Why Older Homes are less Energy Efficient

Older houses are much less energy efficient and less comfortable than modern, energy efficient homes….

As a general rule it costs about 3 times as much to heat a 1980’s house as opposed to an energy efficient modern house. Even then they are still draughty and miserable.  The good news is that any older home can be improved to be as good as an energy efficient modern home, through Deep Retrofit. So don’t be afraid to buy an older home, but do make yourself aware of what you need to do to improve it, and what this will cost before committing to a purchase. To understand the potential of that run down old house you should first of all get an understanding of the many reasons why older homes are not energy efficient:

Insulation – and the lack of it …

This is the major problem in older homes. Heat is generated, put into our homes … and it immediately escapes, so we need to generate more heat, and so on and so on …

In order to be more energy-efficient, our homes need be insulated in three different areas – the external walls, the ground floor and roof/attic. By and large the levels of insulation in older houses is hopelessly inadequate or worse still it is non-existent . Many of these older homes have no wall insulation at all. Homes that do have it are insulated to a very poor standard. Newer homes may be insulated, but unfortunately also to a very low level. This is often poorly installed, meaning they are far from being energy efficient. These houses are often insulated within the cavity between 2 skins of blockwork external walls. The major problem with this cavity wall insulation is that it was installed during the build by block-layers. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any consideration about the home owners’ future comfort or about making the home energy efficient. When you think about it, getting a block-layer to insulate your house ‘while he’s at it, laying blocks’ is no way to insulate a house. Yet, this is the way it has been done for years. This photo shows poorly installed cavity wall insulation installed by block-layers. We uncovered this on a recent renovation. This standard of workmanship is typical rather than unusual.

Poor Insulation

Poorly installed insulation

 

No insulation underneath the ground floor is another problem which makes older homes less energy efficient. Particularly in relation to houses with suspended timber ground floors. On average 7 – 10% of heat escapes through an uninsulated floor, but worse still, coldness enters our homes through the floor and draughts whip up through unsealed floor boards. No wonder it’s cold and less energy efficient in a house with nothing at all between you and the cold earth beneath. In an era of rising fuel costs and awareness, it is hard to believe that so many people still live in homes like this in the year 2015! This ground floor arrangement is common place and people don’t realise just how bad it is – carpet covers a multitude. Take a look at the photo here to see a before and after in one of our recent renovations. This situation occurred in a beautiful Victorian house in South Dublin. No wonder the house was so draughty!

Original Floor showing no insulation               No Insulation                          

  Insulated floor part of energy efficient upgrade worksAfter – Insulation installed between joists              

 

With regard to attic insulation, the acceptable thickness for attic insulation just 10 years ago was 100mm. Today, the minimum is 300mm thickness. Unless you’ve had your insulation upgraded in the last few years, chances are you are living under a couple of inches of ill-fitting attic insulation, which renders your home less energy efficient. As approximately 30% of the heat in a home escapes through the roof, attic insulation is of utmost importance. To make matters worse, the typical old ‘attic hatch’ is a weak point too, as it allows heat to escape and draughts to flow in. Sometimes these even ‘flap in the wind’ on a windy night. Replace this with an insulated draught-proof attic door to make your home more energy efficient.

 

Old windows & doors … heat escaping and draughts getting in.

Rattly old windows and doors are another very common feature of older, less energy efficient houses. Even relatively ‘modern’ windows have poor U-values and draught seals compared to good quality, modern ones. The U-Value of a window represents the degree to which a window retains heat, so the lower the U-Value, the better the window. Approx 15% of heat escapes through bad quality windows and doors. Install energy efficient windows with a uValue of 1.0 or less to fix this problem.

 

Old appliances and lighting

Believe it or not, the energy required to light an older home can be 80% higher than lighting a modern home with energy efficient lights. All you have to do is replace incandescent bulbs with energy efficient LED lighting to save up to 80% of the cost of lighting your home. Also, the ambiance and atmosphere of your home can be greatly enhanced with the clever use of bulb and lamp types. Likewise, by replacing household appliances with new, energy-efficient A or B rated ones, running costs can be reduced by 50%.

 

Open fires … money up the chimney!

Open fires are the norm in an older home, and very often there are several. They are not energy efficient and are a significant cause of draught. Open fires can be as low as 15% efficient, meaning that 85% of the heat generated is lost up the chimney! A stove, in comparison is more than 80% energy efficient. A stove will also help to eliminate draughts as it will seal in the chimney flue, thus minimising ‘up draught’ which draws draughts into your home. A ‘room sealed’ stove will completely eliminate ‘up-draught’.

 

Inefficient Heating Systems

Old boilers are not energy efficient. Typically, just 65% or less of the energy in the oil burned in an older boiler is transferred into heat in the house. This means that 35% of energy purchased in the form of fuel is just wasted. Or, 35c in every Euro spent is wasted. By comparison, modern condensing boilers are 95% energy efficient, meaning that 95% of the energy is converted into heat in your home.

To make matters worse older homes tend not to have ‘heating controls’ so there is only one heating circuit for the whole house, making a typical older home less energy-efficient. This means that the whole house is heated even if just part of the house is in use. Installing heating controls reduces the amount of heat used in the home, which in turn saves money. By choosing to heat only the rooms/floor levels you are actually using and by using a thermostat to control the temperature, you can save money on heating bills and use energy more energy efficient way.

The solution to all of these inadequacies lies in ‘Deep Retrofit’, the complete upgrade of the fabric of your building.

And the easiest way to make your home more energy efficient is to procure that Deep Retrofit by RENOVA – a reputable custom home retrofit and renovations company that will oversee the whole project from start to finish and ease any stresses along the way! So go ahead and buy that house, just make sure you speak to RENOVA first.

 

Click here to download our RENOVA brochure.

 

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The RENOVA Showroom

 

Web: www.renova.ie

Tel: 01 2021122

Email: info@renova.ie