The other day I studied my Energy Performance Certificate. I didn’t even know I had one. It’s on gov.uk and all you have to do is look up your address (find energy performance certificate).
We’re in Band D it turns out. Roughly in the middle. Of course we are. It’s an 18th Century solid wall stone house with an oil-fired boiler. All we’ve done is lag the attic, install double-glazing, and solar panels and batteries. How the Government knew we had solar panels I have no idea.
The certificate also treats me to a list of suggested improvements so that we can reach that planet-saving, JSO-appeasing Band A score. Totting them up, taking the average cost cited for each, means us shelling out £39,625. And if we did that right now, we’d save (allegedly) £1,629 per annum.
That’s great, isn’t it? It’ll take 25 years to recover the outlay by which time I’ll be 91 or dead. Either way I won’t be living here. And in any case you can bet your bottom dollar I’d still be told my house was woefully inefficient by 2048 standards.
I have no objection whatsoever to replacing or upgrading any part of my life with something cheaper, less polluting, and more efficient, but the closer I looked, the more unsatisfactory the financial prospects seem to be.
Half of that £39,625 is for a wind turbine which saves only £569 per annum. In theory. On its own, that’ll take 35 years to pay back, not 25. I’d be 101. What that means in practice is that the other ‘energy-saving’ initiatives will be having to compensate for the lethargic (and theoretical) benefits of the wind turbine.
But since we have solar panels and batteries our electricity bills are already almost nil. So, we won’t save the £569 anyway. We might save £150 but only if it’s windy in mid-winter when we need it to be. The wind turbine is thus a non-starter. It’s also mechanical so how long will it last? Not 35 years I’ll bet.
I could make the most of that £569 annual saving if I bought an electric car. £20,000 for a wind turbine to save some of the power I’d need to charge an electric car for which I’d have to pay out at least another £20,000? Forget it.
The bigger saving is supposed to come from wall insulation. This would cost £9,000 and save us £702 per annum (13 years to pay off). It could cost us £14,000. Good idea? Not really. I thought it was common knowledge that sealing up old stone walls can cause terrible problems with damp. Not only that, every one of our deep window bays would need redesigning and almost every one of our radiators would have to be repositioned. All the fitted cupboards would have to be removed. The house would have to be gutted. And we’d still have a solid stone floor.
The funny thing is, there is no mention of a heat pump. Why would that be? Oh! I know – because it would cost a great deal of money and result in no savings at all, not even theoretical ones. There’s a simple explanation for that. Electricity costs three-to-four times as much per kWh as oil, wiping out the supposed greater 1:3 or 4 efficiency of a heat pump with energy transfer.
None of these calculations factors in the environmental impact of manufacturing all the ‘improvements’, maintenance, or their replacements.
Yes, I know you can fiddle about with the various options, look for the best deals, and hunt down grants. But it’s all a colossal amount of effort. And in my experience, whatever you thought something was going to cost, it will turn out to cost a great deal more. The argument of course is that I’ll have to pay out the £39,625 anyway because of my inefficient old house. Assuming I live till 91! That doesn’t alter the fact that I’d still only see the benefit in 2048.
Fact remains: the only way to live in an ultra energy-efficient house is to build a new one. You can’t stick a 1.21 gW flux capacitor in a Morris Minor and head up to 88mph into the future. It’s just set dressing.
You might wonder why I bothered with solar panels. That’s easy. The system paid for itself (we had no grants incidentally) within about seven, not 27, years, reduced our grid electricity bill, which is now £15 per month, AND pays us a feed-in-tariff (no longer available of course). Not one of these other energy efficiency initiatives comes close.
I keep thinking of Neil Oliver and his weekly monologues on GB News. His catchphrase is: “Just how stupid do they think we are?”
Am I living in a madhouse? Am I missing something? When I was a kid, I read a book called The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton (no doubt it’s been cancelled now). A cloud would appear at the top of the tree and the characters would climb the tree and enter the world so long as it was there. We seem to be trapped in one of those clouds – temporarily, I hope.
I found this quote in a Carl Sagan book (The Demon-Haunted World) but I bought the 1841 title it originally came from. Nothing could better describe our present insanity:
Every age has its peculiar folly; some scheme, project, or phantasy into which it plunges, spurred on by the love of gain, the necessity of excitement, or the mere force of imitation. Failing in these, it has some madness, to which it is goaded by political or religious causes, or both combined.Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841)
So am I going to spend £39,625 so I can rake in the supposed savings in 2048? Not a chance. As a futile gesture it would take some beating. Six of my female neighbours have been widowed in the last three years (no Covid – all cancers and heart disease). Some of their husbands were older than me. Some younger. I’ve lost several friends to lymphoma, bladder cancer, and a brain tumour. My wife had breast cancer last year.
We’re going to enjoy the money or spend it on our various grandchildren. And luckily we have a son who lives in Mexico. If this country goes down the pan in pursuit of its absurd virtue-signalling crusade, we’ll join him there.
See you at the departure gate in Terminal 5.
Stop Press: 10 Downing Street has been placed in Band F for energy efficiency. If the Prime Minister won’t spend money to make his home more energy efficient, why should we?