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Hot water waste puts us in carbon hot water too

boiling-waterOf all the sources of domestic carbon emissions in the UK, would you guess that hot water would be one of the leading culprits?

In fact, hot water use could overtake emissions from heating in new homes unless steps are taken to reduce demand and energy losses from inefficient boilers and poorly lagged pipes, according to a joint study by the Energy Saving Trust and the Environment Agency.

The study predicts  emissions from hot water use will increasingly dominate the carbon footprint of new fully insulated housing … unless progressive regulation in energy efficiency is matched by higher water efficiency standards.

Despite advances in water-saving technology and the introduction of sustainability standards for new housing, the growing popularity of power showers and frequent showering means we are still using the same amount of water today as we were ten years ago: around 150 litres per person per day.

To reduce emissions from domestic hot water use, the report calls on:

  • Planners and developers to include water efficiency measures in energy-efficiency retrofit programmes because this would save water and energy as well as cut emissions;
  • Government to review the regulatory framework for hot water system design to incorporate a similar level of detail to that given to building and ventilation design; and
  • Everyone to make simple changes, such as washing up dishes in a bowl rather than under a running hot water tap, because even small actions can reduce energy bills and save money.

The report’s other key recommendations include:

  • Improvements in pipe layout and insulation for reducing energy and water waste while waiting for hot water at the tap; and
  • Continued improvements in boiler design to make them more energy efficient.

Water resources in some parts of the UK are already under pressure. The Environment Agency predicts the amount of water available in England and Wales in 2050 will drop by an average 15 per cent, and by up to as much as 80 per cent during summer months, as a result of climate change.

“Water is a precious resource and as the Government outlined in (our) Low Carbon Transition Plan we urgently need to cut carbon emissions to help reduce the impact of future climate change,” said Ian Barker, the Environment Agency’s Head of Water. “Currently, six per cent of the UK’s annual carbon emissions are related to water use — nearly 90 per cent of that is from hot water use in the home. It’s clear we need to find ways of being smarter with the way we use hot water.”

“The results show that if we are serious about reducing energy in the home then we must include reducing energy used from hot water,” said Magda Styles, water and waste strategy manager at the Energy Saving Trust. “We will now use the report’s findings to help shape our forthcoming joint pilot study with Waterwise into integrating water efficiency with energy advice.”

Three Energy Saving Trust advice centres — in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh — will be taking part in the pilot which has received European funding via the EU Life+ programme and starts in September.

The Global View creates and curates research, perspectives and intelligence on the modern leader’s agenda.

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