Other than pasties, insulation is the government’s flavour of the week, probably because households are responsible for about 25% of the UK’s carbon emissions, and loft and cavity wall insulation are home improvement projects that really do provide an ROI. Loft insulation can save you up to £175 per year on your bills and pays for itself in just 2 years; cavity wall insulation is another winner, saving up to £135 per year with a payback time of 1-3 years (figures from Energy Saving Trust). As part of the Green Deal initiative the government offer grants for both of these projects.
Different insulation types
Glass wool loft insulation is relatively cheap and easy to install, lasts up to around 40 years and only costs between £300 and £500 for materials and installation, making it one of the most cost effective ways to save energy in the home.
Installing cavity wall insulation involves drilling holes in the wall and filling the air space (the cavity) with materials such as glass fibre wool. With the grants available for this type of insulation, the typical cost of insulating a 3-bed house is only around £250.
For many insulating their house up to its roof, tiles is a great way to save money and the environment, but for many it’s just not viable financially or practically. Older homes, built before the 1920s of which there are estimated to be around 6.5m in the UK, have solid walls and are therefore classed as ‘hard-to-treat” insulation projects – there is no cavity to insert insulation into.
When insulating period properties often the only viable solution is plaster boarding interior walls, which can reduce the size of a room by a few inches and also detracts from period features such as plaster work. Insulating period properties can become even more problematic if the property is listed, for this reason custom solutions are often required – and these are not wallet friendly.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change are encouraging homeowners to clad the exteriors of homes that don’t have cavity walls, much to the outrage of heritage groups. Not only does this look unappealing, it’s also not cheap – about £10,000 to insulate with polystyrene and pebbledash – and it can seriously damage the property; period properties were built differently than today’s modern buildings, they were intended to breathe.
Before the 1900s buildings didn’t have a damp course, moisture could travel up the wall, but because the walls were ‘breathable’ any moisture would evaporate. However, nowadays breathable means draughty; we vacuum pack ourselves into our houses with insulation, draught proofing and double glazing. Modern building methods don’t always suit buildings of the past; what works for a 21st century new build won’t necessarily work for a period property.
When cladding pre 1920s properties each layer should be more penetrable than the previous, this allows the walls to breathe – too wet or too dry and you will have a problem. You’ll either invite damp and the battle of keeping it at bay or, and potentially worse, the mortar will dry, crumble and turn to dust – period properties have even been known to collapse as a result of the walls being made waterproof!
Yes, we should be thinking about saving energy, but when it comes to period properties there is not a quick or cheap fix. Our advice: employ a specialist who has experience in insulating period properties – and expect to receive a large bill with an extended payback period – or hold tight until we know more, have more expertise and better solutions. Until then come to terms with the fact that the cost of living in a period property will be realised with your energy bills.
If you want to insulate your home you can find quality, local tradesmen on RatedPeople.com. Simply post your job with a description of what you need done, your budget and your contact details, and soon after up to 3 tradesmen in your local area will get in touch. Each tradesman will quote for your project, you can see their ratings and read recommendations from their previous customers, which will help you hire the right tradesman for the job.