Our new home
CSE has conducted research to understand better the experience of low-income families in their first year after moving into eight new build affordable rent EPC B homes in South Bristol in 2020. The research was commissioned by Alliance Homes, a community-based social housing provider operating in the West of England, and an executive summary is available here.
The newly built houses include gas central heating (underfloor heating on the ground floor, radiators on upper floors) and solar PV with free generated electricity available to tenants until 6pm. The research sought to find out about:
- Effects on tenants’ energy usage, fuel bills and household budget of living in a highly efficient (EPC Band B) home.
- Tenants’ experiences of adjusting to living in a new home, including their ability to control the heating system to achieve a comfortable, warm living environment.
- Benefits or drawbacks in living in a highly energy efficient home, including on well-being.
- Tenants’ views on the value of energy advice offered.
Tenants received tailored energy advice on how to make the best use of the technologies during an initial home visit in February 2020, in a short advice report based on energy consumption, temperature and humidity data from each home in September and via quarterly phone calls.
The effect of living in a highly efficient home on energy expenditure and overall household budget was measured by comparing their actual energy consumption, against an anticipated consumption estimate calculated using national energy consumption statistics. The anticipated figure was adjusted for EPC Band, tenure and household.
The research was inconclusive regarding the impact of living in a highly efficient home on energy usage – some families used less energy than anticipated, others far more. On average, electricity usage was slightly above the anticipated usage for an EPC Band B property (+459 kWh) whilst average gas usage was much higher than expected (+38,951 kWh).
Most tenants struggled to achieve satisfactory control of the heating system in their new home, in particular they found it difficult to achieve a healthy ground floor temperature with the underfloor heating and to get used to its slow warm up time. Tenants were confused about using the upstairs programmable room thermostat, especially at the start of the heating season. As a result most could not maintain an appropriate temperature in all areas of their home: the ground floor was too hot and the top floor cooler. Seven out of eight homes were overheated.