Recticel Insulation explains how sometimes you have to set your own standards to get the best from your home.
For more advice on insulation upgrades and performance, contact Recticel’s technical services helpdesk on 0800 085 4079, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The construction industry faces particularly uncertain times. Throughout 2015 the government scrapped various green legislation and initiatives, but in 2016 has just approved the toughest ever carbon budget. In the wake of the Paris climate change talks, it said that existing carbon reduction targets do not go far enough, despite apparently focussing on securing energy supply rather than reducing energy use.
All of which makes it difficult to imagine what future building regulations might look like. The only ‘definite’ milestone was the European directive for ‘Nearly Zero Energy Buildings’ from 2020, but since the result of the referendum on EU membership, it appears unlikely that the UK will adopt this standard. Instead, we must hope that whatever form the government takes in the coming months, it considers energy efficiency in buildings a priority.
So where does this leave homeowners who are worried about energy bills?
Well, the first thing to remember is that obtaining the highest levels of thermal performance means looking beyond building regulations anyway. Current U-value (i.e. heat loss) targets for existing houses, especially in England, set a pretty low bar. Instead, real long-term energy savings require levels of performance to match new housing.
Bizarrely, that probably means concentrating on your existing house rather than thinking about moving to a new one. The way that regulations are written means that many new housing sites – especially large ones – frequently lag behind current standards. Buying a new house in 2016 might only give you 2006 levels of thermal performance. Improving your existing home, on the other hand, puts you in control of its energy efficiency.
Your starting point is insulation. Rigid polyisocyanurate (PIR) products like those made by Recticel Insulation are among the most efficient insulation types available, and perfectly suited to use in applications throughout domestic properties. They offer high levels of thermal performance from relatively thin products.
It’s important to be aware, however, that there are many different insulating materials available. Their primary function is to resist the flow of heat energy, but different materials have different performance characteristics that change the suitability of their application. For example: compressive strength (i.e. load-bearing capability), moisture tolerance and acoustic performance.
Impartial advice about how to select the best and most appropriate insulation is therefore vital. Merchants or contractors might simply swap materials if an alternative is cheaper or more readily available. That can be okay if the two products are the same material type, but sometimes alternative products are completely unsuited to the intended application
Similarly, it is easy to see U-values and insulation as the be-all and end-all of building performance but it is vital to view the house as a complete building, rather than taking individual elements in isolation. This is particularly true in old buildings, and refurbishment projects should consider all factors that affect what solutions you can – and should – choose. Those factors include:
- The age and construction of the building.
- The likely moisture content of the fabric (whether from exposure to driven rain, or because of rising damp if no damp proof course exists).
- How the use and occupancy of the building impacts on the quality of the internal environment.
Making a convincing case for the benefits of insulation (and refurbishment generally) can be difficult when the likely disruption is taken into consideration. But taking a long term view and seeking good quality advice on the best solutions for your property can yield the results you want – whatever the current state of building regulations.