Many UK energy suppliers are now placing an emphasis on green energy, but most of them are focusing entirely on how the renewable energy sources can reduce our carbon footprint. However, there is much less emphasis on radical energy efficiency. We are constantly told to install more efficient boilers, put in more insulation, and use efficient appliances, but it’s not often that we see a true game changer.
SSE Atlantic, however, is taking energy conservation to the next level. They have recently been involved in a revolutionary project called Greenwatt Way, which is changing the way that we think about energy generation and consumption. The project involves building zero-carbon homes – homes that generate no net carbon dioxide at all over the course of the year.
A closer look at the project
The Greenwatt Way is a collaboration between SSE Atlantic and a number of partners, and involves constructing 10 homes in Slough, Berkshire. While this is a research project, it is being conducted in a real-world environment. All of the homes in the development, which includes family homes and flats, are being lived in by real people – employees of the company, staff from Slough Borough Council, and local families from Slough.
The houses use a wide range of technologies to achieve zero carbon emissions. First of all, all of the homes are equipped with solar panels on their roofs – these provide enough electricity to meet all of the homes’ needs. The project overcomes the issue of rainy days and lack of sunshine at night by feeding excess electricity back into the National Grid and then taking back electricity when solar power isn’t available. Smart meters are also used to monitor energy usage and automate energy efficiency.
Reduced energy loss
The construction of the homes also plays a major part in achieving the zero-carbon goal. Large amounts of insulation are used, and the homes are extremely airtight to prevent energy being lost through drafts. The construction also avoids thermal bridges between the interior and exterior, since these can lead to significant heat loss in winter. Triple glazed windows are also used to cut down on energy loss.
However, many of these approaches can result in overheating in summer, so the houses also feature natural ventilation to reduce heat levels. On the other hand, heat exchangers are used to extract heat from warm air in winter before it is vented to the outside, and this energy is then used to heat fresh outside air before it is circulated around the house.
Not just energy savings
The house designs, however, do not just stop at energy efficiency. Rainwater is also collected and then used to flush toilets and water lawns, reducing water consumption. In addition, there is a greywater recycling system, which collects wastewater from baths and showers and treats it – again, the water is used to flush toilets. The greywater system also extracts heat from the wastewater and uses this energy for heating fresh air before it is circulated around the house.