loft_install

Like most things in our homes we get something fitted and then forget about it until something goes wrong, but should we be checking insulation on a regular basis? Unlike many appliances or home repairs, insulation is not noticeable as it is hidden away inside the loft or the walls, and we often don’t realise the signs of when our insulation is failing us.

 

Signs of insulation issues

Some of the signs that can indicate an issue with your insulation are heat loss changes, damp or condensation. This can be caused by the deterioration of old insulation material, exposure to damp, inadequate ventilation, gaps in the insulation, or debris in the cavity. As a result, it can cause cold spots in your house and damp patches can form on walls or ceilings.
Loft insulation can also deteriorate if it becomes damp or dusty as it can prevent the material from acting as insulation and it can cause it to degrade. It can also naturally compact over time which will impact its effectiveness.

 

External factors

If you have any work done on your property where the insulation is then it might be worth having the insulation checked for damage or potential issues before they arise.
Wall insulation should be checked when you have any work done that involves drilling through the entire wall or removing bricks; fittings to the wall do not count unless it is being fixed to solid wall insulation where special fittings should be used so that it is fixed to the wall and not just the insulation. Checks should be done to see if any of the insulation has been moved or removed as a cold spot could be left. Solid wall insulation needs to be checked in case the insulation material is exposed which can cause damp to get into the material.

Loft insulation can be moved or damaged whilst work is being completed in the loft so if you have any significant work done in your loft, such as roof repairs, pipes or electrical work then it might be worth having the insulation checked in case it needs relaying correctly or replacing to ensure maximum effectiveness and adequate ventilation.

 

Infestations

If you are unfortunate that your loft gets a family of mice moving into it, then the insulation will make a nice warm home for them. Once the infestation has gone and their access to the loft is resolved, you should have your insulation checked as the material is likely to have been removed or damaged.

 

Who should check it?

You can do some basic visual checks on the loft insulation yourself and you can also check if you have the recommended 270mm of insulation, but you are best to call out a qualified and registered installer who can do a more thorough check, we can help you find a local installer. If the issue is related to the material or the workmanship, the installer can help you contact the relevant party to follow up on warranties or guarantees that could help with the cost of repairs.

Warming and relaxing near fireplace.

While it is true that energy companies have been offering free insulation for the last few years, there are still many offers out there to be had. The energy companies have not yet reached all of the customers they are committed to reaching and therefore they still work hard to encourage take-up. You can still take advantage and get insulation that could save you upwards of £100 a year on your energy and heating bills.

These insulation schemes are offered as part of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme and are part of the government’s way of ensuring that the energy companies give something back to their most vulnerable customers.

If you choose both cavity wall and loft insulation, you could save as much as £450 off your energy bills each year, making it well worth searching out the free deals that are available. There are often certain eligibility criteria for these deals and it is important to ensure that this type of insulation is right for you home but this could be a £600 service for free.

 

Current schemes include the following:

 

Eon and Npower

This free insulation scheme is available to everyone (not just their customers) and not just those on benefits if you ask for wall cavity insulation. But those on benefits can get loft insulation on its own if they wish.

EDF

Customers can apply for wall cavity or loft insulation whether you are on benefits or not. This scheme is open to all and for all insulation types.

SSE

This scheme applies only to those on certain benefits, but does apply to either loft or cavity wall, or both.

 

What if I don’t qualify?

While this might seem unlikely according to the above, there may be situations where energy companies cannot help you. In this case you can use the DIY route to install insulation in your loft yourself. This is relatively straight forward and should only cost around £150.

If you want wall cavity insulation, you should always get an expert in to assess your home to ensure it will not be damaged by this type of insulation, Additionally homes built before 1920 are unlikely to qualify as the walls do not have a cavity. Bear this in mind before you accept a quote. Always check the accreditation of your installer before you go ahead.

Solar panel on a roof and wind turbins arround

Over recent years solar PV has become increasingly popular for homeowners, businesses, and energy generators due to falling PV costs and greater understanding of the technology. Even in the UK climate, solar energy is a great way to generate electricity. With the support from government schemes in both the UK and Germany, PV installations have soared which has aided the falling costs.

 

Financially how does PV stack up?

The surge in popularity of solar PV has led to many advancements and lower production costs for the system parts of around 40%. When this is coupled with the UK Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) scheme where homeowners receive an income for every kWh of electricity generated as well as an export fee. This has resulted in reduced payback period which can be as little as 12 years, for example, a system could cost £5,000, and could generate £250 FiT income, and £135 bill savings per year. These energy savings could be higher if you use more of the electricity that you generate during the day.

 

Looking towards 2018 and beyond

The cost of solar PV is likely to continue decline due to increased competition and further production efficiencies.

The government cut financial support for solar PV through the FiT by 65% in January 2016 as a result of the dramatic cost reduction in solar PV. They have also put mechanisms in place to enable further degression of the FiT if PV costs continue to fall. The government maintains its backing for renewable energy, as seen in the Clean Growth Strategy, although they have expressed that they want PV to start paying for itself in the commercial sector and have proposed no subsidies. This may also impact on the future of the FiT.

However, if you decide to invest in solar PV then the FiT at the time of installation of the system will be guaranteed for 20 years and linked to inflation. Also, any cuts to the FiT will be given advanced notice so there is time to install before the reduction or re-evaluate whether to proceed.

Much of Europe and the rest of the world are seeing renewable energy as the way forward to reduce carbon emissions and the cost of electricity production in the future. As a result, there is a lot of investment, including from the UK government, into advancements in renewable energy technology to reduce their costs and increase their efficiency; of which the PV industry will benefit and we should see further increased panel efficiency.

Advancements are also being made in energy storage with investment being made to speed up its development. Energy storage advancements will not only help the national grid manage fluctuations in energy generation and demand but it will also benefit homeowners with solar PV as they will be able to store the electricity they generate instead of exporting it to the grid, which will increase the savings on energy bills.

 

Considerations for purchasing PV

Firstly, if you want to take advantage of the FiT then you may need to make certain energy efficiency improvements to your property before installing your system, as you are required to have an EPC rating of D or above. However, it makes sense to invest in home energy efficiency measures as it will reduce your energy bills. Take a look at our guidance on loft and wall insulation to see what is suitable for your property if you haven’t already had them installed.

The location of your solar PV panels is essential in ensuring maximum gain, panels should ideally be south-facing but there are many other orientations that are viable for good levels of energy generation. They shouldn’t be located where they would be shaded or obstructed from getting sufficient UV exposure.
When selecting a solar PV system it is worth doing some research to find what panels offer the best efficiency and lifespan to ensure you get the maximum energy generation for your investment.

Once installed PV systems need little maintenance but it is worth factoring in the additional cost of a replacement inverter as they often need replacing during the lifespan of the system as warranties are for 10-15 years. It is also worth regularly checking the output to catch any reductions that indicate could issue with the system.

 

How to find an installer

When you are looking for an installer you need to find one that is MCS accredited for solar PV installations. It is also worth investigating which panels they install, their system costs, and reviews on their workmanship. To help owners to find the right installer we have a list of accredited and reputable installers.

So, if you haven’t got PV panels adorning your roof, is it time to seriously consider investing in them? Solar PV is no longer just an environmentalist’s household accessory but something that savvy homeowners across the country are adopting to reduce energy bills and generate an income.

Builder Fitting Insulation Into Roof Of New Home

Did you know that if you insulate your home you could benefit from a warmer home and save money on your energy bills? According to the Energy Saving Trust, loft insulation could save £10-225 per year, cavity wall insulation could save £70-225 per year, or solid wall insulation could save £120-425 per year, the savings will vary depending on your property.
Some households may be eligible for free insulation if someone living in the property is in receipt of certain benefits as there are grants available to cover or contribute to the cost of insulation. Use our home insulation grant checker to see if you are eligible.

Loft insulation

If you haven’t been in your loft for a while it might be worth having a quick look to see how much insulation is in there. If it’s less than 100mm of insulation you should consider getting it topped up as the current recommended level is 270mm. You can install loft insulation yourself but this is not advisable due to the health and safety risks which include ensuring that any electrical wiring is safe and that there is adequate ventilation to prevent condensation. We can help you find a local installer who can assess your needs and install the most appropriate insulation safely with an industry-backed guarantee.
If your loft has been boarded out then you may have insulation underneath the boards, and unless you want to remove all the boards then your loft won’t be able to be insulated.

Wall insulation

There are many types of wall insulation which cater for different wall types. A lot of UK properties built after 1932 are cavity wall construction and therefore are able to be filled with insulation. Cavity wall insulation is installed by drilling a hole in the wall between the bricks and blowing the insulation material into the cavity. Properties that were built after 1990 are likely to have been built with insulation in the walls.

Solid wall and non-standard construction properties are generally unable to be filled with insulation but they can still be insulated either internally or externally. Internal insulation is a very intrusive form of insulation as it requires moving all fittings on the externally facing walls in order to apply insulation boards and material, which also reduces the size of the room. External insulation is less intrusive but involves layering insulation boards and render to the outside of the property. This doesn’t only insulate your property but gives it a facelift too. There are many decorative finishes available such as classic render, pebbledash, and brick effect. External insulation does require permission as well as building control sign off after completion.

Checking for suitability

It is important that you get professional advice about whether your property is suitable for insulation and that you seek any permissions that are required before work commences. Wall insulation inspections can involve inserting a borescope into the wall to check for any issues or existing insulation. We can help you find a local installer who is a qualified installer who is registered with the NIA, CIGA, or BBA that can check your walls and install the most appropriate insulation. They will also provide you with an industry-backed guarantee (CIGA for cavity wall and SWIGA for solid wall insulation).

Checking insulation quality

Once insulation has been installed it is advisable to have the insulation checked by a qualified and registered professional (as per above), especially if you are experiencing issues with heat loss, damp, or condensation. The causes of these could be due to deterioration of old insulation material, inadequate ventilation, gaps in the insulation, or debris in the cavity. If you require your insulation checking, let us help you find a local installer who can investigate the issue and check on any guarantees to help with the cost of repairs.
With so many insulation options open to you and the potential savings that you can make, it’s worth investigating what can be done to make your home warmer and cheaper to run especially with rising energy bills. Enter your details into our home insulation grant checker to see if you are eligible for any help with the costs and to find a local installer.

Gas boiler servicing or repearing concept. Toolbox with tools

A problematic boiler can be troublesome at the very least and create family chaos at worst. There’s a range of issues which can affect one and whilst it’s always wise to reach out to a professional if you aren’t sure what to do or if it includes work such as electrics, there can be occasions where a little DIY knowledge will solve the problem.
Boiler issues DIY guide

  • Boiler pressure too low

On the front of the boiler you’ll find a water pressure indicator display dial. If the reading is less than 1, you have low pressure. Turn off your boiler and locate the filling loop underneath it. Open the boiler valve and listen – you will hear the system filling with water. At the same time, watch the dial and when it reaches 1.5, close the valve and turn the boiler back on.

  • Bleed radiators

Cold radiators may mean trapped air in the system rather than a boiler problem. Use a radiator key on the valve and very slowly turn anti-clockwise. There’ll be a hissing noise which is the air leaving the system – as soon as this stops, tighten the valve with the key.

  • System reset or pilot light relight

Have a look in the boiler manual for where the reset button is located and press as guided – often for 10 seconds. Boilers before 2004 usually have a pilot light so if it’s gone out, follow your user manual instructions to try to relight it.

 

Problems where you need to call a qualified engineer

If the quick fixes don’t work, you’re not confident enough to do the job yourself or it’s another issue, speak to a qualified boiler engineer. It’s certainly time to speak to a professional if you are experiencing any of these nasty niggles.

  • Boiler leaks or is dripping

There’s a number of reasons this can happen; pressure issues, damage to the water seals or maybe cracks due to age and use. If this is happening, only a qualified engineer can help and you should call for assistance.

  • Pilot light repeatedly goes out

If a pilot light doesn’t stay lit after following the instructions in the manual, it could be because there’s dirt in the line, a damaged thermocouple or an ignition part which needs replacing. These are all jobs for a qualified professional as they will need to run tests and inspect the parts inside.

  • No heating or hot water

Perhaps one of the first reasons you’ll know there’s a problem; a cold bath and the radiators refuse to warm even if you’ve bled them. A complete loss of both heating and hot water could be due to a variety of issues such as a broken airlock or perhaps a valve which has failed. Whilst perhaps it may turn out to be something simple, only an engineer should do the work.

  • Knocking or banging

A noisy boiler can sound scary but with the help of an engineer it can quickly be sorted. You’ll probably think that the boiler sounds like a kettle boiling and the term used is ‘kettling’. The issues include air in the system, sludge and limescale which has formed over time and a knocking sound could indicate a failing pump.
Even if you have your boiler serviced regularly, a break down can happen at any time. With winter approaching, nobody wants to feel the chill so keep your user manual somewhere handy and know who to contact if trouble strikes.