My terraced house is in Wolverton, an old railway town on the edge of Milton Keynes. It is a mid-terrace, built in 1905 and has two bedrooms. It has solid brick walls and suspended timber floors throughout the house, apart from in the kitchen. The house has its original wooden sash windows, front door and three open fire places. The house is in a Conservation Area which restricts what can be done to the front and sides of houses fronting a road.
Over the years I’ve lived in my house I’ve had a lot of work done by local trades people to make it more energy efficient and more comfortable to live in.
One of the first things I did after moving into my house in 2007 was increase the insulation in the loft above the main house and above my single storey kitchen to the currently recommended 270mm. Being fond of recycled materials and not keen on the itchiness of mineral wool insulation I bought loft insulation made from recycled plastic bottles from my local B&Q. They don’t seem to sell it anymore but Superloft Green is a similar product with a comparable thermal conductivity to mineral wool at 0.040 W/mK.
Loft insulation of the space above my bathroom didn’t happen until 2013 due to access issues. 340mm of loft insulation has now been installed. I haven’t been able to have the roof space above the sloping ceiling in the bathroom insulated due to concerns about condensation building up as a result of a non-breathable roofing felt having been installed some years ago. This difference in insulation levels was very apparent when I had some thermal imaging done of my house – the heat loss through the sloping ceiling was much higher than the rest.
My next step towards having a warmer house was to have my suspended timber floors insulated. This was done by local Wolverton installer Barry Sapwell of Sapwell’s Plumbing & Heating. He installed 200mm of mineral insulation under the floor boards using netting to keep it in place and avoid blocking the vents that allow air to flow under the floor.
Access was obtained by cutting a crawl hole through three floor boards in places that wouldn’t be visible underneath large pieces of furniture. Calculations done with the help of Knauf software showed that the U-value of the floor with the insulation would be 0.18W/m2 better than what is required by the Building Regulations of 0.25Wmsq or lower).
I have three open fire places in my house with very attractive surrounds installed by previous owners. I’d love to be able to install at least one log burning stove, but have been reluctant to rip out attractive features when other things have been more pressing on my budget. Only one of these fires is used on a regular basis, which is in the lounge. The other fireplaces are temporarily blocked with bags of newspaper and other materials.
Being very conscious of the draught from lounge fire when it was not in use I spent some time trying to find a chimney damper that could be used to block the flow of air when the chimney wasn’t in use. Luckily, a search of the internet found me Will Jones of The Chimney Damper Company who are based in Winslow, Bucks between Buckingham and Aylesbury. He was able to make a metal chimney damper for me that slides into place across the mouth of the chimney when the fire is not in use, cutting down draughts considerably.
I was fortunate that my terraced house still had the original sashed windows and that these had been well maintained and draught-proofed with brushes before I moved in. Still I was troubled by the potential for heat loss through the single glazing and the amount of condensation that would collect on them on cold days.
As I didn’t want to lose the original windows – and probably wouldn’t have got planning permission to change them anyway – I opted to have all the windows apart from two very small ones at the back secondary glazed. These were custom made for me from perspex by a local installer (unfortunately no longer undertaking this kind of work) and are held in place with strong magnetic strips. They have been very effective at stopping condensation and have had the added bonus of providing some sound insulation. The only downside is that they are quite heavy and make it more of an effort to open and close the windows.
Since moving to my house I’ve also had some renovations done to by sash windows, mostly repairing a leak that appeared in the bathroom window and replacing missing sash cords. This work I had done by Shaun Barrass & Sons who specialise in the repair and refurbishment of sash windows.
When I moved into my house it had an old Worcester boiler, situated in an adjoining (unheated) outhouse. This boiler had an efficiency of less than 80% and would come on whenever we had particularly frosty weather, no matter what the programmer was set to. I found this particularly annoying as night. I therefore took the decision to have a new boiler fitted, this time within the heated part of the house. In March 2012 I had a Baxi DuoTec 2 combi: 28GA boiler fitted by Tim Inchley Plumbing and Heating, a Wolverton based Plumbing and Heating Engineer. This boiler has a seasonal efficiency of 89%.
At the same time I had TRVs fitted on all the radiators and a new wireless Honeywell thermostat and programmer which I can move anywhere in the house.
For more information on my decision to replace the boiler, please see this YouTube clip:
As a former E-ON customer I had gas and electricity Smart Meters fitted as part of a trial being run by them in July 2008. At the same I was also given Energy Display Unit which uses a traffic light system to indicate how much electricity is being used in the house at any one time. It can also display how much electricity and gas has been used in the house over the previous 24 hours, 7 and 28 days and over the course of the last year. It can also give me my current electricity and gas meter readings. I have found this to be a very useful device.
In order to keep a track of my energy use over time I have been recording my meter readings on the Carbon Account website. This has provided me with valuable insights into my carbon footprint, not just from the house, but from transport too. It is frightening to see what a large impact taking a flight anywhere can have.
The improvements that I have made to my house to date have reduced my annual consumption of gas by approximately 4,000kWh – or between a quarter and a fifth of my annual heating bill. I’ve really noticed the benefits in terms of improved comfort and reduced heating costs.