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Could home refurbishment be the key to a comfortable retirement?

Posted by Richard Vale on 29 July 2016 at 2:50 pm

As a generation of baby boomers look towards retirement, new thoughts and concerns begin to fill their minds. One consideration that should not be missed is the need to keep warm, healthy and comfortable at home.

Keeping out the cold, or rather, keeping in the heat, has been at the forefront of Peter and Gretchen’s minds and has acted as a driving force behind their home refurbishment project. Over the past 23 years, the South East London couple have transformed their 1930s solid brick property into a warm, energy efficient SuperHome that will provide a comfortable sanctuary for their later years.

When the refurbishment began, the couple were not focussed on their retirement and the early renovations favoured instant gratification. They added underfloor heating and a wood burning stove to keep them warm during the coldest winters. However, it soon became apparent that despite the new ways of bringing heat to the property, due to the lack of insulation, it was losing heat almost as soon as it was produced and this was underlined by only a limited reduction to their energy bills.

Further, they found that as they were getting older, the cold was having a larger impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. They were finding it harder to relax in their home and were no longer content to put on another sweater. Gretchen was also finding a strain on her immune system; her longstanding bronchial and respiratory problems were being exacerbated by the damp and cold and making her feel miserable.

The couple decided that to proactively protect and improve their current and future health, they needed a house that effectively retained heat. The following 20 years saw the property have a myriad of upgrades, from a highly insulated loft conversion, to underfloor insulation, double and triple glazing and a replacement high efficiency boiler. The crowning jewel in the couple’s refurbishment has been the external wall insulation (EWI). Combined with the previous measures, this has had a significant impact on the heat retention of the house and so has slashed the property’s energy bills and carbon footprint, delivering a 90% carbon saving. Peter and Gretchen can now relax around the house in just a T-shirt in the peak of winter- an act that was unimaginable when they first moved in. Additionally, it has transformed the aesthetics of the property with a stunning blue finish and has inspired two further properties down their road to install EWI.

The couple have also focused on the environmental side of refurbishment. They have installed a ground mounted solar panel system at the back of their garden and have multiple tanks for rainwater harvesting. Further, they have plans to incorporate an air source heat pump which they see as a final stage to their renovation journey. 

Peter and Gretchen are happy with the choices they’ve made and the money they have spent has been a fruitful investment towards retirement. The energy efficiency improvements, and the knowledge that they are well prepared for retirement, has led to an incomparable feel good factor. The couple discovered that as they refurbished their home, their wellbeing became renewed and when they do decide to retire they are looking forward to comfortably spending their golden years in an eco-friendly, low energy and, most importantly, warm home.

You can join a free tour of Peter and Gretchen’s house in Catford on 18 Sep 2016 as part of SuperHome Open Days. SuperHomes is a rapidly expanding network of pioneering homeowners which are redefining green living. All have refurbished their old homes to the highest standards of energy efficiency. Eco friendly, sustainable, low energy and low carbon – the refurbished houses are least 60% less reliant on fossil fuels. The Open Days will showcase many aspects of eco renovation, with over 50 SuperHomes open across the UK providing great insight, whether you’re already in the refurbishment process or simply interested in finding out a bit more about renovation.

To find out more about SuperHomes or to reserve a place on a tour, see

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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