The Government is considering delaying a ban on new gas boiler installations. This is over concerns that the eco-friendly alternatives are too expensive. Some eco-improvements could take 70 years or more to return the initial cost
Expensive: Some eco-improvements could take as much as 70 years to recoup the cost
Chris Simons, 32, reckons he is pretty green. When he and his partner, Oliver, moved into their new home, just before Covid hit, they were keen to make it as eco-friendly as possible.
Half the garden was turned into a wildflower meadow. They installed a pond to encourage insects and wildlife.
And then they turned to the house, a detached four-bedroom property in Norfolk, built in the 1920s. This is not attached to the gas network: it is heated using oil.
The first thing Chris, who works in shipping, considered was a heat pump. A new alternative to a traditional gas boiler, it is considered much more environmentally friendly and is popular in continental Europe.
Here, the heat pump is very slowly gaining traction, with the Government setting a target of installing 600,000 a year (currently just 25,000 are being installed).
The idea is that it takes air and warms it over a heated coil, using electricity, before circulating it around the home.
Mr Simons consulted a boiler expert he trusted. ‘His immediate response was to laugh. ‘Do you have the best part of £20,000?’ was his first question. We didn’t.’
Indeed, Boris Johnson is reportedly considering plans to delay a ban on new gas boiler installations by five years, to 2040, over concerns that the eco-friendly alternatives are too expensive.
The next thing Chris and Oliver looked at were the recommendations in the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which all home sellers and landlords have been forced to provide to buyers and tenants since 2007.
It recommended insulating Mr Simons’ solid floors, cutting down on the carbon emissions his home was responsible for, and the measure would save £84 a year in reduced heating bills.
The cost to install it? Between £4,000 and £6,000, the EPC estimated.
‘That was just totally unworkable. Nobody in their right mind would have their floors entirely ripped up and completely replaced to save £84 a year after investing a possible £6,000. It’s crazy.’
He will hang on to this old oil boiler until it needs replacing and leave his floors as they are. ‘I’d love to be more eco-friendly, but the economics have to stack up,’ he says.
And this is the problem. Many green measures are promoted to consumers as cost savings when they are anything but.
Indeed, some eco-improvements are such bad value they could take as much as 70 years or more to return the initial cost.
It is now quite easy for potential homebuyers or tenants to see how much money they can save on their bills thanks to these EPCs.
The average home in England and Wales is D, and the Government wants all homes to move up to at least a C — although, as the annual English Housing Survey pointed out this month, the majority are still below that.
Mr Simons’s home is a D, like many in rural locations. To get to a C, he would have to spend £18,000, he estimates. ‘And I’d just never recoup that in my lifetime.’