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Improving loft insulation: “a no-brainer”

I was pleased to see that in their recently published Climate Strategy, South Cambs will be enforcing the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard on rented homes.  This makes it an offence for landlords to rent out properties with a dreadful Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of F&G, unless they have registered with the Council for an exemption and have spent at least £3500 making them as efficient as possible.

I wrote about this in October, and shortly afterwards an EPC assessor contacted me to say that what really annoyed him wasn’t the relatively small number of dreadful homes with EPC F&G, but the homes that he’d assessed that had a pretty ordinary EPC but yet had virtually no loft insulation.

To investigate, I downloaded the dataset of all 35,000 EPCs registered in Cambridge City over the last 10 years.  After much wrestling with some giant spreadsheets, this revealed the shocking truth: 12% of the Cambridge homes with registered EPC’s have no more than a token 25mm of loft insulation: less than 1/10th the recommended 270mm.  Most of these homes have an EPC of D or E, so they aren’t slums. Many are owner-occupied. And the situation hasn’t improved in 10 years.

This is ridiculous because loft insulation is so cost effective and the benefits are so clear: It keeps the home cooler in summer and warmer in winter, both of which are important for health (and for helping us resist Covid-19). It reduces our energy use, so helps fight climate change.

And it’s an incredibly good investment. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that installing 270mm of loft insulation in a typical mid terraced home would cost just £285, save £130pa and last at least 30 years. That’s equivalent to getting a guaranteed interest rate of 45% pa on an investment!

Even better, a wide range of people who are vulnerable or who have recently been on benefits (which currently includes Universal Credit) can have it done for free.

The thought of sorting out the clutter in the loft can be daunting. However, it is often not as bad as you think, because the installers can shuffle things around while they work, particularly if at the same time they install one of the neat systems to give you a boarded floor above the insulation.

For anyone who is likely to be working from home this winter, who has been unfortunate enough to be laid off, or who has vulnerable friends or family, I strongly recommend checking out the loft insulation.  If you see anything less than 150mm, talk to some installers about getting it topped up and whether you’re eligible for a grant. Or if you’re an experienced diy-er, google for guidance, for example  here  and here and just do it.

Anne Miller