Could energy efficiency help you get a mortgage?
Earlier this month the Energy Saving Trust unveiled its plans to kick start home energy efficiency in the UK by encouraging mortgage lenders to offer incentives to homeowners to make energy saving home improvements.
Called ‘Lenders’, the project aims to encourage the sector to replace the existing broad estimates of their customers’ energy bills with more accurate ones. It argues that in working out more accurately how much a home will cost to heat and run, lenders by default can also work out more accurately the amount people can borrow and how much they can afford to pay in monthly repayments.
‘Since low energy homes have lower energy bills, the natural consequence is customers in low energy homes can afford larger mortgage repayments’, it argues.
This makes sense on many levels. In the absence of any meaningful Government backed energy scheme, it’s going to take a push from somewhere else to encourage homeowners and house builders to spend on energy efficiency.
A more accessible mortgage plus better evidence of the monthly savings energy efficient products can deliver is a very poignant message in a market where the price of a home is inaccessible to many.
But there is a but. According to the Housing Stock Survey, one in five homes in England (21%) were built before 1919. Their construction is solid brick so insulation and energy efficiency in the fabric of the building is limited largely to roof spaces and windows & doors, or if appropriate for the property, external insulation.
As the Energy Saving Trust points out – there is a lot you can still do to reduce heat loss from even these hard to treat properties.
Heat lost through windows, for example, accounts for around 25 per cent of the total heat lost from your home. Energy efficient windows and doors can cut this heat loss by up to 75 per cent.
In a detached three bedroom home, according to the Energy Saving Trust, this can equate to an annual saving over and above single – and in many cases, older double-glazed windows – of up to £160 a year in heating bills.
But the reality is that whatever your efforts to reduce heat loss in period properties, they won’t be as efficient as new build but still make up a very sizeable proportion of UK homes.
We offer an extensive range of energy efficient windows, including timber and PVC-U with top A++ Window Energy Ratings. This also includes triple-glazing, which can achieve u-values (the measure of heat loss) of as little as 0.8W/m².K.
These can be designed to replicate and match the character of period properties using a wide choice of designs and finishes, significantly improving the energy efficiency of even hard to treat properties but this won’t ever match a Passivhaus-type design.
What I would urge from the Energy Savings Trust and if it gets that far lenders, is a level of pragmatism. Older properties form a critical part of UK housing stock. In bringing those buildings which have fallen into disrepair back into use, they can also play an important part in relieving pressure generated by demand for new homes.
The Lenders programme and the Energy Savings Trust is just at the start of its journey but it would be amiss if this journey somehow inadvertently lead to the penalisation of owners or potential owners of older properties on the basis of their energy performance.
Focussing on what is achievable and rewarding homeowners for what they have done within the realms of possibility, may be a way forward.