What is retrofit?

11 April 2022

In the UK we are facing two big problems, rising energy prices and the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions if we’re to reach net-zero by 2050. People are increasingly worried about how they can reduce energy use in their homes to not only save money but take action in the fight against climate change. Retrofit is the best solution to both these issues.

Retrofit is the latest and much-needed trend in reaching net-zero targets. Retrofit refers to any improvement work on an existing building to improve its energy efficiency, making them easier to heat, able to retain that heat for longer, and replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. Retrofitted homes are better protected against energy price increases as they can generate their own energy and are improved so they actually require less energy too.

The benefits of retrofit

Retrofitting our homes and buildings is one of the biggest challenges the UK faces in our efforts to reach net zero. Many homes aren’t built for purpose, in fact the UK has some of the oldest and worst housing stock in Europe. In fact, 40% of UK emissions comes from homes. Heat is constantly leaking out through windows, doors, and uninsulated walls, making our heating systems work harder for more money and less warmth. We’re paying for wasted energy.

While any home can benefit from retrofitting, older homes usually have more problems. Common issues include damp, condensation, draughts and lack of insulation that makes them harder to heat.

If we retrofitted the majority of homes across the UK, it would make a huge difference in reducing our collective carbon footprint.

Taking steps to ensure your home is easy to heat, stays warm and costs less will make it a healthier place for you and your family. Cold homes are known to worsen existing health problems, and possibly cause new ones. Meanwhile, the recent increase in the cost of energy will also be taking a toll on people’s mental health as millions more people struggle to pay their bills.

Making homes more self-sufficient, through energy-efficiency measures like insulation and renewable energy, helps to protect against rising energy costs.

Where and how to start your retrofit journey

Retrofitting your home can be quite daunting – where should you start and what should you prioritise? Each home is unique; how a home is built, what adaptions have been made and how it's used will influence the best approach to retrofit.

It’s important to consider the whole house as a system, looking at not just energy bills but also at comfort, aesthetics, heritage and maintenance needs.

The best place to start is with the basics to make your home more comfortable and easier to keep warm and healthy. CSE’s retrofit experts recommend a ‘fabric-first’ approach, prioritising repairs, insulation, draught-proofing and ventilation before more exciting measures like solar panels and heat pumps. A home that leaks heat through draughts or poor insulation wastes energy, whether it's renewable or not!

Boiled down, our retrofit experts recommend a three-step approach:

  • Energy conservation - this step reduces the amount of energy needed in your home. You'll receive advice on draughts, your appliances and smarter ways to use energy. This can be as simple as closing curtains to retain heat or using heating controls effectively. Small actions add up to save energy and money.
  • Energy efficiency - where measures are installed to improve the fabric of the building, such as insulation and secondary glazing. There are many ways to approach this depending on the house, as the size, age and year it was built will play a factor in which measures are available.
  • Renewable energy - this is when you should replace your energy sources with lower carbon options. Reducing energy demand in the first two stages will cut down the amount of energy you need. This will help determine which renewable energy system will be most suitable in your home, which may have been larger and more expensive if you hadn't completed the first two steps. It's also a waste of money to install a new measure if your home can’t retain heat.

Our retrofit experts can help you through this whole process. We take an in-depth look at your home – how it’s built, how it’s been adapted over the years, and how it’s used – and discuss with you your objectives and aspirations for your home. Based on this information, we can provide guidance on the most impactful and cost-effective retrofit measures for improving the energy efficiency of your home. When done correctly, your home should be warmer, easier to heat and healthier for yourself and the planet.

Here’s a more detailed look at what retrofit is, and an example of a recently retrofitted home. To start your own retrofit journey, contact our retrofit team.

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