Buying a new home is an exciting, and often stressful part of your life. From the first view through to the surveyors report you will most likely have had ideas about some work you’d like done. Perhaps you’re planning an extension, or considering a new bathroom, but it can be very hard to know where you stand without a professional homebuyer's report.
In addition to any renovation work you’re planning, it’s very much worth considering retrofit improvements you need (or want) to make the house energy efficient and comfortable to live in. Buying an already energy efficient house can save you a lot of time and money further down the line, although if you’re getting aesthetic changes made anyway it can be a good time to future-proof your home.
A good indicator of home energy efficiency will be the EPC certificate, which shows you the energy efficiency rating of the property - you will be able to glean some idea of where to make improvements from this - but the report doesn’t take into account the specifics of the PAS2035 framework, which takes into account technical requirements of the building as well as the comfort of the occupant.
You can buy our homebuyer retrofit plan here so that you know exactly what you’re getting into before you move into the property.
There are several key areas that should be considered when you’re looking at new properties and want them to be as energy efficient as possible:
Whether it’s in the loft, the walls or the floors. PAS2035 specifies that a ‘fabric first’ approach should be taken to retrofit. That is, ensuring that the building will effectively retain heat, prior to any further changes. This could also cover double-glazing in the windows and doors.
Modern combi-boilers have improved their energy output over the past 20 years but stall at about 95% efficiency - 5% of the energy created goes to waste. Heat Pumps provide at least 100% energy efficiency as they literally transfer energy from one space to another (outside to inside), rather than converting from one (gas) to another (water). It’s a similar story with wall-mounted radiators vs underfloor heating, as the heat from the floor is more evenly spread, there are no 'cold spots' and no heat wasted into the walls.
Solar panels are a rapidly viable alternative (or addition) to using the grid. At the very least they allow you to start generating your own power, and save money on your bills, or store some for use if there’s ever a power cut.
When it comes to your new home, you may not be able to make sweeping changes, whether it’s because of budget, or planning restrictions. There are solutions to some of these challenges.
Retrofitting your home can be costly. If you’re limited in scope after your house purchase, then it’s worth understanding fully where the most benefit will be seen in the long-run. Hiring a retrofit assessor to provide a definitive report on the heat retention and energy efficiency of the house is a smart way to utilise a little of that remaining budget.
While you may not be able to make large changes to begin with, you will then have a plan in place for when the budget becomes available. In the meantime, there are several cost-effective measures you could implement depending on the report’s findings.
Think about your house and where the heat might be lost, and add additional barriers to prevent the heat from leaving! These include drought-proofing (add thermal curtains or shutter), radiator reflectors and DIY attic insulation - all of which are reasonably cheap and will make a difference to your heating bill, and comfort, in the long run.
A delicate area, retrofit is seen as relevant work to make a listed property energy efficient, but there are obviously restrictions on what you can do while retaining the building’s fabric and character - you’ll need permission from the local council on any work you do want to carry out.
Additionally, you will need to understand what was the ventilation and insulation setup when it was originally constructed - and this will help you with what work would be most effective now. You will likely need to consider how changes to one area of the house (e.g. upgrading the kitchen) will affect another (e.g. the bathroom)- as different materials will have been used in the initial construction as the air flow and moisture evaporation will have been planned differently.
Since your house was built, it’s likely that the technology has moved on. Indoor showers, washing machines and dishwashers all add to the incumbent moisture in a house - if your home isn’t set up to help waterdissipate or evaporate somewhere then condensation can build up, causing mould and other issues. By adding effective insulation and ventilation points, you can reduce the build up of moisture and damp..
Most pre-1920s homes have solid brick walls (usually two layers of brick, right next to each other with no gap), from 1920 onwards cavity walls (two layers with a gap to stop the transfer of cold air through the wall) become increasingly common. Other options will be the early versions of cavity walls (post 1920- but pre-1940) or timber-framed walls. The requirements for insulating each differs slightly, but an excellent guide can be found on the Historic England site. Insulating your walls is one of the most effective ways of stopping heat from leaving your home.
Loft insulation is an easier energy efficiency measure to install, in most cases you can do this yourself, although it’s worth checking that this is in place before you move in. Unless you’ve bought a Grade 1 listed building, you can use spray-foam insulation in the loft. Generally you want to insulate using natural materials, so you could use sheep’s wool. .
Home retrofit requires a fabric-first approach to ensure that heat retention is maximised. So before you look at heat generation or mechanical improvements to your home, you should improve the existing components, such as draughty chimneys You will need to ensure that you address any droughtiness or the transfer of air around your home before anything else, otherwise any work will be pointless. Chimney draughts should be considered as part of the ventilation flow of your home when having it assessed.
If you have raised-timber floors, you can add insulation beneath, but care will need to be taken as you may have to take boards up. In some cases the boards can be damaged, or easily broken so this is definitely a job for a professional. If you only have solid floors then you can consider having the floors raised to create a gap where insulation can go, the only thing to consider is that this reduces the size of the rooms a bit.
Windows can be tricky. You can double-glaze the glass but with specialist windows such as sash, the cost can add up. There are other, cheaper options, such as changing the wood around the window to help reduce air gaps.
Having a team of retrofit (PAS2035) qualified experts on-hand to review your home, and current and future situation can be invaluable. If you’d like some advice, or would just like a chat to see what’s possible you can complete our typeform here for a homebuyer assessment.
If you’d like to talk about how we can make your home more energy efficient, then fill in our form and we can offer you a home assessment and plan to get started.