WITH energy prices heading skyward by the quarter, home-owners need all the advice they can get to keep their bills under control.
A new scheme is seeing green homes in Neath being monitored and studied so the secrets of energy-saving homes can be shared.
Some of South Wales' most energy efficient new homes are being read to discover how much money they are saving their residents, with the 15 properties being just one level away from being zero carbon as assessed by the UK Government's Code for Sustainable Homes.
Rosy Steel, on behalf of Swansea-based social housing specialist Grwp Gwalia, is doing the work and the data she collects will form part of her post graduate studies in environmental architecture.
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She said: "Fuel poverty is expected to affect nine million UK homes by 2016; Gwalia think it's important to incorporate sustainable features into the homes they build.
"We're using a new product called Energy Lens to monitor energy usage.
"It is a software that will allow us to identify how much energy is being saved and also when and where energy is being wasted. This will enable us to advise families how they could save more on utility bills."
The three-bedroom Gwalia homes, in Golwg y Dre, Cimla, were built with a number of green features. Supawall is an insulated timber-frame system that reduces heat loss; it was supplied by Neath-based Seven Oaks Joinery.
The homes have photovoltaic panels, energy efficient lighting, rainwater harvesting ability and highly economical central heating.
Completed in October and now fully occupied, they achieve 100 per cent energy improvement over the Building Regulations baseline.
Their introduction comes at a time when the UK Fuel Poverty Advisory Group says that a rise in fuel bills is forcing people to spend more than 10 per cent of their annual income on heating their homes, putting them in the category of fuel impoverished.
Rosy adds: "At the moment we've got around two months' worth of data from the homes. We won't get an overall picture for another few months yet. It will be particularly interesting to see how the homes performed in the recent cold weather.
"Once we have more data we can use it to advise tenants how to save extra money; it will also inform the sustainability of future homes Gwalia build."