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How Much Money is Wasted on Bills Due to Poor Insulation?

The energy crisis has recently spotlighted the efficiency of homes across the UK. A significant investigation conducted by EDF in association with property data specialist Sprift has unveiled some startling facts about the state of British homes and their insulation, or the lack thereof.

The study, which examined a staggering 25 million homes, revealed that 55% only met the insulation standards set in 1976 or earlier. This means that more than half of the homes in the UK are not sufficiently insulated against the elements, leading to substantial heat loss through walls, lofts, and floors, as well as outdated double-glazing.

This isn’t just about comfort during the chilly winter months; it’s also about the financial impact on homeowners and renters alike. Poorly insulated homes require more energy to heat, which translates directly into higher energy bills.

The cost of inadequate insulation

The study provides some eye-opening statistics on the potential savings achieved with proper insulation. For instance, the average semi-detached home could save up to £235 annually by upgrading cavity walls, and an additional £225 could be saved with improved loft insulation. Furthermore, bills could be slashed by as much as £315 per year with upgrades to solid wall insulation.

Despite these potential savings, the research indicates a slow uptake in insulation improvements. Only 18% of properties have insulation from 2002 or newer, a modest increase from 8% in 2022. This slow progression suggests significant inertia in making homes more energy-efficient.

The EDF study also looked at homeowners’ and renters’ actions, finding that only 20% had made updates to improve energy efficiency since 2022. This low figure is surprising, especially given the ongoing energy crisis and the rising cost of living. According to Philippe Commaret, Managing Director for customers at EDF, “It’s clear from this research that, despite the energy crisis, little progress has been made in improving the energy efficiency of older British homes in the past two years – meaning millions of homeowners are missing out on significant savings on their energy bills.”

What can be done?

The findings of this study are a call to action for both property owners and policymakers. For homeowners, the message is clear: upgrading insulation makes your home more comfortable and cost-effective in the long run. For the government and local authorities, there’s a pressing need to facilitate and perhaps incentivise these upgrades to meet modern insulation standards, which could significantly impact the nation’s energy consumption and environmental footprint.

Upgrading your insulation

The first step in upgrading your insulation is thoroughly assessing your existing insulation. This can be done by hiring a professional energy auditor to inspect your loft, walls, floors, and windows for any signs of inadequate insulation or energy leaks. They can use infrared cameras to detect heat loss areas, typically around windows, doors, and other drafty spots. Understanding where your home is losing heat helps you prioritise the most impactful upgrades.

Once you know where your home needs more insulation, the next step is choosing the right type. Insulation materials vary, each suited for different areas of your home:

  • Loft Insulation: Thick fibreglass batts or mineral wool rolls can be laid between the joists in your loft. This is a relatively easy DIY project if access is straightforward and there are no damp issues.
  • Cavity Wall Insulation: If your home has cavity walls, injecting insulation material like polystyrene beads or foam into the cavity is effective. This usually needs to be done by a professional.
  • Solid Wall Insulation: External or internal wall insulation is an option for homes with solid walls. External insulation involves fixing a layer of insulation material to the outside walls and covering it with render or cladding. Internal insulation, although potentially reducing the size of your rooms slightly, can be fitted by installing insulated plasterboards on the inside walls.
  • Floor Insulation: Insulating under the floorboards on the ground floor can save you substantial energy bills. This might involve lifting the floorboards and laying mineral wool insulation supported by netting between the joists.
Costs of solid wall insulation

Solid wall insulation is the most expensive option but has the most significant impact. This table demonstrates ballpark figures for insulating average UK houses. The costs can vary dramatically depending on what types of insulation boards and render you use.

Type of home Size (sqm) Bedrooms Cost Savings Payback
Detached 147 4 £15,000 – £20,000 £1,000 20 years
Semi-detached 96 3 £8,000 – £10,000 £700 15 years
Mid-terraced 64-100 2-3 £6,000 – £8,000 £500 – £700 12-15 years
Bungalow 77 1-2 £6,000 – £8,000 £700 12-15 years
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