What does Whole House Retrofit mean to me?

In the 21st Century, one of the key considerations for any homeowner is the energy efficiency of the property. With fuel prices continuing to rise, as well as an environmental imperative to both reduce energy consumption and also to adopt more sustainable energy sourcing, it’s clear that there is a need to “future proof” homes to enable them to operate in as green a manner as possible. Over the years, most homes will have had a variety of alterations. These not only alter the internal environment, but they may also have an effect on the energy efficiency of the home. Because alterations, renovations and fresh features are usually completed in a piecemeal fashion, homes can end up with a mixture of features, some of which don’t work well together in terms of creating an energy-efficient property. In these circumstances, a whole house retrofit is often the best solution.

Past and future statistics on energy efficiency in UK homes

It has been recognised by the government and other key partners for a number of years that there is a need to reduce domestic energy consumption. In 2013, the government, in partnership with energy providers, began the implementation of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) initiative. This had the aim of reducing carbon emissions by providing home improvements for householders. The scheme has continued in various phases since. By 2022 the aim is for 1 million homes to be improved. As at May 2019, figures show that 880,000 homes have been improved. By March 2019, it is estimated that around 38.0 MtCO2 has been prevented from entering the atmosphere, with provisional estimated lifetime energy savings up to 150,600 GWh.

It is thought that reductions in carbon emissions will result in an overall reduction in greenhouse gases, reducing the currently observed phenomena of global warming. Given that fossil fuels are a finite resource, it’s also important to conserve reserves – energy-efficient home improvement measures go some way to achieving this. An increase in the use of sustainable energy sources is also needed, which is where initiatives such as the government’s RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) can help.

What is a whole house retrofit?

At its most basic, a whole house retrofit is a comprehensive plan for home improvements. It’s devised with the aim of ensuring that a property operates in as energy-efficient a manner as possible, with all aspects of the building complementing each other. If carried out correctly, the end result should be a home that’s not only in excellent condition but which also incorporates cutting-edge 21st Century technology in order to be as close to carbon-neutral as possible. A whole house retrofit ensures that improvements are carried out in an organised, sensible order, with installations and refits complementing each other rather than working against each other. A retrofit also enables key issues such as air quality, damp management and ventilation to be managed appropriately. If you want to bring your home up-to-date with a series of enhancements which will mean it’s ready to face a low-energy future, a whole house retrofit could be exactly what you’re looking for.

Why is there a need for a retrofit approach?

Piecemeal improvements may work well but tend to be carried out in isolation, without consideration of the knock-on effects on whole house variables. For example, many homeowners will have had a chimney blocked off, or draughty wooden window frames replaced with modern PVC or PU options. Whilst these improvements will reduce heat loss, they may also have a knock-on effect on ventilation, causing an increased build-up in moisture. Without additional ventilation measures being taken, there’s a danger that humidity will rise to an unacceptable level, potentially increasing the risk of damp and mould.

Similarly, without expert input, it’s all too easy to spend on an improvement which doesn’t give optimal results. For example, a homeowner may decide to install solar panels, when actually they would enjoy a greater return on their investment through the installation of solid wall insulation.

It’s also the case that some measures may have an adverse effect on others if carried out in the wrong order: wall insulation, for example, may be disrupted if the windows are replaced at a later date. A retrofit plan takes account of these considerations, resulting in a logical, highly effective pathway towards an energy-efficient, well-ventilated home.

What stages are there in a whole house retrofit?

A retrofit has a number of different stages. In summary, these are:

1. Maintenance: before starting a programme of home improvements, it’s essential that a property is in good condition. We suggest that this needs to be a priority, before any innovation or added installations are commenced.
2. Consideration of moisture: as part of the retrofit, the passage of moisture through the home will be looked at, including areas where there are high moisture levels. From this information, a package of measures can be put together to ensure appropriate transfer of moisture to the exterior in an energy efficient manner.
3. Ventilation – closely connected with moisture control, adequate ventilation is crucial! Whilst older properties usually have a fair degree of natural ventilation (through draughts, air bricks, a chimney and porous materials), modern properties often require retro-fitting of specific ventilation measures in order to keep humidity at an acceptable level.
4. Materials audit: modern materials lack the porosity of older, more traditional options. Given the number of variables which influence material choice (including aesthetics, the building’s heritage and potential maintenance costs), a retrofit is an opportunity to review what materials are available and select those which best fit with the property.
5. Consideration of damp: damp may not just be due to poor insulation, it may also be due to water rising through the foundations or a long-standing leak. Part of the retrofitting process involves diagnosing the causes of leaks and putting in place remedial plans to repair them, as well as rectify any damage which damp has caused.
6. Bridging: because materials absorb heat at different rates, some parts of the home will allow warm air to escape quickly, whilst others will conserve warmth. The boundaries of these contrasting areas can cause problems when it comes to temperature maintenance.

All these measures are carried out within the context of the individual property. Older properties often need a different approach to homes built in the 1990s or later. For this reason, each plan is customised to the building it’s being written for.

What are the benefits of a whole-house retrofit?

Homeowners who invest in a whole-house retrofit can expect to enjoy:

– a property that complies fully with PAS 2035.
– an energy-efficient home.
– a home that’s in good repair.
– a home where damp is eliminated.
– a property with excellent ventilation which is also easy to temperature control.
– good air quality.
– a healthy home.

Is a whole house retrofit right for you?

If you’re considering opting for a whole house retrofit, it’s usually best to discuss it with a certified retrofitting company who will be able to provide you with the additional information you need to decide if it’s right for you and your home. Remember to opt for TrustMark holders that comply with PAS2035, the modern retrofit regulations which lay out what’s needed to conduct a retrofit successfully.