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Get money from the government for installing insulation! The revised Green Deal

Did you know you can now get up to £6000 from the government for installing insulation in solid wall properties? You will need a green deal assessment (cost £100-150, £100 of which you can claim back if you make energy saving improvements ) and then you can claim 75% of the cost of installing the insulation, up to a value of £6000. Extra insulation can really save you a lot of money on your energy bills. You may have heard of ‘Passivhaus’, these kinds of buildings are fitted with 220mm of insulation in the walls and 270 – 300mm in the roof and the inhabitants of these houses rarely need to turn the heating on! Clearly it is not possible for everyone to achieve this level in a retrofit project, but significant savings can be made and significantly improve your comfort. If you are thinking about an extension or other refurbishment works to your home this would be a great time to apply for the green deal and get the maximum advantage. If you are planning to buy a house, you should also bear this in mind as the government is offering an extra £500 for homeowners who apply within the first 12 months of owning a home.

In addition to this excellent deal there are many other improvements the government is part funding, you can get up to £1000 towards any two of the following:

  • a condensing gas boiler on mains gas
  • double or triple glazing as a replacement for single glazing
  • secondary glazing
  • replacement doors
  • cavity wall insulation
  • floor insulation
  • flat-roof insulation
  • insulation for a room in the roof
  • a replacement warm air unit
  • replacement storage heaters
  • flue gas heat recovery units
  • a waste water heat recovery system

For further details please look at the government’s green deal website pages

June 27, 2014

The Old House Eco Course

The Old House Eco HandbookOn Saturday I attended The Old House Eco Handbook Course in Coventry  which covers the principles in the book of the same name. It was run by the Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) and some really interesting research and findings from actual case studies were discussed and shared. It was presented by the authors Marianne Suhr and Roger Hunt. Cathie Clarke from Heritage Skills Hub was also there tweeting about the course throughout the day. The following points are some of my notes from the course:

  • A Natural Building Technologies study showed that a wall insulated with 100mm internal insulation had the same u value as a wall insulated with 80mm of insulation but which included 20mm in the window reveals – so often this is left out and it is so important for saving energy.
  • Using lime mortar allows bricks to be re-used – cement mortar does not
  • Single glazed windows with secondary glazing and shutters (glazed shutters can look lovely) have as good a u value as modern high performance windows (1.8 W/m2K)
  • A good website for conservation glazed shutters.
  • You should always use breathable insulation and breathable lime or clay plaster when renovating old buildings as this allows water vapour to pass freely from one side to the other (this is something I always do on refurbishment projects).
  • It is very hard to have a vapour control layer that will truly stay vapour impermeable in walls. This is due to picture nails, electrics, shelves and anything else that may cause a punctuation in the wall. This is why breathable insulation is so important as it eliminates the need for a VCL.
  • There are many ‘quick wins’ to draughtproof your home before you resort to expensive alterations.
  • If a front facade has beautiful details and is mostly windows, internal wall insulation is not going to make the most difference, but upgrading windows should be first priority, while maintaining the original character.
  • u values are not the only way to measure efficiency in walls. Decrement Delay is the time lag from heat passing from one side to the other. Obviously this is longer (and more efficient) the wider the wall is.
  • There is up to 40% heat loss through the roof, so definitely worth insulating the loft! However with too much insulation (over 300mm) the weight of the insulation itself will reduce the air pockets within the material and it will not be so insulating.
  • For the same reason, don’t tamp down hemcrete in a shuttered wall as it will also lose the air pockets that make it so insulating.
  • Good rule of thumb – the more you insulate, the more you ventilate.

Jonathan Garlick from SPAB concluded with 3 things he learned when he first joined SPAB:

  1. Live in the house for a year before doing anything
  2. Work on the garden and look back at the house, working out what to do
  3. If you are poor you will likely be a better custodian of an old building as you will not throw a lot of money at a project, potentially making poor decisions


June 15, 2014

New Book!

DSCF7386This week Clare Nash signed a contract with RIBA publishing for a new book:

Contemporary Vernacular Design –  A Local Approach to UK Housing.

This will involve some travel to European countries as well as around the UK researching new case studies.

June 15, 2014

Installing renewables a “no-brainer” even for those using gas with the new RHI funding

Recently I had a meeting with Mark Partridge from Bright Green Renewables (www.brightgreenrenewables.co.uk). I have recommended his company a few times as Mark is passionate about renewables and is therefore a good person to work with on eco schemes. We were chatting about the renewable heat incentive (RHI) scheme and how this has changed the market. Previously only clients using oil were seeing the majority of the cost savings of using a renewable heating system, but with the new RHI scheme, it’s also now a no-brainer for clients using gas as well. In addition solar photovoltaic panels are looking increasingly attractive. The feed-in tariffs, although down from what they were at their peak, still make it more than worthwhile with the significant reductions in the panel cost and performance improvements of these systems. Bright Green only install German made panels which they say will last at least 25 years as their quality far exceeds panels from other countries. The Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) scheme for Solar PV is now 20 years, index-linked. Across the board for most renewable energy systems you would now be looking at a 5-7 year pay back, the lowest it has ever been.

One thing clients always ask me is the cost to install a heat pump or some PV panels. Mark gave me a rough cost estimate of £5000 to £7000 for your average heat pump fit out in a 3-4 bedroom house, although this would rise for a larger house. PV panels should not cost you no more than around £6000 for a 16 panel 4kWp system, or £2,000 for a 4 panel 1kWp system (the minimum to make it worth your while).

Cost savings can be as much as 75% of your current heating bills for a professionally installed heat pump system. You can also combine this with solar PV panels so that the electricity used to run the heat pump (using either radiators or underfloor heating) and your lighting/power can be generated from the panels, allowing you to be almost completely off grid during daylight hours!

June 6, 2014