Retrofit #1: Context

Previous property

In the summer of 2021 we moved house. Our previous property was a 1980s (originally 2 bed) end of terrace and was nothing special, but we had done a lot to it. The property was N-S oriented, with a roof that faced south, and it had a long thin garden edged on the western boundary by Ash trees in a hedgerow. The property was bordered by the gardens of other properties on the north and west side, the neighbouring terraced property on the east and looked out onto our front garden and a shared green space to the south. The road was about 6-8 metres from the end of our front garden, down a shared footpath. We had a garage that was situated ~20 m from the house, which had no power supply.

We lived there for ~20 years and we added double glazing and a north facing conservatory within the first couple of years. We also added cavity wall insulation when grants were available. We were able to remove some of the trees next to the western edge of the house and in 2012 we extended sideways to create a 4-bed property. In 2013 we added solar PV (with a nice feed in tariff). In 2018 we bought a Nissan Leaf and installed a Zappi. This could charge the car using just the excess solar generated by the panels. This was great, but due to issues around on-street parking we were unable to continue charging like this for the majority of 2019 and 2020. In 2020 we paid for SSE to install a dedicated electricity connection into our garage allowing us to charge on a 3-pin plug (not cheap to do, but not as costly as you might think). In 2019, to use more of the electricity that we generated from our solar panels we installed a Mixergy cylinder. We had come across these on the Fully Charged Show and we opted for a slimline 120L direct cylinder that used a myenergi Eddi to dump excess solar electricity into the water. Being able to see how much hot water was available in the tank at any point was amazing.

We looked into getting an air source heat pump but the quotes at the time were prohibitive and the retrofitting works would be too destructive/invasive given all we had done to get the house how we wanted it. So in 2020 we installed a weather compensated boiler and set it up with a reduced flow temperature.

We managed to change the EPC of the house from a C to (surprisingly) an A! We were very happy with that. The costs of powering the house was extremely low, and in some quarters the house generated money for us.

Current property

Don’t get me started on the UK house buying process, but let’s just say that it wasn’t a smooth or quick process and cost more than we originally planned for. And the estate agent on the selling side didn’t seem at all interested in any of the energy efficiency changes we had made. Also, I’m not sure that property surveys are worth the money as so many assumptions (proven to be wrong in some cases) are made. Anyway, I need to move on from the moving process – that was last year!

We have been in our current property for about 6 months now. It’s a year-2000 4-bed detached, with an EPC rating of D. The horror of going back to such an EPC rating! It has roofs that face all four main compass directions, a sunny rear garden, off-road parking, and a garage that isn’t attached to (but is next to) the house. It also has a chimney with a decommissioned gas fire and a suspended floor on the ground level (the previous property had a solid floor). There are no trees shadowing the roof although in mid December an adjacent property does cast some shadow on the east-facing roof at the end of the day.

We want to put in a new kitchen and bathroom, but it makes more sense for us to get the energy efficiency basics in place first. We want the same systems as before, but with an additional home battery and heat pump.


In November, we could smell gas in the property, which initially we (I!) dismissed as a function of having the heating on again. Then we came downstairs one morning and it was bad enough to get the gas supplier out to have a look. Result? Our gas was cut off for safety. This meant we now had a 20 year old boiler and hob, a gas leak somewhere in the plasterboard or under the floorboards and a big decision to make – fix or wait. We bought a portable single induction hob from Ikea and did the sums, deciding that if we could limit our spend to ~£4 per day on electric then we could wait for the kit to go in (scheduled for Jan/Feb). Luckily it’s been a warm winter so far, so ‘yay’ – although ‘boo’ as it’s due to climate change. And Christmas dinner with a single hob wasn’t as much of a challenge as I thought – I am the house chef 🙂 . But I’ll be glad when we get heating and hot water back in the next month or so, and the new kitchen installed in April…..

Other things to deal with

Another thing that we want to get sorted quickly in this house is the insulation and heat retention:

  1. Chimney – the first thing to do was stop any draughts from the chimney. Just to say, we are never going to use the fireplace to burn anything so will likely get the chimney sealed off professionally at some point. In the meantime, a Chimney Sheep was a quick, cheap and effective solution that is working very well indeed.
  2. Cavity wall insulation – the EPC assessment (that came when we bought the house) ‘assumes’ that cavity wall insulation was in place. It wasn’t. So we’ve had the rather excellent Scott and Shaun from Warmcare come and remedy that for us.
  3. Windows – the windows are double glazed but are (I think) air-filled. This is OK, but it’s obvious to us that they aren’t as good as the windows we installed in the previous property. They’ll do for now, but at some point we’ll get these upgraded.
  4. Draughts – my partner has been around the house adding weather guard strips to the windows and doors to minimise draughts. The front door in particular was very ‘gappy’ and we’ll also be getting a better, draught proof letterbox sometime soon for that door.

Next post

In the next post I’ll list some of the ways that we researched and found out more about the options that we are looking into. I’ll also write a bit about what we needed to do to get the property ready for the changes that we want to make.


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