How I've Started to Make Our Home Energy Efficient

In the spring of 2019 we moved to a 1920s house with a slate roof and no insulation. Throughout spring and summer the house was a great place to live. However, it was a different story in the winter. The attic rooms were too cold to use for periods longer than an hour even with the heating on – it was all escaping through the roof, windows and walls. If it had been warmer, I might have been able to complete more voluntary work for Friends of the Earth!

We wanted to avoid leaks in the roof and improve the energy efficiency of the building so we had the roof tiles replaced and 50mm of insulation was installed. More would have been better, but due to the challenges of retrofitting it was all we could have. This made a difference but the attic rooms were still cold in the winter months.

Insulation being added before re-tiling the roof.

In anticipation of refurbishing the dated interior rooms, we replaced 6 old double glazed windows with new ones as they had seen better days.

The Covid pandemic resulted in fulltime home working which was great in the warmer months, but in the colder months I was dressed like Ernest Shackleton with multiple pairs of socks, several layers of clothes and still not getting warm despite the heating being on.

Our three attic rooms were a decent size so we decided our next project would be to add internal insulation to the outside facing walls. With 50mm of insulation, wooden battens and plaster board we lost about 90mm of space on half of the walls. Due to the builders being fully booked, we decided to save a bit more money and complete the same work on an additional bedroom taking the number of transformed rooms to four.

Sheets of 50mm insulation and wooden battens being added to the internal walls ready for the plasterboard.

The access panels to the eaves and the space above the ceiling were letting in lots of cold as they were poorly constructed with bits of wood inserted into a square frame. The saying, “you could get a bus in there” was a fair description of the gaps. On windy days, the crude access panels would often fall down and we’d have gaping holes in the wall between the roof and the room.

The access panels were replaced with either energy efficient doors (see link here) or similar products for the ceiling.

The insulated door providing access to the eaves.

Friends of the Earth’s infrared camera was used before the building work was finished. It shows how the unheated room was 5 degrees warmer with the insulated door closed.

This picture shows an insulated access panel fitted into the ceiling. LED pendant lights and spotlights were also fitted.

LED pendant lights and LED spotlights were also fitted to the rooms to lower our environmental impact and our energy bills.

So how much did the energy efficiency improvements cost? Replacing the roof is always going to be expensive, but the cost of the additional insulation was probably only a few hundred pounds. The windows were a couple of thousand.

For the refurbishment of the rooms, the access panels were about £200 each and LED light fittings were less than £10 each. Rolls of insulation cost about £25 each and sheets of 50mm insulation board were about £20 each. I’d estimate that we’d spent no more than £1000 on energy efficiency products. Installing these might have added a few extra days of work so I’d estimate that the builders’ time would be no more than £1000. All the other costs for plasterboard, doors, skirting boards, carpets, door handles and so on would have been required without any energy efficiency work so an extra £2000 seems a good spend to obtain four livable rooms instead of four newly renovated but cold rooms.

In the future we plan to upgrade the other rooms as we know they’re very inefficient. I’d estimate that 95% of the project will be on refurbishing the rooms (new carpets, flooring, units, doors, builders’ labour etc.) and only 5% is for the energy efficiency upgrades.

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