How to make old homes energy efficient

A recent article in The Guardian offers some advice on how to make Britain’s 5 million historic homes more energy efficient. At key point in the article is that Britain’s 5m historic houses – defined by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings as anything built before 1919 – should not be treated like new ones, and that green deal-style modern technologies were often inappropriate.

Suggestions from the team of historic advisers include:-

  • A lot of energy waste in old buildings is the result of overdue maintenance, so get the window panes fixed and clear out the gutters and drains that make walls damp and cold.
  • Do the cheap options that have the least impact on the building fabric first, eg: turning the thermostat down a degree, draught-stripping for windows and doors and a thick pair of curtains can be just as effective as more expensive measures. Floor coverings or rugs can block air infiltration and keep feet warm.
  • Think about how and when you use your building. When does it need
    to be warmer and when could it be cooler? Swap your boiler controls from a timer to a programmable thermostat and switch off what you can.
  • Historic buildings were designed to be heated one room at a time using separate open fires, which is more efficient than all at once. You can recreate this today by manually controlling thermostat valves. Programmable wi-fi radiator valves are becoming more readily available.
  • Typically, about 25% heat is lost through the roof, in comparison to 35% through the walls, 15% through the floor and 25% from windows and draughts. But the cost of insulating in the roof is usually much lower than the cost of solid wall insulation, so it is often more cost-effective to do the roof first.
  • For the big investment, focus on how you generate and distribute
    heat in your building. Ask for advice while you’re still considering your
    options.
  • Older homes deal with heat and moisture differently to more modern construction types. Look at the property as a whole system rather than considering measures individually and think about their cumulative impact on the way that the building fabric functions.
  • Consider all the simple and cheap measures first, before investing in more expensive measures such as external wall insulation – like draught excluders and heavier curtains. Think about floor coverings or rugs to block air infiltration and keep feet warm.
  • Keeping your home in a good state of repair can make a big difference, and in most cases is likely to maintain or even improve the heritage value of a home.
  • Typically, about 25% heat is lost through the roof, in comparison to 35% through the walls, 15% through the floor and 25% from windows and draughts. But the cost of insulating the roof is usually much lower than the cost of solid wall insulation, so it is often more cost-effective to do the roof first.

No or very low risk, which do not require expertise or huge amounts of money include:-

  • Know what you use and where you use it and switch off what you can.
  • Maintain the building fabric and your heating system.
  • Make sure controls and timers are set correct.
  • Replace incandescent and halogen bulbs with LED ones.
  • Install simple efficiency measures – thick curtains, draught proof strips.

Read the full article

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