“Finally,” my wife said, after the fitter finished his last repairs, “finally we can enjoy the comfort of our newly renovated home!” and she flopped down on our brand new couch. After six long months of renovation work (we lived there during the entire process!), we could start enjoying the comfort of our new place. Little did we know about some unpleasant surprises that would come up in the following months, the unfortunate combination of a new couch and a toddler being the least of them: our home was much less energy efficient than anticipated — an expensive and unnecessary setback.
An extensive house renovation is expensive, stressful, and not something you will consider every five years. So make sure you don’t regret some of your choices. Like us. Here are some tips from a sadder and wiser man because there are five things I wish I had known before renovating my home.
What is it with constructors? Don’t get me wrong; my father used to be one his entire life: an honest, hardworking craftsman with pride in his work. But some clichés were also true for him: projects would always run late and cost more than projected. And if I may add: the man was not overly concerned with the environment, so to say.
Constructors usually don’t consider your future energy bill. Though most constructors are perfectly able to think with you and find fitting solutions, they generally don’t think further than the build itself.
As in our case: we choose floor heating in our living room because it’s energy-efficient and comfortable. However, the comfy living room came with a price for the rest of our house: the basement and top floor were too cold in the winter since the house was still poorly insulated. So we had to come up with power-consuming electric heaters. So much for saving energy.
My tip: consider the heating of your entire house and make insulation an integral part of your renovation plan.
Humans tend to think things will essentially remain the same. So, when reviewing our energy bill, we assumed, if anything, the renovation of our house would cut our gas bill in half. That seemed reasonable enough, so we saw no need to further reduce our gas usage by buying a heat pump.
Little did we know. Things didn’t remain the same. A war broke out. Gas prices doubled, and all our imaginary gains disappeared into thin air.
The mistake was ours. Don’t get me wrong: I am not suggesting that we should have been better predictors of geopolitical events. Where we went wrong: we were short-sided. Heating your home with gas is not sustainable in the long run. For many reasons (governments will tax it more), fossil fuels will be increasingly expensive.
My tip for you: though making your home gas-free might not be possible in all circumstances, try your best to insulate your home and renew your installations so that gas heating is only necessary during the coldest months.
Our dream was to sit on our couch with a view of our garden and the century-old beech trees on the historic lane behind it. But those floor-to-ceiling windows over the entire width of our house turned out to be a heating and comfort challenge, especially since we failed to pick the correct type of glazing. Our lesson: when it looks cool, it might be cold.
My tip: if the aesthetics of glass-to-ceiling glazing is essential to you, consider tripel glazing instead of standard insulation glass. But be aware that from an insulating standpoint, walls perform much, much better.
A complete house renovation can be a straining ad stressful experience, so we kept good spirits by imagining how great our house would look after the renovation. Giving our family and friends tours would make up for provisory breakfast sessions in a dusty attic and family showers at our neighbour’s place.
So we ignored the less sexy parts of our house, like the roof. Unless you’re blessed with a rooftop terrace, you don’t give tours there. Who pays attention to a roof? A big mistake, as it turned out. The roof is as essential as it is not sexy, particularly from a home energy perspective, since you lose 25% of the warmth of your house this way. Unfortunately, our roof was so poorly insulated that the solar panel consultant told us that placing solar panels was a waste of money, time, and energy. Good for us, he was an independent contractor.
My tip: considering insulation? Start with the roof.
We thought we had it all sorted out - apart from the rising gas prices, the glass panels, and the poorly insulated roof - until we had our smart meter installed: the thing just wouldn’t stop counting! Day and night, even with all our lights and devices turned off, we had a standard electricity count of 4 Kwh per 24 hours.
The old-fashioned ventilation system was to blame. We never really paid attention to it, and we didn’t know how to turn it off. And It was consuming energy like a madman.
The device turned out to be devastating for our energy use in two ways. It consumed a lot of energy, but it also sucked out warm air with astonishing speed. In this way, the ventilation system was hurting us twice through our electricity and gas bills.
My tip: check if you still have an old-fashioned ventilation system on alternating current. If so, replace it with a new, energy-efficient one on direct current. Some companies offer free cleaning of your entire ventilation system in the process.
So, is it all doom and gloom for us? Fortunately, people tend to be very forgetful about past discomfort. After all, it has already been six months since we finished our renovation. And now we are considering insulating the roof and wall, maybe we could redo the entire top floor? What about floor-to-ceiling windows over the full width of our bedroom…?