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Retrofitting for Energy Efficiency by a Property Agent from Devon

In 2018, James Jacobs took on the renovation of a Victorian house divided into four flats. The tenants were finding that the property was excessively warm in summers and cold in winters.  To address this, James started retrofitting the property to make it more comfortable to live in and cheaper to heat.

Tackling the Attic Flat

James decided to install the following measures to improve the quality of this rental property for his tenants in the top floor attic flat:

  • Comprehensive insulation: While refurbishing the flat, James used the opportunity to insulate the walls and ceilings. Two layers of insulation were applied in the rafters, eliminating thermal bridging, and ensuring a completely sealed space. Soundproofing in the floors added comfort for the residents and improved thermal insulation.
  • Double glazing: James replaced the windows with double-glazed ones to improve insulation.
  • A second velux window, providing increased natural light and heat: A second Velux window was installed in the loft to allow more natural light into the room and provide additional warmth from the sun.
  • Hot water system: To generate hot water, point-of-use heaters were installed. Though he plans to replace them with Dimplex Quantum heaters in the future, he found the current electric heater, which operates on a night rate with cheaper electricity, to be a simple and effective solution.

“We have kept the night storage electric heater for the time being. It is simple and basic but it works well alongside the current retrofitting we have undertaken. It works on a night rate with cheaper electricity as a cheap source of heating. In future I would like to replace it with a Dimplex Quantum storage heater. Gas is carbon heavy; in our portfolio we only have two properties with mains gas.”

Affordability, easy maintenance, and energy efficiency

James’ primary goal was to create properties that were affordable to run and easy to maintain for the tenants. He believes that improving energy efficiency not only reduces costs but also minimises disruptions for the occupants.

By strategically implementing retrofitting measures during other renovations, James has ensured that the properties remain comfortable for his tenants.

“When I have contractors in doing jobs, I always look at ways we can improve the energy efficiency of the property at the same time. It keeps costs down and avoids inconvenience for the tenants. These jobs can be messy is you need to consider what to do and when to do it to minimise disruption.”

The Ground Floor Flat

In the flat on the ground floor of the Victorian property, further energy-efficient upgrades were carried out:

  • Modern heaters: All heaters were replaced with modern Dimplex storage heaters, which are easy to control and can be interlinked throughout the home.
  • Double glazed bay windows with vents: The bay windows were replaced with double-glazed ones and equipped with vents to ensure proper air circulation and prevent dampness.
  • Dual element hot water tank: A pressurised dual element hot water tank services the electric shower in this downstairs flat, running on off-peak hours for efficiency.

Tenant Education for Energy Efficiency

James emphasises educating his tenants about the changes made to the properties and how they can best utilise the technology provided to manage their electricity consumption effectively. Some tenants have adopted smart meters to visually track their electricity usage, acting as a reminder to be mindful of their consumption.

It comes down to teaching the tenants how and what changes we have made and how they can use the very simple technology and how to best use their properties.”

James intends to add another doorway into the entrance of the Victorian property to cater to different lifestyles while maintaining functionality, safety, and compliance with safety guidelines.

Future Plans

“Planning well is important, having a prioritised list of what needs doing first starting with the initial fabric of the property to the heating and other elements. To do it all at once is unaffordable, especially on a rental property. Building good relationships with your builders and tradespeople is crucial to the success of any project.”

For his next retrofitting project James has another old Victorian building with seven flats in a conservation area. On this property he has re-rendered the bay windows and implemented modern sliding secondary glazing, as double glazing wasn’t appropriate due to the conservation area status. He has added timers onto the hot water tank controls to save electricity, small things that make a big difference.

James has an interest in project management and has recently completed Retrofit Advisor training. He has worked closely with an EPC assessor and maintains a good working relationship with him so he can advise on more complex measures such as window glazing.

James’ approach to retrofitting focuses on creating solutions that are commercially viable, user-friendly, and easy to maintain, considering the unique challenges of managing multiple properties.

Through James’s dedication to retrofitting and energy efficiency, his property portfolio has transformed into a collection of comfortable, cost-effective, and sustainable living spaces.

His thoughtful approach to updating properties while preserving their original charm sets an excellent example for the rental property industry, showcasing how energy-efficient upgrades can benefit both landlords and tenants alike.

Supported by

Devon County Council
Torbay Council
North Devon Council
Plymouth City Council
South Hams District Council
Torridge District Council
West Devon Borough Council
East Devon District Council
Exeter City Council
Mid Devon District Council
Teignbridge Council
Devon Climate Emergency