Getting a retrofit right...the learning journey

Sorry - this post isn’t complete - I tried to save it and it has posted instead!! I’m still working on it - this is first draft!! feel free to read anyway !

We’ve lived in our home for 3 years now and thought we’d had plenty of opportunity to understand the building and our needs enough to be able to have our retrofit well under way now. A pandemic and the complexities of retrofit have shown us otherwise.

In taking our time, we’ve learned some very valuable lessons along the way. Avoided making some very costly mistakes and despite the lengthy processes, we are very grateful to understand that GETTING IT RIGHT is essential to fit with our home, needs and financial budget as well as trying to limit our carbon consumption and consider the longevity of any materials and measures.
We really have chopped and changed about where to start, how and why.

Being a member of Carbon Coop we attended workshops and learned so much about insulation, ventilation and home energy systems, the importance of building contracts - we procured a home energy planner retrofit survey, applied for the green grant for a heat pump , as well as reading an awful lot on the internet about heritage homes, sustainable building materials, building construction, damp causes…and the list goes on!!

I can’t lie when I say that at times it has become a huge source of stress and frustration, yet we’re mindful of how our family were hit by Covid and I know our stress levels around retrofit have been magnified by our own personal circumstances too.

The lessons have been many - so we decided to share our journey so far - we hope it will help others.

  • Our needs - weighing up our situation alongside that of the planet, we have very much realized and stripped back to our true human needs, wanting to achieve a more practical and sustainable level of comfort.

  • Number 1 - Let’s Insulate the loft - that’s easy right? - Insulating our loft did not turn out to be as easy as we thought - it turned out we had a ventilation and moisture problem, as well as air leakage which was creating a condensation problem during the cold months. Most of this is sorted now, but we had to take advice and with hindsight we would definitely have changed our approach to insulating the loft if we had known about the existing problems. We’d have invested in advice first . We haven’t lost any money, but we will have to invest a lot more time up in the loft pulling insulation back while we work on air tightness measures and possibly get the roof vented.

Our retrofit survey through PPR
After the problems in the loft, we felt we needed help with our retrofit. Insulating the loft had flagged up the complexities of insulation and having a fairly good understanding of this, we knew that getting a home energy report would help us.

  • Green Grant - solar or heat pump -solar was our first choice, but we decided against this as we learned the roof might need attention first. Then we applied for a heat pump through the LADS scheme. After a survey and some emails, it seemed we were eligible for a heat pump . A heat pump surveyor came out and said we couldn’t have one because we didn’t have wall insulation. This process took from spring through to September. It was incredibly frustrating, as we’d held off on other retrofit improvements to accommodate the grant scheme. Having learned about heat pumps and sizing, we we were reminded of the CC teachings about a fabric first approach and started to rethink some more about wall insulation.

Can we retrofit just the main living area in the house - Mini retrofit ?
Deciding upon internal wall insulation (yet understanding the disruption) we wondered about a mini retrofit where we created a couple of thermal envelope rooms in the main living area of the house (kitchen and living room).

  • It’s not just retrofit - it’s helping our planet - This has become the main driver for change. So far this has included growing and storing some of our own food, rethinking how we consume, wearing jumpers, using wool blankets in the lounge , swapping rooms to live in the more temperate part of the house , shopping locally, walking , cycling and using public transport etc. These are changes we have found we can make alongside planning our retrofit.
    Another post would be required to list all the other non retrofit changes we have made - but most importantly it is small changes over time and overall it is a move away from convenience and back towards a life style that is naturally more healthful and reduces our carbon footprint.