A blueprint of what citizens need to do in the next ten years to help prevent a 2°C rise in global temperatures

Ever wondered how much you need to cut your carbon emissions so you can do your bit to prevent further catastrophic impacts of climate change? Here we provide you with an answer. Learn what the average UK carbon footprint is and what you can do about it. Our short infographic tells you where we are and what we need to do to tackle climate change on an individual level, as well as giving you some useful tips.

The average UK Carbon Footprint stated above was determined through nationally reported emissions and estimated imported carbon emissions. Average Global Citizen emissions were set using the UN Carbon Footprint Gap analysis. Proportions of emissions from different areas were determined using a Carbon Trust report that calculating bottom up emissions from numerous participants.

Why do carbon emissions matter?

At some point between 2025 and 2040 the average global temperature will exceed 1.5 degrees celsius, and could be a lot higher.  A 2-degree rise is likely to cause run-away climate change.  Within the next 10 to 30 years if we carry on as we are severe weather events will cause major food shortages and will disrupt entire economies.  This is called climate breakdown.

Climate change is caused by man-made carbon emissions.  We have disrupted the carbon cycle by burning millions of years old carbon from coal, oil, and gas, and by farming intensively.  This causes the release of carbon-based gases which sit in the atmosphere.   They absorb energy from the sun and act like a thermal blanket around the earth.  

As more carbon based gases are released, the concentration increases, thickening the blanket and storing energy.  This energy results in an increase in temperature and severe weather events.  

Can I really make a difference?

There are 7.67 billion people.  Each one of us has a responsibility to stop climate breakdown.  Our choices make a difference.  Over 70% of all carbon emissions occur directly because of our choices.

What are the 5 Best Air Source Heat Pumps?

Air source heat pumps allow you to heat your home with just electricity.  That’s right; no more gas or oil, and you could even use 100% renewable electricity to power the system.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about air-to-water heat pumps, commonly known as air source heat pumps. We will share our recommendations of which ones are the best, and will tell you how to get started in getting one installed.

Why get an air-to-water heat pump?

Air-to-water heat pumps are the renewable heating solution for most urban home owners.  Rural home-owners may also consider ground or water source heat pumps – learn more here.  But why get a heat pump?

  1. Low-cost heating; installation costs are a lot more than traditional boilers, but running costs are much lower.  Heat pumps deliver 3-4 kilowatts of heat energy for every 1 kilowatt of electricity used, making them super-efficient.  If you heat your home using off-peak electricity you can cut bills by 40%.
  2. Longer lasting; many have 25-year warranties.  This means they have double the life of your traditional boiler.  
  3. Cooling and heating capabilities; as well as heating these units can be used to extract heat.  During a hot summer that can be very helpful!
  4. Government incentives; the government helps fund the installation cost of heat pumps through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).  This grant is paid out over 7 years and allows you to recoup your installation cost.
  5. Cut carbon emissions; 15% of an average person’s carbon emissions come from heating their home.  Use 100% renewable energy to power your heat pump and you could slash your carbon footprint!

How does an air-to-water heat pump work?

Heat pumps transfer heat by circulating a substance called a refrigerant, as used in our fridges.  Air from outside your property is sucked up and pressurized, and is used to heat a refrigerant, which then heats water, which can be used in the house.  Hence air-to-water heat pumps.

The heat from ambient air, close to the house, is essentially condensed using electricity.  These systems therefore deliver three times as much heat energy as the electricity used, known as the Coefficient of performance (COP).  This is why you would use a heat pump instead of other electric heating solutions, and why heat pumps can still deliver effective heating with external temperatures of -25°C.  Thermal stores are used within these systems to ensure no loss of heat, but also to increase the heat of hot water used in the property through exchange units.

How does a heat pump affect existing heating infrastructure?

There are two components of the system.  A fan to pull in the air and heat the refrigerant and a thermal store.  The fan sits outside, and does create a little noise, but most with a well performing heat pump do not have sound issues.  The thermal store can become another floor standing kitchen unit, may be placed in a cupboard (to replace a water tank) or some manufacturers provide a unit the same size as a combi boiler to put on the wall.

You can get monobloc systems that heat water on demand, resulting in only a larger fan unit being used outside (and no thermal store), but these are best used for very efficient homes.   Low and high temperature systems can also be selected.  Low temperature systems deliver heat at around 55°C, and are largely more efficient, but are likely to need replacement of radiators, which need a larger surface area.  High temperature systems can deliver at 80°C, requiring no radiator replacement.

Heat pumps require a fairly energy efficient home without too much heat loss.  If your home has an energy efficiency rating below C, it’s likely to be better to improve energy efficiency first.  Learn more here.

Best air-to-water heat pumps?

We have read blogs, looked at reviews and have had our community comment on the heat pumps they’ve used.  This has helped us arrive at the best air source (air-to-water) heat pumps to recommend.

Alongside the manufacturer finding the right installer is incredibly important.  We have found across the board that poorly installed products perform very badly and attract incredibly bad reviews.  So take some tips on choosing the right installer below.

1. Mitsubishi Ecodan

Purchase price: £5,000 – £7,000
Benefits: Sound, reliability, maintenance, aesthetic, controls, range.
Downfalls: Internal thermal store size, reviews.

They’ve been delivering electrical devices for over a century, so they know what they’re doing.  This is why they are beating many on cost and have developed some very nice looking products, with good reliability and low cost maintenance, for all sizes of property.  What we particularly like are the advanced control systems that allow you to connect to solar panels, whilst optimising heat pump usage during low cost energy tariffs.  

The only downfall we can see is the lack of a wall mounted thermal store and that there isn’t a high temperature system, with all heat pumps delivering water at 55°C.  There have also been a few rough reviews online, which we attribute mainly to poor installation.

2. Samsung EHS

Purchase price: £3,000 – £6,000
Benefits: Size, cost, reliability, controls, range
Downfalls: Aesthetic, limited range.

Samsung has extremely compact outdoor units, that claim to be 40% smaller than competitors, and they major on a unique refrigerant that is super environmentally friendly and efficient.  On top of all of this they provide a low cost solution, but do have a limited range of external products with only 16kw output and no low noise solutions.  Connectivity on their products is great though, so you can control them remotely, can optimise upon energy tariffs and sync with solar solutions.

We feel the big downfall of this product is the way it looks.  It does have nice internal units though and one good wall mounted one.  It also has very few negative reviews we can find, with only positive ones relating to suppliers.

3. Nibe F2040

Purchase price: £6,000 – £8,500
Benefits: Reliability, efficiency, controls, range, maintenance, aesthetic.
Downfalls: Cost, flexibility of internal units.

Nibe is a lesser known brand, which has built it’s reputation in Poland, Czech Republic and Scandinavia.  Their products are some of the most energy-efficient on the market and they have a great range, which variable outputs of heat up to 65°C, allowing a smaller demand on replacing radiators.  They have great controls, including an app that flags issues, and like most Scandanavian products are well made and require little maintenance.

Our only criticism is the lack of a wall mounted internal unit, and potentially the high initial outlay.  They do have some negative reviews but they are mostly installer related and are countered by may positives.

4. Viessman

Purchase price: £5,500 – £9,000
Benefits: Reliability, efficiency, range, aesthetics, maintenance.
Downfalls: Cost

Viessman is a German manufacturer that focuses on delivering efficiency in its range, which is extensive.  Delivering heat up to 65°C makes this again a super deliverer.  Internal units are also flexible and extensive.  Not much is posted on the controls of their units, but there is a flexible range of thermal stores.  We think their range is pretty aesthetically appealing as well.

5. Daikin Altherma

Purchase price: £6,000 – £8,000
Benefits: Heat output, range, maintenance.
Downfalls: Aesthetic, reviews.

Daikin, a Japenese firm, is a leading global supplier of air conditioning units.  It has a long history of providing climate control technology.  They are the only unit we can find that delivers heat at 80°C in their High Temperature heat pump, meaning these units can be installed in less efficient houses, using existing heating infrastructure.  They have a very good range and espouse low maintenance requirements.

The aesthetics of their units we don’t find that attractive, and unfortunately we’ve found some very negative reviews of their product support.  Saying this they are recommended time and time again from blogs from leading review sites in the heating world.

Finding a good installer

You can choose to either follow a manufacturer when you are sourcing an installer or seek the installer first.  The analysis of our reviews finds that manufacturers don’t necessarily screen their installers sufficiently, so when seeking a quote through that channel do also check on reviews of particular installers. 

You can also simply choose an installer.  We have a list on our renewable heating page, which have all been recommended by our community. 

Join our community and get more support 🙂

Join our community, and ask experts and those going through the same experience questions about how to reduce your environmental impact. Get into your inbox the most up to date information about living sustainably, and support others.

10 New Year’s Resolutions to Live More Sustainability in 2021

Our community has done so many things to live more sustainably, we thought we’d share 10 to inspire you for your New Year’s Resolutions in 2021.  And what better resolutions could there be than to be healthy, save money and the environment at the same time?  With some of these you can do all three!

Go back to work on a bike

You may have loved cycling during lockdown, now take it on your commute!  If you pledge to cycle to work you get health benefits but there are also incredible benefits to the environment.  Daily personal travel is 17% of your carbon footprint if you drive. 2021 could be the year that you prove your commitment to tackling climate change by getting out of the car and on the bike!

You can go electric with your choice of bike or just peddle every step of the way – check the links to get some great advice!

Start ethically investing

It’s all the rage.  Environmental, social and governance investments have shot through the roof in 2021 to over 1 trillion dollars.  The time is now to move your money to where your mouth is.  Afterall around 30% emissions are related to infrastructure and companies which only your money can affect.

Why not start by setting up an ethical ISA with Abundance or energize Africa through an investment with Ethex.  You could also move your pension to Impax or get advice from financial advisors that specialise in this space such as John Ditchfield or Hugo Sparks, members of Better Century.

Reduce consumption of meat/dairy 

Reducing meat and dairy are sure ways to cut your carbon footprint by a quarter, whilst also reducing the amount of growing space to feed you.  This environment win-win-win, which also reduces water consumption and tackles biodiversity loss, is heralded as one simple way is which everyone can help.

You needn’t be a vegetarian or vegan, you can just eat less meat and dairy.  That’s a habit but is massively affected by purchasing choices.  A good way to start is to pledge to cut meat out of a number of meals.  Think about getting a veg box and learn new recipes.  

Cut out single use plastic

With gyres collecting mile wide Islands of plastic waste in the ocean and with marine life being severely affected by plastic particulate in digestive systems, it’s time to cut down on single use plastic.  It was a hugely popular movement after Blue Planet so 2021 could be the time to reinvigorate change by making simple resolutions – to cut out single use plastics.

The key ways our members have found to cut out single use plastics is to use new providers; like Milk and More who deliver milk and veg,  The Funky Soap Shop that provides awesome soaps, shampoos and conditioners, or Green People, who do all types of beauty products and reusable cups and the suchlike.  Why not pledge to reduce your single use plastic through our community pledge and get inspiration from dozens of others doing the same!

Switch energy supplier

Switching energy suppliers can (debatably) make a difference.  Around 10% of your carbon footprint comes from electricity usage – so if you move to 100% renewable then you can make that reduction?  Yes – if you pick the right supplier you are helping build renewable energy and are decarbonising our economy.

View our pages on renewable energy supply and learn about suppliers here.  There are also some great initiatives like Ripple Energy which allow you to invest in a wind farm and pay much reduced rates for energy, or Octopus Energy where you maximise upon flexible rate renewable energy tariffs – slashing bills to those with electric vehicles or heat pumps.

Decarbonise your home

Heating your home is 15% of the average carbon footprint.  Insulate it properly in the roof and put in some draught proofing, and you’ll save hundreds a year.  Go further and insulate walls and hot water systems, upgrade windows, and install thermostatic radiator valves, and you’ll save 40% on bills and footprint.  If you want to go the ‘whole hog’, then install a heat pump, and use just renewable electricity to heat your home, making it arguably zero carbon.

Whilst the Green Homes Grant will pay for two thirds of the bill of these measures, then it makes sense in 2021 to make this resolution.  To learn more about energy efficiency and renewable heating, click on the links!

Buy eco clothing

Sustainable fashion is becoming very fashionable!  It’s because of the incredible environmental impact fashion has through sourcing, processing and disposing of clothes.  An average pair of jeans uses 7,000 litres of water in production, 60% of clothes are made from synthetic materials and the majority of clothes get thrown away with an average use of 5 wears.

If you buy eco clothing, it’s cool, it lasts and it is made from recycled or renewable sources.  Why not just buy sustainable clothes in 2021!  Check out Vivobarefoot for shoes, Bamboo clothing or Lofte Sustainable Luxury Clothing.  There are loads of other community recommendations through our sustainable fashion tag.

Buy an electric car

Well, it’s the time isn’t it?  New Diesel and Petrol car sales will be banned by 2030, you don’t want to be behind the curve.  It’s time to trend set and buy a car that can dramatically reduce expenditure on motoring, whilst reducing carbon emissions.  If you’re an average driver you’ll save around £1,000 a year moving to electric, and if you drive a lot more, then that number just keeps on going up.

With loads of options for financing and leasing electric vehicles, and with such dramatic savings, 2021 could be the year it makes sense for you.  Read all you need to know on our eco resource, and find yourself a great vehicle for 2021!

Holiday without flying

Hopefully when we’ve all been vaccinated, we can move around freely once again.  Instead of joining all the holiday makers abroad why not continue to enjoy your country in 2021 or go to Europe in an electric vehicle?  There’s so many options available to you.

Check out EcoBnb for sustainable locations for staying in 2021, get a log cabin in the Cotswolds next to a lake, or check out Darwin Escapes across the UK.

Make your garden nature friendly

We’ve all loved our gardens during lockdown, now’s the time to make nature also love your garden, and for you to be surrounded by abundance of life!  Whatever size your garden you can encourage nature to come there, by taking some simple steps; growing pollinator friendly plants, putting up a bird feeder, composing, making a hole in the fence for hedgehogs or making a small water source.

Make a resolution to bring wildlife to your garden this year by doing something.  Here’s a great guide of things you can do to make your garden nature friendly!

How to Apply for the Green Homes Grant – All you need to know in six steps

This time-restricted grant scheme slashes the cost of installing measures that will save hundreds in bills every year.  Learn what you need to do in some simple steps to maximise upon this grant scheme.

Every homeowner or landlord is eligible to receive up to £5,000 to install insulation or a new heating system..  A third of the bill has to be covered by the owner, meaning you will receive £7,500 worth of improvements for a £2,500 spend.  

When you can save up to £700 in energy bills every year this is a pretty great deal

1. Know what you need

Surveyors can tell you what you need to do in your home, but all are being inundated with requests and often place an initial charge on doing a survey.  If you know what you need it can endear professional support and save your money.  A simple way of doing this is to look at your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).  If you don’t want to dig through paperwork click here to use the government tool.  Check the video below to learn how to use it.  You may also want to check that your eligible for the grant – click this link and take the government test.

2. Choose insulation or heating system

To get the grant you have to install insulation or a new heating system (heat pump or solar thermal system).  If your EPC is below D a new heat pump will not be effective so you will need to insulate and/or install a solar thermal system to help heat hot water. If you are a C or above then getting a new heating system could be your best option, but will require some significant capital outlay.  Both of these options will add value to your property with measures that increase energy efficiency ratings improving property value by up to 10%.

3. Insulate and get the best bang for buck

Think top to bottom when you’re thinking about insulation – heat rises right!  Most houses need more insulation in the roof and draught proofing.  If you’ve got uninsulated cavity walls (many houses built 1945 – 1980), then go for bead blow insulation.   Pipes and hot water tanks, alongside heat control systems are next on the list.  If you need to upgrade windows get roof insulation and then double/triple glazing as a secondary measure.  You can go as far as external or internal wall insulation but that’s expensive.

Here’s come combinations to consider but do read more on energy efficiency here.

Primary MeasureSecondary MeasuresCost to youGrant PayoutAnnual Savings
Roof insulationPipe and water tank insulation, and draught proofing £650 £1,350£250
Roof and Cavity Wall InsulationPipe and water tank insulation, and draught proofing £1,000£2,000£700
Roof insulationUpgrade windows to double/triple glazing£2,500 £5,000£550
Roof and Underfloor insulationPipe and water tank insulation, and draught proofing £1,200£3,600£500
Solid Wall InsulationDraught Proofing£2,500 – £7,000£5,000£450
Learn more through this useful table of measures on our community site.

4. Get the right heating system for your home

A heat pump or solar thermal system can be installed under the grant scheme as a primary measure, but conditions need to be right for their installation.  Both of these systems are also eligible for another grant called the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which pays out over a 7 year period.

Solar thermal will heat your hot water, with a heat pump offering an alternative to combi boilers.  Both systems take heat from the external environment and condense it to heat your water internally.  Solar thermal will work on any house but you need to have room for an additional tank.  Heat pumps will function on well insulated houses.  To learn more read about Renewable Heating Systems on our Eco Resource.   

A solar thermal system will cost around £1,200 (£2,400 from grant), giving £200 saving a year as it heats about 60% of all your hot water.  An air source heat pump will cost around £2,500 (£5,000 from grant), with savings of around £400 a year and payment of £300 a year from RHI.

5. Find a supplier

Once you’ve chosen what you want to install then you need to source a supplier to deliver the measures.  Most by now will be registered with TrustMark (for energy efficiency measures) or will be registered with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) (heating systems).   Better Century lists recommended suppliers on our Energy Efficiency and Renewable Heating System pages – this is a great place to start!

You need quotes from these suppliers to claim the voucher for the grant, which will be time consuming.  Each will need to visit to give a quote and you will need a quote for each measure to claim your voucher.

6. Claiming the grant and commissioning the work

Pick one supplier for each of the measures you wish to have installed.  Then make an application for the voucher using this government application system with the quotes provided.  You will then receive the voucher by email, which has to be claimed in 3 months and can only be used with the suppliers selected, so make sure you make friends!

Once the work is complete to your satisfaction you need to redeem the voucher using this system.  The supplier is paid for their part directly from the government and you then need to pay the remainder of the invoice.  

You will now have a nice warm home, which will save you money year on year!

Need more help?

Check out community discussions on energy efficiency and renewable heating.

Contact Tom if you need practical support to identify measures and arrange suppliers by emailing tom@bettercentury.org.

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