Mon 08 Aug 2022
After 2022's heatwave with temperatures over 40°C, and 2021's freeze where the mercury dropped as low as -23°C, our homes are having to deal with changing weather.
Property developers have been busily installing extra insulation, high-performance glazing and comfort cooling for years, building homes that stay warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Buyers are more mindful than ever of energy efficiency and skyrocketing bills, so it's time for our beautiful older homes to catch up, and not just for evenings and weekends.
The rise in remote working means far more of us are at home during the hottest part of the day. Aside from the heat causing our brains to shut down, video calls are a big part of the new normal. And while you might not need to dress up for Zoom, showing up topless is a long way from acceptable attire!
So whether you want to stay cool as a cucumber or warm as toast, this week's blog is packed with tips to climate-proof your home, future-proof its value and keep it at the perfect temperature, whatever the weather.
THE LOW-TECH SOLUTION
The Victorians knew plenty about keeping the heat out of homes, and they didn’t have today's technology to help them out. Given their love of sitting upright in heavy formal clothing, they needed effective cooling methods to stop them from fainting, so we can certainly learn a thing or three from them.
The Victorians built their homes with windows at the front and back to encourage natural airflow and maximise the effects of even the slightest breeze. But they also had another trick up their sleeve.
When you open double-hung sash windows at the top and bottom, they allow cooler air in below the lower sash while hotter air escapes above. So even if your windows all face the same direction, or you want to keep the room door closed, you can still have circulating air.
Fitted plantation blinds look super smart in any style of home and are seen as a valuable asset by buyers. Because they're hinged and hug the window frame, they don't allow heat and cold to slip around the sides. You can also adjust the louvres to let in just enough light and deflect the sun's rays in a way that curtains can't, and we haven't even talked about the exotic shadows they cast at sunrise and sunset!
Ceiling fans have come a long way since the 1980s. Available in styles from classic Victorian to modern industrial and everything in between, they now make a classy design statement. Their large blades cool your room more effectively than floor-standing fans, they occupy entirely unused airspace, and you can usually install them using your light fitting's existing wiring.
CREATE A THERMAL BARRIER
Insulation comes in various forms and is generally viewed as a way to keep your home warmer in the winter, but it's equally effective at keeping out the heat on blistering hot days. Options include:
Modern double and triple glazing has argon gas trapped between the panes to block the transference of heat or cold through the glass. Triple glazing has generally been recognised as extra effective for taking the chill off north and east-facing rooms in the winter, but it can also keep south and west-facing rooms cooler in the summer.
Homes from the 1930s onwards often have cavity walls that can be insulated by drilling holes in the brickwork and filling the space between them with insulating foam. It's a low-cost and highly effective measure.
Older period homes haven't had it so easy. Exterior insulation can ruin their appearance from the street, while interior insulation usually means losing noticeable amounts of floor space. But technology is developing all the time, with solutions like Thermblok's Aerogel system coming in supermodel-slim strips of just 5mm.
CEILINGS AND FLOORS
Roof spaces are a big source of heat loss in the winter, but they can also become massive ovens beating down on the rooms below in the summer. Fortunately, insulating the underside of the roof or between the ceiling joists is a swift and effective job.
Floors at street level can also let in cold and hot air. If you've got a cellar, it's relatively simple to fit insulating panels between the joists. Carpets and laid timber flooring also form an effective thermal barrier, and if you want to expose the original floorboards, fill any gaps with a mix of sawdust and epoxy resin.
AIR-CON OR HEAT PUMP?
How wonderful is it to step out of the heat and into a refreshingly cool space? As the zing in the air brings your energy back, your brain starts ticking again.
Less than 3% of the UK's homes have air-conditioning, and there's plenty of debate over whether it's needed. But given that online searches for air-con spiked in the heatwave, the prospect of increasingly hotter summers is clearly on people's minds.
Given how few people have it, here's a quick rundown of air conditioning and how a heat pump might do the same job but with extra benefits.
● Air conditioning systems come in two parts - an indoor unit and an outdoor condenser.
● While indoor installation entails channelling out walls to hide the power cables and refrigerant pipes, well-designed units from brands like Daikin and Bosch can be very unobtrusive when mounted on the unused wall space above doorways.
● Outdoor units generally need to go at the back of your property to preserve the street view. As they release heat and look a bit bulky, think about location and screening options.
● Some systems allow you to connect multiple indoor units to a single outdoor condenser.
● As well as cooling your home, modern air conditioning systems can also provide energy-efficient heating in winter. They use much less energy than electric convector radiators, and you could even free up some wall space.
So how could a heat pump do all that and more? Well, although they can operate in a similar way as air con for cooling and heating your home, they can also connect to your water for heating via existing radiators or underfloor systems, and to a hot water cylinder for baths and showers.
But perhaps the biggest deal breaker is the thousands of pounds available to homeowners from the Government towards the cost of installation - check your energy supplier's website for full details and to see if you qualify.
While creating outdoor rooms is a major design trend, gardens that provide shelter from the elements are also increasingly in demand. So making your outside space usable all year round is a wise move.
Mother Nature always delivers, and the shade from a tree or foliage can block up to 90% of the sun's radiation, reduce humidity, and cool the ground and air temperature through evapotranspiration. Now THERE'S a good word!
For heat and water-resistant pergolas and canopies, a light-coloured acrylic fabric will deflect the sun's heat and let air pass through, making it more comfortable to sit under when it's hot. And as long as you don't want to lounge around outside when it's chucking it down, the tightly woven fibres should keep you dry during light rain and showers
WET AND MILD
Water is a natural coolant, and a basin or pond in your garden will help to reduce the temperature, as well as inject some Zen-like relaxation. And if you've got the space, a swimming pool is the ultimate way to stay and look cool when it's hot.
Asphalt absorbs the heat and can reach a staggering 50° on a sunny day of just 25°. To avoid a Luton Airport-style meltdown of your driveway, choose brick, cobbles, pavers or pea gravel for a valuable designer look that beats the heat and ramps up your kerb appeal.
USE THE SUN TO SLASH YOUR BILLS
Hotter summers aren't all bad news. You can harness the sun's energy to generate solar power for your home and become less reliant on utility companies and their skyrocketing bills.
● Solar systems are available for generating electricity and hot water.
● You generally don't need planning permission to install the panels unless you're in a conservation area or live in a listed building (check with your local authority)
● South-facing roofs are best, but systems for east and west-facing roofs are available, or you could go for a ground installation in your garden.
● Technology is advancing towards batteries that store energy for longer, which means you'll be able to keep any excess electricity for, quite literally, a rainy day!
According to The Telegraph, around 60% of the nation's electricity was generated with renewables over the July 23rd/24th weekend, and the capacity is improving all the time. Factor in two more energy price increases set for October and January, and the return on your investment is greater than ever.
What's your next step?
Ensuring your home is a comfortable place to live is essential to protect its value and keep it in demand, no matter how competitive the market.
To find out what buyers want from a property in Whittington and Lichfield, or which climate-proofing measures are right for your home, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01543 432099 for some friendly and expert advice.