Friday, 3 January 2014

Harder to Treat

For those of us working in the energy efficiency business the term ‘hard to treat’ refers to properties that cannot be cost effectively insulated using materials such as mineral fibre wool in the walls or the loft space.

A typical hard to treat property would be stone built and constructed around 1900 or before. Across West Yorkshire there are hundreds of thousands of these terraced properties which, though they have a cavity wall, have stone ties between the 2 walls to give it stability. Modern properties have metal ties and can be insulated relatively cheaply using mineral fibre wool. Stone tied properties can’t be insulated in this way due to the possibility of ‘cold bridging’ across the cavity wall creating cold spots and damaging condensation on the internal wall. Its at this point we come to the good news/bad news section of this blogpost.

The good news is that there is a material which can insulate these cavity walls called ‘Technitherm’. It is a polyurethane foam which is manufactured over the hill in Lancashire but don’t let that put you off. It has higher thermal performance properties than mineral fibre wool and as such is deemed to warm up the walls sufficiently to make the cold bridging issue insignificant according to the Building Research Establishment. It is of course more expensive than standard insulation but under some of the funding levels which were obtained under the Energy Company Obligation it was just about possible to fully fund the installation of insulation to these properties.

Now for the bad news, due to the proposed changes to the Energy Company Obligation funding hard to treat properties will effectively be impossible. In many areas these homes are predominantly occupied by households on modest or low incomes. A huge opportunity to develop a new mass insulation programme has been lost to gain a minor temporary and short term reduction in energy bills in response to a campaign run by the energy companies themselves and the right wing media such as ‘The Sun’.

There are millions of homes that could benefit from hard to treat cavity wall insulation products and you have to wonder at the wisdom of spending somewhere between £50-80 Billion of public funds on HS2 when it could be used to improve the properties of people in fuel poverty putting money back in their pockets and not bolstering the profits of the Big Six


  1. Never give up, that's what they want, all the best to you sir!

  2. and £100 bn on a weapon system that will never be used

  3. Added to that, most of these houses have attic rooms that could be insulated relatively easily with Kingspan at the rafters, but if I'm right, the Eco Fund demands that to apply for internal insulation in the roof you also have to have it on the walls. This is crazy because not many people would want it in their sitting room. It's like saying you can only have loft insulation if you have cavity wall insulation as well - but worse because it's a lot more disruptive! Anne Handley