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New technologies could offer significant CO2 emissions reduction in new homes

NHBC Foundation publication shows that electrical shutdown could reduce household CO2 emissions by almost one-fifth

A system that allows the occupants of a home to conveniently and reliably turn off the power to non-essential electrical items while they sleep or leave the house, has been shown to offer household CO2 emission reductions of almost one-fifth.

To present an objective view of the likely technologies that could influence a reduction in energy consumption and associated CO2 emissions for a typical home built in 2016, NHBC Foundation has recently published Energy efficient fixed appliances and building control systems. From a shortlist of nine technologies meriting assessment, the report concludes that a system to remove power from all non-essential electrical items, termed ‘whole house shutdown’, offered the greatest CO2 savings of 19 per cent.

Produced following discussions and scoping with a wide group of industry stakeholders, the report also identifies individual socket shutdown units and waste water heat recovery as the other technologies that can offer significant CO2 reductions of 16 and almost seven per cent respectively.

Interestingly, contrary to what was predicted at the outset of the project, some of the technologies, such as waste water heat recovery may be better considered via energy efficiency and carbon compliance aspects of the zero carbon new homes policy rather than as allowable solutions. However, what may be considered an allowable solution will depend on the direction of future legislation, i.e. if smart meters with real time displays became mandatory by 2016, they will become ineligible as an allowable solution.

Graham Perrior, Head of Standards and Technical at NHBC, commented: “Most of the technologies assessed in this report are still in their infancy but can offer the potential to noticeably reduce domestic energy use. This report gives house designers and builders the opportunity to assess and understand the effectiveness of these technologies against the 2016 zero carbon homes policy before committing to them on forthcoming builds. It is clear that solutions addressing electricity use currently offer the greatest potential CO2 emission reductions, but the other technologies assessed also show some positive results and should not be discounted.

“Previous research carried out by NHBC Foundation in early 2012 found that occupiers often struggle to understand terminology associated with zero carbon homes. It is likely that the term ‘whole house shutdown’ could appear to be both daunting and a little misleading, so if this technology is to be widely adopted under allowable solutions from 2016, the industry may need to consider a consumer-friendly alternative.”

For more information and to download the publication, please visit