Saturday, 27 December 2014

My top 5 posts in 2014

It is traditional at this time to review what we have been doing over the year, so I have just been looking at my blog statistics to see which are my most popular posts. Here are the top 5.

1) Does insulation cause damp - sometimes, but there are things you can do about this.
2) The cost to the taxpayer of Green Deal subsidies is less than you think - because it creates jobs and generates revenue
3) Why don't energy efficient freezers save you money - because they are large, because low sales volumes keep the price high, and finally the ratings assessments are biased so they are in fact better than they seem.
4) Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is going fast - and since then it has gone, returned and sold out again.
5) Ecobuild 2014: retrofit, travel, solar shades...

The top position by a wide margin goes to the one about insulation and damp. This is an issue that concerns me a lot and there don't seem to be any easy answers. It applies to loft insulation and cavity wall insulation as well as solid wall insulation. Although most installations are trouble free there are some that are not, and some may have trouble developing in places that are difficult to see. Some experts recommend using breathable insulation instead (see Breathable vs. high performance insulation for solid walls) which will reduce the risk in most cases, but I am not sure the loss of performance is warranted as a general rule.

The Green Deal has been in the news a lot this year, especially the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund. It was originally rolled out in June, offering £6000 help with solid wall insulation (SWI) and lesser amounts for other improvements. However, the cash allocated sold out within six weeks. It reopened on December 10th this time with a separate pot of £24 million for SWI and a reduced level of grant offering only £4000. However, this still proved immensely popular and it sold out again within a day. The other parts of the fund, offering smaller grants for measures such as cavity wall or loft insulation, secondary glazing, new heating systems etc are still going. See (www.gov.uk) for details. However, judging by the statistics there are a lot of households with SWI vouchers approved but not yet redeemed. As of the end of November there were 9000 vouchers installed and paid, of which 61% were for SWI but there were over 20,000 vouchers issued, just in the first batch. In the second batch, since £24 million is gone that means another 6000 vouchers issued.

Arguably we could put a lot more funding into the Green Deal even in this time of austerity because it creates green jobs and generates revenue - so much so that the net cost to the treasury is zero. At least that is what an analysis published in Energy Policy shows - see The cost to the taxpayer of Green Deal subsidies is less than you think. The whole issue of green growth and green jobs is something I think we need to understand a lot better. I returned to it in Why green jobs are better than fracking jobs and Carbon taxes can be good for jobs.

However, I have noticed people are usually more interested in issues that they can do something about personally. From my informal surveys many people are interested in saving energy and reducing carbon emissions but almost everyone is interested in saving money. So it is not surprising that Why don't energy efficient freezers save you money was popular. It seems most likely that the best way to bring prices down is to increase sales volumes and the best way to do that is do take inefficient appliances off the market altogether. EU regulations are slowly bringing in minimum standards for things like light bulbs and TVs - and most recently for vacuum cleaners. This always raises a storm of protest but I am sure the trend is in the right direction.

I don't know quite why my review of Ecobuild 2014 was so popular - but I certainly enjoyed it and I hope I will find time to visit again this year.

Happy New Year everyone!

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