Retrofit in this instance is about modifying an existing home. This could be something small like adding draughtproofing to something bigger like adding solar panels. There are lots of reasons to undertake retrofit such as:
- Updating elements inside or out to make them more appealing
- Improving the comfort of your home
- Changing the size or layout
- Investing now to save money in the longer term by lower running costs
- Reducing your homes carbon footprint
These days, more and more people are also thinking about how their homes contribute to the climate crisis and they want to know how they can change that for the better.
Retrofit centre is being created to support homeowners for all of the above reasons.
Our partnership believes that for whatever reason a householder wants to make retrofit changes we should be helping them to achieve solutions that offer as many benefits as possible. We also believe that all retrofit action should focus on low carbon retrofit because of the all-round benefits this has for the homeowner and as a solution to what we call ‘The Retrofit Challenge‘.
THE RETROFIT CHALLENGE
The Retrofit Challenge is actually a number of challenges rolled into one:
THE CARBON CHALLENGE
The built environment is one of the top contributors to carbon emissions.
This is a challenge for public sector bodies who leading climate change responses as over 80% of this chunk of emissions is from businesses and homes, mainly homes, in private ownership where our influence and potential to drive change is restricted.
Adding to this challenge is the fact that the considerable proportion of that ‘built environment’ is existing, old and/or of heritage value. Whilst there is some action to make building standards more rigorous to the impacts of building, the progress here is inadequate for our carbon challenges and, the real challenge remains that most buildings have been here for a while. Previous iterations of building standards have demanded even less and so existing buildings have even lower energy performance standards some have protections such as ‘listed’ status adding to our retrofit challenges.
THE FINANCING CHALLENGE
The ability to retrofit your home is dependent upon the availability of installers and suppliers and access to financing. Currently the national government has a focus on supporting the most vulnerable but there has been recognition of the need to drive demand from private homeowners as well and schemes such as the Green Homes Grant have been trialled.
Even these schemes require some private finance and, experience shows, demand outstrips availability of grants and so, there is also a challenge around identifying ways to help homeowners finance their retrofit projects.
THE SKILLS & SUPPLY CHAIN CHALLENGE
The recent experiences of schemes such as the Green Homes Grant show there is an interest amongst private homeowners but that local supply chains for materials and skills can not meet the very rapid, uncertain and fixed term demand that a grant scheme generates. The ‘boom/bust’ effect does not support the development of sustainable services at local levels.
RISING TO THE CHALLENGES
The Innovate to Renovate Partnership is concerned with finding ways to overcome these challenges by:
- Generating a sustained demand for low carbon retrofit.
- Helping homeowners to understand their cumulative potential to very significantly impact upon our carbon outputs by modifying their individual homes.
- Providing them with good advice; financial tools and the knowledge to be able to undertake retrofit projects with confidence.
- Establishing online and virtual support services that help people shape their own retrofit journey’s
- Working with skills providers; installers and suppliers to explore barriers and solutions in their retrofit challenges.
We will be working with local experts to engage with homeowners and others vital to rising to the retrofit challenge to establish the key ingredients Retrofit Centre needs to offer.
LOW CARBON RETROFIT
Low carbon retrofit is when retrofit is carried out with consideration to how it can improve the efficiency and sustainability of the homes energy performance by including elements that:
REDUCE THE NEED TO USE ENERGY
For example, improving the insulation in a building reduces the need for heating and cooling appliances.
REDUCE THE DEPENDENCE ON FOSSIL FUELS SUCH AS OIL AND GAS
For example, installing a renewable generation system such as photo voltaic panelling to generate electricity from the sun.
In practice this means that projects such as, updating a kitchen or, repairing damage to rendering consider practical features and longer-term benefits as well as thinking about home appearance and user convenience.
Low carbon retrofit has multiple benefits for homeowners:
More intuitive homes and improved internal climate and lighting control can be achieved through modern systems for heating and cooling and smart enabled technology. Controls and appliances are designed for style in the home as well as ease of use and can include impressive features through sensor, touch and voice control.
Overheating and poor ventilation are a common side effect of things such as older fittings, aged insulation and less advanced heating control systems and create the perfect environment for damp and mould. Left unchecked larger issues such as water pooling and ingress can make homes unsightly and cause problems such as plasterwork and rendering damage. When a home is improved under good advice it is possible to eliminate these problems and decrease the need for repeated re-decoration and the potential for larger cost remedial works.
Never has the time been more urgent to consider how investing in your home could ensure that you are doing the best to protect yourself against rising energy costs. Additionally, turning your home into its own power plant through adding renewable generation and storage technologies gives some protection against loss of energy supply.
Any investment that you make that reduces the need for heating or cooling in your home reduces the need to use fuel for that purpose avoiding you that cost. If you factor in these avoided costs they can boost your financial plans for bigger projects.
You can find information for calculating pay back periods on energy efficiency measures online as a rough guide but, if you plan to make this a significant part of your saving strategy, you may want to seek guidance from manufacturers or energy advice experts on the projected energy savings you will make based on what your are replacing and the make and model of what it is being replaced with.
Some technologies have associated revenue benefits that can also be factored into your cost covering plans. For example, the Smart Export Guarantee is associated to electricity generation from photovoltaic (PV) panels. Revenue streams for battery storage are also emerging in the market. These revenues exist because home installations provide services to the grid such as topping up power supply at times of over generation at your home site or, balancing of grid through storage and release when the grid is stressed.
Since retrofit technologies have this kind of business case there are various financial tools such as ethical loans and green mortgages that you can also find to help with up-front costs if you do your research.
Well designed home improvements that consider how buildings need to compensate for a changing climate in terms of heating and cooling needs and, also reduce the likelihood of damp and mould, work to support our health and well-being. Over and under heating are concerns for us all but particularly the old or very young. In addition mental, respiratory and heart health are all influenced by the quality of our home environment and aided by good temperature control, effective ventilation and reducing social anxiety through homes we can be proud of.
SAFEGUARDING THE FUTURE
Many householders are worried about the future for them and future generations in the face of a changing climate. Improving your home to be more climate friendly and resilient in the face of potential power shortages, warmer temperatures and natural events can provide some comfort and reassurance through a personal contribution to the fight against climate change.