Tomorrow’s home safety
Electrical Safety First on how to make sure the houses of the future are safe for their residents and the opportunities that lie ahead for installers
Scotland has been taking the lead in its commitment to addressing climate change, with a legally required objective of net zero gas emissions by 2045 – five years before the rest of the UK.
This major transition will transform the homes we live in, with modern technologies creating a complex web of interconnected challenges and risks, made more problematic by Scotland’s ageing housing stock.
Yet in our increasingly electric world, the critical importance of electrical safety is rarely fully acknowledged in strategies for our low carbon future.
Our upcoming report, Future Homes Scotland – Electrical Safety in the Net Zero Home, addresses this deficit. Due to be launched this summer, it reviews some of the key technologies and themes of the home of the future and offers a range of recommendations to enhance electrical safety.
The route to net zero is complex, so the report takes an integrated approach, reviewing key areas incorporating housing infrastructure, the electrification of heat, electric vehicles (EVs), product safety, growing the installer base, and consumer education. Addressing these interrelated elements now will help ensure the future home is not only low carbon and smart but also safer.
As our homes and vehicles are responsible for a sizeable proportion of Scotland’s emissions, it’s not surprising that both are at the forefront of our energy transition – and also open up an array of opportunities for the 21st century electrician.
Environmental friendly measures such as electric panels and heat pumps (above left) will be more and more prevalent in the homes of the future
From 2024, all new homes in Scotland must be future-proofed with low-carbon heating. A net zero home is also likely to be highly insulated and incorporate a range of technologies, such as on-site renewable electricity generation, EV home charging points and various smart products and services. So electricity, now increasingly produced from renewable sources, is set to play a key role in new builds.
Existing housing stock however, will prove more problematic, particularly older housing with outdated electrical installations.
In Scotland, 40% of homes were built before 1944, with 19% established pre-1919. The situation is also made more complex due to 40% of Scotland’s housing stock being flats. The mix of owner occupancy, privately rented and social housing, within the same apartment block, adds to the difficulty of retrofitting.
The huge increase in electrical appliances such as heat pumps, electric boilers and heaters, together with a shortage of trained installers and a lack of familiarity with electrical heating will all (inevitably) impact on electrical safety and highlight the need for properly trained, competent professionals.
The Scottish Government estimates an additional 16,400 jobs will be supported across the economy in 2030 from investment in the deployment of zero emissions heat. So our report also recommends the Scottish Government introduce a clear and consistent policy framework, to provide industry with long-term certainty of demand and encourage investment in upskilling.
However, while Scotland’s Heat in Buildings Strategy recognises how the move to net zero will dramatically expand the role of electricity in heating our homes, regulatory proposals have not explained how prepared current domestic electrical installations are for this transition.
To ensure effective policies we need the right information. So among our report’s recommendations is a call for the national Scottish House Condition Survey to be updated, to better assess the preparedness of domestic electrical installations and potential capacity constraints. This will provide essential data on how Scotland’s current housing stock can be made ready for a low-carbon future – and where electrical risk may arise. We are also campaigning for the Scottish Government to introduce a common, cross-tenure standard for electrical safety, which includes mandatory five-yearly electrical safety checks. As with Energy Performance Certificates, such checks could be required on the sale of a property.
“Addressing these interrelated elements now will help ensure the future home is not only low carbon and smart but also safer”
EVs are another fundamental in Scotland’s move to net zero which offers further opportunities for forward-thinking installers.
While public charging points are being established across the country, research indicates that charging an EV at home is much preferred. As well as being convenient, using a dedicated home-based EV charging point is usually cheaper than a public one – and safer and quicker than using a domestic plug socket.
Our research shows that, without convenient access, drivers often charge EVs in a risky fashion. We found 74% of those charging EVs via a household domestic socket blamed a lack of easy access to public charging points.
In 2020, there were approximately 25,000 licensed EVs in Scotland, with just over 2,000 publicly available charging points and in 2021 it was estimated that home EV chargers numbered just 11,500.
This significant ‘gap’ in accessible charging point provision will be a pressing problem – particularly with around 60% of Scottish homes being comprised of flats, tenements and terraced housing, with limited parking options.
So we are also calling for a charging point mapping exercise, to help focus support and collaboration and provide a clear route for private renters to install an EV home charging point, as they currently need landlord permission before installing.
Other key recommendations in our report emphasise the need for consumer education and a requirement for the Scottish Government to promote the use of authorised installer registration platforms.
Difficulty in finding suitably qualified, competent contractors could lead to households using rogue or unqualified installers to undertake work – or, worse still, do it themselves. This could not only breach regulatory guidelines but also be potentially dangerous.
To make the changes needed to achieve net zero objectives, first and foremost we need the professionals who can do the job. Because the future is definitely electric.
Find out more about Electrical Safety First’s policies in Scotland.
How to find out more about the homes of tomorrow
Electrical Safety First’s report, Future Homes Scotland – Electrical Safety in the Net Zero Home, will be launched this summer.
For more information, please email Karter Kane on firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call her on 07812 059 889