The UK starts to take their insulation seriously

By Jude McLean

UK government Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) also offers support for heat pump instalments (illustration: BoilerBrain)
UK government Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) also offers support for heat pump instalments (illustration: BoilerBrain)

Research from intelligent home climate management brand tado° has emphasised the need for UK households to catch up with European-wide standards. It is therefore timely that the government has a range of plans in place to better insulate homes throughout the UK.

The tado° research in question involved the examination of 80,000 properties in eleven European nations. The study took place from December 2019 to January 2020.

Out of the various European countries to feature in the tado° study, the UK has the highest home temperature losses. This is partly due to the UK having the oldest housing stock in the study with almost 40% of UK homes being built pre-1946.

The standard used by tado° to reach this conclusion involved measuring property heat loss over a 5-hour period when the indoor temperature was 20° C with the external temperature being 0° C.

According to this research, UK households see a loss of 3° C after 5 hours given the conditions stated above. Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Spain followed, each with a loss of between two and three degrees Celsius.

Italy had a mid-range performance with a heat loss of 1.5° C after five hours. Austria, Denmark and Sweden each saw a heat loss of 1.2° C in this study. The countries to see the lowest level of heat loss in a five-hour period were Norway and Germany with a loss of just 0.9° C and 1° C, respectively.

The UK has an ageing housing stock with 36.5% being built before the end of the Second World War, 25.5% constructed from 1945 to 1969, 13.1% erected between 1970 and 1979 and just a quarter built since 1980.

Current government efforts
The UK government has put in place a variety of measures and plans to improve the energy efficiency of domestic properties.

The ECO+ scheme which begins in April 2023 serves the purpose of improving the energy efficiency of UK housing stock and lowering energy bills with the introduction of better insulation. The scheme will continue until December 2026.

Eco+ will primarily focus on relatively inexpensive insulation projects including cavity wall insulation and loft insulation. The scheme may cover the entire cost of a project or reduce the cost for low-income households.

Properties with eligibility for the scheme may be able to see a cost reduction in the instalment of various forms of insulation; loft insulation, pitched roof insulation, under floor insulation, solid floor insulation, room-in roof insulation, park home insulation, cavity wall insulation and both external and internal solid wall insulation. The scheme can also reduce or cover the cost of having secondary heating controls installed.

To be eligible, households must fall within certain Council Tax bands: A-D for England, A-E for Scotland, and A-C for Wales.

A property must have an Energy Performance Certificate of D, E, F or G. Households may receive one or more insulation measures as part of the scheme if eligible.

The government is currently seeking feedback for this scheme from energy suppliers, consumer representatives and individuals with an interest in fuel poverty policies and national energy efficiency.

The ECO+ scheme will act in addition to the ongoing ECO4 scheme which began in April 2022 and is set to run for four years.

To be eligible, households must have an EPC rating of E or less and be in receipt of one or more forms of government welfare listed on the website. Examples of such support include the child tax credit, universal credit and working tax credit.

Phase 2 of the Home Upgrade Grant is a current means by which local authorities can apply for funding to support the modernisation of UK households.

Domestic properties may contact their local councils to determine whether or not their council has any additional funding if they are not eligible for the ECO+ or ECO4 scheme.

Local authorities may also support struggling households via the LA FLEX scheme which can benefit properties technically not eligible for the ECO+ or ECO4 schemes.

Calls for change
Insulate Britain (a UK climate campaign group) has been calling on the government to act more on improving the UK’s level of insulation.

The same is true of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) who have called for the mass insulation of England’s old interwar suburban properties.

A RIBA report has found that a very high proportion of these homes have not seen changes to their walls since construction. According to the RIBA report this means “that they do not have any insulation.”

RIBA also found that adding sufficient insulation, replacing gas boilers, and installing double- or triple-glazing in three million interwar properties could reduce the UK’s carbon footprint by a margin of 4%.

Future government plans
The UK government will be making changes to Part L and Part F of the Building Regulations in relation to new dwellings from 2025.

These changes were agreed to following a public consultation on proposed changes to the UK’s Building Regulations from October 1, 2019, to February 7, 2020. This would become known as the Future Homes and Buildings Standard.

Under these regulations, properties must run at lower temperatures such that they would be suitable for a heat pump installation.

Currently, the UK government offers support for heat pump instalments under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) such that properties can have between GBP 5,000 and GBP 6,000 cut from the cost a heat pump installation.

The Future Homes and Building Standard will also necessitate homes to provide hot water storage and there must be substantial improvements to airtightness and insulation when compared to the current housing stock.

Growing Market
Mintel’s UK Thermal Insulation Market Report 2022 suggested that the UK thermal insulation market saw a 15% growth rate in 2021 with a total value of nearly GBP 1.4 billion.

Demand for industrial thermal insulation also rose in 2021, increasing by approximately 4%.

A plumber in the trade, with over 10 years of experience, Jude McLean has a keen interest in renewables, specifically hydrogen technology and the future of heating. Visit his blog at