Fatal Advice

As you enjoy the present heat wave that is warming much of the United Kingdom as I write, you might find the temperature uncomfortably hot in your home, if your home has been highly insulated. Insulation is a good way to reduce the use of energy on heat; an uninsulated home emits heat particularly through its roof, and successive governments have encouraged the use of insulation as a means of reducing emissions and energy bills. It is the Government’s major way of reducing energy use in the home and its use is founded on the basis that the easiest and cheapest way to reduce emissions is to conserve energy.

However, things can be overdone. Measures to insulate homes are frequently coupled with measures to make homes air tight, to reduce heat loss even further. I have always thought that making homes air tight creates another set of problems for those who live in homes. It creates ideal conditions for the build-up of carbon dioxide within the home. In summer people may wish to reduce this build up by opening windows but in winter when it is cold, opening a window lets the heat escape along with the carbon dioxide, making insulation largely ineffective.

This is not news, though; I wrote about this more than four years ago (http://robertkyriakides.wordpress.com/2008/12/23/you-need-insulation-and-ventiliation/ ).

In summer the problem usually arises in densely populated cities, like London, where the temperature is usually a degree or two higher than in the surrounding countryside. A well-insulated airtight home in a heat wave in London can pose a risk to its occupants because the home can easily overheat, as Professor Paul Goodier of Loughborough University has pointed out. His research shows that top floor flats that face south in tower blocks are particularly prone to overheating.

At the moment about the Government’s much heralded “Green Deal” which encourages insulation and provides finance for it, has only had four (yes four) takers since it was launched six months ago. It provides advice about home insulation and that advice includes advice about creating air tight conditions. That advice, in the wrong type of home if followed by an elderly person could be fatal in a heat wave.

The government has put huge resources into designing the Green Deal; it seems fatally flawed, in more senses than one.

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