Mukti Mitchell, Director of North Devon’s CosyHome Company explains why insulating your home is a Smart move.

As the Dalai Lama says: “Be wisely selfish”. In the same way, “smart living” is about making everyday lifestylechoices really smartly, so that the consequences of all our little decisions really “come back to hug us” and consistently contribute to making us happier and healthier in the medium and long term as well as the short term.

Soon after writing my book The Guide to Low Carbon Lifestyles, I built and sailed a zero emission micro yacht around Britain in 2007, spreading the message that low carbon living improves your quality of life. After the tour I did several workshops in which we used both a “carbon footprint calculator” and a “quality of life calculator”, which led me to an important discovery: The lifestyle activities that people rate highest, almost without exception, have low carbon emissions! Seeing these results, I realised a wonderful truth – If we truly act in our own self interest and long term happiness, the choices we make will automatically be good for our community and good for the planet. And that’s Smart Living!

For me, Smart Living starts at home, because our homes are the foundation of our lives. They are where we start and end each day, where we sleep, eat and entertain, and where we relax and be still amid the busyness of our lives. Many people spend 70% of their time at home.

So what makes a Smart Home?

If we want our home to truly serve our long term interests, wellbeing and happiness, then we want our houses to be comfortable and warm, good for our health, cost effective and environmentally friendly so we can breathe fresh air and drink clear water. We want them to be beautiful to house our spirit as well as our mind and body. They should be free from worry, affordable, in good condition, and low-cost to run. Natural materials and hand made goods appeal to some and hi tech finishes to others, but what everyone needs is a home that is warm and comfortable and uses as little energy as possible.

After my sail tour I was invited to parliament to do an internship, and heard MPs asking how are we going to insulate Britain’s old housing stock? With my background in restoration, insulation and energy auditing I realised I had an opportunity to help with something big for the nation and the planet. Insulation makes old homes warm and comfortable. If done well it preserves their beauty and could reduce the national carbon footprint by 10%.

So how is it done? Well, a typical old home loses 10% of the heat through the loft, 20% through glass, 30% through drafts, 25% through the walls and 15% through the floors. So topping up your loft installation to 300 mm, installing elegant draft proofing and fitting secondary or double glazing can cut heat loss by up to 50%. Wall and floor insulation can increase this to 80% but are expensive so have a longer payback time.

Unhappy with the available options at the time, I pioneered an advanced form of secondary glazing called “CosyGlazing”. Using plexiglass and magnetic strips the system is ultra-lightweight and the panels are fitted to the sliding sashes or hinged casements so that windows open as usual. Virtually invisible from both outside and inside, CosyGlazing has proved popular with both homeowners and conservation officers.

CosyHome Company also fits sheep wool loft insulation, elegant draft proofing, sloping ceiling insulation, floor insulation, loft flooring and restoration of decayed timbers in windows and doors so that beautiful old windows can live on.

Insulation is one important aspect of making an old home into a Smart Home. Saving up to 50% heat loss has a phenomenal affect on warmth and comfort levels. Thanks to the huge savings on fuel bills, investing in insulation offers a higher return than almost any other investment today. Retrofitting creates employment so its good for communities, and saving energy is good for the environment, so insulating your property is a very smart move.

Mukti Mitchell is Director of the award-winning CosyHome Company (www.cosyhomecompany.co.uk/ )
which retrofits insulation and secondary glazing for older properties. Author of The Guide to Low Carbon Lifestyles (downloadable at www.lowcarbonlifestyle.org.uk) and five highly regarded online carbon calculators, Mukti has been leading a low carbon lifestyle for 20 yearsand is an acclaimed writer and speaker on low carbon living.  CosyHome Company are sponsors of this year’s 361 Energy Fair.

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