/ Home & Energy

£8.4bn price tag for failing energy efficiency schemes

insulation

£8.4bn – that’s the estimate of how much we’ve spent on successive government’s energy efficiency policies. And yet the majority of Britain’s homes still don’t have adequate insulation. It’s time something was done.

It’s when the weather turns chilly, like it has over the last week or so, that you really begin to feel the odd draught in your house. But sometimes it’s more than the odd draught. Some homes are really poorly insulated, costing thousands of pounds a year to heat without ever actually feeling warm and cosy.

Our latest report reveals that, by 2015, consumers’ will have spent around £8.4bn on schemes designed to improve the energy efficiency of our homes. And yet successive governments have failed to comprehensively address the problem.

To say these schemes have been completely ineffective would be unfair. The Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) has seen hundreds of thousands of loft and cavity wall insulation installations, for example. However, despite all that effort and money, there are still 14 million homes without adequate insulation. That’s more than half of Britain’s homes.

We need a radical overhaul

You’ll often hear politicians claim we have the lowest electricity prices in Europe. Even if that’s true, our energy bills have been on the up and up in recent years and this is partly because of how energy inefficient our homes are compared to our European neighbours.

And with four in 10 people saying they can’t cut back on their energy usage any more than they already have, making homes more energy efficient has a crucial part to play.

Saving energy to save money is a bit of a no-brainer. Loft and cavity wall insulation are simple and effective ways to cut energy bills. And yet no government has really got to grips with how the money taken off our bills to pay for these measures is best spent. There’s little or no scrutiny of where much of this money goes – that has to change. It’s time for a radical overhaul of how energy efficiency policies are delivered by the Government.

Cut them down, George

This is why we’re calling on the Chancellor George Osborne to use his Autumn Statement to take action, by cutting the cost of Government energy policies down to size. For example, we want the Chancellor to reform the Energy Company Obligation so that it’s spent on more cost-effective measures, saving between £242m and £363m a year. We also want to see the Government put in place firm insulation targets, concentrating on low-cost loft and cavity wall insulation.

Six in 10 people say it would make a big difference to their standard of living if George Osborne cut their energy bills in his Autumn Statement. But we only have days to convince him – you can help by emailing your MP to increase the pressure. And tell us – do you think it’s important that the money taken from our energy bills is spent sensible and fairly?

Comments
Member

This is crucially linked to the issue of fuel poverty. For want of effective insulation and efficient heating appliances large numbers of people cannot afford to keep warm. Lots of people living in old houses have gaps round the doors and windows as well as thin materials and single glazing which they cannot afford to replace, even with a subsidy, Many cannot afford to renew their old boilers, radiators and hot water systems and fit efficiency controls even with a grant or other assistance. Pre-1918 properties often have very high ceilings meaning that more heat is needed to make the rooms comfortable, The government has access to millions of Energy Performance Certificates for houses put on the market over the last few years. That would be a starting point for targetted intervention to devise bespoke energy-saving and cost reduction solutions for people living in such properties. The next time there is a blanket of snow over the country it would be a good idea to commission some aerial surveys and satellite imaging of the extent of heat loss due to inadequate loft insulation. No property owned by the public sector or the social housing sector should be deficient and private landlords could be incentivised to bring their lets up to standard. Apart from the downstream side of this question, there is the enormous potential saving in power generation capacity and reduction in carbon emissions if we can reduce the waste. So far we haven’t done much more than make people change their light bulbs; I know its difficult, but it’s high time there was a programme of direct prioritised intervention focussing on the greatest heat losses and the greatest needs, property by property, all over the country starting with the coldest places and the worst dwellings first.

Member

JW – You will be pleased to know that at least one forward thinking borough has carried out an aerial survey to highlight properties without loft insulation. The downside of course is that unless people are known to be home the lack of visible heat escaping may be because it is unoccupied.

Which? is a very wealthy charity and I am advocating practical measures and have already suggested that thermal imaging teams on the ground could be a useful way to check on those 2m of houses already retro-fitted with cavity and roof insulation. However how well it has been done is a very interesting point. There are potential problems with cavity wall retro-fits that neither the contractor or the Government would wish to highlight.

As for fuel poverty firstly lets be honest and say the WHO definition includes living room temperatures of 71F which for the UK is surely a rarity in summer let alone winter. Perhaps they work on the assumption a shirt is the normal mode of attire?!

Anyway in the UK it is translated as 21C in the primary room and 18C elsewhere in the house. This is warmer than I choose to heat my house. In a cold snap I may turn on the heating [94% efficient] to 16 or possibly 18C and wear more clothing. Basically my idea is that we need to examine closely these arbitrary definition temperatures.

Secondly it is acknowledge that may elderly single people choose to live in larger properties which are more difficult to heat. And as I know through personal experience older people are loathe to spend on long term efficient heating as they expect to peg-it before they get payback.

Thirdly in my road I cold reduce all the retired folks heating bills by at least a third by suggesting they alternately visited their elderly neighbours and heat only one of two houses during the day.
Sounds radical but really it is just highlighting that their are choices to be made.

This relates really to extended families, alms houses, close communities, and people who are unwilling and unable to take any action. To say energy is expensive and that is THE problem I think is a simplistic approach.

Building passive heating houses on every development should be a requirement of every builder
and council – it may be a percentage of build and they will be more expensive – but we have to get started. The savings on running costs could be added back as an increased multiple on the income to mortgage requirement.

Member
peter wilde says:
27 November 2013

“… concentrating on low-cost loft and cavity wall insulation.” No. This is where policy so far has been fixated. Some of the worst performing houses have solid walls and cannot benefit from such a policy. It’s unfair to concentrate government effort on helping people in more modern homes with cavity walls.

Member

PW
In terms of bangs per buck cavity walls are a lot cheaper than solid walls to insulate. However I agree that it should not be ignored, and the Which? paper alluded to in the post also discusses it.

What is not made clear is that insulating inside the property with false walls is an alternative and cheaper option than external cladding.

Member

Insulating solid walls on the inside seems an obvious solution but on the Conversation about damp, several contributors have stressed that the walls of older buildings need to ‘breathe’ because there is no cavity and the brickwork is somewhat permeable to moisture.

Having heard of cases of dampness caused by cavity wall insulation, I have not yet taken the risk of having it installed. If I had solid walls I would want to be sure that insulating them would be a safe solution, though I guess it would be fairly to remove the insulation if a problem developed.

Member

I realise that there are drawbacks but :
http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Insulation/Solid-wall-insulation/Choosing-internal-wall-insulation

There are ways around it. Incidentally cladding with tiles and slate etc would remove the dampness by rain from external walls and mean water migration would not be a problem – which of course was why builders did it traditionally.

Member

Thanks. With rising energy prices and depletion of fossil fuels, we certainly should be improving the insulation of homes with solid walls.

Member

It might be better value for money overall to have a comprehensive programme of domestic property insulation and energy conservation, available wherever and for whoever it is needed, than to pour billions into additional power stations and oil & gas production infrastructure. A whole range of considerations will be involved in drawing up priorities, including geography and climate, structural characteristics, property volumes, and the availability of fuels. There is always a reluctance in the UK to do something like this on a generous basis in case one or two people who might perhaps be able to afford it anyway manage to limbo-dance under the eligibility bar and end up with a significant benefit at little cost to themselves. Shades of this [and the collateral jealousy] became evident in the discussions over the original solar energy feed-in tariffs – although it has to be said that the government of the day did go a bit mad with the rate and as a scheme it hasn’t done an awful lot for those most in need of energy conservation and fuel poverty relief. I am also dubious that the implementation of a high-value programme can be left to the ways of the market place since there is a need for strong policy direction, regulation, quality assurance and accountability. I fear that the likes of the double glazing and solar energy industries do not inspire much confidence and cannot be trusted to use tax-payers’ money responsibly. I see energy efficiency as an investment in the country’s resources and well-being at least as useful as many other ‘public good’s; the beauty of the installations is that once done they are virtually permanent and enhance the nation’s property asset base; even if someone does get their loft lagged or their cavity filled for nothing, they can’t exactly rip it out and flog it on a well-known on-line auction site to turn it into cash.

Member

No one gets “their loft lagged or their cavity filled for nothing” of course – the taxpayer provides the capital, when it is a grant, or those who choose to make energy savings, and can afford it, pay for it. The major saving is in loft insulation which is relatively inexpensive – particularly for those capable of clambering round the loft themselves.
We should target simple measures such as this. If needed, a loan paid back through the energy bill was, I thought, a sensible scheme that was working – is it not?).
With limited resources we should be careful to target them at those unable to help themselves.

Member

http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/case/cp/KfWFullReport.pdf

The Germans have been doing it for decades and the above 2011 report details how they did it. The Executive Summary says it cannot be ported to the UK but from my brief reading I am not sure that it is not mainly possible.

BTW I speak as a man interested in administrative system designs as much as a man who is heavily into avoiding unnecessary running costs!

Member
Nikolas Andersen says:
27 November 2013

It would be good to see something done about resistive and storage electric heating. I would suggest

Banning resistive electric heaters and electric storage heaters in new builds. It is a cheap solution for developers that cost a lot for the people living in the properties and is also the least environmentally friendly form of heating.

Offering subsidies for the most efficient form of heating invented to replace them, air to air heat pumps (not air source->radiators). After all, if the less efficient gas boilers and air to water heat pumps receive subsidies, why shouldn’t the most efficient form of heating receive subsidies?

Member

Why should any of these receive subsidies – that is, paid for with our money (yours and mine) to other people? If this equipment is economically viable – if its savings outweight its cost in a reasonable time – then it should stand on its own feet.
What we should be doing is investing our money in real sustainable energy schemes – not little individual generation projects. Tidal power surrounds us, with both tidal flow and tidal storage huge potential sources that could supply much of our electricity needs, but at a large capital cost. Perhaps instead of squandering £50 billion on a dubious HS2 project we should invest this more wisely?

Member
Nikolas Andersen says:
28 November 2013

Setting HS2 aside, I agree regarding tidal power, perhaps something in the Severn and the Wash and new pumped storage sites.

“Little individual generation projects” is what we do with heating in Britain, in the form of gas boilers. District heating or CHP (using waste heat from power plants) is obviously possible, but not easy from scratch unless we are building new towns and cities. Some also argue that air to air heat pumps are more efficient than CHP as you have to make compromises with respect to efficiency to collect the heat.

As for subsidies, can we agree that it should either be no subsidies or subsidies for the installations that make sense? Certainly, replacing electric heating with air to air heat pumps makes sense.

Member

This is appalling. I have skim read your excellent report into the problems of energy efficiency policies and no where can I find the recommendation to cut energy bills. You make loads of sensible suggestions about how the money could be better spent and targeted, then spin out of it an over-simplistic, populist campaign to cut energy bills. As you rightly say, we need to improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock. Our housing stock is incredibly old. Out of the 14 million badly insulated homes, over 7 million of them have solid walls, so cavity wall insulation is not going to work. Solid wall insulation is only going to get cheaper as it is done at scale and volume. This costs money, there’s no getting round that. Incidentally, it will also create a lot of jobs in the process. Don’t over simplify the issue and say we should just concentrate on cavity wall and loft insulation. By the end of CERT and CESP they were giving the stuff away for free and still not everyone did it.
I am so very cross with the quality of this campaign. Whoever wrote that report must be spitting feathers that you reduced some complex and in depth research into “email your MP and ask them to cut energy bills”. Brilliant.

Member

Hi Leah – in response to the concerns that our campaign neglects people who live in solid-walled homes, that’s not the case. We agree that insulating solid wall properties is important which is why our energy efficiency report called for a minimum percentage to be maintained specifically for SWI. We also called for a solid wall cost reduction task force as we recognise that these homes need to be insulated but this should be done at the lowest possible cost. We have also said that we want more of the ECO to go on the fuel poor, not less, but we can’t include these messages in all our campaign communications.

We want a short-term re-prioritising of ECO on low-cost, loft or cavity wall insulation because there are still large numbers of these needed. And with the ECO funded out of consumers’ bills, it makes sense to focus on these in the short term to get better value for money for consumers. We were concerned at the risk of spiraling ECO costs, particularly when Green Deal finance is not paying part of the cost of hard to treat measures, and given the lack of cost monitoring and control. And we agree that the Green Deal needs to be changed to make it a more compelling prospect for able-to-pay consumers. That’s part of the reason why lofts and cavity walls are not being insulated: the Green Deal is currently too expensive to use for these measures alone.

Member

A typical semi will cost around £5500 to £13000 to have solid walls insulated (inside/outside) with a payback through energ saving of 12 to 27 years. Financially not a very attractive proposition – except if it is your house it will be a benefit if you sell it. Nor is it attractive to a landlord. If grants are to be provided, they would be much better spent on cavity walls and lofts with paybacks of 2-4 years – and you could fix betweeen 7 and 16 of these for one solid wall dwelling.

Member

As I said a little further down here, solid wall insulation is being left in the ‘too difficult’ box because of the policy that “only the best will do” which always comes with a hefty price tag. This approach is denying action for an enormous number of households in old terraced properties where there is not much external wall surface area and where any thickness of insulation applied internally would be better than none. There are materials that can be wallpapered and painted over that will reduce the heat loss without having to carry out a major operation that disturbs skirtings, mouldings, architraves, light switches and sockets, etc. It’s not perfect, but it helps . . . and people with an old solid-wall house usually have so many other heat-loss problems that they do need all the help they can get. I think it should be possible, under a properly structured programme, to make a major energy saving and heat loss reduction in most old terraced houses for under £2000 each including dealing with roofspaces, outside walls, doors and windows. We could fix half a million priority properties every year for a billion pounds a year; or we could build some more power stations and still have people shivering. I know these improvements benefit the homeowner and enhance the property’s value, so there is an argument that the state should not be doing it, but when you look at some of the properties involved and the circumstances of the people who live in them that’s fairly academic because so long as that attitude prevails nothing at all will be done and deprivation and poverty will persist.

Member
Sally Montgomery says:
23 December 2013

Lofts are still not being insulated though it’s all tipsy turvy, each time they make a change those not done have to reapply. Then you get the oh we are doing boilers now but I don’t need a boiler, I’ve got one I need draught proofing and loft insulation. Plus solid wall insulation even if only the gable end.

Member
Nikolas Andersen says:
27 November 2013

Also to break the deadlock between landlords and tentants, require properties for rent to undergo a check for suitability for cavity wall and loft insulation if they do not have this. Then if the properties are found suitable, require them to be insulated before they can legally be let or re-let (of course with a suitable insurance scheme to cover the very few cases that give problems).

With a 10 year warning also require upgrading of single glazing to either gas filled double glazing or regular triple glazing to allow letting or re-letting.

Member

God idea Nikolas. Nothing like a financial inducement to get peoples minds concentrated.

My one fear is rather like when they made Volvo’s super safe. – Volvo drivers drove faster. I do believe that for some people adding extra insulation means they feel they have done their bit and should wander around the house in summer shirts with the temperature at 21C.

Are we going to see some in depth talk as to what is reasonable to wear inside in winter? Excepting for the bedridden and infirm surely thermals and a sweater is not an abnormal ask for people to save on heating costs?

Member

I very much share your support for sensible indoor clothing so that it is not necessary to keep ratcheting up the thermostat as the temperature drops outside. We need a good Wrap Up Warm campaign, ideally promoted by the right sort of public figures [I’m not thinking half-dressed glamour types in ankle warmers here]. The trouble is the warmer garments get a bad press these days – as if it’s only Damart and Doonican – but good-looking warm and practical clothing can be found; it doesn’t have to look naff. My top tip for feeling warmer without too much extra above the waist is to wear wool-rich socks and put on a second pair when the weather is cold – it seems to make the whole body warmer.

Member

Jiohn, I agree – but I’m sure those who do find heating their homes difficult will already be wearing warm clothing. You lose a lot of heat through your head, so an indoor hat would be a good idea as well as foot warmers. Maybe this is why, in the olden days, they wore bonnets and round hats, including night caps.

Member
Nikolas Andersen says:
28 November 2013

Yes, including myself – fleece + sometimes blanket and even duvet while electric heaters try to get going. I am working on that, though.

Member

“Why wear Long Underwear made of pure silk?
Silk Long Underwear, or long johns, are perfect for when you need the extra thermal warmth, but you don’t want thicker undergarments. Silk feels like a ‘second skin’ for perfect freedom of movement beneath your outer layers and is exceptionally lightweight so you’ll forget you’re wearing it. Silk Long Underwear can be worn year round in colder climates and it performs well underneath all styles of clothing – from leisure to work wear to recreational. ”

So true. A cheaper alternative was Lidl’s workingmens man-made fibre tight fitting underwear, very similar to the stuff they do for cyclists. None of it over £10. Wash at 40C and after spinning almost dry.

I am reviewing now what is on the Web about warm clothing. Wool seems very favoured particularly the fine wools like merino.

Member

Leah is spot on. It’s time we stopped putting solid wall houses in the ‘too difficult’ box and got on with it. My view, and it probably doesn’t go down too well, is that a measure of obligation is required to overcome the inertia that exists even among people who could have work done at no, or little, cost to themselves. Trying to look at the problem rationally, and making sure that the best does not become the enemy of the good, the major issue is with pre-1918 houses; most of these have roofspaces, a large proportion are built in terraces, many still have large single-glazed windows at the back and front. In fact the amount of wall surface area to be dealt with by either internal or external insulation is usually not great [except at the ends of the terrace or pairs of semis] and the amount of heat loss through the walls might not be as great a percentage of the overall heat loss as is usually suggested. So internally lining the outside walls with suitable thermal material – it doesn’t have to be to the highest possible value – and externally cladding the exposed terrace ends would probably make quite a difference so long as the other sources of heat loss [roofspace, windows and doors] were dealt with at the same time. Some heating system improvements, draught-proofing, repairs and minor improvements, and perhaps a porch or lobby, would probably be enough to bring an old house up to an acceptable standard and an affordable level of energy consumption at a reasonable cost. Organised efficiently through an ‘enveloping’ scheme, such a programme could transform energy conservation in this country with far more social and peripheral benefits than building another power station. I remember in the early 1960’s there was an imperative to deal with London’s lethal smogs by eliminating coal-burning fires and converting them to burn smokeless fuel. This was done compulsorily by means of the statutory declaration of smoke control zones; the scheme was organised by local authorities largely at public expense using approved contractors, and the work was done whether people wanted it or not. Some people had already done their own conversions or installed gas fires or boilers and were miffed that other people who had not done so were getting their conversions done for nothing. But no credits were given or concessions made and the result was the virtual abolition of coal smoke from domestic sources over a very short timescale. I believe a similar approach is needed today in the national interest to deal with substandard homes, energy waste, fuel economy, the projected shortfall in generating capacity and reliance on foreign gas supplies, and the depletion of fossil fuels.

Member
Phil Hall says:
29 November 2013

As a qualified Domestic Energy Assessor and Green Deal Advisor with over thirty years experience in the construction industry, I am tired of being treated like an imbecile by bureaucrats who keep on introducing red tape procedures that mean we spend more time filling in meaningless and mindless moronic forms so they can tick a box in their audit trail. They won’t listen to us about the important things that will help householders reduce their energy bills, so the reports that we produce are so flawed because the information is not accurate. Take for example PV solar on the EPC the estimated cost is shown as between £9k and £14k which was the cost 2 years ago the range now should be £6- £8k. Then have a look at floor insulation the indicative cost is £800-£1200 to install floor insulation, which is a completely ridiculous figure as this wouldn’t cover the cost of the insulation on most houses and what about taking into account the labour and disruption to carry out this measure on most houses. This is just a couple of examples of the inaccuracies on a EPC.
Hopefully this week Mr Osborne will scrap the Green Deal as it is such a poorly thought out project and because of the channels you have to go through, all it does is inflate the cost of any improvement measure to the householder and with the interest rate on any green deal plan is 7.9% which is way above the base rate, it is more like taking out a payday loan.
Also that he will outlaw these companies offering everlasting boilers etc as it is another way that unscrupulous companies are preying on the general public, they tie you in to a 12 year lease where you pay between £35-£40 a month to have a new boiler installed ok it includes servicing and maintenance, but it still make buying a new boiler in this way a very expensive experience. Then if you want to sale your property you have to pay a penalty clause to get out of the contract to me this is sharp practice.
I would love the opportunity to challenge Mr Greg Barker on why he believes the green deal has been a success after only 219 plans have been prepared from the supposed 100000 green deal reports that have been carried out since January and discuss the best way forward in helping people in the UK better insulate their properties in the aim to reduce their energy usage.

Member

Thanks Phil for the “inside” view.

And I was unaware of the everlasting boiler market. Does seem scandalous.

Member
Sally Montgomery says:
23 December 2013

I agree I’m sick of being offered a “free boiler” my boiler blew over the Christmas during the worse weather ever. I used my savings to replace it. as it was my only source of heat or hot water. The green deal is anything but it’s full of flaws. My property is hard to heat I’m eligable for help under Eco on age and health grounds. But its not forthcoming. I need loft insulation and draughtproofing I have solid walls I’m end of terrace so loose most heat at the gable end. The front and back have large windows which I replaced with double glazed units in the 80s. I’m less able to do DIY myself these days and don’t have money to invest. I’ve just had solar panels put in as a rental scheme so no outlet, not ideal but I get some energy free and they get the money from the grid. I’m not using any lights and using as little gas as pos so I can pay to insulate now. It’s a nightmare. But the grants are like the lottery, worse really.

Member

As the discussions so far illustrate, home heating issues and the various schemes for ‘efficiency’ simply point up the complexity and the fact that many of the underpinning assumptions are simply wrong and that one size does not fit all!

There is a historical ‘problem’ which is partly social and partly technical (simple physics). As in so many things Britain had, in the main, a different tradition to continental Europe – except for some isolated islands mostly in London but with a few outposts in other urban areas we didn’t have ‘central’ heating.

The issues of single skin walls, draughty floors and joinery and the general failure of efforts to make other than the most modern homes ‘energy efficient’ highlight the central problem. There won’t be a sensible debate until these few basic facts of history, physics and lifestyle are understood.

Until recently most homes in Britain were heated by burning something in fireplaces or stoves at various points around the home. Until the ’60s this was usually coal, after the clean air acts this shifted to gas with some electricity and a little ‘smokeless’ solid fuel. We were heated, where we were heated in the main, by RADIANT heat . . . Heat that travelled in straight lines from the burning fuel, through the air, to the first solid object it met along a straight line. The surface of the object thus hit became warmed by the radiant heat and that warmth was carried into the object by CONDUCTION in the case of the sofa warming up or by blood circulation assisting conduction in the case of the cat on the hearth rug or the person on the sofa. Everyone knew that the burning required air, they experienced drafts, the air whizzed in under and around the doors or through the airbricks that legislation required in order to allow air to enter. There was often a secondary effect of the air being warmed around objects so heated or by a jacket around the stove or gas fire but that was secondary for reasons in the next paragraphs.

Homes originally designed for burning stuff in fireplaces HAD to have air circulation and were positively designed to ensure it. But then, people were not afraid of fresh air then and the Ministry of Information was running TV adverts into the late ’60s and possibly early 70’s advising of the health benefits of open bedroom windows!

Then, along came central heating. Mostly balanced flue gas but some electric ducted air and a fair amount of night storage heating although that is not quite ‘central’. These systems rely on warming the air, there is comparatively little radiated heat even though the distribution panels are called ‘radiators’. For these to be efficient the air in the house must remain relatively static so that warm air currents distribute the heat within the rooms of the home. These homes rely on CONVECTION, the circulation of air upwards around or through the ‘radiator’ then once a little cooler back along the floor.

Most modern heating is only effective and efficient when it is employed in homes with still air, no drafts, no air bricks, cavity walls, airtight and preferably insulated floors and ceilings . . . It can be effective but less efficient when heat is lost by conduction through ‘cold’ or uninsulated walls floors or ceilings.

Surprisingly few so-called heating engineers understand the simple physics. There is little point in heating air which soon after is going to depart up a chimney or out via an airbrick or crack. The occupants will not be warmed as there is little radiation and the energy will be wasted.

Add to that the amount of our housing stock with porous lime mortar walls, the regulation air bricks top and bottom in each room, copious air leaks in floors, joinery etc. and the scale and potential cost of the problem is apparent.

There are actually two answers. One is radiant ‘spot’ heating, warming (and insulating) the person, not a vain attempt to warm the air. The other is complete re-engineering of the home to create an insulated air proof box or set of boxes. Then the problems are about moisture management and the cost of doing the job properly because half measures are not acceptable.

Solid lime mortar walls must either breath as they were designed to do or they must be encased with total weatherproofing and insulation on the OUTSIDE. Sure, it is cheaper to ‘dry line’ but then there is an internal moisture problem because the ‘dew point’ has been moved to big flat surfaces indoors, behind the insulating panels. Also, ‘wet’ walls that can’t transpire begin to degrade and spall with the effects of weathering on wet brick after a few years. Look at what happens to the sodden bricks below a damp proof course to see what happens. Of course, some idiots will champion the cheaper method, they won’t be around when the real costs emerge.

My aged parents, both in their mid 90s understood the principles of keeping themselves warm with ‘spot’ heating. They have just moved into a nursing home from their remote cottage but that was for mobility reasons. They slept in unheated bedrooms with open windows and used radiant heat at the places where they cooked, sat or washed and bathed. Of course, they did not expect to wander around the entire four bedroom house all day in just light slacks and a T shirt, they knew how to keep their backs warm and their fronts toasted.

Soooo . . . please either do the job properly or not at all. Either we should insist on measures that couple convection heating with a thorough conversion for purpose of the premises or we should opt for a policy of assisting people re-acquire old skills and help in creating ‘warmth spots’ in their homes.

I, for one, do not wish to be pushed into financing by energy bill or taxation a Mediterranean lifestyle in terms of clothing and behaviour in what is, after all, a cool temperate climate zone.

Member

Cracker piece of writing – I enjoyed it immensely as I like the big picture being shown and then examined rather than leaping into shrill cries of action – meaning sign a petition..

Regarding solid walls, I do agree with your analysis but was also thinking costs and methods to reduce airflow and rain to the external wall. This evening I have been looking at zinc cladding, as yet without a price, and of course timber cladding in its own right has some value. It is a great shame the BRE was privatised. ….. oops ….. and then became an expensive charity. Perhaps it should be providing some guidance.!!

Member

I, too, regret the loss of BRE as a public body. I asked them whether rising damp was a real issue in housing. “Can’t tell you as we are a private consultancy”. Shame about the attitude.

Member

Much of the cost of putting up any kind of cladding to external walls is the cost of scaffolding, the ‘access cost’. Given that the next cost to consider is the labour cost of fixing and finishing it would seem likely that once all that is committed to the increase in cost in specifying both insulation and long term weather proofing would be a smallish percentage.

As there is little point in insulating inside only and creating problems with solid walls breathing and to insulate internally and clad with weatherproofing outside seems nonsensical it would seem logical to concentrate on developing a decent system to both insulate and weatherproof in a systematic way on the outside only.

I had suggested to me the idea of using a liquid dressing sealing the outside of an Edwardian building I own and dry lining but, again, the cost of external access and labour for the work was a substantial sum that could have been put toward the cost of doing the job properly . . . and there would still be the cost of the internal work.

In the end I always come back to the conclusion that the job should be done properly if at all and that should be a long term, high quality insulating and weather shielding external cladding or applique surfacing.

As for the BRE I don’t think they ever represented particularly good value for money. Many wrong directions taken, especially in public housing, can be laid at their door together with much policy influencing that years later seems bizarre . . . a friend who became a Professor in a substantially overlapping field quotes many examples where fads, lobbying by special interests or failure to consider lifetime performance or costs resulted in support for less than optimum choices.

As for ‘rising damp’ that is a case in point, all over Pennine England stone houses with limestone or impervious gritstone walls are being disfigured by the ‘machine gun’ scars of attempts to pump in liquid damp proof courses! Again a ‘one size fits all’ approach, again a lack of basic scientific knowledge.

Member

From a specifier newsletter that I get
“The company identified the area as being in serious need of thermal upgrades after learning that the homes had no gas supply, being fuelled only by electricity which adds to inefficiency.

The properties are now regarded as thermally efficient, with the U-Value reduced from 2.10 W/m2K to 0.30 W/m2K, to put the homes in line with the current building regulations.

The ECO project has allowed homeowners to receive £9,000 worth of energy efficient measures to be installed and the improvements are expected to save an estimated £400 on annual fuel bills.”

There are several examples of social housing projects where external cladding has been carried out. The payback rate is low – but given increasing electricity costs it may go as low as a decade for the return.

It does illustrate though that private sector has not the benefit of centralised organising of this kind of work which prevents economy of scales being achieved.

Member
Sally Montgomery says:
23 December 2013

But Eco isnt delivering we still have people eligable but waiting. Unable to get even basic stuff done.

Member

The ECO project cited here seems a poor use of £9000 for one home with a 20 year payback.
£9000 would provide loft insulation for around 36 homes with an energy saving payback of around 2 years.