Europe’s energy crisis in data: Which countries have the best and worst insulated homes?

UK homes are losing heat three times faster than homes in Norway and Germany.
UK homes are losing heat three times faster than homes in Norway and Germany.   -   Copyright  Canva
By Servet Yanatma

As cold weather grips Europe, many people are deeply concerned about their heating bills. 

Energy prices have soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the European Commission has called on countries to prioritise insulating buildings this winter.

But not all citizens are feeling the cold - or the pinch of energy bills - the same. Recent research shows that home temperature losses vary considerably across Europe.

These differences are down to the quality of building insulation, as outside temperatures were standardised at 0 °C for all countries analysed.

Which country has the worst insulation?

Home temperature losses are highest in the UK, which has the oldest housing stock: 37 per cent of homes in the UK were built before 1946.

Intelligent home climate management company tado° examined 80,000 homes in 11 European countries between December 2019 and January 2020 to reach this conclusion.

It found that a home in the UK with an indoor temperature of 20 °C and outside temperature of 0 °C loses 3 °C on average after five hours.

Which country has the best insulation?

Norway with 0.9 °C and Germany with 1 °C are the countries with the lowest home temperature losses.

UK homes are losing heat three times faster than houses in Norway and Germany.

This means that UK homes are losing heat three times faster than houses in Norway and Germany.

The UK is followed by Belgium (2.9 °C), France (2.5 °C), the Netherlands (2.4 °C), and Spain (2.2 °C). Heat loss is higher in these five countries than the average loss (1.8 °C) of all evaluated countries.

Sweden, Denmark, and Austria all have average home temperature loss of 1.2 °C. In Italy, this value is 1.5 °C.

Energy costs are more than double for old homes

How old a home is has a big bearing on its heat loss - as well as a range of other energy efficiency measures.

In the UK, research by the Office of National Statistics - based on Energy Performance Certificates - shows that energy costs for older homes are more than double those of newer ones.

To put that into perspective: in England in 2019, the average estimated energy cost per year for an older home was £885 (€1,028), compared to only £399 (€463) for a newer home.

Climate campaign group Insulate Britain isn’t the only one calling for Britain to be insulated.

Climate campaign group Insulate Britain isn’t the only one calling for Britain to be insulated. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has argued for mass insulation of England’s interwar suburbs.

“A very large proportion of these have not had changes made to the walls since construction, meaning that they do not have any insulation,” a RIBA report states. It was calculated that proper insulation, double- or triple-glazing, and gas boiler replacement in 3.3 million interwar homes could cut the country’s carbon emissions by four per cent.

Most homes were built before the first thermal regulations

According to the EU Building Stock Observatory, most residential buildings in the EU were built before the first thermal standards were introduced in the 1970s. These energy efficiency measures were brought in after the oil crises caused by war and political turmoil in the Middle East.

Generally speaking, the higher the share of new residential buildings is, the higher the overall energy performance of the building stock will be.

In the EU, 23 per cent of homes were constructed before 1945, and 26 per cent were constructed between 1945 and 1969, according to 2014 figures. That means 49 per cent of homes were built before 1970. Only 23 per cent were built after 1990.

Which European countries have the oldest homes?

Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/REUTERS
Insulate Britain are demanding that the government ensures that all homes in the UK are more energy-efficient by 2030.Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/REUTERS

Looking at the share of homes built before 1945, the UK is at the top of the list with 36.5 per cent, followed by Belgium (33.9 per cent) and Denmark (31.9 per cent).

Cyprus has the lowest share of homes built before 1945 at only 3 per cent. In Greece, this is 7.3 per cent, followed by Romania (11.1 per cent). In 13 EU countries, the share of homes built before 1945 is above 20 per cent.

The UK is also at the top of the list for homes constructed before 1970, at 62 per cent. Sweden (60.5 per cent), Germany (59.4 per cent), and Lithuania (59.1 per cent), closely follow the UK. This figure is also high in Denmark (58.9 per cent), and Belgium (58.5 per cent).

There are only six countries in which less than one-third of homes were constructed before 1970. These are Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Ireland, Malta, and Finland.

Which European countries have the youngest homes?

The share of homes built between 1990 and 2014 is highest in Cyprus. More than half of the homes (54.2 per cent) on this island were constructed after 1990. This is followed by Ireland (45.2 per cent) and Luxembourg (41.6 per cent).

Lithuania, Slovakia, and Latvia have the lowest shares of homes built after 1990 at less than 13 per cent. In the EU, as of 2014, 22.6 per cent of homes were constructed after 1990.

REPowerEU Plan: What does the EU suggest?

Improving the energy efficiency of housing stock has become increasingly critical in many countries in light of rocketing energy prices.

The European Commission presented the REPowerEU Plan for saving energy, producing clean energy, and diversifying energy supplies. The plan also emphasises the importance of building insulation.

“The most immediate savings can be delivered through better insulating high temperature equipment,” it says. Why? Because these measures have extremely short payback times.

The Commission is therefore urging member states to make full use of supportive measures such as reduced VAT rates for high-efficiency heating systems and insulation in buildings.