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Improve efficiency

Fabric first

Most of us don't live in recent, energy efficient homes. We need to add (or retrofit) energy-saving measures. Plan a series of steps, which can be implemented over time, saving money and disruption.

It's best to start by improving the energy efficiency of our houses, addressing the 'fabric first':

  • Improve insulation, air-tightness and ventilation:

    • Window and door replacement.

    • Loft insulation.

    • Wall insulation - cavity, internal and/or external.

    • Floor insulation.

    • Air tightness.

  • Appropriate ventilation / moisture control, to avoid issues with damp and mould:

    • Trickle vents, extractor fans, heat recovery (MVHR).

Take opportunities to insulate

You can insulate your loft at any time, although it's more comfortable up there in the spring or autumn.

But adding wall, loft or floor insulation is more disruptive. Plan to do it when opportunities arise, possibly a room at a time over a number of years for internal work.

Fit internal wall insulation if you are:

  • Installing a new kitchen or bathroom.

  • Replacing or repairing plaster or plasterboard.

  • Or just emptying and decorating a room.

Fit external wall insulation if you need scaffolding, which is a significant cost, for any reason:

  • Working on rendering or painting.

  • Fitting replacement windows.

First Retrofit priorities

  • Draughts.

  • Drainage - maintain gutters, downpipes and drains.

  • Condensation and damp - a vital topic we'll return to.

  • Asbestos - may be discovered during a retrofit and likely to require specialist removal or treatment.

Windows and doors

Replacing single-glazed windows, with modern double- or triple-glazing, and old draughty doors makes a home feel far more comfortable and significantly reduces energy losses. It's important to avoid thermal bridging around the frames.

The reduction in energy use, at current prices, means that replacement double-glazed windows typical pay for themselves over 15 to 20 years.

Loft / roof insulation

Adding loft insulation is usually the most cost-effective way of reducing the energy lost from a house. If you have none, adding 300mm of loft insulation will typically pay for itself in one to two years. There are few better investments.

Care is required if you have a 'room in the roof', have ceilings immediately under a flat or sloping roof, or have dormers. Insulation needs to be installed to avoid condensation, either by having a moisture-proof membrane on the warm side of the insulation or, in certain older properties, using a fully-breathable structure.

Make sure that any air leaks into the loft space are blocked. For example, this could be from behind plaster board in the top-floor rooms or through downlighters.

Wall insulation

It's almost always worth fitting internal or external cavity wall insulation to houses that have solid walls (without a cavity), as the work has a short payback period, typically of a few years.

Returns are also good for adding cavity wall insulation to houses that have cavity walls but no insulation in the cavity.

It can be worth adding internal or external wall insulation to houses with cavity wall insulation, built up to about 2002 (to 2006), when the building regulations standards were tightened.


Houses built since then should have reasonable wall insulation, and it's currently not likely to be worth improving on this.

Floor insulation

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