HomeBusinessEnergy bill-free home in Essex will have ZERO gas and electric costs

Energy bill-free home in Essex will have ZERO gas and electric costs


A ‘bill-free’ home that guarantees its future owners zero energy costs is being built in Essex.

The two-storey family property will use eco-friendly gadgets such as heat pumps and solar panels, which the company building it says the lack of bills save the future owner £40,000 over 20 years.

It is located in the town of Stanford-le-Hope, and will be sold as a shared ownership property by a housing association.

It will cost £100,000 for a 25 per cent share, meaning the full market value is £400,000. The builder says it is likely to go to an eco-conscious first-time buyer or second stepper.

Zero bills: The home, pictured on the far right, has solar panels and an air source heat pump

The home is being constructed in a factory by specialist builder, Ilke Homes, and will be sold by the housing association So Resi and funded by investment firm Gresham House.  

Ilke currently produces two homes a day from its Yorkshire factory, many of which are zero carbon and have lower energy bills than the typical property. 

This will be its first guaranteed zero bill home, but by 2030 it wants to exclusively be building ‘bill-free’ properties. 

The idea of a house with no energy bills to pay could be appealing to many, as the cost of running a home continues to soar.

Last week, Ofgem announced that its energy price cap would be increasing by 54 per cent or almost £700 per household, after the wholesale cost of energy quadrupled last year.

The new cap will see the 22million customers currently on default tariffs typically pay £1,971 per year.

How does a factory-built home work? 

Last year, This is Money visited the production lines at Ilke Homes’ factory in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire to find out how the homes are built. 

Instead of traditional bricks and mortar, the company builds around a galvanised steel frame – similar to the chassis of a car. 

This is then surrounded by lightweight panels which form the rooms and walls. 

The design of the homes is standardised which makes them quicker to construct, and Ilke also uses robots to speed up the process. 

Everything can be done in the factory, from fitting windows to plastering the internal walls and even putting bathrooms and kitchens in place. 

Once complete, the home will be transported to site on the back of a van and craned into place in a matter of hours. 

Nigel Banks, head of special projects at Ilke Homes, told This is Money: ‘As a business, we have always said that we want to build more sustainable homes. 

‘With the cost of living crisis and bills now being up to £2,000 per year, low energy costs are now as important, if not more important, to customers than a home being zero carbon. 

‘We have therefore been exploring what we can do with our technology in order to bring down people’s bills.’

Eco-friendly home improvements reduce energy bills, but they can be very costly to install which puts some people off doing so.   

The home in Essex will have several energy-saving features which will enable the bill costs to be zero.  

Solar panels will be installed on the home’s roof to capture renewable energy by absorbing sunlight. This energy will then be used for electricity and to power the home’s air source heat pump. 

The pump will provide all heating and hot water, and function as an alternative to a gas boiler, using only around a third of the energy. 

On average, the supply and installation of an air source heat pump will cost in the region of £3,000 to £18,000, according to Checkatrade. 

Nine in 10 households in the UK, equivalent to more than 26 million homes, currently rely on gas boilers, resulting in domestic heating being responsible for 20 percent of the UK’s total carbon emissions.  

The home will also be fitted with battery technology into the home. 

When solar panels generate electricity, it has to be used almost instantly meaning any excess is usually sent back to the grid. However, the batteries will allow the future homeowner to store this energy for later use.

Solar panels can generate more electricity than a house requires, providing free energy for consumers and income from exported electricity. 

Leaky: Homes traditionally lose heat through poorly-insulated walls and draughty doors

Leaky: Homes traditionally lose heat through poorly-insulated walls and draughty doors

The average cost of installing solar panels is approximately £4,800 for a 4 kilowatt system, typically including 12 panels.

The walls, floors and roof of the home will be highly insulated, while all windows and doors will be airtight to retain heat and stop draughts. 

It will also feature highly efficient LED lighting, which uses less than a quarter of the energy of a halogen bulb. 

The home’s energy use will be controlled with ‘smart’ technology which means the owner can programme it to be heated to a certain temperature at a certain time, for example, and also factor in times when the batteries will be storing energy for later use. 

So Resi and Ilke homes have reached an agreement with an unnamed energy supplier, which has promised to create a special tariff for the home’s future owner. 

This will guarantee that the home will be bill-free – though it will be subject to a ‘fair usage’ policy. 

 ‘The fair usage limit will be slightly higher than the average energy use for this type of home,’ explained Banks. 

‘It basically means that the owners won’t be able to take advantage by installing a computer server or three hot tubs in the garden’. 

The future owner will also be free to forego the bill-free option and sign up to a different tariff or supplier if they wish.  

Energy bills are a growing concern for households, after Ofgem raised the cap to £1,971

Energy bills are a growing concern for households, after Ofgem raised the cap to £1,971

Although the future owner of the home shouldn’t need to pay any bills, the energy-saving additions make it more expensive than the typical home in the area. 

The average sale price for a property in Stanford-le-Hope in the last 12 months, according to Zoopla, is £354,500 – almost £50,000 less than the cost of the Ilke home. 

The town is connected to London Fenchurch Street by train via a branch line on the Shoeburyness C2C service. 

‘It is fair to say that a zero-bills home does cost more,’ says Banks. 

‘However, the cost of that technology has already reduced massively, and over time it will become much cheaper and more attractive. 

‘We expect homes like these to become the norm in the future. Who wouldn’t want solar panels on their roof harnessing free energy from the sun?’  

Ilke sells the homes on to housebuilders at a fixed price, and then they are free to sell them to consumers for a price that they decide.

There are 153 homes on the Essex development, and 101 of them will be zero carbon ‘Ilke Zero’ homes.

Launched in July 2021, Ilke Zero aims to deliver 1,000 operational zero-carbon homes per year for property investors, housing associations and councils. 

The homes have already been trialled in London, Newcastle, Gateshead, Newark, and Sunderland, and are now ready to be rolled out wider. 

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