Improving the energy efficiency of a flat

Improving the energy efficiency of my flat – what are my options?

With winter basically upon us, you may be one of the millions of flat owners here in the UK wondering how you can stop your home from being so cold and draughty. It is one of the most frequent questions that we get asked by customers since they hold the common misconception that, because they live in a flat, it excludes the home from energy efficiency measures such as loft insulation.

Some of the limitations of living in a flat

There are three main limitations of living in a flat, which make it harder to increase its energy efficiency.

Firstly, if you want to target wall insulation, you ideally need to get the buy in from everyone else in the block (except regarding the install of internal solid wall insulation).

Cavity walls are insulated by injecting the cavities with insulating material – so if you are mid / top level flat, and  your walls are injected, the insulation will fall down the cavity (gravity is a bugger) and keep your downstairs neighbours nice and warm, while not making the slightest bit of difference to you.

If you have a property constructed using solid walls (pre 1935 normally), then this presents other problems – since if you opt for external insulation, is not technically possible to do this unless you carry out the work on the whole building, since the cladding they attach to the walls is 10cm thick. This insulation would look very peculiar if it is just done to one or two floors of a multi-storied building containing multiple flats – so it wouldn’t get consent from your local planning authority.

The second limitation is the inability to install loft insulation. Obviously this is not a concern if you are situated on low or mid level floors, but for me for example, I live in a top floor flat and there is actually no loft space above my ceiling in lots of places. So how do I go about insulating that? This problem is often seen in the case of loft conversions that have slopping roofs.

The final issue comes down to your lack of heating choices, since in some flats there are restrictions on the use of gas to heat the property (often no mains gas at all), gas boilers could potentially be a no-go. This means that you need to heat with electricity – so again, what are your options?

Things to do before you start trying to increase the energy efficiency of your flat

If you are thinking about trying to improve the energy efficiency of either the walls or the roof, it is really important that you are on good terms with all your neighbours and you know who your freeholder is (if applicable). The first step in any process is to try and reach unanimous support from all those that reside in the building that you share, so there are no permission issues.

In addition you may want to start a shared fund with the other residents to potentially finance any of this improvement work, for example you could set-up a company and distribute the shareholding amongst other building occupiers and then manage the payments and administration this way. 

The next page talks about all the different ways you can improve the energy efficiency of your flat.

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