Faithful+Gould estimates that the UK's 2 million offices and 26 million homes leaked an additional £1.2 billion worth of heat over the worst 2 weeks of the cold snap compared to a normal winter, as owners turned up thermostats.
Ellie Horwitch-Smith, an energy management expert with Faithful+Gould, said: "As outside temperatures fall, the cold truth is that already inefficient buildings perform increasingly badly. Heating systems struggle to maintain the indoor temperatures demanded of them, and heat is lost at a greater rate from walls and windows. While the £1.2 billion worth of additional lost heat may be a shocking figure, it is a conservative estimate."
The Faithful+Gould team was made up of experts in carbon management and building engineering. They looked at the amount of extra energy required to maintain a typical office and home at 20 degrees Celcius as the outside temperature dropped over the worst 2 weeks of the winter, assuming an average outside temperature of 2 degrees Celcius for the period.
The team found that the residents of an average poorly insulated 3 bed semi-detached house would have spent an extra £37 keeping their house warm over the coldest fortnight. A heat efficient house would also have seen higher bills but that extra cost would have been reduced to around £23. Therefore, the UK, as a nation of home-owners, could have saved around £364 million by bringing dwellings up to the highest standards.
The UK's 2 million offices would have used an extra £284 million of energy keeping warm over the same 2 weeks, based on an average 1500m2 office building. However the team also estimated that a particularly poorly insulated office could have lost an extra £149 to heat over that same period.
According to Ellie Horwitch-Smith: "The answer may be to retrofit insulation, put in a new boiler, or think more carefully about the characteristics of a building at the design stage. Whatever home-owners or businesses do, investing in heat-proofing can rapidly cut their energy costs.
"There is a particular opportunity in the commercial sector this year with the introduction of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency scheme in April. This will force owners or occupiers of large buildings to improve energy performance or face penalties. Some may turn to technology to help, with systems such as ArT (Atkins Remote Technology) that can monitor energy use across estates. Some clients have cut spending by up a third and the system has paid for itself in less than 2 years."
The work underlines the urgency of making the UK's domestic and commercial housing stock more heat-efficient and comes in the week after the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) unveiled its Act on CO2 - Insulate Your Home campaign.
Our carbon management team advises major housing associations, local authorities and private property owners on making their buildings more energy efficient. It also provides independent energy performance certification (EPCs) and Display Energy Certificates (DECs) for the commercial sector and works with the Carbon Trust to help businesses become more energy efficient.