How we can stop heating going through the roof

Tucked away in a new estate in Oldham, there's a couple of houses that are different from the rest. They look pretty unremarkable from the outside, but a glance at their energy bills tell a very different story.

These homes are build to the ultra efficient Passivhaus standard, which combines thick insulation with a clever heat-exchanger that circulates fresh air without letting the precious warmth escape.

With heating bills of around £20 a year, you can imagine what that means for their carbon footprint. The Guardian spoke to resident Justine Hutton, who's now a Passivhaus convert: "I Googled it but I was still sceptical. But it's great. There are no draughts and it's quiet. They should definitely build more like this."

Justine's home isn't the first of its kind but with energy bills back in the headlines, it's a timely reminder of what’s possible.

Britain's leaky houses force people to spend vast sums on heat that escapes straight out through the walls and windows. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Britain's houses are some of the worst insulated in Europe, forcing people to spend vast sums on heat that escapes straight out through the walls and windows. But as Oldham's Passivhauses show, it doesn't have to be this way.

Sweden does it better

What happens when you tackle energy efficiency on a national scale? Let's take a look at Sweden. They pay twice as much for per unit of gas to heat their homes as Britain. It’s colder and darker there, and levels of disposable income are basically the same. So you’d think a lot more people would struggle to cover their energy bills. But in fact, fuel poverty (spending over 10% of your income on energy bills) is 70% higher in Britain than Sweden.

There's plenty wrong with the way companies set energy prices, but without a really ambitious programme to super-insulate Britain's homes, our energy bills and carbon emissions will be much bigger than they need to be.

Photo: Leap4it