Energy Crisis

How much? Oh my god?

Recently we have had a lot of clients and developers ask us about energy costs, ASHP running costs, solar power and batteries, and with the news from Ofgem that a dual fuel average home will cost £3549 per year to run and are forecast to rise to £6000! By April 2023, I thought I’d do a post.

(Sorry if it’s a bit disjointed and rambles a bit but I wanted to get it out)

As everyone is aware energy costs have spiralled, due to rising import costs and as a nation we have not had the investment in infrastructure to ensure a security of supply that we need. And we have had successive governments not investing in retrofits (or saying they are, then pulling the funding!)

(Yes there are large scale nuclear projects being built but these are years down the line, and still cost more than renewables to build and maintain which is another story.)

Working towards Zero Carbon is a hard thing to achieve the cost of gas is approximately 4 times cheaper than that of electricity, so it’s a cheap way to heat a home, but in terms of carbon this is bad, in terms of new builds we look to reduce the amount of heating required first then specify an appropriate electrical heating system, usually an Air Source Heat pump ASHP, these when sized correctly can be 350% (ie for each kW of electricity in 3.5kW of heat energy can be produced (when working at peak efficiency) versed a gas boiler which has a efficiency of around 92% ie for a kW of gas energy you will get .92kw of heat output) (I’ll caveat this with depending on the heat pumps and boilers specified)

So looking at this historically swapping out a boiler for an air source heat pump in terms of cost is fairly equitable for a 10kwh daily requirement:

Gas Boiler 16.28p (kWh) x 10h x 92% = £1.50

Electric ASHP 50.77p (khw) x 10h x 350% =£1.45

(kwh figures from a well known energy comparison website costs Aug 2022)

So you can see cost wise it’s equitable if you are using an ASHP (this obviously changes across the heating season as with any system the performance changes depending on how hard you run the system)

But in terms of carbon electricity produces 2.4 times less carbon than gas so in terms of what you should be looking at it is electricity. Our issue is where you use direct electric to heat a whole house this cost would be:

Electric (direct Panel) 50.77p (kwh) x 10h x 100% = £5.07

Developers tend to use direct electric in existing properties where it’s a cost driven decision as a few panel radiators are far cheaper than a full wet, ASHP or Gas boiler system.

These tend to be used where costs are tight, so often in HMOs and ‘social’ housing so in effect the people with the cheapest housing are often the ones with the highest heating costs.

The UK’s Housing stock is old, poorly insulated and draughty, at Cityzen we have been designing retrofits for houses and working with others on retrofit schemes (which were government backed) and reporting on how buildings can be retrofitted for over 10 years, we also have done 100s of surveys showing what buildings are insulated with or typically not and how they can be improved.

The government really needs to step up, starting with the poorest housing and incentivising everyone to insulate their properties to reduce our need for energy. thus reducing the countries reliance on the rest of the world to supply us, and reducing our carbon emissions and a country.

The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use!

Insulate first, and turn off what you don’t need.

What can you do?


Look at your controls, workout if you need the temperature set that high, infact why is it on it’s summer?!

Insulate your home, is your loft insulated? Buy some now before Autumn starts, seal up and gaps around you home where warn air can escape. (be mindful that you still need appropriate ventilation though). Can insulation be put in your cavity this is another big win, if you are thinking about new windows do it now as the energy cost hike has bought the payback time down. Or put up thicker curtains to keep the warmth in the room. It’s all fairly basic, but practical and some of it is relatively cheap to do.


The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use! (did I say that already?!)

Again look at controls around you house and look at what’s plugged in, does it need to be switched on 24/7 if you are only in the house a few hours in the evening?

Some of the biggest culprits are older equipment – always look at the energy rating if you are buying new.

If you have a smart meter turn everything off, then turn on each piece of equipment and see how many watts it’s using, you might be surprised, or light we found at our sister in laws house her immersion was running 24-7 trying to keep the water at 55! no wonder her bills were high!

If you can afford it, adding solar is a great way to generate your own energy, but it does have a significant up front cost, if you are creating a new build property this should be a must, and going forward and is often conditioned in planning and within Building regulations, Low and zero carbon systems are to be reviewed and implemented.

Local and micro generation has the additional benefit of minimal transmission losses which are up to 8% of the energy generated is lost over the network. (so that helps the UKs security of supply)

Typically a 4kw (peak) array is around £6500 depending on you location and roof type, access and ease of install. 

Looking at a average solar irradiance (895) and that 4kw system could generate 3580kWh of electricity so at todays 50.77p per kWh that’s a potential saving of £1817.57 per annum so the payback is approximately 3.6 years if you can use all that energy (great if you work from home, charge your car at home etc.) but without a battery system you’ll be exporting you energy at a lower rate than you pay for it (great for the grid and planet but not your wallet)

Adding a battery system is the next logical step, with this you can store any energy you make during the day from the solar and use it at night, or if you are lucky enough to have a variable rate tariff you can top up the battery over night on cheaper rate electricity. (Currently we are struggling to find suppliers who will give us new connections let alone switch suppliers) As with solar it’s go as big as you can afford (within reason) Domestic Battery systems can be between 2 & 14kwh more are coming to the market all the time with prices ranging from £2 -7k plus installation.

Check out which’s article on battery storage systems:

The key thing is look at your current energy usage in kWh per day and size it to what you can afford.

(If you want a battery system to protect property from black outs do check the system you are purchasing has that capability as not all do)

In terms saving energy in existing properties, we believe that the government now more than ever should look at a nationally coordinated retrofit to aid energy reduction, even some public service announcements wouldn’t go a miss!

As I said before the cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use, so as when we design new buildings it’s a case of keep it airtight (and ventilate it right), insulate as much as practicable, and use products which are as energy efficient as possible, then control those products.

It’s very much a turning point in the economy, with the cost of living spiralling upwards and inflation matching it, as ever the poorest will be hit hardest, and again the those that can afford it can minimise their costs with new technology or just tighten their belts.

We have the answers and we have had them for years just not the foresight to implement them, bit like the old chinese proverb when is the best time to plant a tree? twenty years ago, the second best time is now.  

Can we fix the situation? yes we can, but will the government help, I’m not sure they will.

Slightly Ranty from Cityzen

Cityzen provide Architecture and M&E design and consultancy for commercial clients, developers, and Architects

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