With the cost of energy skyrocketing and wildfires reducing much of the planet to a cinder, it should not take much persuasion for people to want to cut energy use and save money. But the UK has among the worst levels of home insulation in Europe – according to measurements made in 2020, the average UK home loses three degrees of heat after just five hours, while those in Germany lose one degree and Norway just 0.9 degrees in the same time.
Heat leaking through uninsulated walls, roofs and windows is money wasted, and if we can retain that heat through better insulation, we could turn down our thermostats, save money on our energy bills and reduce the carbon emissions which are contributing to global warming. The good thing is that there are lots of ways you can insulate your property which aren’t that expensive, so you can quickly make back your costs in energy savings.
Nearly a third of all heat loss from solid walled properties occurs through the walls, and this is particularly notable with cavity walls. Cavity walls, with an airgap between outer and inner walls, were designed to keep out damp, but they are very poor at insulating against heat loss. Pre-1920 houses are more likely to have solid walls. A solid wall has no cavity; each wall is solid, usually made of brick or stone. Houses with cavity walls were mainly built between this period and the 1990s, and may have no wall insulation at all, but from the 1990s on houses usually have wall insulation.
To insulate a cavity wall, an installer will often drill small holes and inject foam, beads or fibres, then fill the holes. But this method is often criticised for causing damp problems. An alternative is internal wall insulation, where insulated plasterboard or PIR (polyisocyanurate) foam boards are fitted on the inside walls. This has the added advantage of not interfering with the external appearance of the building.
Another area of significant heat loss is the roof, so it’s essential this is tackled, particularly if you want to use the loft as a storage area or convert it into a living space. Government grants are available to help with the costs of loft insulation, and you will notice the difference immediately, particularly in the winter months.
Roof and loft floor insulation comes in a number of forms, from rolls of mineral insulation laid between rafters or under a raised floor, to foam applied between rafters. In any case you will find roof insulation to be remarkably effective at cutting your energy use in the long term.
Of course, if you have a ‘Room in Roof’, a loft converted into living space, accessed via a fixed staircase, the value of roof insulation is particularly high, keeping the room cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
The Great British Insulation Scheme is a new government scheme to help people insulate their homes, make them more energy efficient and save money on their energy bills. The scheme will run until March 2026. Previously known as ECO+, the £1 billion scheme will help around 300,000 households across the country with the cost of installing new home insulation, and will save consumers around £300 to £400 a year on their bills.
The scheme will boost help for those on the lowest incomes, as well as extending support to a wider range of households living in the least energy-efficient homes in the country (those with an Energy Performance Certificate rating of D or below) and in the lower Council Tax bands (A-D and England, A-E in Scotland and Wales).
The scheme works by obliging energy suppliers to help customers to reduce their heating bills, through the installation of energy efficiency measures such as loft and cavity wall insulation. Your costs may be covered in full or in part. Households will be able to check their eligibility on GOV.UK or through a participating energy supplier or local authority.
If you’re eligible, you will then be contacted about arranging a survey of your home and to organise any installation. Find out more at www.gov.uk/environment/climate-change-energy.
Martin Roberts’ Tips
“Insulation makes a huge difference – think loft, wall and underfloor – in saving energy. If you’re already doing other renovations or planning an extension, such as a loft conversion, combine the work and, if not, consider whether you might want some extra living space in the future, and whether it is better to do it now. Improving your home to make it more energy efficient will save you money not only in the short-term – ensuring savings on your energy consumption come next winter – but in the longer term, too, as your energy savings build up”
This feature was originally published in Property & Home with Martin Roberts, Autumn/Winter 2023. For more, see here.