Of course insulation isn’t enough. I do struggle with articles that have provocative headlines like this one in the Guardian: Rebound effect cancels out home insulation impact on gas use
The implication is that because insulation isn’t enough that it’s not worth doing, which would put anyone off starting. In fact they’re saying that we need to do more than just insulate. Perhaps they should have read my book – Beginner’s Guide to Eco Renovation – then they’d have known that already!
Insulation on its own will never be enough.
Insulation works with airtightness to give you a warm home. And then you need ventilation to keep the air fresh and dry. Opening the window is a sure fire way to lose energy and it’s only necessary if ventilation hasn’t been addressed properly from the start.
Behaviour change is the key
A central message of the article is that behaviour change is the key to real savings. I made the shift when we decided the house would be a legacy. Once I had my mind wrapped round the fact that we were doing this for the future, then I was on a roll.
It all comes back to your Touchstone (see chapter three of the book) – the priorities for the work you want to do and how you’ll live going forward. The three areas we identified were:
Environment – are we going to make the climate crisis better or worse?
Design – will the house look the way we want it to look?
Budget – how much will it cost and what can we afford?
First on our list was environment. I do realise that we can’t make a big impact on our own – big business and governments have a lot of work to do – but we still need to do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. And a big chunk of that is daily living.
We’re feeding the grid
One way that we noticed our behaviour change was when the solar panels were fitted. Previously we ‘d have put on the dishwasher, washing machine etc over night. Now there’s real excitement when we make more power than we’re using. The cry goes out: ‘we’re feeding the grid!’ – followed by a rush to action. Plug in the car, empty the washing drawer, clean the dishes…………
The energy crisis – horrible but positive too
The retrofit means we’re using far less then we used to, but that’s no reason to be complacent. I’m becoming more like my dad – switching off lights, unplugging and turning the oven off just a few minutes earlier to save power.
And as the final weeks of December loomed, I started watched the smart meter like a hawk. Would we use more than last year? Would all the work we’d done on the house still make a difference? (B****y silly, but I get like that once the dark takes over). There had been those really cold couple of weeks early in the month, which made the air source heat pump (ASHP) work harder. And – something I’d never thought of – snow on the solar panels cut production.
End result? Last year we used 5,500 KwH and this year we used 5,825 KwH. Slightly more, but negligible when you set it against the 25,500 KwH’s we used before the insulation, airtightness, ventilation, ASHP, solar etc.
Don’t be put off
So don’t be diverted by misleading headlines. Read to the end and find out what the article is really saying.
And review your Touchstone. Given the state of the world now and the impact of the climate crisis even in temperate UK, maybe environment needs to come higher up the list – especially since it will save you money over all the years to come.