Carbon zero homes are part of the Government’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from residential properties, which make up 30% of all the CO2 the UK produces. It is hoped that all new homes built from 2016 will be carbon neutral, but there are many developers who are already blazing a trail.
A carbon zero home should be seriously considered by anyone looking to buy a new build property. Apart from the obvious benefits to the environment, a carbon zero home should have much lower fuel bills than a traditional home and be easier to keep at a comfortable temperature year round. There is also the possibility that the purchaser could be eligible to receive payments under the feed in tariff or renewable heat incentive. In addition, a certified carbon zero home will qualify for stamp duty relief.
What Qualifies as a Carbon Zero Home?
Currently, a home must reach Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes in order to qualify as zero carbon. Each home in a development is treated as an individual “energy island”. This means that the net of all carbon emissions from the property must be nil. This can either be achieved by all of the energy being produced from clean sources such as solar and wind power or by systems being in place which actually use more carbon than they produce, in order to offset emissions elsewhere.
It is widely thought however that this standard is too ambitious and it is therefore being reconsidered. One possibility is that “allowable solutions” might be used to make up any shortfall, for example developers who build houses which reduce carbon emissions by say, 70%, may be allowed to make up the remaining 30% by retrofitting nearby homes or public buildings with renewable energy systems as well as other measures. The details have yet to be finalised.
The Code for Sustainable Homes
The code for sustainable homes looks at all the ways in which a home impacts on the environment and splits that impact into categories such as energy, water and waste. The home then scores points in each category. There are 6 levels, with level 6 being zero carbon. The more points a property achieves, the higher the level it will reach.
The full text of the code can be found on the planning portal.
Feed In Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive Payments
One of the features of a carbon zero home is that it will usually have some form of renewable energy producing system such as solar panels, a biomass boiler or a heat pump. These and most other renewable energy technologies qualify for payments under either the feed in tariff scheme or (if the Government decides to implement it) the renewable heat incentive. These are schemes whereby the owner of a property is entitled to a payment for every kilowatt hour of “clean” energy produced. Although the rates are lower for systems installed in new build properties than in existing homes the incentives could still be worth several hundred pounds per year.
Sometimes the energy systems will be communal, in which case the incentive payments may go to the developer, or may be used to pay for the maintenance of any communal areas. Systems installed in individual properties may still remain the property of the developer (or he may sell these on to an investor) but they may also be included in the property in which case the incentives could be claimed by the purchasers.
Stamp Duty Relief on Carbon Zero Homes
New build properties which are purchased for the first time from a developer and which are certified as carbon zero or eligible for full or partial relief from stamp duty. For properties costing £500,000 or less full relief can be claimed and for properties over £500,000 a maximum £15,000 worth of relief can be claimed.
In order to qualify, the home must have the benefit of a zero-carbon home certificate provided by an accredited assessor, though this should be arranged by the developer.
Are Carbon Zero Homes More Expensive?
It is true that zero carbon homes are currently more expensive, though on average by only about 2%, which is more than made up for by the relief from stamp duty and reduction in fuel bills. There is also pressure to place zero carbon homes in lower council tax bands then their high emissions neighbours.