We explore the eco way to keeping your home cosy
The nights draw in and nothing could be better than snuggling up around an open fire. A cosy room, heated and lit by the naked flames. A picture of contented winter bliss, safe and warm, isolated from whatever the weather is doing outside. It’s a traditional picture, but in reality, far from the environmentally friendly ideal. True, the heat being produced isn’t reliant on burning our dwindling fossil fuel supplies, whether that’s remotely in gas fired power stations, or in the home using gas or oil fired heating systems. But the key to a truly cosy and eco aware home needs a more carefully thought out and holistic approach. And at the heart of the issue is not how we generate the heat within our homes, but how best we use and preserve that heat once it’s there.
A home should be properly insulated and draft proofed, while still being properly ventilated – poor ventilation not only brings its own health risks but can also cause condensation and damp. The need to improve home insulation is nothing new. Replacement double glazing and the need to roll out additional loft insulation has been touted for decades as a way to improve comfort and reduce the cost of energy bills. But the focus was reducing the impact of heating your home on your wallet, rather than the impact on the environment.
In recent years, the effective use of energy efficient materials in house building has come on in leaps and bounds. This has been partly down to a growing sympathy towards the environment in all aspects of our lives, but also has been driven by legislation. Building regulations demand ever greater efficiency from new properties, and manufacturers have stepped forward to bring a range of new materials to market, which in many cases are both kinder to the environment in both their makeup and manufacture.
There are a growing number of ethically sourced and eco sympathetic insulation materials available as an alternative to the ’traditional’ materials such as fibreglass, mineral wool, cellulose, polyurethane, and polystyrene. Some older forms, such as those containing asbestos and formaldehyde, have been outlawed because of very present health and safety concerns.
It’s interesting to note that certain materials – such as fibreglass, rockwool and cellulose – were already manufactured using recycled materials. Sheep’s wool insulation is a natural alternative to fibreglass and rock wool, and brings the added benefit of being able to actively regulate water vapour and humidity. Wood fibre and cork boards are breathable insulation boards made from sustainable sources and are a sympathetic alternative to modern foil backed boards and polystyrene. Foam glass aggregate is made purely from recycled glass and has the added benefits of being free-draining, load bearing and is unaffected by frost.
There is a growing acceptance of the use of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) where an insulator, typically polyurethane or expanded polystyrene, is bonded between sheets of plywood or oriented strand board to make a light and incredibly strong material. SIPs buildings are highly energy efficient, air tight and are almost immune to ‘cold bridging’, meaning very low risk of condensation. The use of SIPs in new builds also brings many other benefits. Houses can effectively be manufactured in a factory, then delivered in sections to be quickly erected on site. For all their benefits, it’s hard to understand why all new houses aren’t constructed in this way.
Incorporating these technologies into new builds is one thing, but they can also be utilised in improving the thermal performance of existing properties, on both small and much grander scales. Devon- based home insulation company, CosyHome, has been shortlisted for two environmental awards for its work restoring the iconic heritage village of Clovelly. Perched at the edge of a 400 foot cliff in North Devon, Clovelly is famous for its car-free cobbled streets, where donkeys and sledges are the only form of transport. The village’s harbour and many of the houses date back to the 14th century.
The company worked with the owners of the estate in an attempt to bring Clovelly’s houses up to modern standards of insulation, applying draft proofing and loft insulation to all 120 properties, as well as room-in-roof insulation to sloping ceilings using thermal laminate boarding. Phase two of the project will involve fitting CosyHome’s unique secondary glazing system to all the windows in the properties, reducing heat lost through the windows by 70 per cent. This system uses plexiglass and is fixed by magnets, meaning it is almost invisible outside of the property – crucial where the building is listed. While listed buildings are not legally required to have an energy performance certificate, the Clovelly Estate Company is aiming to bring the properties up to e-rating which is required by landlords renting out non-listed properties from 1st April 2018.
So regardless of where you live, or how old your home is, there’s no reason why you can’t explore the possibilities of making it more energy efficient. As you would hope, the drive for more effective use of energy is not only coming from the private scetor, but is also being incentivised by central government. ECO is a Government-led energy saving scheme funded by energy suppliers. It aims to reduce the amount of energy homes in Britain use and waste, and also ease fuel poverty. The scheme also intends people who qualify to become more energy efficient by providing funding for energy saving measures.
The scheme is made of three parts. The Home Heating Cost Reduction Obligation (HHCRO), the Carbon Emissions Reduction Obligation (CERO) and the Carbon Savings Communities Obligation (CSCO). Depending on your circumstances, there may be help available under one of the schemes to help insulate your home or to make it more energy efficient, for instance, by updating your boiler of heating system.
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This article first featured in the November ’17 issue of Natural Mumma Magazine and was written by Gerard Hughes.