In an occasional ‘comment’ post, I want to warn my blog readers about the perils of ‘research’ on the internet.

Earlier this year we were approached by an insolvency company looking for a quote to fit 20 electrical fan heaters into a development of 2 year old ‘eco houses’ in the UK.

I could tell you the whole story but I don’t want to get into trouble so I am going to have to be vague about where they are.

Their email said that these 20 fan heaters would be put into the eco home development, which seemed incongruous, as these were expensive to run resistance fan heaters, the development looked like it was only finished 2 years ago.

My internet research (yes, I do it too) revealed all the 10 properties concerned were designed and marketed as ‘Passive Houses’ with claims to make them cooler in summer and more comfortable in winter, with the lowest possible energy use.

My internet browser has come up with these clips from press releases at the time;

It has won the “Highly Commended” award in three categories (“Best Small Development“, “Best Out of London Home” and “Eco-Living“) at the coveted 2019 Evening Standard New Homes Awards – the joint highest of any developer in Britain.

The development was a prestigious RESI Awards finalist for 2019 “Development of The Year”. Each home features copious amounts of natural light, large living spaces, and an almost endless list of premium features and technologies fitted at no extra cost.’

I’ve found articles in local newspapers praising the energy efficiency and the awards won. The building architects’ website, and that of the building contractor, also continue to cite the awards today, and those it was shortlisted for, all relating to the building’s energy efficiency.

All of the homes at (name removed) have been built using long-lasting hyper-insulated cores and specialised triple glazing. The building core ensures the durability and longevity of the homes is far superior to many other forms of passive house construction. The hyper-insulated core also results in electricity bills being reduced by up to 80%.

A further innovation by (redacted) is to use the air purification system to induce heating via one single, low-energy consumption heating element, rather than add underfloor heating to some rooms. Unlike underfloor heating, this immediately provides heat to the whole house, in every room, using hot (and purified) air, but with less energy consumption than the underfloor heating required for just one room.

There is nothing on Google you will find today that tells the subsequent story, that these ‘passive houses’ may not have worked in practice, which is my conclusion from the fact that in 2021 each house is being fitted with 6Kw of additional electrical resistance heating in order to stay warm in coming winters. The 80% claim cannot be true on the basis of the subsequent need to fit additional heating.

The owners will get a nasty shock when they get sight of their electricity bill in Spring 2022.

I’ve written to a couple of the ‘journalists’ who wrote glowing reviews in newspapers and online in 2019, asking them whether they think they should follow up blind claims made in their articles. No responses have been received.

As things stand there is no record you will find to show how it turned out. This is typical, as soon as the places are built and sold, nothing is reviewed thereafter, the awards ceremony is history. Errors, mistakes, misconceptions are not corrected, falsehoods are allowed to be perpetuated. The internet enables claims to be repeated and apparently verified across multiple search engines and articles.

If you are considering buying, or commissioning such a property, be aware that you will find lots of positive news on the subject of green heating, be mindful much of this could just be hype – written before actual people have bought and lived in the properties.

When you look at the estate agent details in years to come, they won’t say it didn’t work. On the contrary, the same awards and shortlists will still be being quoted, long after I’ve retired from this business.

Be careful out there.