Sylvia and Bob Constantine were early adopters of new technologies and improved energy efficiency as part of renovating their 1960s bungalow 13 years ago. Over time, they discovered that the simplest cost-effective solutions greatly reduced their energy consumption.
Insulating the upper and lower floors
In 2007, the couple set out to extend the upstairs dormers, to create a more practical living space. However, in 2017 they realised the conversion had failed to sufficiently insulate their property.
The difficulties of insulating living space located in the loft/attic, whether it includes gable windows or dormers. The red lines indicate heat loss between the lower/upper floor and through the roof.
With the help of a skilled and experienced builder, they applied internal insulation to all walls and ceilings. It is applied the same way as ordinary wallpaper; except you paste the surface, not the material. It can also be used for floors.
Internal insulation cocoons each individual room and is cost-effective for all types of properties.
They opted for Erfurt Mav Professional Insulation Panels, which are constructed from recycled polystyrene and have multiple benefits that can be found here. Sylvia’s advice is “applying layers worked equally well for home insulation as it does for arctic clothing!”
For the second layer of insulation they used Wallrock Thermal Liner, which acts like a thermal blanket for cold walls and can allow a room to warm 65% more quickly. These products can be obtained from City Plumbing, Peel Road and other local suppliers.
During their original refit downstairs, they opted for underfloor thermal insulation between the floorboards and the carpet underlay. They also used the Wallrock thermal liner on the external walls and the ceilings.
They plan to apply the upstairs techniques in the future to their downstairs living space one room at a time. Sylvia says that “since completing the retrofit upstairs, our energy consumption decreased by over 35%”.
Choosing a new heating system
“Under our floors, the airflow from airbricks (a requirement of Planning and Building Control), is almost gale-force. We also have air vents between the ground and first floor. As well as the lower ambient temperature causing heat loss, the wind chill factor sucks heat out of any unprotected pipes. Retrofitting insulation to pipework that is under floorboards, is difficult and messy!”
When any work is taking place in your home or if you are getting new flooring fitted, it is good to plan in any insulation measures.
After testing several variations to make their “wet” central heating more efficient, in 2017 they replaced their system and installed modern, fully programmable electric radiators. This enables all rooms to be heated individually, to temperatures and times tailored to their needs. An all-electric heating system requires no boiler and little or no maintenance.
Home generation solar-voltaic panels
The couple saw the opportunity for solar.
Climate information reveals that the Isle of Man has higher average sunshine hours than many parts of the UK (an hour per day more than their previous home in Sheffield).
“Any roof that faces east through to west is suitable for solar panels. No maintenance is required and the only part that may need replacing is the invertor (this coverts the direct current DC electricity, produced by the panels, to alternating current AC used in domestic properties)”
Being pro-active and making other changes to be energy efficient
Sylvia was advised by the manufacturer of their hot-water cylinder that additional insulation (such as a jacket) was not necessary and can affect the thermostat. They use the heat produced by the insulated cylinder and pipework as an airing cupboard, and extended it into their office space.
On sunny days from late autumn through to spring, East, South and West facing windows enable passive solar energy to heat living spaces. Thermal curtains help to retain the heat after sunset. The couple also replaced doors with maintenance-free doors that were good insulators and “using doors wisely” transfers passive solar heat from bedrooms to bathrooms by opening doors.
In the same way, when they have a north wind find their extractor fans a weak point for heat conservation and “the backdraft sucks the warmth out of the bathrooms”. To save energy, they lower the temperature of the heaters and keep the doors closed on days when this happens.
Welcoming less conscious visitors
Despite the couple being conscious of their energy usage, when the couple ran a B&B, they found they use much more when they had visitors.
Sylvia recalls “one particular visitor stayed for 3 weeks in February with the room temperature up to 30C and the windows open. There was a gale blowing under the door of the room into the rest of the house”.
Continuing to look at smart and renewable solutions
The couple looked into small and micro wind turbines and have noted designs and technology have improved in the last 15 years.
“Traditional blade turbines have disadvantages such as firm anchorage, turbulence and coping in gales; but new vertical axis cylindrical turbines may be a solution.”
The energy savings stack up
The average UK household uses around 8.5–10 kWh electricity and 33-38 kWh gas per day. This totals 3,102 - 3,760 kWh per year for electricity and 12,045 – 17,000 kWh per year for gas.
Their previous home was semi-detached with dormers upstairs and approximately half the size of their B&B Thie Shey. It had gas central heating, a gas cooker and, adding electricity used, their annual consumption was 17,730 KwH.
In their current home prior to the retrofit in 2017 they used 13,000 KwH. That has reduced to 9,800 KwH less 2,000 KwH sustainably produced energy. We use only 7,800 KwH of energy produced from non-sustainable sources. That is a saving of 4,200 KwH since 2017 and 9,930 KwH compared to their previous home.
Sylvia concludes “we see the retrofit as an investment of time and money as well as doing our bit towards a sustainable future. We have always had an environmental conscience.”
If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient in the future, the Isle of Man Government have put in place a range of funding and support to help including free energy-saving kit worth £750 to eligible households and Energy Doctor Service. You can learn more about the different schemes here.