How to make your home more energy efficient

Why rushing into reducing your homes carbon footprint is not such a good idea.

By Hugh Metcalf | 12 October 2020

Where do you begin when you want to retrofit your home to reduce its carbon footprint? Retrofit architect Mark Elton at Cowan Architects offers advice on how to make your home more energy efficient.

Period home with flint clad exterior and red tiled roof.

Make a plan for the best low-carbon result. Photo: Pixabay

Proceed with caution

While you may think that any investment into reducing your home’s energy needs is worthwhile, it pays to have a plan in place before you begin any work. ‘There’s a risk that of spending a bit of money on getting the easy-win carbon reductions prevent deeper reductions later on,’ says Mark. Mark has a wealth of knowledge on this subject. He is a Passivhaus certified architect and one of the country’s leading experts on sustainable retrofit. He wrote the Institute of Sustainability Guide: Improving the Building Fabric.

Take a fabric-first approach

Installing low-carbon heating, such as air source heat pumps and biomass boilers, isn’t necessarily where to begin a retrofit journey. Improving the energy efficiency of your home’s structure is an important factor. ‘Spending a lot of money on a heating source for a building lacking sufficient insulation is probably the wrong priority. You’ll be wasting your investment on an overly powerful heating system if something comes along to reduce the heating demand of your home in the future.’

Make a long-term plan

It’s possible to tackle the renovation in stages. ‘Enerphit is the Passivhaus standard for retrofitting. ‘It focuses quite a bit on the step-by-step benefit of whole home retrofit,’ says Mark. ‘As it is an expensive process, doing this is one way to get there eventually.’ To do this, and ensure your investment is worthwhile, a long-term-plan makes sense of your retrofit ambitions. ‘Each home needs a medium-to-long term plan to understand the endgame with each property type,’ Mark adds.