Don’t Listen to Anti-Cavity Wall Insulation Campaigners!

FreeInsulation Blog - 24th July 2020

The UK Government’s Green Homes Grant scheme unveiled on 7th July 2020 was met with widespread approval, as it sets out to assist in the economic recovery from the pandemic by sustaining and creating jobs, saving consumers money on their energy bills and helping to meet climate change targets by reducing carbon emissions. However, campaigners and MPs have this week voiced concerns that the work could be carried out by ‘dodgy’ installation companies that may end up damaging consumer’s properties. Particular reference was made to cavity wall insulation which is one of the most effective ways to prevent heat being lost from a property and is one of several measures to be funded by the new scheme.

Whilst it is true that mistakes have been made in the past and problems have occurred, the Government, industry bodies and consumer groups have gone a long way towards ensuring that they are not repeated. Most, if not all of the cowboys have saddled up and ridden out of town and so consumers should not be put off having cavity wall insulation or any other energy efficiency improvements installed.

During previous grant schemes such as the Energy Efficiency Commitment (2002 to 2008) and the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (2008 to 2012), energy suppliers were set big targets to reduce carbon emissions and cavity wall insulation was seen as one of the most cost effective ways to achieve this. As a consequence, large amounts of funding were available for cavity wall insulation and both energy suppliers and installers were being pushed to spend it. The industry experienced an influx of new installers as well as a rapid expansion of existing businesses. Whilst there was some degree of control over these installers, quality and training standards were often poor or non-existent, particularly for surveyors. In addition, knowledge of potential problems caused by incorrectly installed insulation was limited.

This push for a large volume of installations, combined with a lack of quality standards, poor training and limited knowledge of the issues that can arise has inevitably led to a recent surge in problems caused by cavity wall insulation installed under previous schemes. Some customers have experienced damp in their homes due to a variety of reasons such as rubble in the cavity causing cold bridging and damp patches in the property, or being in an exposed location where driving rain has effectively soaked into an inappropriate insulating material.

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Since 2013 the push for a mass volume of cavity wall installations has subsided, partly due to a reduction in funding but also because of a significant reduction in the number of properties that still require cavity wall insulation. New schemes such as the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) have been introduced which have much tighter mechanisms and controls in place to protect consumers and ensure that work is carried out to a high standard. The PAS2030 standard, soon to be complemented by PAS2035, is required by all installers retrofitting insulation, heating and other measures into homes under ECO. This standard was established to underpin all current and future Government initiatives and so there is no need for anyone to question if or how the new grant scheme will be regulated.

PAS2030 brings together all the requirements that installers must meet under one umbrella, including quality standards, health and safety procedures, training and competence, insurances, product suitability, installation processes, complaints procedures and financial protection mechanisms for consumers. Most requirements already existed but PAS2030 has improved them, helped to standardise them and made it easier to implement, manage and monitor them.

PAS2035 goes a step further and was created in response to the recommendations from the Government’s Each Home Counts review in 2015. It takes a ‘whole house approach’ to retrofitting energy efficient upgrades and considers the property, the environment, the occupancy and the householder’s objectives when recommending the most suitable measures. A new quality mark is also being established through Trustmark which includes a code of conduct, a consumer charter and a technical standards framework.

Under PAS2035, measures such as cavity wall insulation will no longer be looked at in isolation without considering the fabric of the entire property and other measures that could be installed. Aspects that were previously carried out during a survey such as checking for rubble in the cavity, defective damp proof course, property exposure, condition of brickwork, condition of guttering, ventilation and existing signs of damp will still be carried out. However, surveys will be undertaken by Retrofit Assessors who will be highly trained, skilled and qualified individuals producing an RdSAP assessment, a detailed floor plan, a condition report and an occupancy assessment. Additional checks have also been implemented such as inspecting the inside of the cavity on all elevations of the property and at different levels. Gone are the days when anyone can become a surveyor with little training and no qualifications.

Financial protection mechanisms for consumers have also improved. All insulation works, with the exception of loft and flat roof insulation must now be accompanied by a 25 year guarantee. Cavity wall insulation guarantees have always lasted for 25 years but they can now be issued by companies other than CIGA, including Kinnell and GDGC. In light of the problems previously caused by defective cavity wall insulation, CIGA themselves have also improved their organisational structure and processes, in addition to carrying out technical monitoring on a percentage of new installations.

The risk of problems occurring due to cavity wall insulation has therefore dramatically reduced in recent years and both those who seek to question new initiatives and consumers should be aware of this. Cavity wall insulation remains one of the best ways to reduce energy consumption in homes and cut carbon emissions whilst making people warmer and more comfortable. Click here to see if you qualify for cavity wall insulation fitted by a competent, trusted and approved local installer.

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