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Can buying a new build home reduce your energy costs?
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Can buying a new build home reduce your energy costs?

11th Sep, 2023

With fluctuating energy prices impacting every household throughout the country, it’s no surprise homeowners are trying to find ways to improve their home’s energy efficiency in an effort to offset some of these costs.

However, if you are considering a move in the near future, a new build home could be a much better option than an older property.

In this blog post, we define some of the key terms around energy efficiency, as well as the reasons why a new build home could help you reduce your energy costs…

Energy efficiency, EPCs and green mortgages explained

Energy efficiency

This is the process of using less energy to provide the same service. If you think about an eco wash mode on a washing machine, it uses lower temperatures and less water to give you an equally good wash than a higher temperature. This is just one example, but there are many more elements of a home that contribute to how energy efficient it is, from insulation and heating systems, to your home’s ‘envelope’ - which includes walls, attic, windows and doors.

By using less energy, you can help to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases - very important as we collectively tackle climate change - and reduce how much you’re paying on your energy bills. It’s good for you and for the planet!

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)

These were introduced by the Energy Performance of Buildings (Scotland) Regulations 2008, to try and make people more aware of how much energy buildings use and give potential buyers an indication of how much they may need to invest in a property if they purchase it.

To know how energy efficient a building is, an accredited domestic energy assessor will carry out what is called a Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP), and provide an EPC. This will show a record of specific details of the building, such as the size, layout, how it has been built, as well as the way it has been insulated, heated, ventilated and lit.

Taking all these details into account, your home will be given an Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) which is shown on your certificate. All buildings are rated from A (very energy efficient) to G (very inefficient). It’s important to note that this rating is given just for the property itself, not how you choose to use it. Since everyone uses their home differently, the calculation is based on standard assumptions and averages of how we use our homes.

Green mortgages

Green mortgages reward you for saving energy in your property – and are currently available with mainstream lenders such as Halifax, Barclays, Natwest, and Nationwide. Some lenders will give you lower interest rates or cashback – or potentially larger loans if your home meets the minimum energy efficiency level.

Each lender will have its own terms and conditions for their green mortgages, but lenders generally offer these loans on homes with an EPC rating of A or B - a criteria which many new build homes meet, due to their building standards, specification and insulation. In contrast, the average EPC rating for homes throughout Aberdeen is D, which ultimately results in higher energy costs for the owners.

Are new build homes more energy efficient than older properties?

In short, yes! Research shows that the majority of homes that are newly built will perform better in terms of energy efficiency than older properties that were built a number of years ago.

We recently reviewed the energy efficiency of our own new build homes and compared the results with Scotland’s average. ‘The Lyon’ - a 170m2, 4 bedroom detached home at our development in Dundee - has an EER of 86% (band B). Similarly, ‘The Tewel’ - a smaller 3 bedroom semi-detached home at the same development - has an EER of 85%, while the average rating of EPCs in Scotland is just 61%, falling into Band D.

It’s impossible to give an estimate of how much you would be spending on energy bills in a new home, compared to an old home, as everyone uses their homes differently and the energy prices are still set to rise drastically. However, research has continued to show that newly built homes are far superior in terms of energy efficiency, and will therefore cost less to run than an older property.

Why are new build homes more energy efficient?

There are a number of reasons why newly built homes outperform older properties in terms of energy efficiency, and why you should consider a new build if you’re in the market for purchasing a new home…

Stricter building regulations

Over the years, building regulations have become more and more stringent as energy efficiency has become an increasing concern, which is the key reason why new build homes are more energy efficient than older properties. The minimum standard for new homes being built require higher levels of insulation, reduced duct leakage in HVAC systems, and lower leakage of air outside of the building envelope, for example.

Older properties may have very little, or sometimes no insulation in the roof space because it wasn’t a requirement at the time it was built. However, new build homes are already insulated to achieve a minimum thermal performance level.

Of course, upgrades can be made on older properties to improve the energy efficiency performance but adding technologies such as ‘Smart’ energy systems could require huge changes to the existing heating system and will be very expensive to do.

With new regulations currently being developed to ensure that all new homes use renewable or low carbon heating from 2024, the energy efficiency of new homes is only going to continue increasing over older properties. Because energy efficiency is now considered in the very early stages of a new home being built, you will save money on energy bills with no need for an expensive overhaul or constantly fixing small issues in an old home.

Increasingly sustainable building materials

Another key factor that makes newer homes more energy efficient is the uptake of using more sustainable building materials in construction.

At Kirkwood, our homes are built using timber from our sister company - Kirkwood Timber Frame. This is because timber has proven to be a far better solution to traditional masonry when it comes to thermal performance and airtightness. According to World of Wood, timber is 10 times more energy efficient than concrete and 400 times more than steel - two materials which are commonly used in older homes.

Again, older buildings can be upgraded to improve their EPC ratings but many will have certain in-built defaults as a result of how they were constructed. As a result, their final rating will be much more limited and will require a lot of documentary evidence to move the rating up. A new build, on the other hand, will have been built with energy efficiency in mind from the very start and will save you more money in the long run.

At Kirkwood, we are dedicated to building luxury homes with energy efficiency firmly embedded in our designs. Browse our developments to find your perfect home...

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Can buying a new build home reduce your energy costs?