Making a house plan

According to the Energy Savings Trust, about 22% of the UK’s carbon emissions is derived from our homes, so if you want to have a positive environmental impact, then your home can be a great place to make a difference.

One of the many interesting aspects of my conversation with John Grant (see podcast episode), was his advice to write a house plan to improve sustainability.  The idea being that each of our houses are likely to be different and won’t all require the same improvements to make them more sustainable.  As John mentioned, finances are likely to limit what upgrades can be made.  Making a plan means that you can see all the things you would ideally do and put them in some sort of priority based on impact and finance required.

When my husband and I moved house 6 years ago, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)  was required when selling our old house and buying the new one.  It depicted the current energy efficiency of the house and its potential efficiency if improvements were made.  I can remember organising an EPC for my old house, but for the life of me, cannot think that I gave much significance to the document on the house we were buying.  I reflect on this now, as I could see that perhaps this document might have informed any future house plan that we might have drawn up.

Without considering our EPC, we embarked on making home improvements.  We discovered that the house was woefully uninsulated; having moved in July we didn’t immediately notice this until our first winter, whereupon it became mightily apparent.  We had moved from a relatively well-insulated house, so it was a bit of a shock.  Being an excellent have-a-go DIYer, my husband took it upon himself to insulate all the roof spaces.  Not entirely a straight-forward process, owing to inaccessible parts of roof space and our bedroom ceiling being directly below the roof tiles, with no loft space between it.  This meant that holes in walls were needed to access parts of the roof space and our bedroom had to be renovated when installing the insulation.

In hindsight, as is often the case, making a house plan with our EPC might have been a good starting point (despite our roof being noted as good on the EPC).  If you live in the UK, these are readily available through a government website where you can simply put in your postcode in to find your EPC, or your neighbours if you’re interested!  On ours, three recommendations were made:

  1. Adding floor insulation
  2. Replacing some lighting with low-energy versions
  3. Installing Solar PV panels

We did replace all our internal light bulbs and in the process of writing this, reminds me that perhaps our outdoor lights, whilst not used much, probably are still old ones; now on the to do list.  Floor insulation and solar go in to the for-consideration pile, along with possible window and door replacement (owing to pane failure and air leaks).  John made a good point about waiting until you have sufficient funds to upgrade to the most optimal solution.  If you upgrade cheaply to begin with, persuading yourself to replace something you have already financially invested in might be less tempting.  For example, if you install double glazing, you are probably less likely to change them again for triple glazing.

There seems to be a general accordance in the types of improvements one can make:

  1. Switching to energy saving lightbulbs.
  2. Ensuring roof and floor are adequately insulated.
  3. Addition of cavity wall insulation or solid wall insulation (either internal or external).
  4. Draught proofing of leaky windows or doors.
  5. Upgrading windows to ensure double or triple-glazed.
  6. Replacing a gas boiler with a more efficient one.
  7. Installing an air source heat pump.
  8. Fitting Solar PV to the roof.

According to the Centre for Alternative Technology, when implementing improvements gradually, it is important to consider how insulation, draught-proofing, ventilation and heating interact with each other and the fabric in the building.  For example, sealing up your house to limit draughts could lead to damp if ventilation is not thought about.

In terms of finance, the Government was supporting energy efficiency improvements to housing through the Green Housing Grant, but this was closed to new applications as of March 31st 21.  Perhaps, we can hope that there will be a better scheme to replace it?

Many of the improvements one can make certainly warrant further investigation and a blog of their own, to explore the detail of options available; perhaps at a later date?

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