The blog

Roger Hunt is an award winning writer and blogger specialising in sustainability, old houses, housebuilding and traditional and modern building materials. He is the co-author of Old House Handbook and the companion volume Old House Eco Handbook.

Think before buying

Think before buying

Yesterday a double glazing salesman arrive at my door at the very moment the phone rang with a call from a solar panel saleswoman. Such annoyances are rarely quite so simultaneous but they are regular. This is one of the reasons I’m pleased to hear that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has written to over 50 of the leading installers of double glazing, insulation and solar panels, asking them to ensure they are providing consistently good standards to consumers.

The initiative follows an OFT review that found instances of poor practice towards consumers such as the use of high pressure sales techniques, unclear information about paperwork and cancellation rights, and poor quality installations.

Consumers have to be properly informed about energy efficiency measures otherwise we risk undermining confidence in the sector and, worse still, causing immense damage to our built heritage.

Owners need to remember that they can devalue their home through ‘improvements’ such as installing plastic windows. In a survey by English Heritage 82% of estate agents felt that original features such as sash windows tend to add financial value to properties and 78% believed they helped to sell a property more quickly.

Where windows do need replacing it’s worth bearing in mind that high performance, double-glazed timber windows need cost no more than their PVCu equivalents. Research for the Wood Window Alliance reveals that wood windows work out between 2-7% cheaper than PVCu over their lifetime.

The OFT found instances where consumers have been given potentially misleading or inaccurate information about the energy they could save. I find it interesting to look at payback times. Some of the figures, based on a three-bedroom semi-detached house, that are listed in the Communities and Local Government Review of Sustainability of Existing Buildings are surprising. For example, loft insulation has an estimated 2.7-year payback while the potential carbon savings are 190kg per year. If installing windows with double glazing, in theory it will take 97.6 years to get your money back and will result in a carbon saving of just 26 kg per year.

With the coming of the Green Deal and the need for households to cut their energy bills the need for education and an understanding of the issues is essential. It’s worth noting the OFT guidance for consumers buying energy efficiency products:

  • Take your time in making a decision
  • Double check the facts
  • Know what you’re signing
  • Know your cancellation rights
  • Know your rights if things go wrong

One Response to Think before buying

  1. Hi, great article. There is a lot that can be done to improve energy efficiency in a house without having to replace the windows. For instance a full length lined curtain with pelmet has the same overall ‘R rating’ as a standard double glazed unit.. Change that lining for the sheet lining used in Oven Gloves and you exceed double glazing in insulation efficiency…

    See my link for an article on this and other techniques that do not require a rebuild to save energy and your money to boot.

SPAB Working Party

For the last 25 years conservation experts and volunteer heritage enthusiasts have come together to join the annual Working Party run by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). I went along to join them and created a video about the Working Party at Sullington Manor Farm near Storrington, West Sussex. They were working…

Listed building allure

Listed building allure

Every year, many of the estimated 450,000 listed buildings in the UK change hands on the property market. In England and Wales these properties are designated Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II having being deemed to be of historical, cultural or architectural interest. All buildings built before 1700

Environmental Pocketbook

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If you’re going to invest in just one book on sustainable, low carbon building I’d strongly suggest that you make it The Environmental Design Pocketbook. Now in its second edition, this useful volume by Sofie Pelsmakers should be essential reading for architects, designers, developers, planners, students, clients and anyone else involved in the construction and operation of buildings….

Fire in old buildings

Fire in old buildings

The devastating fire at the Grade I listed, 18th century National Trust mansion at Clandon Park, Surrey, once again highlights the need to do everything we can to protect old buildings. Whatever the size of the building, there are simple measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of fire, ensure early warning of a…

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Adapting old buildings

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Lime, in the form of mortars, renders, plasters and paints, is a key component of old buildings and essential to their repair – or at least it should be. Today lime-based materials are also emerging into the mainstream and being used within low carbon construction systems, employed in everything from homes to superstores. All this…

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A blocked drain is not a pleasant thing to wake up to. What’s worse is the realisation that it’s something that can generally be avoided by doing what I’m always talking about: maintenance. The drainage system is easily forgotten because much of it is hidden away underground but, as with any element of a building, it…

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New techniques and materials aimed at producing low carbon solutions mean this is an exciting time to be involved with new build and retrofit. There are dangers though, in the rush to innovate there may be failures along the way so it’s vital that there’s scrupulously testing and monitoring at all stages. This is why…

Hidden London

Hidden London

Impending development often means there is a chance to step back in time because archaeological investigation may be undertaken as part of the work. This is especially true in London where layers of history have been laid down by successive generations as the city has evolved. Visiting Barratt London’s Landmark Place site close to the…

SPAB Working Party

For the last 25 years conservation experts and volunteer heritage enthusiasts have come together to join the annual Working Party run by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). I went along to join them and created a video about the Working Party at Sullington Manor Farm near Storrington, West Sussex. They were working…

Listed building allure

Listed building allure

Every year, many of the estimated 450,000 listed buildings in the UK change hands on the property market. In England and Wales these properties are designated Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II having being deemed to be of historical, cultural or architectural interest. All buildings built before 1700 Tweet

Environmental Pocketbook

Environmental Pocketbook

If you’re going to invest in just one book on sustainable, low carbon building I’d strongly suggest that you make it The Environmental Design Pocketbook. Now in its second edition, this useful volume by Sofie Pelsmakers should be essential reading for architects, designers, developers, planners, students, clients and anyone else involved in the construction and operation of buildings….

Fire in old buildings

Fire in old buildings

The devastating fire at the Grade I listed, 18th century National Trust mansion at Clandon Park, Surrey, once again highlights the need to do everything we can to protect old buildings. Whatever the size of the building, there are simple measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of fire, ensure early warning of a…

Adapting old buildings

Adapting old buildings

The need for fresh air and light in buildings is something I’m often talking and writing about because it’s central to creating a good home, but the theme is nothing new. I was reminded of this when I recently visited the King Edward VII Estate, near Midhurst, West Sussex. Here, the former sanatorium is being…

Building lime knowledge

Building lime knowledge

Lime, in the form of mortars, renders, plasters and paints, is a key component of old buildings and essential to their repair – or at least it should be. Today lime-based materials are also emerging into the mainstream and being used within low carbon construction systems, employed in everything from homes to superstores. All this…

Drain problems

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A blocked drain is not a pleasant thing to wake up to. What’s worse is the realisation that it’s something that can generally be avoided by doing what I’m always talking about: maintenance. The drainage system is easily forgotten because much of it is hidden away underground but, as with any element of a building, it…

Building remembrance

Building remembrance

Visiting Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the poppy installation at the Tower of London, reminded me that the built environment frequently plays an important part in both remembrance and memory. Each of the 888,246 ceramic poppies that flood the moat of the Tower depicts a death in the British forces in the First…

Renovation tale – Part 1

Renovation tale – Part 1

This is the tale of my first major renovation project some years ago… On the table is the surveyor’s report; yellow Post-it notes stick from its pages in such profusion that they no longer have any relevance. Phrases like “needs attention”, “must be thoroughly overhauled” and “a fair amount of dampness” are highlighted by marker… Continue Reading