Feature: How properties can be insulated more effectively

By Ian Paton, partner in building consultancy at property advisor Cluttons

There are ways to insulate a home more cost effectively these days, and retrofitting needn’t be too complicated or expensive. If you own your own home or you are a landlord then the easiest ways to upgrade insulation is in the roof voids. For solid wall construction consider external insulation and if there are cavity walls these could be filled.

In the roof space, “blanket” or “quilt” mineral wool insulation laid between and over ceiling joists will work, being careful with services, for example ensuring a fire hood is present over down lighters. “Board” insulation (polyisocyanurate) is rigid enough to fit between rafters and fix underneath. It is more thermally efficient than the quilt types but more expensive. It is important to have a suitably ventilated air gap above the boards to prevent moisture damage to roof timbers.

For walls, internally, where space allows, battens fixed to walls filled with mineral wool slabs and finished with plasterboard can help, the trade-off being some loss of internal space. Externally wall insulation is usually rigid board faced with painted or self-coloured render. Here, the trick is to make sure that detailing to the perimeter and around openings is correct.

Then of course there are other ways to save cost on a more efficient property through Solar PVs, double glazed windows and ground source heat pumps.

However, if you are a renter, you will need approval from a landlord to do any of these things and, the difficulty with rental properties is making an investment in a property where your surety is shorter term. Landlords should be wanting to provide better insulation anyway to make the properties more attractive, and with EPC targets coming, they need to!

The best thing to do is for tenants to have a conversation with their landlord and try to request investment or even collaborate on the cost of insulation and potentially other energy efficient infrastructure too – such as Solar PV and heat pumps, all of which are much more cost efficient today than they ever have been, and will balance out the investment much quicker now because of energy prices soaring.

If you are in a shared property with other tenants, talk to them and then go to the landlord as a group. Landlords would be very short-sighted to ignore the opportunity to at least collaborate as it benefits all parties.

Lots of people discuss short term measures like ensuring no heat is lost through floorboards and windows but the reality is that we need fresh air and sealing up your home will result in people being tired and sluggish – this is why people fall asleep on the sofa with all windows shut and the heat pumping. Homes need good ventilation and minimal heat loss is ok, but lots of heat loss requiring proper insulation means investment and that means a conversation with the landlord. We’ve just done a test on having windows shut and then open and CO2 levels drop by 2/3 when having the windows open just a few minutes for a little bit of fresh air which demonstrates the importance of ventilation.