WHAT I CAN DO TO IMPROVE MY HOME AND REDUCE MY CARBON FOOTPRINT
Many of us in Croxley Green live in buildings that pre-date the Second World War and therefore are more difficult to insulate and protect from the excesses of the climate than post-war buildings. Everyone can do something to save themselves money. In this short article our advice can only be general.
In older homes, which were constructed in a time when coal was cheap and central heating was rare, most will, by now, have been improved and adapted with double glazing and loft insulation. If your home has not been improved or has only been partially improved there are a range of items for which you can get financial assistance under the Government’s Green Deal scheme https://www.gov.uk/green-deal-energy-saving-measures. These include:
- insulation, such as solid wall, cavity wall or loft insulation;
- double glazing; and
- renewable energy generation, such as solar panels or heat pumps.
For those who do not have central heating or whose boiler needs replacement there are alternative forms of heating which can attract financial benefits under the Government’s Renewable Heating Initiative (RHI) https://www.gov.uk/domestic-renewable-heat-incentive.
Even if you do not qualify for either of these schemes or do not wish to participate in them, there are so many things that you can do to your home to save money and improve your comfort. There are many firms which offer such services. Only use firms which belong to a recognised trade body and which offer guarantees or warranties.
- Roof insulation is essential and the more there is - 200mm or more laid in two layers along the joists and then across the joists - the better the fuel saving, but the worst heat losses occur at the eaves and other junctions where it is extremely difficult to stuff insulation quilt into the gap. Some of the quilt materials have to be handled carefully using gloves and a face mask.
- Pipe and tank lagging - Particularly if roof insulation has been fitted, all water pipes and tanks in the roof space should be very well insulated through their length. Any pipes in the floor should also be lagged.
- Windows cause the worst heat loss in any building and single glazing is responsible for huge losses. The older double-glazing systems are nothing like as good as the modern ones. In Northern Europe triple glazing is wide spread and it is becoming more common here with an extra cost of only 10-20% and we would recommend it. The most important feature of windows is the draught sealing of opening frames and the sealing around the frames against the brickwork. Get a warranty for the glazing system.
- External Walls in pre-war property. If you have solid brick walls you can improve the performance either by lining internal walls with insulated plasterboard (called dry lining) or placing insulating wall paper when redecorating or by the application of insulated render outside. Dry lining means that each room will become a little smaller: skirtings and window boards will have to be removed and re-fixed and the rooms will need redecoration. Insulating wallpaper does not take up space, but is less effective. However, everything helps. External insulated render, although very effective, will completely change the appearance of your home covering any architectural features. It is as well to consider the negative effects of both before taking a decision.
- External walls in post-war property. These are almost always built with a cavity wall with two brick or concrete block skins separated by a cavity of at least 50mm. It is common for people to have insulation foam or pellets injected into the cavity to improve the performance without the adverse effects of dry lining or insulated render. There can be problems with cavity fill, notably damp retention, particularly in more exposed sites.
- Many older homes have timber floors with a ventilated void below under part or all the ground floor. (This is apparent from the external air bricks). This means the floor can be very cold. Carpet (especially with underlay) or vinyl sheet reduce the heat loss but cannot fully offset the problem. There are some very thin insulation slabs now available that are expensive but may be worth considering when replacing the floor covering.
- Front doors and garage doors. Modern front doors have much superior thermal insulation than older doors and come in a variety of designs many of which incorporate security features. If your garage is integral to the home, it may be worthwhile fitting an insulated door to combat the heat loss into this unheated area.
- Some of you will have old fireplaces with chimneys open to the air and use solid fuel. It may be worthwhile converting your fireplace to a stove with a sealed flue liner avoiding down draughts and improving efficiency. The chimney must be swept beforehand. You can also have a throat plate fitted to an open fire chimney which is closed when the fire is not in use.
- Thermostatic valves. Older radiators may not have thermostatic valves. These can be fitted to your existing system so that you can adjust the temperature in each room.
- Replacing the boiler. Modern gas boilers are more efficient than old ones and last 20-25 years with regular servicing but there could be an alternative fuel source which is as attractive (see RHI above). One councillor replaced their old gas boiler with an air source heat pump. This has been successful and heats the house better than the old gas boiler. The house is a 1930s solid wall construction, showing that a heat pump can work if there is space for its installation. If you want to speak to the councillor, please contact the office for details.
- Modern thermostats and time clocks allow sophisticated use of heating and hot water. If you ever use an immersion heater, get a timer fitted so that you can set the hot water supply to suit your lifestyle and control cost.
- Efficient use of heat sources. Remember that warm air rises and therefore your downstairs hall radiator can also provide some heat upstairs. If you want to keep every room at an even temperature, leave internal doors open as much as possible so that the heat circulates throughout your home.
- Ensure any heating or hot water pipes which run through floors or the roof-space are well insulated.
- Too much sealing up. There is a danger that you can seal up your home too much and, as a result, it feels stuffy. Most modern windows can be fitted with “trickle vents” which allow limited air into the room.
- Close curtains. On the continent, buildings normally have external shutters that are closed to keep out the worst of the heat. Closing curtains reduces heat gain from the sun or heat loss in winter.
- Dripping taps. Get these fixed or replaced. The cost of the wasted water mounts up especially if you have a water meter.
- Dual flushing WCs. These are now standard in new homes or if you are replacing your appliances. They make a considerable difference to your water bill.
- Water butts. If you have a garden, fit water butts, use this source for irrigation and save on your water bill.
- If you know your water drains into a soakaway rather than the public sewer you may get a rebate on the drainage part of your water bill.
For further information on saving energy and please visit some of these links;
https://www.threerivers.gov.uk/egcl-page/green-homes-grant. This is for a grant for eligible applicants living in Three rivers District Council.