How buildings consume energy…

With the Energy Bill out this week I thought it might be good to emphasise that it’s not just how we produce energy that affects our CO2 emissions but how we use it within our homes.

The Guardian Editorial this weekend described cutting our energy consumption as, “the most effective green energy policy of all“. Yet despite all our complaints about rising energy bills, we are not reducing our energy demand.

Buildings contribute nearly 50% of the UK’s CO2 emissions throughout their life cycle, particularly during their operation. In terms of energy housing consumes approximately a third of the UK’s overall energy consumption annually. Within our homes the main areas of consumption are…

With the increased number of gadgets in our homes, energy consumption relating to lighting and appliances has increased by 157% from 1970 to 2000 (Department of Trade and Industry, 2008). Interesting consumption relating to cooking has decreased in recent years, mainly due to convenience foods and increases in eating out.

Nonetheless, domestic energy consumption is dominated by space heating, which accounted for nearly 2/3 of domestic energy consumption. Three factors have been responsible for the increased heat energy consumption of UK homes

  • increases in internal temperature
  • an increase in the number of overall households
  • the shift towards central heating within homes

Expectations of people have also increased. In UK homes average indoor temperatures increased from 13°C in 1970 to 18°C in 2000 (Department of Trade and Industry, 2008), which has impacted our energy consumption significantly.

But while air temperature affects our thermal comfort other factors also effect how we feel warmth. These include humidity, draughts, clothing level and level of activity. Our comfort is highly subjective though and varies largely from person to person.

Any reductions we could make to reduce our heating consumption could have a potentially large impacts on both bills and emissions. This made it an obvious choice of where to focus my research. It may be a complex problem but one which I’m pretty passionate about.

If we are to achieve our UK carbon reduction targets then this is something we will have to compromise on.

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For further information on the energy consumption of our homes see:

Department of Energy and Climate change Domestic Energy Consumption Factsheet (2011) and Energy Consumption in the UK: Domestic Data Tables (2010)
Department of Trade and Industry (2008) Energy Consumption in the United Kingdom, Office of National Statistics, London
Utley & Shorrock (2008) Domestic Energy Fact File 2008, Watford: Building Research Establishment

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One response to “How buildings consume energy…

  1. Pingback: Smart Meters – the silver bullet of energy demand reduction? | Nic Combe·

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