I’m a little new to the subject - I did one of carbon coop’s courses last year with Nick Parsons and it was very helpful, but I’m aware half a dozen zoom sessions don’t make a retrofitter. So: what books, courses, TV programmes and experiences have gone into your learning about retrofitting your house?
I took the AECB CarbonLite Retrofit course. You need to be a member of AECB to participate but membership is free to Carbon Co-op members.
The course is a combination of online learning, podcasts and self realisation. School maths and physics would also be useful. I have up to AS and A level.
Passing the course entitles you to get a job as a Retrofit Coordinator but as I have no building or engineering experience I doubt that any application would result in a job offer.
Edit: I’ve also read extensively about EnerPHit, which is my (unrealistic) target for my own home.
On a quest to reduce my household carbon footprint, I went to a Carbon Coop AGM, knowing practically nothing about them - I found myself volunteering to be a householder observer on the board.
Attending CC webinars and workshops, I listened and used what I did already know about our home - draughts, damp, leaky windows, draughty floor, boiling hot /freezing cold rooms , hardly any insulation, heat loss, solid wall construction - I gradually started to see where we should make do and mend and where we’d benefit from bigger more costly measures.
I think for any householder learning about retrofit, I soon realised there are few key areas that need to be applied and balanced in a building - airtightness, ventilation, draught-proofing, thermal bridging and insulating.
That the building fabric is first!!
Fabric First - ensures the layers you attach to are sound and prepared for your next layer. For us this was sorting out the non breathable liner in our roof causing a moisture problem, before fitting the solar PV.
Looking at the building fabric, we learned where we should insulate and draught proof.
Always, we were puzzling out how any change or addition to the fabric would be best done to pave the way forward for space heating and other energy source installations best suited to our home.
A great investment for us, was the retrofit survey with People Powered Retrofit. We found this really focused us and helped us understand even better the building, our needs and what / where we were best to start for the maximum impact.
Unfortunately, owing to Covid , our financial circumstances changed , so we weren’t able to stick to the plan in the retrofit survey.
However, we were able to focus on our needs and understand the best way forward for us.
Also, because of our changed circumstance we became eligible for a Green Grant and by the skin of our teeth we managed to get solar PV for our roof.
It has to be said …This forum is awesome
I learned all sorts on here. It’s the best and most active forum I have ever accessed, regularly referring back to threads knowing there was information to help me make better choices.
One main thing that will govern your decision making for insulating - Is your wall construction!!
Solid wall, usually pre 1920s - you’ll be looking at internal or external solid wall insulation.
If you have a cavity wall - it’ll be cavity wall insulation.
I’m telling you this, assuming you don’t know it … I had no clue when I started and soon discovered the build type governs some install choices.
Eg. We discovered we can’t have an efficient heat pump as we can’t afford the solid wall insulation, yet now we have solar we can have some electric storage radiators to use up the energy our new solar array produces - to make up for not having a battery.
However, we won’t remove the central heating yet because if an opportunity arises to have a heat pump it can be connected to the existing gas combi heating system, which already has the larger sized radiators needed for heat pumps.
Overall - my advice would be to get a retrofit survey to look at your options, learn about your building and continue to learn about retrofit here focus your best efforts from what you learn is your best starting point.
I think sorting out heat loss is always a good starter.
In our first winter, we simply put draught excluders on the doors, changed our curtain poles to tracks to stop heat loss at the top and changed the curtains to full length. This prevented a lot of heat loss and draughts. We also moved into our more temperate middle room.
The small pot of money we did have, we didn’t spend it, because we knew with so much to do in the house we’d need to consider very carefully how that money was spent as a priority.
It was a very good thing we did this , because it turned out that our roof needed the non breathable plastic felt replacing because of the moisture problem it was causing in the winter in the loft, soaking all our new wool insulation - the slates had to be removed to replace the liner. So it was a big job, but so lucky for us that we sorted this, as it then allowed us to get the solar PV at the same time.
To conclude, retrofit is a lot to learn and can be a complete headache when you have so much else on - yet overall it’s SO worthwhile and definitely - take your time!!
Wonderful answers both, thanks! I’ve looked at that course you mentioned, Tim, and am going to sign up for it. Suspect it’ll be worth its weight in gold.
Interesting about the survey, pottyone - I’ve had a couple done (heat loss and air tightness) and they’ve both been massively educational so far. Really led me down the rabbit hole. Glad to hear I’m sort of on the right track for it.
Funny you should mention the solid wall stuff - the survey I had done when I bought the house I’m moving to said it was solid walled. We took out the old boiler and, lo and behold, a cavity! We’re going to try to do both types of insulation now. Unclear if it is overkill but if energy bills go where some people are saying, it’ll still pay for itself in comically little time.
The mantra for building refit is “insulate, insulate, insulate”. Of course choice of insulation is equally important. Having written that, I would add that airtightness and controlled ventilation are in there too.
Aye, doing those too. Had an air tightness survey over the weekend. Got some work to do to go down from 6Pa to a target of 2, but it is all realistic to do with a bit of tape and sealant from ecomerchant (hallelujah)
That depends on where your gaps are and in what substrate. My go to airtightness product is Blowerproof, also from Ecomerchant. I’ve left links to Blowerproof all over the place and here is one again!
There are two versions of Blowerproof, not counting colour variations. The brush version linked to above bridges wider gaps than the spray version, as to make it sprayable they had to remove the reinforcing fibres.
Returning closer to the original topic, this may interest you.
long journey! Centre for Alternative Technology about 1980, did dissertation for professional housing exam, ecosystems shelters and societies, studies passive solar gain, trombe walls, did NHER qualification , looked at MKECI. Very theoretical, have done very little! Learnt about ecological orientation in Berlin 1990, ex foe coordinator
Have you had a chance to retrofit your own home yet Clive?
Odd bits! Back room with many external walls had internal insulation 30 years ago! Basically need a full reset!
Primary thing is being car free for 8 years and having an e cargo trike and a folding tadpole trike
I think this is the reality for everyone-,disjointed incrementalism, we all do what we can. This is why I understand cooperation to be key, we can together future map all of our lives and get access to the set of solutions we need. Heat networks and excellent cycling infrastructure fully integrated with rail becomes fundamental
This is how most properties get “improved” but a time often comes to bite the bullet, rip it all out and start again.
Think of all that wasted embedded carbon .
I am hard of hearing and recently had ear tests in a fully sound proofed suspended room in a room in a hospital. Is anyone designing highly insulated pods to insert in a room, possibly using thermos flask ideas for insulation? Would be built to fit together as needed in the room.
An iteration on the safe rooms? Warm rooms?
On the rip it all out and start again philosophy that does make sense! There are now may tiny home, factory built structures that could be craned into position on a prepared site. To spare heart attacks from planners, facades and roof and building lines can be kept!
I think Tim was suggesting a deep energy retrofit of an existing structure rather than demolishing the existing structure and replacing with a factory-built or other structure. Demolishing and replacing is generally thought less environmentally friendly than retrofitting these days I believe, given all the loss of up-front carbon emissions which demolition wastes.
anyone know where the sweet spot is on this, assuming a demolition process that maximises recycling and the new building to the highest standards with latest heat network idea and a fully inclusive transit oriented development?
And I was suggesting inserting an eco structure within the existing structure:-)