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Insulated - how my house held the heat.



This is my home. Built in 1980's by Scott Builders in Spalding these houses won awards at the time for energy saving insulation. Indeed, I reap the benefits of this today with my energy bills being a third of those paid by my parents in their solid brick house built in 1900.


I remember seeing my home built, indeed I remember daffodils being grown on the grade 1 silt land upon which my home was built with a nearby orchard. My house is effectively a timber house cladded in brick and tile. If you remove the brick shell behind it you reveal a layer of black plastic and yellow foam insulation. Beneath that insulation is a wooden frame, chip-board and composite woods forming the inside structures.


My home was cheap and quick to build and is cheap to live in. Indeed it is more energy efficient than when it was first built because it has a newer, more efficient has boiler and better quality aluminium double glazed windows and doors than the wooden originals.


But insulation is all well and good until you reach the heat of summer, and especially last week's 40 degree heat.


Last week the heat built up in my insulated house. The outer bricks stored the heat. From these walls the heat spread into the insulation and then through the timber frame. This had the effect of being like underfloor heating throughout the house on the hottest night of the year.


In the meantime my parents poorly insulated house had a couple of cooler rooms. Indeed, they have an old fashioned pantry with a cold slab that keeps a consistent cool temperature.


The point I wish to make is that the call for greater insulation is misleading in that in an ideal world we need better design. Indeed, in the case of my parents house, whilst it costs more to heat, it did used to have a narrower range of temperature variation in my childhood when their was greater use of the method of heating the house had been designed for, that is, coal fired . Applying newer heating technology to fit older design of houses is problematic. Talking to people applying air source or ground source heat pumps to older houses has mixed success.


As we look to decarbonising our housing we need to understand the challenge of the extremes of heat and cold and respect the design of the existing housing stock whilst welcoming new.


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