15 Jul 2021

Energy bills would need to rise by £56 a month before average Brit invests in making home greener


  • Research from Nationwide highlights interest in green but lack of knowledge or action
  • Urgent need to green homes – despite half of Brits saying they are environmentally friendly
  • 53% don’t know what CO2 means, 75% what net-zero means and 90% what EPC means
  • Nationwide’s £1 billion loan fund is available for borrowers to green their homes

As the need to green the UK’s housing stock becomes more urgent, a new poll reveals the average Brit would only invest in making their home greener if energy bills jumped by £56 a month.

Research1 from Nationwide Building Society was conducted to better understand how the nation feels about sustainability when it comes to their own homes, with residential properties accounting for around 15 per cent of all the UK’s emissions.

The poll of more than 2,000 adults reveals that when it comes to their homes, people are confused, wary and sceptical of the benefits of going green. This comes at a time when the government is pushing to achieve tough ‘net-zero’ targets by 2050.

While some 50 per cent of people consider themselves environmentally-friendly consumers, many remain in the dark when it comes to some of the most common environmental terms – suggesting that there remains plenty to do to simplify, and encourage, decarbonisation efforts. But with energy bills set to rise further in the future, many households might start to show more interest, with £56 cited as the average amount needed for Brits to pivot on making properties more energy efficient.

Despite sustainability continuing to dominate the national agenda, Nationwide’s research shows that around half (53%) of Brits don’t know what CO2 (carbon dioxide) is, while three quarters (75%) are unaware of what net-zero means. Nine in ten (90%) don’t know what an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) is, despite the mandatory certificates being introduced in 2007. Just one in 20 knew what COP26 (the global environmental summit) was.

In fact, people are around six times more likely to know what the popular text term ‘LOL’ (laugh out loud) meant than ‘EPC’ and five times more likely know what ‘BTW’ (by the way) meant, at 61 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.

Nationwide’s research also shows that the majority of people are concerned by the costs of going green, with almost half the nation (46%) expressing this view. Almost a third (30%) are concerned they would be overcharged due to finding green improvements so confusing.

Despite the hurdles of making homes greener, the survey shows that many people are doing a range of things to help the environment. As well as 76 per cent no longer using single use plastics and using reusable water bottles, cups and containers, 40 per cent are using biodegradable cleaning products.

Claire Tracey, Nationwide Building Society’s Chief Strategy and Sustainability Officer, said: “Our social purpose is to help people into a place fit to call home and helping our members to green their homes in a fair and sustainable way is at the very core of that challenge today. As our research shows, consumers are embracing a number of lifestyle changes to go green, but more needs to be done to support people when it comes to their homes, which are by some margin our biggest contributor to carbon emissions. Without encouragement and incentivisation nothing will likely change. It is why we are continuing to develop new products to help our members make a real difference to the environment by making improvements to existing properties which will help make their homes warmer and cheaper to run.”

Nationwide has made a £1 billion loan fund available for borrowers to reduce the carbon footprint of their homes and kickstart green home improvements and retrofitting. This forms part of its ambition for at least half of its housing stock to be EPC C rated or above by 2030.

As part of its drive to encourage people to make their homes greener, more sustainable and fit for purpose, Nationwide has ‘Green Additional Borrowing’ as part of its mortgage range. Available exclusively to the Society’s existing mortgage members, it comes with the Society’s lowest ever further advance rate of 0.75% for loans between £5,000 and £25,000 up to a maximum of 85% LTV. At least half of the loan must be used to fund a range of sustainable home improvements, including the addition of solar panels, air source heat pumps and electric car charging points.

To further encourage energy-efficient homeownership, the Society launched a new cashback offer earlier this year for those purchasing a property with a high-energy efficiency rating. ‘Green Reward’ is available on any property with a Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) rating of at least 86+. Those purchasing a home with an SAP rating of 92 or above (EPC-A rated) will benefit from £500, while those buying somewhere rated at SAP 86 to 91 (high EPC-B rating) will receive £250.

Nationwide has also partnered with Switchd, offering members a free six-month subscription for the energy comparison tool, helping them save money and reduce their carbon footprint.  The Society recently joined the UN backed Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) and became part of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), helping transition the economy to net zero emissions by 2050.

Case study:

Amy Brierley from Bolton, Lancashire, has previously taken out Nationwide’s Green Additional Borrowing. She and her husband borrowed £25,000 to improve the energy efficiency of their home by installing a new warm, insulated orangery roof. There were two roof lanterns installed with a cold bridging system, along with new sliding doors with 28mm argon glazing. A new composite front door was also installed to help reduce drafts.

Amy said: “We wanted to make our home more energy efficient as our orangery wasn’t being used due to insufficient insulation. It was very expensive to heat in the winter, and we were advised that a warm roof would make all the difference, which it has! In terms of the green additional borrowing, the process was fairly straightforward, the rate was fantastic and our mortgage advisor was really helpful and efficient too. We were really pleased with the service from Nationwide and it is great to know our home is more energy efficient.”

Notes to editors

1 Total sample size was 2,031 UK adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th June – 2nd July 2021.  The survey was carried out online by Censuswide. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.