A personal sustainability journey - making a more sustainable home

Leading the sustainability team at Moorhouse over the last two years has exposed me to deep understanding of the impact climate change will have. This is incredibly stimulating professionally. However, it’s also the world my one and five year old children will live in and it’s far from certain. 

It’s been an amazing journey with Moorhouse to be able to influence industries and organisations to be more sustainable and make meaningful contributions to the UK’s Net Zero ambitions. Making strides internally to be more sustainable has also been rewarding. This ranges from reducing our carbon impact and becoming ISO14001 accredited, to offsetting carbon emissions and supporting charities through volunteering. We’re now on the road to a  B-Corp certification, which is exciting. 

However, I haven’t been able to escape my sense of personal responsibility, and to make a difference at home as well as at work. So I started to look at what changes I could make. As well simple steps like recycling, offsetting and turning the heating down, I've challenged myself to push further. This sets out some of the journey I’ve been on, and I hope it might help you to push further from where you are. 

Specifically, I’ve changed how I power my home, run my heating and the car I drive. I thought it would be helpful to share some of the things I’ve learnt and decisions made that have led me to:

  • Move to an air source heat pump
  • Put in place solar panels and a battery
  • Buy an Electric Vehicle 

Before we jump in, I need to flag that these solutions can be costly, and I appreciate I am in a privileged position to be able to consider some of them. This is clearly one of the big blockers to us collectively achieving Net Zero. The Government grants help, but the cost of technology at scale will need to begins to come down for widespread impact. Clearly there are also many other steps an individual can take, from home insulation to green power sourcing. I have included some helpful links at the end of this article and would encourage you use the resources and challenge yourself! 

Heating the home – moving to an air source heat pump

For me this was the scariest decision. I’ve heard a lot of scare stories about air source heat pumps. These include them using large amounts of energy and not heating the home as well as a conventional boiler. This is a particular concern when another member of our household seems to think it is cold in our home unless it is over 22 degrees!! 

First things first – I absolutely love the air source heat pump. We live in the countryside where we previously ran on oil. Having to continually check your oil levels and order deliveries is not ideal. 

The heat pump seems to heat the home much more effectively, keeping it at a more constant temperature.  They don’t heat the water to as high a temperature, but push it around your system more quickly to compensate. We were also lucky that our downstairs contains underfloor heating, which works better with heat pumps.

So what does it mean from a cost point of view? Well so far so good in that it is a lot cheaper than the oil costs we used to incur. The oil market can be quite volatile too so we did see a lot of fluctuations in costs over the last few years, many of which were very beneficial! 

However, the big issue going forward is the cost of energy has significantly increased so my bills will rise next year like everyone else. A lot of people in the UK don’t realise that gas contributes anything from 10-60% of our electricity supply at any point in time so when you hear wholesale gas prices have risen it isn’t just your gas bill it affects.

The heat pump seems to heat the home much more effectively, keeping it at a more constant temperature. 

Powering the home

Battery and solar

With the rise in electricity prices over the last few months this feels like the shrewdest investment. Feed in tariffs (the amount of money you get paid to provide electricity back to the grid) have decreased over the years making solar panels less appealing.

The expectation is that this could change soon with the cost of electricity increasing so I could get paid more and the fact I can create my own electricity is a big benefit rather than taking it from the grid.

It’s also worth noting that because I have a battery as part of this set up any excess energy I create goes to charge the battery first rather than putting it back into the grid. This means that I can use the battery to power my home when the sun goes down until it gets charged back to full capacity overnight.

The idea is that this charges over night at a super low rate (Octopus Go) – I currently have an 18kW battery which is quite big but when you’re heating your home with electricity this gets drained quickly. 

A recent issue I have noticed is that it is impossible to charge a car and a battery overnight at a low rate.

An 18kW home battery and a 32kW car battery being charged at a total of 7kW per hour means it would take around 7-8 hours. My super low rate only lasts for 4 hours meaning I have to use my standard tariff for the rest of the time.

My understanding is that it isn’t good for the longevity of a car battery to continually top up it up, but you should let it drop to around 10% then charge it back up to about 85% which means when I do charge it up it is almost a full charge.

For the geeks amongst us (me being one) you do get a helpful app which monitors the system and provides real time info. This provides a range of info from energy use over the day, how much energy is coming from solar and what is being taken from my battery to power my house. I’ve added some screenshots below so you can see the type of information it provides.

Interestingly, linked to the above I recently received an email from my electricity provider Octopus about taking part in a trial.
More infomation here.

It states: 

Throughout February and March, Octopus will give you free power at certain times if you can reduce your energy use when the UK’s energy mix is dirtiest.”

It is great to see this type of innovation and for those not aware the UK’s energy mix is dirtiest when there is highest demand which is usually in the morning and dinner time. With that in mind I’d like to think I’m pretty good at not using energy at the peak times given we have a battery. The one issue I have is around my use of an air source heat pump is that I don’t have the ability to control when it is on or off without turning our heating or hot water off. Therefore I’m in two minds about taking part in the trial. I’ll keep you updated on this one. 

Car charging

We decided a year ago our next car would be electric based on speaking to friends and family who had made the jump and said they were glad they made the move. Without getting into the pros and cons of EVs in too much detail I know there are a lot of people out there who are sceptical due to views on:

 • the environmental impact of manufacturing cars and batteries
 • whole life costs of an EV (not just topping it up)
 • new technology being around the corner for battery advances and hydrogen. 

Despite all of this we decided it was the right move for us primarily due to the reduction of emissions and the cost to fill them up. For example to charge our car overnight it costs somewhere in the region of £2 for 100 miles which given the cost of petrol there is no comparison. They are also really fun to drive!

Again like the solar panels this is all managed in a handy app which allows me to see how much charging I’ve done, CO2 saved and most importantly have the ability to set what times my car is charged and how quickly. My charger is through BP which after a few teething problems is working really well.

In terms of what’s next it’s interesting to see what happens in the Vehicle to grid space. Here is a bit of information for those that want to know more about Vehicle to Grid.

In short I have a 32kW battery sitting on my driveway in my car, especially useful when I am working at home. 

Therefore in theory I could charge my car overnight at a cheaper rate when it has less impact on the grid (using renewable sources) and use the energy stored in that battery during the morning, day and night rather than drawing energy from the grid. A really interesting concept especially when I have just spent quite a bit of money on a battery which sits in my loft. 

Bringing this all together and the impact of energy cost increases

So if I knew then what I know now would I have made the same personal investment decisions? Absolutely. I feel it is making a positive environmental impact whilst saving money and who knows, likely adding value to my home. As mentioned, people often want to wait for the technology to advance further before making any decisions – my personal view is that you could be waiting a long time! At what point do you say let’s advanced sufficiently for me to act? 

I appreciate I am in a privileged position to be able to make these investments. For me this will be one of the big blockers to achieving net zero as previously mentioned. This challenge will be exacerbated by increasing costs of not just energy but also the general costs of living. Whilst there are grants available to help with some aspects, it won’t make significant difference to justify the spend at this point. 

My hope for the future is that as technological advances and Government support make some of these types of technologies more accessible in cost terms. It’s great to see that new build properties are having air source heat pumps and car chargers as standard. Other challenges to overcome are properties where heat pumps won’t work, and for those with no off street parking to charge EVs. 

It would be great to hear your feedback on this article or related experiences you’ve had. Advice is also welcome!
So please get in touch at with Edward Charlish or share some thoughts in the comments on LinkedIn. I look forward to hearing from you. 


Edward leads the Energy & Utilities sector with over 17 years experience of working in industry and consulting across public and private sectors.

Edward Charlish Client Director