the company that owns and manufactures Dulux paints. I learnt about their extensive sustainability strategy, known as Planet Possible, and it got me thinking about the way in which I use paints and how it affects not just the look and feel of a space but also on its energy use:

 

Colour has more than an aesthetic impact: it can be a practical means to increase the natural light falling in through windows, reducing the amount of electricity that building occupants use as a result – a material that impacts on occupant behavioural use.

 

Natural light is good for you too – it helps the body make vitamin D, the ‘sunshine vitamin’, which helps you fight off viruses and could save you trip to the doctor.

 

So how can we use paint and colour to save energy and feel healthier?

 

All colour and so paint reflects light- the more light it reflects, the less we need to use artificial electric light to compensate. Picking lighter colours in key areas of the buildings we occupy will reflect more natural light will save energy.

But how do we know which colours to pick?

 

Dulux colour fan

There’s a handy notation next to most colours provided by Dulux which tells you how much light gets reflected. The notation consists of three parts: hue, light reflectance value, and chroma.

 

  • Hue tells you which colour you’re getting as you would see it in a rainbow – pink has a red hue, pure yellow is a hue, and so on.

colour wheel

  • Light Reflectance Value or LRV that indicates the brightness, and specifically, how much light bounces off the paint. The higher the number, the brighter the colour. 00 is very low, and 99 is the highest and the brightest.

  • Chroma is the intensity of the colour – a bit like saturation. A low number will be a neutral grey, and a high number – up to 999- will be vivid colour.

It’s the second part that we’re interested in – brightness. We want more light to bounce off the paint. So pick colours with a high LRV number – they’ll reflect more light around your room. The colour notation below shows 08 – very low on the scale and therefore a dark colour.

 lrv

Dulux’s Light & Space range of paints add brightness to a room by reflecting up to 40% more light than normal paint, using Lumitec technology. It means you can turn the lights off a bit later – around 20 minutes according to Dulux – and you can make the most of natural light during the day.

Think about it – if the average home uses 35 lights, and turned on each of them 20 minutes less per day, that would be the equivalent of a single light bulb used continuously  over 177 days – pretty amazing huh? It really adds up, and in this way we can see the electrical savings light reflectance can really have on domestic energy use.

Light & Space has special light-reflecting particles in the paint to make this effect, so that for the same hue,  paint is more vivid. Your room will be brighter- and give you more of the natural light which, as we are starting to see already this year, leaves you feeling healthier and happier on the inside too, with a potential marked decrease in your energy bills.

Earth Hour

 

Those readers with a keen eye will notice that I wrote this before Earth Hour, which happened on Saturday. But Earth Hour is such a great idea of bringing together people all over the planet, that I wanted to publish this even though it’s late – so that those of you who missed it, or took part but want to continue to be involved, can find out more and help spread the word about this global energy saving event.

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This week, a brilliant event is taking place across the globe, to raise awareness of climate change, energy use, and the environment. Saving energy is important for all of us whether it’s at home, at work, or contributing to projects to make the world a better place. The event is Earth Hour – and it takes this coming Saturday at 8.30pm.

 

On Saturday evening, March 29th, at 8.30pm, wherever you are, Earth Hour asks you to  turn the lights off for one hour.

 

Of course, that’s not all – the hour is a symbol of a commitment you intend to make for the future.

 

This year, Earth Hour and WWF are launching a crowdfunding platform called Earth Hour Blue. It allows you to pledge your commitment to making a difference beyond the hour and into the future. You can make a contribution to a project that will have a long lasting positive impact on the environment.

 

Energy saving, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing – what’s not to like? You can have a look at some of the projects being funded here.

 

Joining Earth Hour is so easy – that’s what makes it such a great idea. All you have to do is cut your electricity usage for an hour in the evening on March 29th. You can also sign-up on their website to share your experience and be part of it online.

 

Earth Hour is a great time to spend with your family, talking or playing games under candlelight. And if you’re looking for a way to come together with all the other people who are getting involved, that’s easy too. There are local events happening up and down the country (and all over the world!) which you can join in.

 

In Brighton for instance, there is a walk along the seafront where people will be carrying lanterns and playing music. It looks like it’s going to magical as the lights go off. To find an event near you, have a look at the map on their website here.

 

Whatever you do, you’ll be a part of a worldwide event. Here are some highlights from last year’s Earth Hour as countries across the globe turned off the lights just after sunset:

 

Here comes Climate Week from the 3rd -9th March

Having recently trained as a Domestic Energy Assessor and Green Deal advisor, I’ve come to appreciate the importance and vast opportunities available of saving energy in the home, and as a design professional it’s important that energy use is part of my offering when I’m giving more general design advice to home owners. (You can read more about my training adventures here!)

It can make such a difference to your home’s comfort levels-  so it’s not just about the environment, it’s about personal benefits too. As I found out, there are so many ways to save energy and add to your wellbeing. That’s why I’m on board with Climate Week, because knowing about what utilities you do what you use (such as gas, water, and electricity) and what you can do to reduce it, is the first step to making improvements.

Climate Week is Britain’s biggest climate change campaign, inspiring a new wave of action to create a sustainable future. Culminating in a week of activities on 3-9 March 2014, it showcases practical solutions from every sector of society that help people live and work more sustainably.

Each year, half a million people attend over 3,000 events in Britain’s biggest environmental occasion. Events are run by schools, businesses, charities, councils and many others. Participation is completely free.

There’s lots of material on their website about how to run an event. You could run a climate week swap for instance, and give your old possessions a new lease of life by exchanging them. Or perhaps repair those things that have been lying around that you’d like to see brought back to life: have a look at my blogpost on repair groups, skill swaps and DIY.

Whatever you do, Climate Week can help you to save a little money, reduce your carbon, and live a better life now and into the future.

You can run any kind of activity and this week we can expect workshops, competitions, exhibitions, launches, bike rides, film screenings, open days and debates.

Remember to register your event at www.climateweek.com – it takes just two minutes.

Another activity you can take part in is the Climate Week Challenge competition. Over 200,000 people in schools and workplaces take part each year. Last year children of all ages tried their hand out at designing the ultimate eco-home, and had some pretty inspiring ideas!

For more information go to www.climateweek.com

What will you be doing for Climate Week? Tweet me @oliver_heath and let’s spread the word!

 

Wandular – helping us to live sustainably through the art of better design

I recently attended an inspirational lecture by Jonathan Chapman, Professor of Sustainable Design at Brighton University, one of the key points he makes is that people buy into meaning, not matter. Here’s the full lecture for you to watch on Youtube.

Here are some scary numbers: 40.1.98.61.0

Scary……. but why?

As Professor Chapman states 40 tonnnes of materials are used to create just 1 tonne of domestic products. 98% of these products are thrown out of our homes after just 6 months, meaning production is just 1% efficient, leading to 0 future for materials.

 

So if you want to make design more sustainable, products should mean something to the end user for longer. They shouldn’t just be designed to become obsolete. But just how do we do that?

 

The question designers should be asking is ‘Why can’t a gadget be an heirloom?’

Well Sony is looking into the business model of a new product called the Wandular as an alternative to fragile devices that break in a year – the type we’re used to. It’s half way between concept and object – a philosophy envisioned in a technology product.

 

The Wandular – a personal computing device designed to actually get better with age. It would use cloud-based software improvements and plug-in hardware, so you could add new technologies as they emerged, such as sensors or projectors. It also features long lasting materials such as wood, leather and titanium so it can both be repaired and forge an emotional attachment with the user – emotional durability, or as some like to say, ageing gracefully.

 

And there is a convincing business model to accompany the concept focusing on moving from selling one off products to ongoing service provision – a familiar change that we’re seeing among many technology companies today. A longer-lasting product at a more competitive price, serviced over a lifetime with improvements and software upgrades generates loyalty and longer term profit.

 

Built to last

The concept of Wandular can be interpreted into the design of home ware too. Students at the University of Brighton came up with shoes which reveal a hidden pattern as they wear out, and a mug which reveals a pattern as the tea stain gets deeper into the ceramic. Good furniture and clothes develop a ‘worn’ quality and with it, an attachment to the individual too, so savvy designers are highlighting it in novel ways.

 

Stain Tea Cups by Laura Bethan Wood

But what about creating Wandular on a larger scale? Can buildings improve with age? Can we design our spaces for emotional durability, efficiency and modularity? Or simply acknowledge the power of interior design to convert an old space into a beautiful new space – while using insulation and energy saving measures to make it efficient and comfortable too.

 

A number of manufacturers have realized the benefits of this service based model. Ercol, the furniture manufacturers, have been making timber furniture since the 1920’s, designed to be easily reupholstered using their own service.

Think about the products or items that you really love at home – the ones you have a strong emotional attachment to, and how they bring a great level of happiness to your life. For me it might be my Charnwood wood burning stove, the sweet chestnut cladding on the front of my home, that improves with age or a leather armchair that softens and deepens in richness and colour.

Leather Armchair1

091201 gallery pics 0412

All are the type of objects or materials that people forge attachments with and consider worth repairing. They are objects that bring us happiness. Perhaps it’s time to have the opportunity for repair, upgrading and improvement actually designed into the products and spaces that we occupy as a forethought rather than an afterthought – the world around us would become a better, happier and healthier place in all sorts of ways.

It’s Big Energy Saving Week – so take action now

Whilst this winter has been pretty stormy it has been a mild one so far — I have my suspicions that the coldest part is yet to come. So it’s the perfect time to make sure your home is warm and comfy — and to try and save money on those dreaded energy bills.

Well the good news is that Big Energy Saving Week begins today! — which means there are events across the country to help you do just that.

Tomorrow, I’ll be picking up the phone at the Energy Saving Advice Service to help you answer some of those pressing questions about cutting your fuel bills and saving energy, alongside Gregory Barker, Minister for Climate Change. — if you’d like to call and talk about energy saving in your home call 0300 123 1234

Oliver Heath and Greg Barker

Myself and Greg Barker, Minister for Climate Change

The service can help you in all sorts of ways, armed with hints and tips as well as being able to refer you, impartially, to the latest schemes designed to help you with your bills and help you find a Green Deal Assessor (more about that below).

There are stalls, workshops and other events all over the country. Switching supplier, tariff, and making sure you’re taking advantage of schemes such as Winter Fuel Payment and the Warm Home Discount scheme are just some of the things you can do to save on your bills. Here’s a map of all the things happening so you can find an event near you.

And of course, there’s The Green Deal. British houses are some of the oldest and leakiest in Europe, which means we’re paying more to heat our homes as the warmth literally pours out, wasting money and of course creating unnecessary emissions of CO2. The Green Deal is a means to improving the energy efficiency and reducing costs to your home, through careful assessment and building improvements- with little or no upfront cost to the owner. Payment can be via a loan placed on the property and paid back in small stages via your electricity bill.

I recently took to the opportunity to train and qualify as a Domestic Energy Assessor and Green Deal Assessor — you can read about my Green Deal adventure here. The qualification allows me to help home owners build a complete picture of their home’s  energy use, plus understand the home owners’ behavioural impact, allowing me to suggest the best ways to save energy, keep warm and finance those changes. If you’d like to find a green deal assessor near you take a look at the GDOrb site (http://gdorb.decc.gov.uk/consumersearch) site which has a handy post code checker.

When you think about it, we get our cars checked regularly with an MOT — so it makes complete sense to do the same for our homes. Getting an energy performance certificate or a Green Deal Assessment lets you understand where energy is being wasted and how best to make changes — allowing you to benefit from cheaper energy bills and a more comfortable home with little or no upfront cost.

So as we say – the sooner you take action the sooner you’ll have a warmer home and start saving. So get involved now and find out how Big Energy Saving Week could benefit you.

Driving down Electric Avenue – My year of electric driving

It’s coming up for a year since I started driving my extended range electric car- the sleek and futuristic Vauxhall Ampera, I’ve got to say that I don’t know if I can face going back to a conventional gas guzzler.

My and My Ampera

If you haven’t had the chance to drive in an electric car – then do!

The experience is initially quite surreal – near silent running except for the sound of the tyres on the road, ultra smooth acceleration, and of course, visits to the petrol station become a thing of the past.

What I have found most impressive is how it has totally changed my driving style. We all like to think we’re good drivers, but the Ampera really does help you to drive better-  communicating the impact of aggressive acceleration and hard braking as well as an overall assessment of your driving style at the end of each journey. This could sound rather nagging but since it means I can squeeze every spare mile out of the 45 mile battery range then I’m more than happy to be told how to accept a little positive criticism!

 

With the UK in a slow start to the transition to alternative forms of transport, the extended range dual-fuel nature of the Ampera suits my driving needs well. 95% of the journeys that I carry out are covered by the battery range of around 45 miles (the average trip in the UK is just 7 miles) beyond that the petrol engine seamlessly kicks in to power the batteries giving me a further 300 miles.

Unlike conventional hybrids which use a battery to support a petrol engine at low speeds, the Ampera primarily drives on its battery, using the petrol to keep it topped up over long distances. Excellent overall fuel efficiency means road trips across the UK to Norfolk, Devon and Cornwall can be at the fraction of the price of putting the family on the train. And of course, it’s always exciting to visit places like the Eden project where we had a great day whilst charging the car up at their dedicated charging station.

In fact, I can plug the Ampera in almost anywhere – but if you have a driveway or garage you can have a charging point installed at your home for free. They’re worth around £1200 but you can take advantage of a government scheme that runs until December 2014 to pay the full cost of yours. British Gas are just one of the accredited suppliers – there is more information available at the government’s website.

Our friends are rightly jealous of our futuristic driving journeys – not only do we not have to pay road tax, but across this years 4500 miles of driving we have only used 16 gallons of fuel achieving around 200 miles per gallon of petrol used – even better (if that’s possible) is that I power my Ampera directly from the 3.8 Kw photovoltaic panel system on the roof of my home – using and storing excess electricity created on a sunny day.

111121 pv pictures 002

By the end of the year there’ll be more than 700,000 plug-in electric vehicles on the world’s roads and thousands more charging points to add to the around 5000 already operating in the UK. The market in the UK is growing steadily for good reason – I’m saving on car tax, congestion charging and around £2000 per year on fuel. Right now the government is offering £5000 off the price of new plug-in cars too. The charging network is rapidly expanding and with the Ampera I can travel as far as I like.

Click image for a map of UK charging points.

Of course the key barrier to the adoption of electric cars is their higher purchase price but the benefits also exist in the longterm – be it  lower running costs, quieter roads and cleaner air for everybody. Driving an electric car  is certainly part of the future of my personal transport plan, particularly if it means i can keep driving with a cleaner environmental conscience.

My Great Green Deal training adventure

 

As you may know I’ve always been passionate about creating eco homes – be it new build or finding ways to make the homes we live in fit for the future. So when the opportunity came up to train and qualify as a Domestic energy Assessor and Green Deal Assessor, well i jumped at it. If you hadn’t heard of the Green Deal, it’s a Government-backed programme to help people save money on their bills by making their homes more energy efficient.
 
An Assessor will come to your home to assess its performance, talk to you about your energy use and provide you with a tailor made list of energy efficiency measures that will help you heat your home for less.
 
So I’m now two days into my training and what strikes me is just how little most of us know about the efficiency of our homes. Think about it – every year we get our cars assessed in an MOT, making them safer and more efficient, but when was the last time you had a trained professional pop round and give your home the same treatment? With roughly equivalent running costs, wouldn’t you want to be put in the driving seat of how much your home’s utility bills cost you?
 
My training is taking me through this thorough assessment procedure – noting construction types, property age, key heat loss locations, measuring floor areas, logging boiler efficiencies and inspecting electrical appliances – the list goes on! What it all adds up to is a complete picture of how your home is performing now and projecting forward to how much you could save with a number of energy efficient measures installed.
 
But more than just the cost of heating and lighting and inefficient home, not to mention those dreaded carbon emissions, it’s the quality of life that goes with it. Given the choice wouldn’t you rather come home to one that’s warmer, cosier and less draughty?
Making your home more energy efficient can help you create a better home to live in . There are a range of measures you could consider, including loft and wall insulation, a new boiler, heating controls, double glazing, draught exclusion and energy efficient lighting.
 
And the most important step you can take? Well that’s simple – just start by getting a Green Deal Assessment for your home. The sooner you do it the sooner you’ll be to getting a better, warmer, more efficient home to live in.
 
Find out more at www.gov.uk/greendeal or call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0203 123 1234 

To DIY for – does the world of DIY need fixing?

 

I grew up in an era where we were a nation of inventors, do-ers and makers – and the DIY skills that I learnt from my father are still serving me well today. But it seems that this trend for skills being shared and passed down may itself need a little TLC. Statistics show that the DIY sector shrank by over a fifth from 2008 to 2013. Now that’s a lot! – so what’s been going on?

 - A reduction in home ownership. The average age of the unassisted first-time buyer has risen to 33– We’re living in own properties for less time, so there’s there’s less of an incentive or ability to fix and maintain our homes which are often temporary, or belong to someone else.

 - A rise in cheap disposable homeware and furniture and other cheap objects which aren’t worth repairing so get thrown away. They’re weak and often not designed to be fixed.

 - The weather! Last year had unpredictable weather for Britain. Spring always brings a boost in home improvement – but difference between a sunny or a rainy March can mean a huge difference in sales at popular DIY stores.

 - The battle for our attention: Sunday mornings  used to be a time for DIY round the house – with just  three or four TV channels showing dull entertainment or Songs of Praise. Those same Sunday mornings that my Dad would teach me DIY have now been grabbed by gaming, tablets, streaming tv and social networking. We’ve lost quiet time, a time when DIY might have been a natural fill in activity.

And yet retailers such as B&Q, are optimistic. The sector is expected to pick up, alongside the rest of the economy, next year. Plus, sitting in the new connected world of smart materials and technology, it’ll be a new DIY that’s better and smarter than ever.

Fixed! Not thrown away, using SUGRU.

Fixed! Not thrown away, using SUGRU.

 

That’s a good thing, of course. You might think, being a designer and an architect, that I’d rather you had someone come in and do-it-for-you (DFM- that’s a real acronym by the way!) Good design is not just about owning beautiful objects. It’s also owning functional pieces, and I would argue that an essential component of any good object is that it can be fixed, adapted, repaired and recycled at the end of its life. But we do need the skills, tools and the confidence to do this.

 

Many modern objects aren’t designed to be fixed – they’re designed to be replaced, upgraded, disposed of. But maintaining our homes and our possessions is what really allows us to own and love them – to form stronger, more valuable and richer connections to the environments that we live in.

From painting and decorating, practical skills and upcycling to 3D printing, design and maker faires, the trend for mending and fixing is showing a real revival as I pointed out in my predictions for trends in 2014. There are plenty of opportunities – here are a few groups leading the way:

-Regular readers will have heard me singing about Sugru in these pages recently. It’s a flexible silicone material that allows to repair and modify things. I’ve been combining it with super-strong magnets. Here’s a recent Sugru hack of mine a wall mounted but removable upcycled bottle vase:

I used SUGRU to bond a magnet to the wall, and another to the flower jar.

I used SUGRU to bond a magnet to the wall, and another to the flower jar.

 - Maker Faires and Mini Maker Faires are taking off all over the world and are now in the UK, celebrating all things DIY and craft-related. From 3D printing to welding, amateur radios, remote controlled cars, robots, felt crafts and cooking – there are workshops and exhibitions to inspire you and your kids –  there’s probably one in a city near you too. There’s a map of upcoming Maker Faires all over the world here.

- Repair Cafe allows you to bring in broken items, clothes with holes and wobbly furniture and learn how to fix and mend them. They have tools, materials, books and specialists on hand to help. The aim is that you can repair, alongside other people, possessions instead of throwing them away, and enjoy a cup of tea at the same time.  There are Repair Cafes all over Europe and 9 in the UK – or if you want you can start your own.

The Good Life Centre, a London based and totally inspirational venue running workshops and DIY skills courses at a range of levels. 

Online social networks are also helping us get together and fix things. Initiatives like Streetclubmake it easy to find people on your street or in your neighbourhood and build a sense of community. Being able to share tools helps a great deal – it’s better than buying something expensive for the sake of one job.

 - Of course if you get stuck on almost any DIY job there’s always YouTube. But there are also other handy videos out there and sites like the brilliant Instructables  which have craft contests and instructions for life hacks, DIY and upcycling.

The reality is that getting a few DIY skills under your belt isn’t just a good practical life skill its also enormously satisfying – allowing you to fix , create and adapt rather than add to landfill-  so its good for you, good for you home and hey its even good for the environment.

 

Sustainable design trend predictions for 2014 and beyond…….

Autumn is fading into Winter and 2014 is beckoning – so what can we expect to see in our homes as eco-design whizzes round the sun once more? Without further ado, here are my key trends in sustainable design to watch out for in 2014.

Thinking Smart- Materials and Technology

The very fabric of our homes are set to get smarter, with floors and walls that can regulate temperature and even generate electricity. Some of this technology is already pointing the way forwards and supports this key trend to connecting us with the space around us.

British Gas Hive App

British Gas Hive App

First up the British Gas Hive smart control unit connects your heating and hot water to the internet so you can control them from your phone or tablet. You can save energy and save money by only heating your home when you need to, so you’re always in control.

DuPont Energain panels line the walls of your home  and maintain a even out temperature fluctuations. They use a special type of paraffin which stays solid below 18 degrees C. , but as the space warms to 22 degrees,  it melts into a liquid and absorbs heat, preventing a spike in temperature. As the room cools down at night, the material resolidifies, releasing heat in the process. It makes the temperature of the space more stable, bringing extra comfort, while simultaneously saving energy and C02 emissions.
Transparent solar panels are a great innovation allowing you to generate energy while creating beautiful spaces of natural light. The technology allows in natural light, filtering out UV rays and infrared, and has insulating properties so making skylights and conservatory’s be even more functional in the future.

Pavegen harnesses energy from your footsteps and turns it into electricity. These smart paving tiles which can be put in or outdoors generate enough power for lighting and signage, and can send data to your phone to tell you when someone’s treading on them.

Connectivity – Sharing Communities and the Circular Economy

Being digitally connected will provide the opportunity to be more efficient by sharing and pooling resources and further enable communities to support each other and reduce their environmental impact. So who’s doing good stuff ?

Streetclub

Streetclub brings neighbourhoods together

Already, Streetclublets you create an online community around your street, so you can organise events, share tools and help each other with a private online noticeboard for you and your neighbours.

FixMyStreet.com connects you with your local council, allowing you to report problems such as broken roads, pavements, signs, flytipping or littering, talk about how to solve them with your community and have the council fix it in a transparent online forum.

When you’re ready to leave the house, BlaBlaCar is a journey sharing website with an easy-to-use interface that lets you offer lifts or hitch rides with other people in exchange for paying a share of the fuel costs. It makes your journeys cheaper, more efficient and more interesting, and is of course cleared with the insurance companies.

Maker’s Mark – Rise of the Fixer Makers Hackers movement

Hacktivism, hackdays, maker faires – cobbled together technology is reviving the British hobbyist tradition for the tech-savvy. The new objects are being made to last, counteracting throwaway culture and making people feel connected with the objects around them. An object you’ve personalised, interacted with and adapted is an object you wont want to get rid of so will last longer.

SUGRU

SUGRU is a fun way to fix things. It’s a self-setting rubber –you can mould it like plasticene and it will set and bond to surfaces.  It can be used for all sorts of things from insulating broken cables on chargers, to replacing buttons, grips, patching holes and fixing kitchen appliances. Its waterproof properties and heat resistance make it practical to use around the home. There are plenty of fun ideas on the SUGRU website.

PhoneCube  appeared months ago as a radical concept to design a phone based on bits you could stick together. For example, a better camera if you’re a photographer, a bigger battery if you need it, and it would also mean that you could upgrade parts as you need them instead of ditching the whole phone and replacing it. It’s a bold move, but Motorola have picked it up and are hoping to open up the phone hardware market so that we can all start making and buying our own phone parts.

Hackdays and Maker Faires have been springing up over the world and will continue to bring us innovation in 2014. A hackday gets software developers together, often with partners (such as the NHS Hackday for instance) to motivate each other, create solutions and build new projects. Likewise, the Maker Faires, originally organised by a magazine to promote arts, craft and DIY, are going global. Mini-maker faires now happen in UK cities such as Brighton and Bristol, with the official Maker Faire in Newcastle.

Transport – Bikes, Cars and Luxury Cars

Safer cycling is crucial for modern cities. Innovations in cycling have never been more welcome for those looking to save money, live sustainably, get exercise and improve their health. Invisible helmets and smart bike wheels are just the start. Cycle superhighways and regulations to keep bikes and trucks apart could be the future.

Vauxhall Ampera

Vauxhall Ampera

16.7 million of us rely on the car to get to work every day in England and Wales – and we’re paying much more for fuel than we were a decade ago. Now is the time then, to switch to electric.  You can benefit from a free electric vehicle charging point package which gets you safe and secure charging point installed in or outside your home, plus access to a network of over 1800 charging points across the UK. I’m a big fan and a driver of the Vauxhall Ampera extended range vehicle – freeing me from petrol stations with over 200MPG.

Low carbon transport is one initiative that the government is getting behind with a current offer to fit any house with a driveway with a free electric car charging point ….. for a limited time period only….!

ECO Refurbishment. 70% of today’s buildings will standing in 36 years time, according to EcoBuild, so we need to find ways to make them fit for the future. The Green Deal provides insulation and other energy-saving measures through renovation and reurbishment, and it’s Golden Rule means that these measures will pay for themselves through reduced energy bills. It’s had a slow start but is now starting to pick up with lots of people getting assessments to see where they can improve their house’s efficiency. Check out my blog post about the Green Deal here.

Style

Trend spotters may have been expecting me to talk about the latest soft furnishing, drapes and cushions, so if you’re minded for interior design I feel duty-bound to inform you that the colour of 2014 is set to be, well,  split between Radiant Orchid and Teal – depnding on who you decide to trust – the folks at Pantone or ColourFutures .  Both lovely colours in their own right, so please do go ahead and use them with my blessing.

 

 

The Green Deal – the benefits and the barriers for future eco homes.

It’s difficult to dispute the fact that refurbishing your home by insulating, draught proofing and fitting new heating and hot water systems can certainly save on your bills, but the short-term upfront costs of products and installation seem to be putting off many householders.

The government-backed Green Deal scheme, launched in January this year, could be the game changer- allowing home-owners to refurbish their homes whilst off setting the costs through the money saving changes to their electricity bills. Whilst there can be a £100 one off assessment fee the scheme allows you to install many energy efficient measures , but the uptake has been reportedly low.

Loft Insulation

What is unusual about the Green deal is that the scheme  allows money to be loaned on the home not the home owner, then paid back by savings made to your electricity bill. The Golden Rule (as it is officially called) is that the costs to changes  must be less than the savings you get from the improvements over an agreed period of time. In other words, the improvements pay for themselves and you’re protected from higher bills as a result of carrying out home improvements.

45 different improvements are currently eligible for the Green Deal, and the market is vast. Considering home insulation alone, almost 8 million homes could benefit from solid wall insulation, around 4 million homes from cavity wall insulation; whilst there are over a million boiler replacements in homes each year.

 

Improvements

So given the opportunity of a warmer home and lower energy bills, why is the uptake so low?

Well firstly – it’s early days – so perhaps it’s just the early adopters who are getting on board as the scheme begins to take off. So far 219 households have had improvements carried out under the scheme, of 1,173 which are currently in the process of completing on it.

That might sound low, but the number of Green Deal Assessments has been much higher, which means people are keen to improve on energy efficiency. Last month 16,674 assessments took place, bringing the total up to 101,851. These are people who have had an impartial accredited adviser look for energy improvement opportunities in their home. In many cases they are carried out, though not necessarily through the Green Deal financing scheme.

 

Most people get work done after the assessment is carried out.

A sample of households asked what they had done or intended to do after their assessment. 56 percent of people had something installed.

 

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/239969/Green_Deal_assessment_research_wave_2_summary_report.pdf

Secondly, many are fixated on the short term cost rather than the long term savings. Not only will you start saving immediately, you will also be protecting yourself to future price hikes in energy costs – a fact that seems an inevitable annual activity. The Green Deal is a way of adding  energy-saving features and increasing comfort levels to your home with minimal upfront cost, and making savings into the future.

 

My home with external insulation on the front.

In fact, I believe insulation is more effective than many give it credit it for. Having insulated the loft, walls, and under the floor, my own home looses significantly less than most . Overnight my heating is left off for nine hours, losing only between 1.5-2 degrees Celsius of heat, meaning it takes less energy to warm itself up again in the morning.
Living in a home that’s warm, dry and draught free when you wake up in the morning, that’s filled with natural light in the daytime is an important part of creating a happy,  healthy homes to live in – it’s a part of living well.

Perhaps what sceptics of insulated draught fee homes should do is go visit one for them selves, and my own like 174 others open regularly for eco home tours as part of the Old Home Super Home group – first hand experience  and impartial  advice is enormously powerful.

 

Vaillant VRT 50 digital temperature control thermostat

 

If you’re thinking about improving your home and want to get more information about the Green Deal there is useful information on the government’s own website and lots of useful information on uSwitch as well.