What is Energy Saving Retrofit?
Energy saving retrofit is the process of installing and/or replacing parts of an existing building in order to make it more energy-efficient. They can be carried out for many different reasons; to ensure the longevity of the building or structure, to reduce the long-term operating costs of heating and cooling, or to reduce the level of CO2 emissions as a result of heating and cooling. Government efforts to deal with climate change over the past few decades have made CO2 emissions a key focus for energy saving retrofit jobs.
In 2019, the UK government made a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions to net-zero by the year 2050. This policy was a revision of previous commitments to reduce emissions levels to below 20% of the emissions of the year 1990. As part of the effort to meet this more ambitious target, the government has overhauled and stepped-up its approach to retrofit with a brace of new grants, incentives and a new TrustMark approval scheme. Now is the ideal time to look into energy saving retrofit for your property.
What Measures Can I Take to Save Energy in My Property?
There is a very wide range of different energy saving retrofit methods such as energy-efficient boilers, solar panels and various types of insulation. Each method will present benefits and drawbacks in the form of the total amount of energy saved, installation costs and the total time needed to complete the project. The range of choices available can be bewildering. A good strategy is to choose an energy saving measure that makes large energy savings for minimal outlay.
Studies show that over 35% of heat loss in buildings can occur through the exterior walls of buildings so the biggest/easiest gains can often be made here. Insulating the exterior walls of a property can significantly reduce heat loss and reduce the amount of energy required to heat it. There is still a choice to be made about the specific type of insulation to use but this will most likely be determined by the type of property and the circumstances of the occupiers.
Solid Wall Construction – Conservation Area
If your property is of solid-walled construction and it is either in a conservation area or is a listed property, the likelihood is that you will not be able to make any significant changes to the structure or to alter the exterior facade of the building. In this situation, internal wall insulation can be installed. It should be noted, however, that internal wall insulation is the type of wall insulation most at risk from moisture, therefore it is important to ensure the external façade of the building is in good condition and will resist penetrating rain.
The best option is to install Stormdry EP-Board internal wall insulation alongside an external application of Stormdry Masonry Protection Cream. Stormdry EP-Board is a high-performance thin-line internal insulation board that reduces heat loss through walls whilst remaining breathable. It consists of a 3 mm magnesium oxide plasterboard that is lined with an advanced 10 mm aerogel blanket. It is applied directly to internal walls using Stormdry EP-Board Adhesive, allows users to retain original service fittings and provides up to 61% U-value reduction when combined with a Stormdry Masonry Protection Cream treatment.
The exterior application of Stormdry Masonry Protection Cream helps to protect and enhance the already significant heat-loss reduction provided by the Stormdry EP-Board. Government research has confirmed the importance of insulation protection and named Stormdry Masonry Protection Cream as a protection measure. By resisting rain penetration and keeping the wall dry, Stormdry Masonry Protection Cream improves the thermal resistance of the building materials and reduces the chance of interstitial condensation occurring at the junction between the external wall and the Stormdry EP-Board.
Solid Wall Construction – Non-Conservation Area
If your property is of solid-walled construction but is not subject to the same restrictions as listed properties or those in a conservation area then you have a wider selection of insulation types to choose from. As above, internal wall insulation is still a valid and often preferred option but there is also the option external wall insulation.
The main advantage of external wall insulation is that heat-loss reduction can be achieved without having to make any interior decorative changes and without taking rooms out of use during installation. It usually takes the form of insulation panels being attached to the exterior leaf of a structure and then covered with a weatherproof decorative coating.
If done correctly the heat-loss reduction can be large but it is often more expensive than other forms of insulation. It is also necessary to be aware that external wall insulation will reduce the rate of evaporation on the external leaf and could possibly exacerbate any rising damp issues that may present, pushing the damp higher than it otherwise would be. As such, it is prudent when installing external wall insulation to also make sure that a remedial damp-proof course is installed using Dryrod Damp-Proofing Rods.
Cavity Wall Construction
If your property is of a cavity-walled construction then you will have more options available to you than those with solid-walled properties. Both the above internal wall insulation and external wall insulation options are valid in this instance. Usually, however, the least disruptive and most viable option on cavity wall structures is to install cavity wall insulation.
Retrofit cavity wall insulation comes in many different forms such as blown mineral fibre, polystyrene beads or urea-formaldehyde foam. It is usually installed by removing small portions of masonry and injecting the insulation material under pressure. It can provide an excellent heat-loss reduction for a relatively small outlay but care must be taken to ensure the external leaf of the wall is in good order and is not overly-porous. If the wall is too porous or has too many defects it can lead to moisture bridging the insulation or the insulation material itself becoming saturated, nullifying the insulative effect of the cavity wall insulation system and possibly causing significant damage to the internal decor.
It is always recommended to pair a cavity wall insulation installation with the Stormdry Masonry Enhancement Range to protect the insulation from rain penetration. Before carrying out any weatherproofing treatments, It is recommended to prepare the wall by repointing masonry using Stormdry Repointing Additive No.1.
To stop rain penetration on the wall, an application of Stormdry Masonry Protection Cream is recommended. It will stop water from being able to penetrate the masonry, allow residual moisture to evaporate and will enhance the insulative properties of the cavity wall insulation system. For walls with significant networks of cracks up to 0.6 mm, a top coat of Stormdry CB-Coat Crack Bridging Waterproofer can be applied on top of the Stormdry Masonry Protection Cream to provide an extra level of protection.
PAS 2035 – Install Confidence as Well as Energy Saving Measures
A revision in government policy regarding CO2 emissions has resulted in a change to retrofit standards. Previously, as long as the contractor, property and installation in question met certain criteria to receive government funding, the retrofit job could be carried out without too much consideration of the long-term knock-on effects. This old approach had led to an increased number of insulation failures and cases of sub-optimal performance.
The recently introduced PAS 2030/2019 and PAS 2035/2019 standards now mean that all publicly-funded energy saving retrofit jobs must be carried out by a TrustMark approved contractor and overseen by an approved Retrofit Coordinator. The TrustMark scheme ensures that their members are technically competent, have good customer service and have good trading practices. The Retrofit Coordinator ensures that retrofit jobs adhere to a specific project structure and must produce a medium-term improvement plan that assesses the effects the works will have on the building performance for the next 25 years.
There are many different funding options, schemes and grants available to take advantage of now and, given the government’s ambitious CO2 targets, many more will be available in the future. We are currently in a transitional phase for the PAS 2030/2035 standards. Some schemes are already adopting the requirements but by June 30th 2021 every publicly-funded energy saving retrofit job will need to be compliant. This means that you can initiate projects with the confidence that they will achieve their aims.
What Are My Next Steps?
What you need to do next will depend on what your circumstances are. Whether you’re trying to improve your property or trying to find out how to become an approved contractor, now is the time to act as things are picking up speed.
Following the closure of the Green Homes Grant scheme, there is no single UK government-funded retrofit grant scheme. In its place, the UK Government invested £12 billion in Help to Heat Schemes – all have varying levels of eligibility for a selection of energy efficiency upgrades.
Unlike the Green Homes Grant, the Help to Heat scheme is predominantly focused on improving low-income and social housing. These works are delivered by a combination of private installers, energy companies and local authorities.
Without the Green Homes Grant, financing energy saving retrofit wall insulation without bearing the whole cost yourself is a tricky proposition.
Green Deal Loans
You may also be able to apply for the Green Deal (not to be confused with the 2020 European Green Deal policy initiative). Created in 2015 as a government-funded scheme, the Green Deal Finance Company (GDFC) still operates in 2022 under private ownership.
The Green Deal allows you to spread the cost of home energy improvements through repayments that are added to your electricity bill. While this may not sound ideal, repayments are offset by the energy you save – meaning you won’t pay any more than you were. Depending on which measures are carried out, you may even make a saving.
As Green Deals are loans and not grants, any eligible home can apply. If your home needs internal or cavity wall insulation, the Green Deal is probably the best route to getting it installed without paying the entire cost yourself.
To find out if your property is eligible, a Green Deal assessment must be carried out. An approved assessor will issue your property with energy improvement recommendations, projected energy saving costs and a renewed or new EPC (Energy Performance Certificate). Armed with your assessment, you can decide on the right energy-saving measure for you and choose to apply for a Green Deal loan through your chosen installer. Keep in mind that Green Deal loans are becoming increasingly harder to acquire without government funding.
Whilst we all await a National Retrofit Strategy, a Green Deal loan may be your best bet.
As property owners, landlords are also eligible to apply for a Green Deal Loan. Energy-saving property upgrades decrease bill costs, improve property values and make dwellings more attractive to tenants.
Current property rental regulations in the UK, called the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard Regulations or MEES, state that properties must have an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of E or above to be legally permitted to rent to tenants. Previously, properties with an existing lease or rental contract were exempt from these requirements. As of the 1st April 2020, however, all rental properties must meet the EPC requirements, regardless of the status of any existing leases or contracts.
As with homeowners, landlords must first get their properties assessed by a Green Deal Assessor to check suitability. Then they must engage with a Green Deal Provider for the loan. Finally, a Green Deal installer will carry out the work.
Landlords must find an appropriate TrustMark-approved installer to get the process started. We can help you to find that contractor. Click here to find contractors near you.
If you are a tenant in a domestic rental property, there are rights that you have under the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) Regulations 2015 that allow you to make reasonable requests for consent to make energy efficiency upgrades to the property you are living in. If a valid reasonable request is made, a landlord cannot refuse their consent.
The regulations state that a reasonable request must meet certain criteria. Here are some examples:
- The request must be made in relation to a private rented sector property
- The request should not require the landlord to make a financial investment in the improvements
- You have more than three months left on the tenancy
- You have not made a previous request in the last six months
- Your proposed energy efficiency improvements are classified as a qualifying energy-efficiency improvement
Your request can make use of government grants, subsidies and schemes as long as you, the tenant, qualifies for them. Once you have submitted your request to the landlord they must consider the request and respond to you within one month. Unless they can make the case that the request is unreasonable under the regulations, the landlord must grant you their consent to carry out the improvements.
There is specific guidance for the whole process in the government’s Tenants’ Rights Guidance Document. The main point is that your request must be well researched and provide your landlord with all the required information. In the best-case scenario, a request proposal will present a solution that is beneficial for both the tenant and the landlord. A good place to start would be to get in contact with a TrustMark-approved retrofit installer. Click here to find contractors near you.
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If you’re a VAT-registered contractor, you are able to charge reduced 5% VAT rates to your customers for all qualifying energy-efficiency product installations. The products covered under tax guidelines include insulation installations, solar panel installations and applications of Stormdry Masonry Protection Cream. The 5% VAT is applicable to all labour and materials related to the installation of the qualifying energy-efficiency measure. This makes it possible for you to make the cost of energy-efficiency retrofit installation far more viable to customers than they otherwise would have been.
Given that there is going to be an increasing number of financial incentive schemes from the government in relation to energy-efficiency improvements, it is sensible for contractors to become TrustMark approved installers. PAS 2030/PAS 2035 guidelines mean that contractors must be TrustMark approved to carry out installations. Additionally, it is now necessary for publicly-funded energy saving retrofit projects to be overseen by an approved Retrofit Coordinator. With so many incentives coming in the future and so little time to get qualified, it makes sense to start making preparations now.
To become TrustMark approved, contact the Property Care Association and apply for membership. All PCA contractor members are included in the TrustMark scheme. You will also be included in their searchable database of contractors. If you wish to be able to carry out retrofit works then you will need to become classified as an insulation/energy retrofit contractor within the TrustMark database by contacting TrustMark directly.
To become an approved Retrofit Coordinator, you should sign-up to the Association for Environment Conscious Building Carbonlite Retrofit Training Course. This training course includes specific modules to become an accredited Retrofit Coordinator. Anybody who has already completed the Carbonlite Retrofit Training Course will be able to undertake a specifically-focused module to also become accredited.