By Philip Saich
The concept of sustainable living is high on everyone’s agenda, and the home renovation sector is at the forefront of exciting eco-friendly developments, including in the realm of home insulation. In general, modern houses are built to high insulation standards, but older properties can often need improvements, and a full renovation presents the perfect opportunity to incorporate better insulation in a number of areas.
The ultimate aim with any renovation is to create a home that is warm and cosy but that can also be efficiently cooled and heated in an economical fashion. Not only that, it’s becoming increasingly important to achieve this using eco-friendly materials to protect the environment and to limit the emission of CO₂ wherever possible. Ideally, the property will be cool in summer and warm in winter, maximising the usage of natural resources and avoiding any energy wastage. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a family occupying a standard three-bedroom semi-detached house in the UK can reduce their energy bills by as much as £310 within 12 months by introducing effective loft and cavity wall insulation alone.
If installed correctly, insulation can not only help alleviate damaging fluctuations in temperature by improving the property’s energy efficiency, but it can also reduce noise pollution and lower your dependence on artificial heating. And, of course, all this combines to save money. It is, however, important not to overlook the increased risk of condensation that insulation can bring. Excess insulation can move the building’s dew point – where condensation occurs – from the external surface of the wall to within the brickwork, which can, in turn, increase the risk of frost damage and even rotting. When you consider that around 10% of the heat generated within a property will escape through the floor compared to around 20% that is lost through the loft, it is essential to preserve the pre-existing air flow.
The key areas to address when it comes to insulation are the walls, the roof, the floor, and the windows and doors. Another way of improving a property’s overall insulation is to carry out thorough draught-proofing.
The preferred method of insulation will depend on the type of walls in your property. With cavity wall insulation the insulator is inserted into the gap between the inner and outer parts of the wall. If the walls are solid it’s possible to choose between internal insulation, which is applied to indoor rooms, and external insulation, which is applied to the property’s whole façade. The National Insulation Association estimates that around 33% of UK homes have solid walls and that around 45% of the heat could be escaping through those walls. As a result, introducing solid wall insulation could save each household between £120 and £425 per annum.
A common way to conserve heat is to insulate the roof space, and for a pitched roof, two choices are available. Warm loft insulation is applied directly beneath the roof and, while normally the more expensive route, it offers better all-round insulation as it better regulates the temperature within the loft. Cold loft insulation, meanwhile, insulates the floor of the loft immediately above the top storey’s ceiling and is simple to install. This approach will reduce the amount of heat that escapes from the living space but will leave the complete loft uninsulated so it will be cold in winter and hot in summer. If you’re working with a flat roof there are three insulation options: warm deck, cold deck or inverted roof.
Something of luxury, floor insulation can feature as standard in modern homes, but an older property with a suspended floor will need significant investment to insulate in this way.
Windows and doors insulation
Energy efficiency can be enhanced with double or even triple glazing for all windows and doors, and this solution will also maintain peace and quiet within the property by helping to block outside noise.
It’s good practice to check the property for any unwelcome gaps and openings that allow draughts. These might include space around the windows and doors, loose-fitting loft hatches, serious cracks in the plaster and poorly executed floorboards and skirting boards. While it’s advisable to attend to these gaps wherever possible, it’s equally important not to seal the house completely as good ventilation is essential to allow moisture to dissipate. If correctly carried out, it’s feasible that draught proofing only the windows can save homeowners as much as £25 a year, while turning a typical home’s thermostat down by just one degree could reduce the utility bill by around £85 per annum.
Sergio Mesen of Bristol builders, Refresh Renovations, believes that it’s important to consider not only the visible design of your renovation but also the specification for the physical fabric of the building which will remain hidden. ‘When we undertake any renovation project we focus on the look and feel as that’s what the client tends to have uppermost in their mind, but we also spend time thinking about the mechanics,’ comments Sergio. ‘We always ask how the space will work and how we can configure it to be as environmentally friendly and cost-effective as possible. Insulation is a key aspect of this because some thought given to the best way to insulate the property during the planning phase will inevitably benefit the final result. At Refresh we deliver exceptional renovations and extensions, and that’s largely down to the meticulous planning, creative design and outstanding workmanship our team brings to every project.’
Get in touch
Refresh Renovations UK are builders in Bristol offering design and build services for home renovations and extensions. To discuss how Refresh can help with your project, please get in touch today using the enquiry form listed alongside, or if you would like to submit a more comprehensive enquiry, you can do so on the Get In Touch page.
You can find out about the costs involved in warming up your home in our cost estimates