Daily Telegraph Reports on Green Deal Guinea Pigs

12th July, 2012

Andy Batey and his family live in a Fifties semi-detached house in Longstanton, just north of Cambridge. This year, despite the soaring price of gas, his heating costs have halved, although his home is as warm as ever. In autumn 2011, Andy and 12 other families living in his street volunteered to be “guinea pigs” in a pilot project to see if large-scale retrofit projects might work under the Government’s Green Deal initiative, and early fuel bill results are already showing a marked reduction in usage and costs. Measures included upgrading loft insulation; insulating loft hatch and loft storage boards; upgrading cavity wall insulation; installing flue gas heat recovery in boilers; and external wall insulation.

The Green Deal policy starts in October, and the Government hopes it will encourage home owners to take out loans to improve the energy efficiency of their properties . Surveys have revealed that owners are wary of this , particularly about borrowing during a time of national indebtedness, and the fear that “cowboys” will rip off the unwary, or produce shoddy work that may damage homes; solar-panel “cowboys” are the target of a campaign launched in March by Yougen (yougen.co.uk), a solar-panel user pressure group.

While the Longstanton experience has been positive, it has also shown to Andy that householders need more protection than the Government has identified.“We didn’t have any problems with installers, nor did we have trouble understanding what recommended materials were for, even the most hi-tech ones . But that’s because everything was overseen by an architectural firm that specialises in eco materials, so we never felt uninformed or helpless.”

Andrew Mellor, partner at PRP Architects (prparchitects.co.uk), the firm behind the Longstanton project, says some improvements were fairly simple: “Some, such as insulating and draught-proofing loft hatches, are relatively straightforward and could be done by home owners themselves. You can now buy insulated loft storage boards that click together in a tongue-and-groove system from DIY stores.”

Thermal imaging of the project homes’ walls showed that old cavity wall insulation had been poorly installed and was made of urea formaldehyde, which is no longer used. “We removed the old cavity insulation and replaced it with the most advanced type of polystyrene beads, which are better than blown fibre as they don’t compact down, leaving cold spots. We also installed a new kind of cavity insulation that captures heat escaping the house and feeds it back in via the ventilation system, thus improving both indoor air quality and energy efficiency.”

A flue gas heat recovery unit sits on top of boilers, capturing heat escaping via their flues, and returning it to the system. “It costs £600 and should be installed at the time of the new condensing boiler,” he says. “It turns a boiler which is 92-94 per cent efficient into a 97 per cent efficient one.”

For the full story in The Daily Telegraph visit: www.telegraph.co.uk/property/greenproperty

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