Advantages Lower fuel bills, warmer home, less pollution
Disadvantages None if properly installed by reputable contractor
Not surprisingly, a lot of heat escapes through walls. If you have cavity walls - and about half the houses in this country do, you could reduce your fuel bills by up to one third by installing cavity wall insulation. If your home was built after the early 1930's you probably have a cavity, although houses built after 1980 will have been insulated as they were built.Cavity wall insulation is a job for specialist contractor and is NOT one you can do yourself. Ask a reputable contractor who specialises in cavity wall insulation to carry out a survey on the suitability of your house for cavity wall insulation. Be sure that the firm you ask is on the British Standards Institution's Registered Firms List, and undertakes to carry out its survey and subsequent work to British Standards BS 5617 and 5618, or can show you a current British Board of Agrement Certificate for its work.
If you are unsure about how to select a firm, or want further advice, contact your local Energy Efficiency Advice Centre (EEAC) on 0800 512 012. There are a network of EEACs throughout the UK, which are partially funded by the Government via the Energy Saving Trust and provide free, impartial energy efficiency advice.If, when the contractor has surveyed your house, he finds that because of the location, or the nature of construction of the external walls, it is not suitable for insulation, or it is suitable only for particular insulation materials, it is his duty to tell you.
Insulating cavity walls is a straightforward job which can be done in a day. The professional installer will use specialist equipment to inject insulating material from outside into the cavity by drilling small holes in the wall. It should cause little disruption, and best of all, is surprisingly inexpensive considering the amount it will save you in the long run. Various types of insulating material can be used - foam, mineral wool (rock or glass), or polystyrene beads. Of these, mineral wool is by far the most common. The cost depends on the type of material used and the size of your house.Many firms give guarantees but be sure to read the small print. The Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (CIGA) gives a 25 year guarantee that any defect in materials or workmanship in connection with the installation by a member installer will be rectified without charge to you. My advice would be to insist on a CIGA guarantee and not to use firms who are not registered with this scheme. An installers own guarantee is of little use to you if the company subsequently goes out of business, but the CIGA guarantee is underwritten so you are protected even if the company who carried out the work is no longer trading.
There may be circumstances when the Local Authority's permission is required before the work can be carried out, so be sure to tell your local authority before work starts. Most installers give the proper notification automatically. Make sure that the one you choose gives you a copy of his notification.If you have cavity wall insulation installed at the same time as a heating system, it may be possible to save on the size and cost of the latter.
How soon you get your money back depends on the size of your house; how many outside walls you have; which part of the country you live in; how expensive your fuel is and how much fuel you use. The faster fuel prices rise after you have installed insulation, the better the investment is. For an average property a payback period of under 5 years is likely. In fact, cavity wall insulation is one of the most effective energy efficiency measures you can invest in, much more effective than say double glazing which can typically take up to 20 years to pay for itself.Burning fossil fuels - coal, gas, oil and petrol - either directly, or to generate electricity, releases carbon dioxide (CO2) which is the main "greenhouse gas" contributing to the threat of global warming. Over a quarter of the CO2 produced in the UK comes from energy used in the home. Most of us are using much more energy than we need to, and are therefore producing unnecessary CO2 emissions as well as being responsible for producing oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, compounds which add to the problem of acid rain which is harmful to wildlife and to our built heritage. So, by installing cavity wall insulation, not only will you be saving money and living in a more comfortable home, you will be having less impact on the environment that your children will inherit.
Finally, there are various Government grants and other incentives (for example through the fuel suppliers or your Local Authority) in the UK which can help towards the cost of cavity wall insulation and other energy efficiency improvements. Households on low income with children under 16 years old, or in receipt of certain disability related benefits, or householders who are over 60 and in receipt of certain benefits may be entitled to a grant under the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme which could cover the full cost of the work. Even those on higher incomes may eligible for discounts or grants from time to time. Check with your local Energy Efficiency Advice Centre first before ordering any work.
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