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What can you do to make an old cold home a cosy home?

Posted by NEF Gordon on 24 August 2016 at 1:45 pm

AgeUK estimate every winter in England and Wales 25,000 older people living in poorly heated homes succumb to the cold. The onslaught of cold conditions can often take many by surprise and can leave us feeling poorly prepared and suffering as a result. Leicester homeowner, Zina Zelter, believes that we have a moral duty to insulate our homes for the wellbeing of future generations. Her experience shows us how improving the energy efficiency of our homes can help keep our homes much warmer whilst using less energy and saving on annual fuel bills.  

A resident of Leicester for 15 years, Zina has gradually transformed a cold solid wall 1930s semi-detached home into a warm and cosy home. She has achieved this whilst earning a modest annual income and living on a lean budget. Early on Zina installed a new condensing boiler, draught-proofing and both underfloor and loft insulation which provided a cheap and effective way of reducing the amount of heat from escaping to the outside. Then she installed internal wall insulation on the external walls of the kitchen and bedroom. Taking in tenants helped cover the cost of the work, as did the discount offered by a local builder to a group of local green renovators.

Zina suggests talking to people who have already had the work done, like members of green groups such as Leicester Footpaths. Taking their advice, she continued to wrap up her home with external wall insulation which has become her favourite feature, receiving lots of compliments from the neighbours! She also switched four windows for triple glazing and installed secondary glazing on two others, so now mould on window frames is a thing of the past! A new thick carpet in the bedroom has added the final insulating touch.

Zina says “the house feels much warmer even when heated to the same air temperature as before the work was done. It’s also much drier, and as a result what was a mould problem is no longer apparent.”

Although insulation is the star of the show, a number of other technologies have become part of Zina’s green investment, including solar PV panels providing renewable electricity and feed-in tariff income for Zina for the solar electricity produced or exported to the National Grid.

Zina continues: “The photovoltaics generate considerably more energy than the house uses in a year, and I only spend about £300 per year on gas and electricity combined”.

Rainwater is gathered and stored to water plants when needed and, unusually, rather than use a fridge-freezer Zina instead uses cold tiles and an outdoor shed to store vegetables. Zina has made a number of additional changes to her lifestyle including travelling less and eliminating meat, fish and diary from her diet.

Collectively all the home improvements have resulted in a 70% reduction in the property’s carbon emissions, qualifying Zina’s house for SuperHome status.

You can join a free tour of Zina’s house on Friday 9 September or Sunday 11 September 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. 50 SuperHomes will open across the UK this September providing great insights into how you can green your own home. To find out more about SuperHomes or to reserve a place on a tour, see


AgeUK (2014)Older, Not Colder - Why Older People Need Warm Homes

Written by Sam Tonge

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

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3 comments - read them below or add one


DavidJWoodComment left on: 1 September 2016 at 2:17 pm

I wonder if RobinofSherwood puts on a jumper when he's off in the woods with Maid Marion on a cold winters day, or does he stick to tee shirt and shorts. And if he is wearing a jumper, does it feel warm to touch or cold?


50 years installing something that offers no benefit must be so unrewarding for you Robin, If I were you I'd go back to robbing the rich, far more exciting!

Personally I work for a housing association, much of my work is assessing and improving thermal efficiencies of our housing stock.

We often ask tenants about their bills before and after installing extra insulation. In every single case after topping up loft insulation, tenants have said the house seems warmer and lower bills have backed this up. Not once have I had a negative reaction to extra loft insulation.

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richmcComment left on: 31 August 2016 at 7:11 pm

Having installed 270mm of loft insulation I can asure anyone reading it works, the whole house is equiped with TRVs on the radiators and without adjusting them I have found the upstairs radiators very rarely come on.

My home is also partly cavity insulated and I'm about to make it 100% as in a previous home I have felt the difference.

All I can sat to "Robin of Sherwood" as a 50 year I whould say it's time to retire. As for the insulation in the loft feeling cold, that's the idea, hhe heat is retained in the home and not lost in the loft.

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ROBINOFSHERWOODComment left on: 31 August 2016 at 5:57 pm

After 20 years of studying the alleged benefits of fibreglass and rockwool insulation, I have come to the conclusion that the benefits are exaggerated, and in most cases it does no good and serves no useful purpose. Everyone claims it saves heat, I say it doesn't, others claim it traps heat in its fibres, I say it doesn't, Why?  Because heat cannot be trapped or retained, if you're doubtful about this then prove it yourself by using a thermos flask, fill it with an hot liquid and measure the time it takes for the hot liquid inside it to cool down? In case you're thinking here-it-comes, this guys going to sell us on the idea of using silver foil, spray foam, or blown - in insulation, wrong again - they do no good either. I know the answer, but would ask you to think it out for yourselves. I am a 50 year veteran of laying loft and wall insulation, and have insulated in excess of 100 000 homes, mostly for UK City Councils.  Don't believe me, then go inside your loft and discover your insulation feels cold to the touch and is never warm, slightly warm, or feels reassuring, so wheres all that heat gone its supposed to be retaining?

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