Insulating your loft is one of the best ways to improve the EPC rating of your home. If you have a virgin loft (i.e. 25mm or less of insulation) then insulating it will produce massive savings on your energy bill and the great thing is that for many of us, the energy companies offer this insulation free.
Without proper loft insulation, a lot of the warmth produced by your heating system escapes through the roof of your property; in fact, as much as 25% of the heat in an uninsulated house is lost in this way. Loft insulation acts as a barrier, slowing the movement of heat out of the property during the winter and into the property during the summer.
Even if you can’t get it installed for free, it is an incredibly easy DIY job. In the tabs above, you can find out exactly how to do it.
The first decision to make is whether you are looking to create a warm loft or cold loft. The majority of us just use the loft space for storage so normally a cold loft will more than suffice, but for some we use the loft space for a games room or a study. To be honest, insulating your loft as a cold loft is far easier than trying to produce a warm loft – mainly because you don’t need to fight gravity. The method of insulating your loft varies considerably whether you have decide to push forward for a warm loft or a cold loft, but since the vast majority go for a cold loft lets start there – at the joists.
Insulating your loft at the joists
The purpose of insulation is to produce a barrier that slows the movement of heat either in or out of the property. When you produce a cold loft, you need to lay insulation directly above the ceiling to produce this barrier to slow the movement of heat out of the home during the winter and visa versa in the summer to prevent the home overheating.
The latest building regulations stipulate you need to reach a U-value of 0.16 to conform – now for most of us who don’t talk ‘U-values’, this simply means you need a 300mm blanket of wool insulation (if you decide to use rigid insulation board like celotex or Kingspan then you can achieve this u-value with less thickness).
What materials can you use to insulate joists?
We describe the main types of wool insulation in detail here. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages, but all of them work in a similar way. The wool traps air, which provides an insulating barrier. They are all fairly easy to work with, in that they can be cut to measure, shaped to fit around immovable objects and also rolls of wool insulation are cheap.
The main issue with wool insulation is that it compresses if you put any weight on it, which lowers its insulating efficiency. If you lay wool insulation to a depth of 270mm, it is also difficult to locate the joists, which you should use as support if you are in the loft space. Never stand between the joists, otherwise you will more than likely come through the ceiling!
Wooden boards can then be laid over all the insulation if you need to make the loft usable for things like storage. The insulating mineral wool used normally comes in rolls of blanket, which is a consistent thickness and width.
Sheep wool insulation
If you are using sheep wool insulation you will get the added benefits of the material being able to absorb moisture as well. Warm air rises from the heated rooms below and condenses when it comes into contact with cold insulation materials. Unlike other wool products, sheep wool can absorb some of this moisture and protect the joist timbers from rotting, without affecting its own insulating properties.
Loose-fill loft insulation
Insulating your loft floor using loose-fill is great as a top-up process for a pre-insulated space. It tends to be light material such as recycled newspapers and mineral wool, which can be spread to cover any gaps between the joists. You simply open the bags of insulating material and pour into any spaces that were previously lacking an adequate level of insulation. This process is a fairly simple do-it-yourself job.
Rigid insulation boards
These boards, produced by companies like Celotex, are ideal for insulating loft spaces. They are more expensive than the wool, however they offer double the insulating capacity (therefore where you would normally use 270mm of wool, you would only require 135mm of the insulating board). In addition, since they are rigid it is easy to store items directly on top of them without laying board on top of them first. They can be cut to size using a saw to fit between the joists and also drilled to allow room for light fittings.
Blown fibre insulation
Another type of loft insulation is blown fibre insulation, which must be installed by a professional. An installer will use specialist equipment to blow insulation material into the gaps that require it.
Having a carpet of insulation in your roof will significantly reduce heat loss out of your home. The reason why we are such advocates of loft insulation and consider it the no.1 method of saving energy in the home is basically because the insulation is incredibly cheap to buy and the process of producing a cold loft is so easy.
Now a couple of important things to mention; while this is certainly the cheapest way to go, the loft space itself will be very cold in the winter. This means that anything you really value should be kept in the home itself, not in the loft. In addition you need to insulate any pipework and cold water tanks up in the loft as these may now be liable to freezing and the cost of repairing bursting pipes will far outweigh the energy savings produced!
For detailed instructions on how to insulate your loft to produce a cold loft please click the tab here.
Insulating your loft at the rafters
Gravity is a pain – it makes producing a warm loft that much harder. Unfortunately if one tries to insulate between the rafters by squishing in lots of wool insulation then 9 times out of 10 it will just fall out.
However if your heart is set on creating a warm loft space then it is definitely possible. There are four main ways to insulate your rafters; the first is to use netting and wool insulation. Using solid insulation board is again a really good way to minimise heat loss out of your home. The third way is simply to use reflective foil stapled to the rafters – this doesn’t produce significant energy savings but is by far the simplest way to go, requiring just reflective foil and a staple gun. You might want to use reflective foil anyway even if you do opt for a cold loft.
What materials can you use to insulate between rafters?
The materials you should use to insulate the rafter space will depend on the way you have chosen to insulate, however the products used will tend to be denser and more rigid than those used for joists.
If you are looking to insulate between the rafters you can use both wool or insulation boards.
If you are looking to insulate below the rafters then you may choose to use insulation boards or reflective foil.
Normally the process you decide on depends how deep the actual rafters are. If the depth is rather shallow the best option will be to insulate below the rafters. You can in theory increase the depth yourself by attaching planks of wood top of the rafter, but then you are giving yourself more work and adding complexity to the process.
Mineral wool for insulating between the rafters
This can be glass wool, rock or mineral wool and it comes in rolls. You will need to wear protective material, a mask and have the adequate tools to fix this to the space between the rafters. The material is then fixed to the space between the rafters, whilst ensuring there is gap to the roof membrane to avoid condensation.
The difficulty in creating a warm loft with mineral wool insulation is basically due to the thickness of wool insulation needed to hit the necessary U-value as specified by building regulations (300mm) although to be honest, if you are doing this yourself, you are not required by law to conform. The way to keep the insulation in place is to use a net that you can then staple to the rafters which acts as a hammock for the insulation.
Sheep wool for insulating between the rafters
If you are using sheep’s wool, which is not an irritant, then you can handle the material without wearing protective clothing. If you are using sheep wool insulation you will also get the added benefits of the material being able to absorb moisture. Warm air rises from the heated rooms below and condenses when it comes into contact with cold insulation materials. Sheep wool, unlike other wool products, can absorb some of this moisture and protect the rafter timbers from rot, without it affecting its own insulating properties. When insulating rafters, a more rigid form of sheep’s wool insulation can be used, which is more suited to rafter insulation.
Insulation boards for insulating between or below the rafters
Insulating board can be fitted between the rafters or below the rafters. Note: Because the material is thick, if you are going below the rafter space you will certainly lose headroom in the loft space. If your rafters are shallow then you have no choice and have to insulate below.
These boards, produced by companies like Celotex or Kingspan, are ideal for insulating loft spaces. They are more expensive than the basic mineral wool, however they offer double the insulating properties (therefore where you would normally use 200mm of wool, you would only require 100mm of the insulating board). They can be cut to size using a saw to fit between the spaces and drilled through for cabling.
Reflective foil for insulating below the rafters
A thin layer of reflective material is placed below the rafters to prevent heat escaping from the property. This is the most simple way to insulate your loft via the rafters, but obviously the insulating properties on this type of insulation are very limited compared to either mineral wool or insulating board.
As mentioned, the foil is by far the easiest way to insulate your loft; you simply staple it to the rafters. It is worth starting at the apex of the ceiling and then working down the rafters, overlapping the foil to achieve a continuous reflect surface. You can then tape over the joins.
A layer of foam is sprayed into the rafters and sets hard. This can only be installed professionally.
When professionals come in and install spray foams, they can achieve high thermal efficiency with very little depth. The two downsides of this firstly that it is very expensive compared to the other methods and also it doesn’t allow the roof to breath, locking in the water next to the timber – which as we have mentioned previously can lead to problems.
While having a warm loft space is great because you can then use the space – you are now heating an extra ‘room’ that you wouldn’t normally heat if you insulated just above the ceiling (i.e. a cold loft) – which means your heating bill will be higher.
A warmer home.
Can be done cheaply.
Potential savings on your energy bills.
CO2 saving of 210kg to 730kg p/a.
Installing loft insulation
Interested in installing loft installation? The Green Homes Grant is a Government run scheme, offering grants of up to £10,000.
If you are interested in this scheme, we advise you look in to this on the Government website.
If your house was built prior to the 1930s, the chances are that it will have solid walls – simply a solid layer of masonry bricks. Insulating your walls – regardless of whether they are cavity or solid (or even timber-framed) – is a great way to make your home more energy efficient. The insulation will minimise heat loss in the winter, saving you money on your heating bills. It will also stop your home getting too warm in the summer, helping to keep your home at a more comfortable temperature.
According to research, twice as much heat could be lost through an un-insulated solid wall as through an un-insulated cavity wall. However, the great news is that solid walls can be insulated, both internally and externally.
The science behind insulation
If hot air and cold air are partitioned by a wall, heat will transfer through the wall, eventually cooling the room until an equilibrium is reached (where the outside temperature is equal to the inside temperature). In reality this very rarely happens, because rooms tend to be heated; so as heat escapes through the wall, more hot air is supplied by your heating system, keeping it at a comfortable ambient temperature. If the thermal gradient is larger, for example on a cold and wintry day, the movement of the thermal energy across the wall will be accelerated.
Insulating a solid masonry wall helps to provide a thermal barrier, which helps to slow the movement of heat escaping out into the external environment. Less heating is therefore needed to keep the house at the required temperature.
Types of solid wall insulation for your home
Both internal and external insulation are great at keeping your home warmer, lowering your heating bills and cutting carbon emissions. However, both solutions have a different impact on your home, which is explained in the following section:
Internal solid wall insulation
There are a couple of methods to insulate a solid wall internally, which are either to use a rigid insulation board or build a stud wall. We recommend you get a professional in to complete this type of work, and you do not undertake it as DIY unless you are very experienced. Internal solid wall insulation can be as thick as 100mm, so your room will ‘shrink’ wherever it has an external supporting wall.
One way to avoid losing floor space is by using insulating wallpaper, which at only 10mm gives you some benefit of internal solid wall insulation, without impacting on the size of your room. However, the insulating wallpaper will not give you the same performance of dry-lining with the insulation boards unfortunately.
Advantages of internal wall insulation
Cheaper than external insulation
No aesthetic change to the outside of your home
Works well when the home itself is going through a process of internal renovation
Disadvantages of internal wall insulation
Will reduce the room you have in the living areas by up to 10cm, depending on the materials used
Won’t necessarily get rid of any damp problems, which need to be tackled separately
External solid wall insulation
For external wall insulation, you need to employ a professional and you also need to consider local building regulations. This is because this process involves covering the original brickwork and could significantly alter the current appearance of the property, making out of step with the local area. Once any planning permission has been granted, the home can be insulated using an adhesive material which is fixed to the wall, then plastered over.
The finish applied to the external wall can be any combination of texturing, painting, tiling, brick slips, masonry work and/or cladding.
Advantages of solid wall insulation
Less disruption to the household, as the work is carried out outside
Renews your home’s external appearance and increases the lifetime of the brickwork
Complements other refurbishment work
An opportunity to fill cracks and holes in the brickwork, which will help reduce draughts(see Draught Proofing for more information)
Disadvantages of solid wall insulation
More expensive than internal insulation
Planning permission may be required
Any work needs to comply with local building regulation
May not solve all damp issues
Work is not recommended if the building is not structurally sound
Costs of solid wall insulation
Additional costs for downpipes, gas pipes, boiler flues and dishes.
Subject to render strength – additional cost to remove old/weak render.
Potential requirement for scaffolding – around £15/m2.
Measuring the effectiveness of solid wall insulation
The R-value is the measure of thermal resistance used in the building and construction industry today. The higher the R-value, the better the insulating properties of a material – so you should be looking to insulate your house with materials displaying a high R-value. Confusingly, you may hear the word U-value also bandied around. This is exactly the opposite, describing the ability of a material to conduct heat, so you want your insulating material to have a low U-value.
Installing solid wall insulation
Interested in getting solid wall installation? Lucky for you, we work in partnership with EWI Store who specialise in external wall insulation systems! They have a great team who are always happy to help with your enquiries.
A home can lose as much as 35% of its heat through uninsulated external walls. By investing in cavity wall insulation, you can significantly reduce the heat loss from your home. The concept of insulating a cavity wall is really very simple – it involves filling the cavity between the two skins of masonry bricks with an insulating material, which slows the movement of heat through the wall. Maintaining the heat inside your home keeps you warm and cosy when you need to be. It also works in reverse by keeping your house cooler in the summer months.
Installing cavity wall insulation in your home will not only help to decrease your heating bills by saving energy lost through the walls, it will also help to reduce your carbon footprint by limiting the amount of CO² and other greenhouse gases emitted from your property.
Many houses since the late 1930s were built with a cavity between the inner and outer walls. Because of this cavity, many of Britain’s homes have thermal performances which are well below the standards required by current building regulations. These properties suffer from unacceptably high levels of heat and energy loss through the walls. A system was introduced in the 1970s to inject insulation into these cavity walls.
Can I get cavity wall insulation?
There are two things you need to determine to see whether you can benefit from retrofitting cavity wall insulation in your home.
The first thing is to work out if you actually have cavity walls – this might seem stupid, but you can not inject insulation if there isn’t a cavity and they do look quite similar to solid walls!
A cavity wall is made up of two masonry brick walls running parallel to one another with a space (cavity) between them of at least 50mm. Masonry bricks are very absorbent, so moisture absorbed by the outer wall typically drains through the cavity, rather than coming into the home, helping to prevent damp issues. This type of wall construction became the norm in the 1930s superseding solid walls and as time has gone on, the size of the cavity between the two skins of brick has continued to grow – a typical cavity wall now is between 280-300mm thick.
You can easily identify a cavity wall by the pattern produced by the brickwork, which is known as stretcher bond, where are the bricks are running in the same direction as one another – there are no ‘half bricks’. This is obviously harder to do if your walls are cladded or painted and in this case you might need to call in a professional (although sometimes you can see original brickwork in the loft space). In addition cavity walls tend to be over 250mm in width, with more recent cavity walls closer to 300mm. If you can see lots of half bricks in your wall, you have a solid wall with no cavity, so unfortunately cavity wall insulation is a no-go. In this case, you could look into external wall insulation as an alternative.
Once you have established that you have cavity walls, you need to determine the size of the cavity and whether it has previously been insulated. A registered installer will need to come and carry out a boroscope inspection. This involves drilling a test hole into the wall and checking with a camera to see if the cavity has previously been filled and the size of the cavity (ideally over 50mm). If this shows the cavity is unfilled, you could indeed benefit from cavity wall insulation.
Although some builders began insulating cavity walls in the late 1970s, it only became compulsory under building regulations to do so during the 90s. As such there are many properties in the UK that currently have unfilled cavity walls. The good news it that these can be insulated very easily!
How does cavity wall insulation work?
If a hot room is partitioned from the cold by a wall, heat will move through the wall, eventually cooling the room until an equilibrium is reached, where the outside temperature is equal to the inside temperature. In reality this very rarely happens, because rooms tend to be heated. This means that as some heat escapes through the wall, more hot air is supplied, keeping it at a comfortable ambient temperature. If the thermal gradient is larger, (e.g. on a cold and wintry day), the movement of thermal energy across the wall will be accelerated.
Insulating a cavity wall helps to provide a thermal barrier, which slows the flow of heat out of a room considerably. By slowing down the rate at which heat escapes from the home, less heating is needed to keep the house at the required temperature. In the summer, the reverse happens; hot air outside the home can’t get in as easily, which means you don’t need to use energy to keep the home cool. Therefore in both summer and winter, cavity wall insulation can make an enormous difference to your energy bills. The process is relatively quick and inexpensive, so it is certainly worth considering.
How do you insulate cavity walls?
The first thing to note is that you cannot retrofit cavity wall insulation as a do-it-yourself job – it is a job that needs to be carried out by a professional.
Once the cavity has been confirmed by the boroscopic inspection, the installer will drill a series of 22mm diameter holes into the mortar between the bricks. With specialist equipment, the installer will then inject the cavity with the insulating material, through each of these holes. Once the whole of the cavity wall has been filled, the mortar will be made good either with plugs or mortar created to match the existing colour, so the job will be barely noticeable.
The insulating material pumped into the cavity is normally a type of glass wool, or in some instances insulating beads and once installed will offer insulation for the life of the building. The whole process should only take about 2 hours but obviously if the cavity wall area is especially large you will need to leave more time for the job to be completed.
What materials are used for cavity wall insulation?
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, loose polystyrene beads, or wool. EPS is the most expensive option for a reason; it is a premium product and we would always recommend spending the extra money for the best results.
Savings from cavity wall insulation
Although the savings from cavity wall insulation vary greatly from property to property, for an average size three bedroom home, the energy savings from installing cavity wall insulation should amount to £250 per year. With an installation cost of £600-1000, the savings you create from installing the cavity wall insulation should pay for the work in under 4 years.
Getting cavity wall insulation in the Green Homes Grant
If you are eligible, you can now get a grant of up to £10,000, using the Green Homes Grant scheme. The grants are available until March 2022 and are being offered to properties in England.
There are two grants within the Green Homes Grant. First is the £5000 which most are eligible for if they have cavity walls. However, if you are receiving one of the below benefits, then you may be eligible for the £10,000 grant.
Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
Income-Based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Contribution-Based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
If you are interested in the Green Homes Grant, we advise you look at the Government website.
Paying for cavity wall insulation yourself
Unfortunately schemes like the Green Deal have now finished, but the Green Homes Grant is still available for cavity wall insulation.
If you are interested in getting cavity wall insulation installed, we work in partnership with EWI Store who have a network of approved installers. So please fill in the form at the bottom of this page, and we will be in contact with you shortly.
Insulating your cavity walls will help you to heat your home more efficiently, saving about £250 for a typical 3 bed home.
Cavity wall insulation will payback in 3 – 4 years for the investment giving lower heating bills .
According to the Energy Saving Trust, cavity wall installation can reduce carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) by 560kg, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Approved cavity wall installation work is guaranteed for 25 years by the CIGA (Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency).
Cavity wall insulation may not be suitable within your home, if it has a wall exposed to strong rainy wind.
Do not undertake the installation if the home suffers from damp problems – seek an assessment from a professional surveyor first
Cavity wall insulation can cost anywhere between £600 – 1000 (however with subsidies, the cost may end up at the lower end of this estimate – speak to your Energy provider).
Installing Cavity Wall Insulation
Need cavity wall insulation? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.
If you would like us to find you a local insulation installer, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!
Water Tank and Pipe Insulation
What is pipe insulation?
There is a complex network of water pipes in most homes in the UK. As many of these pipes are located in the loft, they are more likely to freeze in the winter (if cold water pipes), but also they can lose heat (if hot water is sitting in them). To minimise the risk of both freezing and heat loss, these copper pipes can be insulated fairly cheaply with pipe insulation, often referred to as pipe lagging. Lagging is simply a tube of insulating material with a slit all the way down its length, which is fitted over the pipe and then held in place with electrical tape if necessary (it should be a snug fit, so this tape might not be needed).
Fitting insulation to pipes is easy if the pipes are accessible and will cost from around £10. Professional help may be required to fit insulation to harder to reach pipework, which would naturally incur extra cost.
Insulating your hot water cylinder is one of the simplest and easiest ways to save energy and money. Fitting a British Standard ’jacket’ around your cylinder will cut heat loss by over 75%. If you already have a jacket fitted, check that it’s at least 80mm thick. If not, it’s well worth treating your old cylinder to a new winter coat! When purchasing the tank insulation jacket, it is worth going to your DIY store knowing the height and girth of your water cylinder to ensure you buy one that fits snuggly, and it is important the jacket that you buy conforms to British Safety Standard BS 5615 (1985).
If everyone in the UK topped up their hot water tank insulation to the full recommended thickness of 80mm, there would be enough CO2 saved per year to fill 5.3 million double decker buses.
A hot water cylinder jacket is a low cost product and is a simple DIY job.
Fitting a British Standard ’jacket’ around your cylinder will cut heat loss by over 75%.
Insulation for hot water pipes will save you around £10 a year.
You will save about 170kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) when you fit a British standard hot water cylinder jacket and around 60kg of CO2 with pipe insulation.
Payback time is not particularly cost effective, unless you use a lot of gas.
A new hot water tank jacket will save you about £35 per year, and cost you about £15 to install as a DIY job. This means it will payback in under 6 months and will also reduce your carbon footprint by 170kg per year.
Primary pipe insulation will save you about £10 per year, and cost you the same to install as a DIY job. This means it will payback in about a year and will also reduce your carbon footprint by 50kg per year.
Insulating a floor means adding an insulating material beneath the floorboards, thereby reducing heat escaping through the floor into the ground. Approximately 15% of heat is lost from a house via this route. Insulation also acts to prevent draughts coming up through the floorboards. In addition the household should also consider insulating the gaps between the skirting boards and the floor, which also helps in reducing draughts.
Floor insulation is most commonly done when putting a new floor in place, but most floors can be retrofitted with insulating material, and this will make a large saving to your overall heating bill. Depending on how confident you are with DIY, it is possible to install floor insulation yourself.
Filling the gap between the skirting boards and the floor can save about £25, recouped within the year (assuming a £20 material cost).
Since the insulation will slow the movement of heat through the floor, the home will feel more comfortable and warmer in the winter, but cooler in the summer months.
You can reduce your carbon footprint by about 240kg per year by installing floor insulation and almost 100kg if you fill the gaps between the floor and skirting boards.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, installing floor insulation underneath a wood surface saves about £60 per year, which would mean a payback of 2 years based on recouping the material costs (approximately £100).
Limitations of floor insulation
If you are wishing to installing the floor insulation as a DIY project, you will need to move furnishings and potentially remove carpets and floorboards.
Additional costs may add up, if once you remove the floorboards, you discover that some are rotten, therefore the overall insulation costs may be higher than previously predicted.
Cost of floor insulation
Professional installation costs start at £770, dependant on the size of the floor space installation.
DIY Cost for wooden floor insulation cost approximately £100 and it will cost about £20 to buy the materials to fill the gaps between the floor and the skirting boards.
Installing floor insulation
Interested in having floor insulation installed? The Green Homes Grant is a Government run scheme lasting until March 2022. The scheme offers grants up to £10,000, under-floor insulation is a primary measure that can be installed utilizing the scheme.
If you are interested in the Green Homes Grant, we advise looking in to this on the Government website.
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Can too much insulation cause overheating?
March 19, 2014
Last summer the Daily Mail published an article claiming that too much insulation installed under the could cause overheating of homes and endanger old people.
Since we are now approaching warmer weather (or what passes for warm weather in the UK), I thought it would be right to tackle this accusation and explain just why the opposite is in fact true!
How does insulation work?
During the winter, the air inside the home is warmer than the air outside. The insulation slows down the movement of energy from the warm area to the cold area, creating a thermal barrier that means your boiler doesn’t have to work as hard to keep the home warm. The thicker the insulation, and the lower the U-value, the better this thermal barrier is and so the slower the heat will escape the home.
During a summers day when the temperature may hit 30 degrees, the air outside is generally warmer than the air in the home. With the heating off, the house warms up gradually through the day as the walls and roof absorb the heat of the day. But because the air outside is warmer the thermal barrier created by the insulation will again slow the movement of heat, but in the opposite direction. Warm air in the loft will not be able to penetrate into the home as easily, whilst insulation in the walls will prevent them from warming the home as quickly as well.
Will insulation make nights too warm?
It is true that if you home is too warm when you go to bed, insulation will slow the release of heat from the property. This is easily negated by ensuring that you keep the home well ventilated, opening windows, for example. Anyone who doesn’t open their windows in a heatwave is asking for trouble – a bit of common sense is all that is needed!
To be honest there are about half a dozen days a year in the UK where we do find ourselves in the midst of a heatwave conditions, but there is normally about 6 months when we need to have the heating on, so on balance it is clearly better to install the insulation and take action when it is too warm rather than visa versa.
Are there any negatives to installing insulation?
Insulation is a safe, important way to make your home more comfortable, and it will help make your heating bills more affordable. There is absolutely no reason why you should not insulate your home, as long as it is done properly and appropriate measures taken with regards to safety.
Poorly installed loft insulation that does not consider your wiring and lighting can cause fires, but this is easily avoided by capping the light fittings and taking care not to cover wires. Any installer worth their salt should be able to do this. For cavity wall insulation, vents are sometimes required to prevent damp and provide sufficient ventilation for the property.
Is air tightness a problem for air quality?
It is important for your home to have good air quality – poor air quality can be hazardous to health. Having said this, some properties with extreme air tightness, like passivhaus buildings, have very good air quality. They utilise natural ventilation to improve the air, so whilst it is worth considering your air quality, it should not be a reason to avoid installing insulation.
Insulation is vital for your home
Wherever you live and whatever the type of property, insulation is absolutely vital. With spiralling energy costs it will become even more so. Make sure your home is up to scratch and don’t let the papers stop you from keeping your home warm and saving you money!
Installing Cavity Wall Insulation
Need cavity wall insulation? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.
If you would like us to find you a local insulation installer, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!
Cavity walls and the benefits of insulating them
August 11, 2013
Cavity wall insulation has been around for years, and it remains one of the best ways to help reduce your energy bills. So we at TheGreenAge thought that we should give you a quick guide on what you need to know so that you can maximise energy efficiency of your home. See the video below for a quick introduction!
How do you know if you have cavity walls?
When we do our Green Deal Assessments with clients in London, we stress the importance of insulating the envelope of the property, which includes the roof, the walls and the floor. The first thing we do therefore is check whether the home has cavity or solid walls. There are several simple ways to check this.
Understanding the property age
Generally speaking, properties built after 1930 will have cavity walls. Those built prior will have a solid brick walls. But that isn’t definitive as we encounter many semi-detached properties in London suburbia (Harrow, Edgware, Watford, St Albans, Ealing and so forth) that actually have solid walls, despite their age!
Checking the brickwork
Check your brickwork. If you have bricks end to end across the whole wall, it is a cavity wall (also called a stretched bond – see diagram below). If the bricks are a mixture of ‘stretchers’ and ‘headers’ where there are short bricks and long looking bricks, then you have a solid wall (i.e. no cavity).
Measuring the wall thickness
Sometimes walls are rendered, which makes things a little more tricky since you can’t see the pattern of the bricks. If this is the case, you can try measuring the thickness of the wall through a window or doorway. If it is less than 260mm, it is likely a solid wall. Anything thicker is more likely to be a cavity.
Other ways to check is by looking at un-plastered areas of the house (in the staircase, airing cupboards or in the loft) where you should see either a layer of breeze-block or a layer of brick.
Checking for existing cavity wall insulation
So you have a good idea of whether you have a cavity or not. The next step is to check whether it has been insulated. Modern properties built from the 1980’s onward are generally insulated when they are built, since it is now part of standard building regulations. Homes built prior to this date may or may not have insulation. If it was insulated it after construction date it would have been done so by injecting insulation into the cavity through holes in the wall. You can usually spot where these holes have been covered up on a brick wall along the mortar lines.
So what if you still can’t tell? In this case it is time to call in a professional to come to your property and inspect the potential cavity.
When a professional energy assessor (like one from our team) comes round to your property they will undertake a borescopic examination. This involves drilling a small, non-intrusive hole in the mortar (above the damp coursing) and checking with a borescope (a camera on the end of a fibreoptic cable) for any insulation. We show you how this is done in the video below:
What could Cavity Wall Insulation do for me?
So you know you need insulation, what is it worth exactly? Typically cavity wall insulation costs around £500-1,000, depending on the size of the property and the walls needing to be insulated.
But it can save you serious money on your heating. A detached or semi-detached property could be looking at savings of up to £500 a year, depending on the occupants and how you use your heating. Terraced properties could expect savings of £200-300.
So the payback here is pretty good. You should save enough in the first few years to cover the initial costs of getting the cavities insulated.
In addition, it is well worth remembering that all evidence points to energy prices continuing to skyrocket – over the last 8 years, energy prices have increased by 10% each year. Therefore the quicker you get your walls insulated the better!
If you would like to read more about cavity wall insulation, see our full guide here.
Unlike the previous Green Deal scheme which was loan operated, the Green Homes Grant offers grants of up to £5000 and £10,000 to wholly or partially cover the full cost of the energy saving measure.
The Green Homes Grant was set up to help improve the energy efficiency of properties across the UK, since many of the properties we live in are very inefficient, with solid walls, old heating systems and very little insulation. This scheme allows people to improve their homes without having to stump up the entire upfront costs of the works.
How does the Green Homes Grant work?
The Green Homes Grant is divided in to two separate grants, which each have different eligibility criteria.
£5000 – available to any home in England that fits the correct criteria for the specific measure. This grant covers 2/3’s of the full cost and caps at £5000. There will be a remainder in all cases using this grant and it will be paid as a customer contribution.
£10,000 – available to any homeowner receiving certain benefits listed here, and whose home fits the correct criteria for the specific measure. This grant covers 100% of the full cost up to £10,000 and the remainder is paid as a customer contribution.
e.g. Fitting external insulation on a small terraced house (approx 50sqm), using the £5000 green homes grant
The average supply and fit cost of external wall insulation is £120 per sqm (inclusive of materials, labour, VAT, skip hire, any extra remedial work required, scaffolding). Therefore, a 50sqm house would cost £6000.
In this case, 2/3’s of the full cost is £4000, so this is how much the Green Homes Grant would cover. The homeowner would pay the remainder of £2000.
e.g. Fitting external insulation on the same size house (50sqm), using the £10,000 Green Homes Grant
As above, the total cost of the works would amount to £6000. With the £10,000 grant, the whole £6000 would be covered by the Green Homes Grant and there would be no customer contribution.
If the house were bigger (for instance, 100sqm) the total cost would be £12,000, the Green Homes Grant would cover £10,000 of the amount and the homeowner would have to pay £2000.
Who can get the Green Homes Grant?
In theory, any home in England can access the Green Deal considering you are eligible, but the scheme has been specifically tailored to the private home owner or the private rental sectors. The reason being is that the social housing sector already has several ways in which improvements are funded and undertaken – namely the ECO scheme.
The following section talks a bit more about how the Green Homes Grant process works end-to-end – starting with a finding a Trustmark approved installer to quote for the works.
Find a Trustmark approved installer to quote you for the works. The installer will also have to be registered to specific certifications regarding the measure they are installing – MCS/PAS2035. It is recommended to get three quotes for comparison.
How does the Green Homes Grant help improve energy awareness?
The Green Homes Grant provides homeowners with knowledge of energy efficient home improvements. In turn, better energy awareness should drive occupiers to use their energy more wisely, which should drive down the cost people pay. For example: reducing the temperature of the hot water cylinder thermostat, installing central heating thermostats in the correct location, reducing water levels in kettles, washing clothes in ‘eco-mode’, and turning off unused high energy usage appliances like chest freezers should all help with lower energy bills.
We list 100 ways to save energy in the home here – even if you adopt a few, you should see some nice energy savings on your utility bills.
Home Energy Efficiency Misconceptions
April 9, 2013
Continuing on from the blog last week, discussing some of the early feedback on the Green Deal, I want to look at some of the misconceptions people can have when considering energy efficiency improvements. These can stem from a variety of sources, for instance: out of date knowledge on certain technologies, biased opinion from contractors selling their products, and in some cases just uncorrected assumptions from the home owner. It is of course important for a Green Deal advisor to try and clear up these misconceptions, and allow the home owner an unbiased and straight-forward explanation of energy efficiency measures and here are some common examples:
Walls, Roofs, Windows and Doors Energy Misconceptions
One important point is to remember that some of the larger, more expensive improvements are not necessarily the best ways to save money or improve efficiency. And some of the smaller scale, simpler improvements can make potentially a bigger difference. Double glazing seems to be a great example of this. In most homes, insulating the loft or rafters under the roof will make a bigger difference (and cost significantly less), than getting expensive double glazing – although there are of course other reasons for getting double glazing installed, such as its acoustic insulating ability.
Walls are another area of the home that people are often ignorant about. Some people may suggest that a thick wall means better efficiency, however that is not necessarily the case. Brick is a poor insulator and therefore thickness is not particularly important. The construction of the walls however is very important, and older solid wall properties will lose much more heat through the wall than a more modern cavity wall. Often people are confused over cavity walls and insulation – cavity walls are only insulated once they have been filled, even though an uninstalled, unfilled cavity is more energy efficient than a solid wall.
Draughts really do make a big impact on the efficiency of a home. Most heating in homes is in the form of convection space heating, so the radiator (or convection equivalent) warms the air. The problem is air has a very low thermal capacity, so a cool draught will very quickly remove the heat from the air. Getting draught proofing for doors and windows and ensuring fireplaces are properly draught-proofed is essential, and costs very little in comparison to savings made, potentially paying back in a couple of years or less.
Thickness of loft insulation is also important, and the building regulations for the recommended thickness seem to be continually changing. Even if your loft was insulated 5 years ago, it is very likely that more insulation will be required, as it is now recommended to install loft insulation to a thickness of 270mm or more.
Boilers and Hot Water Tanks Energy Misconceptions
The hot water tank jacket is an often overlooked piece of insulation, yet can repay itself in a year in some instances. Confusion can arise over the spray foam often factory applied to the tank. In many cases this is not very thick, and a simple wrap-around jacket can save money.
Water saving measures like shower heads, cistern displacement devices, shower timers and tap aerators all help reduce water and heating bills. For those on water metres there is a double saving to be made, as these measures help reduce the hot water used (and thus heating bills) and the will also reduce the volume of water used.
A new boiler can be very expensive and in some cases not necessary. Getting a highly efficient boiler when the house is poorly insulated will often make less of a difference than getting walls and roof spaces properly insulated.
Further, heating controls are also very important. Without being able to control room temperatures and set timers, much energy is needlessly wasted. Those without sufficient controls often leave the heating on too long, and end up needing to open a window to let the heat out, or forget to turn the hot water off. Without individual room controls, rooms not in use or not in need of heating get unnecessarily overheated, and waste valuable energy.
Habits and Lifestyles
People today are often aware that they can save energy from certain simple measures. Many of which require little or no cost, but they are often not aware that these measures can add up to create big savings.
Common examples of bad habits widely practiced by the public include: leaving lids off whilst cooking on the hob, overfilling the kettle, and leaving appliances on standby. The cumulative effect of the dozens of household appliances with stand-by modes left on continuously has a huge effect on electricity bills.
A final Point
Another point that has been stressed in previous blogs is that halogen bulbs are not low energy! They are in fact very inefficient and switching to LED bulbs will save a lot of money, relative to the cost of the bulbs, also since the last significantly longer (10-20 years longer), you won’t have to get your ladder out every 6 months to replace a blown bulb!
The Green Deal: Customer Feedback So Far
March 27, 2013
Having done a number of Green Deal assessments to date, it has been interesting to get the customer feedback on how they potentially see the scheme helping them increase the energy efficiency of their home and also go over some of the concerns that they have raised about it so far.
Typically, it seems that most customers seem to have a positive view of the Green Deal and what it is trying to achieve, however they are surprised some of the measures on their ‘wishlist’ are not immediately recommended when the Green Deal reports are finalised.
How the Green Deal recommendations work
The RdSAP software (reduced SAP) works by targeting the improvements that will best improve the energy efficiency of the home. Normally, the measures suggested will target the envelope of the home first; so the roof, walls and floors. It is the roof and the walls combined that account for over 50% of potential heat loss of property. Improving these areas by increasing insulation or draught proofing is the most common recommendation; and except in very few circumstances these will be recommended ahead of having a new boiler installed or fitting double glazed windows. So if you have an old boiler that you feel may be coming to the end of its useful life, the Green Deal won’t necessarily fund a new one, if other measures would make a more significant impact on your home.
The Green ticks vs. Orange ticks
There is a difference between what the Green Deal will finance under its framework and what it will not. A lot of customers have asked the question on the differences between the ‘green’ and ‘orange’ ticks. Well the green tick means there is no upfront cost for the customer as the measure is forecasted to pay for its self with the projected savings. On the other hand an orange tick means the customer will have to make a contribution to the Green Deal plan, whether that is in part or in full.
An orange tick also means the projected savings are not big enough to pay off in a sensible period of time, so financing energy efficiency improvements via the Green Deal isn’t the best of way of doing it.
Energy Company Obligation (ECO)
A lot of customers have asked whether they can some ECO financing towards their Green Deal Plan. First of all what is ECO? It is an amount of money (precisely £1.3billion) that the energy companies have to set aside to assist helping improve the energy efficiency of properties where the occupants are in fuel poverty, vulnerable or disabled.
Within ECO there is also a tranche, called the Carbon Saving Obligation and this is meant to help finance some of the hard to treat walls. For example if you have an un-insulated solid wall or a narrow cavity you may qualify for some ECO money if the Green Deal Report recommends solid wall insulation. If you see a green tick for solid wall insulation make sure you speak to your Green Deal Provider and find out how much of the total Green Deal Plan would be part financed by this grant.
Just to manage expectations, the ECO may not actually finance all of the cost of solid wall insulation but it should certainly help cover some of it.
Green Deal cashback mechanism
This is the biggest unknown that I have found so far when summarising to customers what they could do next. The Government have actually put aside £40million for early adopters of the scheme. So if you actually have Green Deal measures installed in the property you could qualify up to £1,000 of cashback. The amount will vary by measure.
The Green Deal and financing home improvements
Finally, there are a lot of scare stories about what you would do if you wanted to sell the property and having the Green Deal on the electricity meter would put off potential buyers. This view is wrong. By having the Green Deal quality sticker on the property will demonstrate that the property has improved energy efficiency and therefore in the long run also have lower bills – surely this makes it a more attractive proposition.
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