Millions of households in Europe, including the UK, could make a simple change to their radiator that experts note could save billions in energy bills. Both the European Union and the UK have been left reeling from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as Vladimir Putin’s manipulation of gas flows to Europe sent wholesale gas prices skyrocketing. Just yesterday, Russia halted eastbound gas flows via the Yamal-Europe pipeline to Poland from Germany.
While Britain is not reliant on Russian gas, it is part of the global energy market, and thus buys gas at similarly high prices as the rest of the continent.
Aside from the accelerated growth of alternative energy supplies including natural gas and renewables, experts have been calling for governments to focus on reducing their gas consumption by promoting energy efficiency.
Writing in Politico, Martin Rossen, the senior vice president and head of communications & sustainability at Danfoss noted that most modern homes and buildings in Europe will be least hit by the energy bill surge because they tend to be more energy efficient.
In the UK, the 38,436 new homes that began construction and 37,164 houses completed between April 2021 and March 2022 will be up to date with the Government’s standards, and will be better insulated, both from the cold winter and from price rises.
Mr Rossen, who is the former chief of staff of the Danish prime minister’s office noted that, while new buildings are better protected, “there are many different ways that legacy buildings can become more efficient — particularly when it comes to radiators.
“Indeed, a simple switch to using more efficient thermostats could save European Union citizens up to €12billion (£10billion) in energy bills.”
It is important to note that this figure was only for houses in the EU, meaning British homes, which are famously old and leaky, could save more.
Currently, most homes across Europe use a modular reed valve on its radiators, that only open and close if they are physically turned on or off, as there is no neutral setting.
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Mr Rossen noted that by upgrading to a more efficient type of radiator thermostat, which switches itself on and off as it seeks to reach its target room temperature, would substantially increase the energy efficiency of a household.
He said: “And as energy bills continue to skyrocket, a simple swap such as this would be extremely cost effective, as it doesn’t require constant intervention — one can simply set the temperature.”
Such a switch could benefit approximately 70million homes in the EU, with Mr Rossen estimating that the annual energy savings would be about 160 terawatt-hours, slashing nearly €12 billion on EU citizens’ energy bills.
He added that these home upgrades would pay back in just two years, with an overall return on investment of €7 for every €1 spent.
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He said: “There’s no excuse not to do this, and we’ve known about this option for a long time — these types of radiator thermostats have been available for over 40 years.”
Many experts agree that insulation is key to tackling the energy crisis and preventing short-term rises, as a recent report found that Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to cut support for home insulation has led to an £18billion bill for taxpayers nine years later.
In 2012, the UK successfully delivered 2.3million loft or cavity wall insulation installations before the shift in policy direction saw uptake rates drop by a whopping 90 percent.
According to the ECIU, had these energy improvement measures continued to be supported, 10million homes could have been upgraded in the following decade — almost four-tenths of the nation’s housing stock.
These homes are now set to cost more to heat over the next two years than they need have been, increasing the eventual bill to the taxpayer that will result from new PM Liz Truss fixing rising utility prices via the Energy Price Guarantee scheme.