Greening Your Home

Retrofitting


We’ve recently visited a few “Green Home” events including the big annual Eco build show at Earls Court and the permanent installation at BRL near Watford.  In both cases what is available is a plethora of products and technologies that are well suited to planning and execution of a new build.  That’s all well and good, but where does that leave the rest of us who aren’t about to tear down our properties and rebuild from the ground up?  Nevertheless, we aspire to make our properties greener.  So what can we do?  This page contains a few ideas and readers are asked to contribute via our discussion board at http://change4chalfont.googlegroups.org

General Objectives

Houses use loads of energy, in fact, in the UK our homes account for 27% of our entire carbon emissions – so most people and certainly most supporters of Change4Chalfont would agree that we need to review and try to upgrade our properties to reduce heat loss and save energy.  In most cases the reason for not doing so will be expense and the fact that most of the required upgrades take several years to pay back the necessary investment.  However, with help from others in the group, we hope to find ways to make small and inexpensive changes that nevertheless save energy and money, “buy smart”, get finance or a combination of all the above.

As we gather more data we can prioritise improvements by identifying those with the most rapid payback.  At this point in time we are still looking for the data we need.  Those mathematically inclined can get help for David MacKay’s book which is available online at www.withouthotair.com.

Things to Consider

Windows

If you are upgrading your windows, you could invest in double-glazed (to the newer standards) or even triple-glazed options. Wooden window frames are more environmentally sound than uPVC, and look better. They are likely, of course, to be more expensive.

Doors

You could draft proof your doors. You can do this is a variety of ways; either buy that sticky foam that you stick around the edge of the door so that it seals better when closed, or put up a curtain and to pull at night and in cold weather. If you don’t like the look of this, you could always install a roller blind that is almost invisible when not in use.

Letter boxes

Does your letter box leak cold air? If it does, then warm air from inside is escaping too… so this is another point to insulate. You can buy a letter box brush, but the bristles may distort after prolonged usage. Alternatives are to cut a strip of heavy felt and attach it behind the flap, to add an internal hinged wooden flap loaded with lead, or to dispense with the letter box altogether and buy a post box which you attach to the outside of your house.

Porches

Since front doors are a great source of heat loss, then if it is practical, building a porch greatly improve your insulation. Obviously, this is a greater financial commitment, but if you have a storm porch already that you can simply fill in with double-glazed glass, this will be less expensive and more straightforward.

Walls

If you have cavity walls, these could be filled with insulating foam. There are usually grants available to do this (particularly for older people) so it’s worth contacting your local authority. If you don’t have cavity walls, then internal insulation could be installed.  Have a look at this video. Alternatively, you could consider cladding the outside of your walls either with wood cladding or by growing dense foliage.

Attics

The new regulation depth is 270mm. Most people don’t want to insulate to this extent as the insulation stick out above the floor beams of the attic.  However, you can get hard-backed insulation over which you can easily build a floor, so you can get the benefits without sacrificing storage space.

Floors

Floors can be insulated if there’s an air gap.  Some treatments also exist for concrete floors. If you have a concrete base this option is not available.  If you have floorboards and you can lift one you’ll see if insulation is practicable. http://www.floorideas.co.uk/UnderfloorInsulation.html

Ventilation

Heat exchangers may be installed instead of just leaving the windows open. These heat the incoming air using the warmth from the outgoing air. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_recovery_ventilation.

Heating

When you need to upgrade you boiler, consider installing a condensing boiler.

Other (even better) options include one with temperature-compensating controls. To get optimum performance from a standard timer-thermostat (like most of us have) you’d need to adjust it as often as once per day.  If your lifestyle doesn’t allow time for this – and some of these controls are a beast to adjust – you could have a gadget to do this for you, turning on earlier when it’s colder and later or not at all when it’s warm outside.  These gadgets have been expensive until recently but there are new, inexpensive ones coming onto the market either separately or as part of a new boiler’s built-in electronics.

Even better still would be to install solar-thermal, photo voltaic panels or heat pump (ground or air). PV panels are a very good investment at the moment as the Government introduced a ‘feed in tariff’ early in 2010 – ie someone who generates electricity by retrofitting their property with PV panels will receive a payment of 41.3 pence per unit. This payment is linked to the retail price index, is not subject to income tax and is guaranteed for 25 years. It may be possible for you to install PV panels with no initial capital cost.  To qualify, you need a south-facing roof that is unshaded and at least 30 sq meters of area.  See this website for more details:

http://www.homesun.com/our-products-and-services/free-solar

.. Now what have we forgotten? Please let us know! Also, if you have installed any of these things recently we’d like to hear about your experiences.

1 Comments

  1. Hi there,

    I represent HomeSun; would you possibly change the link above to our website to the homepage please http://www.homesun.com/

    This page provides users more information about the free solar/free solar panels on offer.

    many thanks



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