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Eco-friendly home renovation ideas

A more energy efficient home is good for both the planet and your wallet. Here are three top tips for an ecofriendly home renovation

Insulation

No matter how efficient your heating system, it's no good if the heat doesn't stay in. Loft insulation and cavity wall insulation can be done with a range of materials, including mineral wool, foam and polystyrene beads.

Loft insulation is often a job you can do yourself. The National Insulation Association professional body estimates the potential savings at between £120 and £225 a year on your energy bills.

If your house was built between the 1920s and the 1990s, it probably has cavity walls (walls with a gap in). These can be insulated by injecting material into the gap – a professional installer needs to do this. The cost will vary depending on the size of your home, but the Energy Saving Trust estimates that you should recoup whatever you spend within five years.

Older houses usually have solid walls, to which insulation can be added internally or externally. This is a trickier job, possibly costing upwards of £10,000. Again, it needs to be done by a specialist, and the work should be covered by a 25-year insurance-backed guarantee such as that provided by the Solid Wall Insulation Guarantee Agency.

Double glazing

Heat is lost around twice as quickly through single glazing as through double glazing. Triple glazing is even better at keeping heat in, but possibly not sufficiently to make it worth the extra money – plus it will slightly reduce the amount of sunlight that comes in.

Double glazing, where the gap between the panes is filled with argon, xenon or krypton, instead of air, is particularly effective. Low-emissivity or low-e glass has a coating which reflects escaping heat back into your room.

Solar panels

Solar panels are an essential part of a sustainable home renovation. There are two types:

  • Solar photovoltaic panels, which generate electricity. These should cost between £5,000 and £8,000, according to Which?
  • Solar thermal panels, which heat water. These should cost between £4,000 and £5,000, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Solar panels work whenever there is daylight, so will work every day to some degree. They work best in bright sunlight, and if installed on a south-facing roof or wall; east or west-facing will work too.

Solar energy won't meet all your heating or electricity requirements – you'll still need electricity from the grid, and a boiler or immersion heater – but it is free and clean, and there are even financial rewards for using it. For solar photovoltaic panels, there used to be a scheme called the feed-in tariff; the government is replacing this with a similar system called the smart export guarantee, under which you can sell surplus electricity back to the national grid. Solar thermal panel owners can receive payments under a scheme called the renewable heat incentive.

 

You don't normally need planning permission for solar panels, though they have to comply with certain conditions (listed on the government's planning portal website).

 

South east London architects Bluelime Home Design has been designing homes across London and Kent for 13 years. We have offices in DartfordBromleyErithBexley and Croydon – call us on 01322 517632 to arrange a free architect consultation.

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