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Why we take a whole house approach to home retrofit

Research has shown that taking a whole house approach is one of the key factors in ensuring that home retrofit is as effective as possible at reducing the carbon footprint of a property.

Whole house retrofit means that we are aiming to take a property to near net-zero energy demand in one step – although this could be across multiple ‘phases’ of work. This likely includes multiple measures or pieces of retrofit work.

Why is the whole house approach the best approach?

There are two main reasons that the whole house approach to home retrofit makes the most sense.

It’s pointless having an efficient boiler

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When we think of energy efficiency in the home, we probably think of our boilers as the key factor. Given that heating accounts for 60% of an average energy bill, that’s no surprise. But there’s absolutely no point in upgrading to an efficient boiler if you are not addressing other elements of the home.

The real problem is that most of that money which we spend on heating is going towards wasted energy – heat lost through issues with the fabric of the house itself. This is usually about windows which are single-glazed, doors which have gaps around the edges, and uninsulated floors, roofs, and walls. All of these mean that heat is lost from our homes.

So, whilst having an efficient boiler is good, if you also have these building fabric issues then you’re simply paying for heat that immediately leaves your home and dissipates into the surrounding air – and doing nothing to address your carbon emissions at the same time.

The patchwork effect of single measures

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We find that many homeowners will address a single energy efficiency problem in their home at one time. It may be that their boiler is having problems, and so they replace it with a newer model. Or maybe they are getting a damp patch on the wall of one room, so they get that looked at. Perhaps they have a chimney which is allowing cold air into the home in winter and needs to be blocked up.

These are all things which do need to be addressed. But when we address them in a standalone way, we are not truly improving the energy efficiency of our homes.

To be truly energy efficient, a home must be working together in a cohesive way.

We often see homes which have a patchwork effect of measures because of this approach of fixing a single problem when it arises – it may even be that the home has been owned by several homeowners over the years who have unknowingly added to this patchwork effect. It’s very likely that this will cause you problems down the line.

Let’s take that chimney as an example. If you block up a draughty chimney, you are preventing heat loss through that route. However, if you are not considering all other factors in that room then you may find yourself with a lack of ventilation which means that later in the year you start finding patches of damp and mould in the room. Even if you’re hiring a building professional to do the work, the likelihood is that they’re an expert in that one element of work, and may not realise that there will be problems with ventilation.

This is why it’s crucial that we address homes as a whole, cohesive project, with someone who has the full view of the home to ensure that energy efficiency issues are addressed in a holistic manner. This is why we always have a Retrofit Coordinator managing our home retrofit projects.

How does this fit into the Cosy Homes Oxfordshire service?

We’ve put this research on whole house retrofit at the heart of our service at Cosy Homes Oxfordshire from the very beginning, to ensure we’re working in the right way for our planet. Our expert team are at the forefront of conversations about whole house retrofit in the UK, so you can be sure you’re in safe hands.

Our whole service is built around a whole house approach. The first step is for one of our Retrofit Assessors (or sometimes a Retrofit Coordinator, depending on availability) will come and assess your whole house to find out everything we need to know about your existing energy usage and the building itself.

Your dedicated Retrofit Coordinator will then use this information to develop your bespoke Whole House Plan, detailing all the measures you could take to make your home as energy efficient as possible as a whole, with recommendations on the most cost-effective and impactful measures to take forward.

It’s then up to you to choose which measures you go ahead with, but your Retrofit Coordinator will always be on hand to make recommendations, highlight any issues with the measures you choose, and make sure things are done in the right order. They also manage the delivery of the work, finding trusted contractors, managing health and safety onsite, and checking the quality of delivery once complete.

All of this means that if you’re looking to explore home retrofit with this whole house approach in mind, then Cosy Homes Oxfordshire is the right route for you and we’d recommend you go ahead and register your home with us to get started.

If you’re looking to address a single issue or install an individual energy efficiency measure, then we’d still recommend you work with us on your home assessment and Whole House Plan to ensure you fully understand your property and are aware of any issues which this individual measure may cause. We’d then suggest that you head directly to the TrustMark website to find certified contractors near you to deliver this work, as we are unable to work with you on single measures. Make sure you also check if the measure makes you eligible for the Green Homes Grant!

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