energy lifestyle

A starting line on the way to a low carbon home

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my plans to get our home A rated on energy efficiency by 2020, and to see how near to zero carbon we can get. It will be a challenge, and I thought it might be good to describe our starting point as a benchmark. So here’s our current energy use.

I’ve averaged our gas and electricity consumption over the last four years. We use around 6250 kwh of gas and 1975 kwh of electricity.

Using OFGEM’s figures, we’re already considerably lower than the typical British household. On electricity we’re closer to the Chinese average than the European, and use less than a sixth of a typical US household.

That’s partly because we’ve done the basics to keep our energy use down. Back in 2010 my wife and I took on the challenge of reducing our emissions by 10% over the course of the year, and cut 30-40% off our energy use. Before we congratulate ourselves too much though, a big reason why our bills are lower is that we’re a mid-terrace house and we’re insulated very well on two sides by our neighbours. Mid-terrace houses use less energy than any other category of home:

One big step has been to install solar panels, which we did in the autumn. The next challenge is to tackle some of the harder forms of insulation, and reduce our heating needs as much as possible. Then we can look at alternative heat sources and electrification, for both space heating and hot water. I’ll look at more practical experiments next time. For now, 6250 kwh of gas and 1975 kwh of electricity is my starting line, and it gives me something to come back to as I track progress.


  1. I appreciate you might not want to reveal this but it would be interesting to know how much your upgrades cost you. Also, whether they are ‘easy’ DIY jobs or whether you use professionals. After all, your readers will be wondering if they can afford to copy you and what the opportunity-cost / pay-back time looks like.

    1. That’s a good point. I’ve got no problem with telling people what we’ve paid, so I’ll make sure to do that along the way. I’m going to try and do some of it myself, but I’ll be getting professionals in where we can afford to!

  2. Hi – Have you read How Bad are Bananas? I’m genuinely confused about what it says about solar panels. The author, Mike Berners-Lee, seems to suggest that they are a status symbol and not worth the money. I can’t tell (numbers are not my thing plus I think the government incentives have changed) if they are lower carbon (overall). Any insight would be much appreciated please! Basically, I am trying to find out if it is worth getting solar panels from a saving carbon point of view or if the installation of the panels negates any later benefits. Thank you.

    1. I’ve not read How Bad are Bananas? I’ve always meant to, so I’ll read it soon and see what he says.

      Worth mentioning that the book would have been written ten years ago and the economics of solar will have shifted dramatically in that time. I considered PV and decided against it around the time that book came out. It wouldn’t have paid off on our less than ideal roof at the time, but it does now. They are now much cheaper and pay for themselves faster – 10 years in our case. They are also more efficient, and so they pay back the embodied emissons of manufacturing them quicker – 2.5 years is one estimate I read.

      I’ll have a read and find out what he says, but I suspect that Berners-Lee’s numbers were correct at the time and are now a decade out of date.

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