Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Are you thinking of renovating your home?

According to research from the Tyndall Centre [1], about half of us are considering some kind of home renovation project at any one time (thinking, planning or finalising plans) but only 11% of these are just for energy efficiency. About one third are partly energy efficiency and partly other things - like a new kitchen or bathroom or a loft conversion. We do these renovations in order to improve the comfort and usability of our home. However, energy efficiency measures also make our home more comfortable and usable so it makes sense to think of them together.

This fits very well with my experience. The initial motivation for us was to replace some rotting windows. While we were at it, we opted to build a new bay window which made it rather a large project and adding some insulation at the same time was no more hassle. However, the effect on our comfort was so dramatic we immediately started on plans to upgrade the rest of the house.
Do you live near Cambridge? If you thinking about some renovations and would like to know more about energy saving options that you could do as well, come to Thermal Comfort in Older Houses on 17th June.

There are many different reasons to renovate

The Tyndall research shows that there are a wide range of reasons why people start a renovation project. It could be something catastrophic such as a boiler breakdown, or gradually increasing tension due to a growing family squeezed into the same space, or wanting a bigger kitchen with a table so you can keep an eye on kids doing their homework, or finally getting around to replacing some tatty old windows... The trouble is, any kind of significant retrofit is a big deal. Many projects take more than 12 months in considering and planning, though the energy efficiency ones are usually a bit quicker.

They suggest that if you already planning renovations, it is a good idea to think about incorporating some energy efficiency measures into the project. There won't be much extra hassle if the same contractors can arrange both. If you trust someone to do your loft conversion you probably trust them to do cavity wall insulation at the same time. If you have people in to fit a new kitchen they could work in a new boiler too. On the other hand, if you get a new boiler but not a new kitchen as we did, then the chances are that the boiler won't fit very well. Ours is much smaller than before so there is now a lot of wasted space in the boiler cupboard. The Tyndall research shows that cavity wall insulation and new heating systems were the efficiency measures most often combined with other renovations.

Insulation and heating systems aren't just for energy savings

If your renovation is to improve the usability and comfort of your home then it makes sense to install insulation and better heating systems for the same reason. A survey of 2000 German householders showed that their energy efficiency measures were motivated more by wanting to be more comfortable or improve the aesthetics of their home than by cost savings [2]. It worked for us in our case - we were a lot more comfortable after our renovations - and we are not alone. For example, out of 23 homes in the Retrofit for the Future project, before retrofit only about 25% rated their comfort as 'good' or 'excellent' prior to the work, compared to 80% afterwards [3].

It is often cheaper to do energy efficiency measures alongside other work.

It is also often cheaper to get the energy efficiency measures done if you are already doing other work. For example if you are getting new windows then that might be a good time to consider solid wall insulation, because the wall insulation involves tweaking the window sills and reveals. For external wall insulation there is the scaffolding to think about too. Doing them both at the same time saves doing all that twice.

You may be able to get grants or loans from the Green Deal for the energy efficiency parts of your project. However, for this you will have to have an assessment first and the installer must be a certified green deal installer. You need to consider this requirement before you choose your contractor.

In summary, if you are thinking of renovating your home, then it is worthwhile considering energy efficiency measures to add to your comfort at the same time, whether or not you are worried about your energy bills. It is often cheaper to do energy efficiency alongside other renovations. However, if you are eligible for a grant you will need to start with a Green Deal assessment and use a Green Deal installer to get it.

By the way I heard about this research through a seminar organised by Greenbridge.

[1] Value propositions for Energy efficient Renovation Decisions (VERD) (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, 2014)
[2] Drivers of Thermal Retrofit Decisions – A Survey of
German Single- and Two-Family Houses CPI Report
(CPI, 2011)
[3] Retrofit for the Future Revealed (Technology Strategy Board 2013)




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