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Home Insulation Makes Little Difference To Energy Consumption–New Study

January 1, 2023

By Paul Homewood


h/t Ray Sanders

An unusually frank piece from the Guardian!!




Conservatories and house extensions could be helping to wipe out the reductions in gas use secured by insulating homes, according to a study that found insulation only provides a short-term fall in energy consumption.

In a surprise finding, the study into the long-term effect of loft and cavity wall insulation in England and Wales showed that the fall in gas consumption for each household was small, with all energy savings disappearing by the fourth year after it had been fitted.

Policy experts at the University of Cambridge said the findings suggested a “rebound effect” in energy use, where changing behaviour cancelled out the reductions in gas use. They also suggested that fitting insulation often happened alongside the building of house extensions, which use extra energy. For households with conservatories, any gains in energy efficiency disappeared after the first year.

The government and opposition parties have championed the retrofitting of homes with insulation as a way of dealing with the energy crisis. Ministers have announced insulation retrofits as a leading part of a programme to reduce the energy consumption of buildings and industry by 15% over the next eight years. Labour has said insulating homes should be a “national mission” that could save people £11bn in three years.

However, researchers said that while insulation was vital for fighting fuel poverty, it was not a “magic bullet” for reducing energy use and should come alongside advice to conserve energy and programmes to install heat pumps in homes.

Researchers said it was hard to identify the exact causes of the rebound effect. However, they stated that turning up the heating, opening windows in stuffy rooms or building extensions could all contribute. They made clear that in circumstances such as the current cost of living crisis, it was possible that energy savings from insulation could be more significant and longer lasting. 

This has actually all been very obvious for a long while, and did not really need an expensive study to prove it.

Energy efficiency is not something new dreamt up by the climate lobby. It is a natural process whereby technology continuously improves the products we buy and the way we live. Cars, for example, are twice as efficient as they were even twenty or thirty years ago; they did not need government mandates to make it happen.

But as energy efficiency improves, along with the cost of things we buy, we have more money to spend in other ways. In terms of energy, most people, I suspect, would use better insulation to enjoy warmer homes, not reduce bills.

Equally they will tend to buy conservatories etc, which will increase energy consumption. And, yes, people will open windows to let fresh air in – we have our bedroom windows open at night even in mid-winter.(No doubt the Guardian would be horrified!)

If people want insulation, fine – let them pay for it. But it should NOT be a “national mission”, paid for by taxpayers, as the Labour Party want. And it certainly will not save the planet!

  1. Peter Lucey permalink
    January 1, 2023 5:49 pm


    From zerohedge

    best wishes

    Peter Lucey

  2. John Lyon permalink
    January 1, 2023 5:54 pm

    Heard of a house nearby that had it’s heating set at 20C during the recent cold spell. Their attic tank froze, ceilings down the result, forgot to lift their hatch and let some heat into the roof space bypassing the insulation.

    • st3ve permalink
      January 1, 2023 6:11 pm

      Must have had a very large depth of insulation!
      Most likely they also insulated under the tank.

    • Mr Robert Christopher permalink
      January 1, 2023 6:47 pm

      There should be no insulation below the water tank in the loft, so heat from the floor below can keep the tank from freezing, and insulation around and over the tank, to reduce heat loss during the cold weather, and heat gain during the hot weather.

      • 2hmp permalink
        January 1, 2023 7:32 pm

        We have the best insulation, a thatched roof. Warm in winter (Snow stays on roof longer than anyone else in the village by some days) and cool in summer. This summer ten degree difference inside to outside

      • Dave Fair permalink
        January 1, 2023 8:34 pm

        Why is it normal to put water tanks above living spaces as indicated above? When, not if, the systems leak there are major structural (if not health) consequences.

      • January 1, 2023 9:52 pm

        I don’t know Dave, but we had one when we had an immersion tank, prior to replacing it with a central heating boiler

      • Mr Robert Christopher permalink
        January 1, 2023 10:15 pm

        Well Dave,
        Since any taps need to be below the water tank and people usually want their taps in their living space, there’s no alternative if they have an unsealed water tank and they don’t want to need a pump or have a void below their tank.

      • Dave Fair permalink
        January 1, 2023 10:33 pm

        Welcome to 19th Century domestic water supply systems. Then again, I don’t know the age of the existing housing supply stock in your area.

        In semi-rural Alaska I installed an insulated, below ground water cistern (coal seams and iron contamination polluted the water well). A pump supplied pressurized domestic water. A great leap into 20th Century household water supply systems, if I do say so myself.

      • Mr Robert Christopher permalink
        January 1, 2023 10:48 pm

        You are using a pump: very 21st century thinking 🙂 especially when there’s no electricity, or do you use a steam powered pump?

      • Micky R permalink
        January 2, 2023 11:12 am

        ” Why is it normal to put water tanks above living spaces as indicated above? When, not if, the systems leak there are major structural (if not health) consequences.”

        It is possible to fit containment beneath and around a water tank, can also install flow monitoring to shut off the supply if a pre-set flow rate is exceeded. All adds to the installation cost though.

        Somewhere, I have an old Nokia phone with a trailing lead that can send me a text if the lead is in water.

  3. Vic Hanby permalink
    January 1, 2023 6:06 pm

    These predicted ‘savings’ are made using calculations made with a very basic model. Research by the BRE more than 50 years ago showed that in practice 50% of the energy savings were realised, the remainder being taken up by increased thermal comfort.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      January 1, 2023 8:11 pm

      Exactly the point Vic! If you want to read the actual report referred to, it is here.
      Basically it says what we have known all along, once you have done a few basics there really is no worthwhile benefit to doing any more. In fact in many cases additional insulation can have a negative effect in cancelling out summer thermal gain into the building fabric.
      I really find the faux jargon used in the research quite insulting and probably written by people who wouldn’t know how to wire up a three pin plug.

      • Vernon E permalink
        January 3, 2023 2:38 pm

        I’ve had my house (1920s) for ten years and the previous occupant had installed cavity wall insulation. I think its great – my bills reduced significantly from my previous houses (I keep quaterly records of KwH from all my homes). My daughter had a similar house on the same road and when the government offered free insulation I applied. The contractor flatly refused because the property was not compliant with Building Regs by not having two courses of bricks showing below the DPC. How often is this over-looked in all the hype?

  4. st3ve permalink
    January 1, 2023 6:12 pm

    Must have had a very large depth of insulation!
    Most likely they also insulated under the tank.

  5. lordelate permalink
    January 1, 2023 6:24 pm

    Draught proofing my old place has made the most noticable difference. It cost around 20 quid.

    • January 1, 2023 6:33 pm

      That is probably the dominant factor for windows, much more important than the energy rating tosh, which takes no account of draughts.

  6. January 1, 2023 6:26 pm

    Have the laws of thermodynamics been repealed, or does increased insulation just not work in the UK? This sounds like more nonsense to fool people over to the chimera of air-source heat pumps. If you think energy use is bad now, wait till the back-up strip heat turns on in those heat pumps. You simply cannot heat these older structures with 45 degree water, when the radiation was designed to work with 75 – 80 degree water from gas/oil/coal fired boilers. One must throw a few magic unicorns in with the insulation if one hopes to make it work with a heat pump.

    • Vernon E permalink
      January 3, 2023 2:41 pm

      I reduced mine to 60C and its fine.

  7. January 1, 2023 6:31 pm

    Interesting the “study” is done after the fact but then that seems par for the course when dealing with a belief system, a religion. Who needs facts when there is a surfeit of emotion to tap into and manipulate.

    Has anyone asked insluate bwittan to provide empirical data to support their thinly veiled anti capitalist marxism? But then the same applies to the rest of them as well. For example it is clear no one has challenged the asinine Stop Oil Now spoiled brats manipulated by marxists to show exactly what would be the consequences of stopping oil “now”. I can make a good guess and that would be that not only would the world economy crash but that a world wide famine would ensue which would cut a cool 3 or 4 billion off the world headcount within 12 months of oil being “stopped”, That does not consider the wars which would breakout all over the world as people fight to stay alive. That of course will in all likelihood not happen because the real target of those who manipulate these useful idiots is Western Society and Western Countries. The fact there is no 24 hour protest outside of the Chinese and Indian Embassies if this is a global threat as they claim speaks volumes regarding what this really is all about. Once again and with the complicity of the media there is a constant game of deflection going on.

    Never ever have these zeroes and their anti capitalist marxist intentions been challenged. The genius of cancel culture and shouting down any dissent is the only reason any of these garbage ideas continue to exist and seemingly thrive, promoted daily by their willing propagandists who have infected the likes of the BBC and the Guardian turning them into marxist political propaganda machines.

  8. January 1, 2023 6:41 pm

    I suspect that many people will be disappointed by the impact of increasing the depth of loft insulation, by the law of diminishing returns. This cost me around £300, which I’ll never get back in reduced bills.

    Loft insulation does little for misers (like me) who don’t turn on their heating.

  9. edgar240 permalink
    January 1, 2023 7:01 pm

    Why do we never hear the benefits of a warmer climate? Fewer deaths and less energy required for heating homes in the temperate areas of the world. I would rather be warm than cold.

    • Crowcatcher permalink
      January 1, 2023 8:03 pm

      The question I ask any of these zealots is “What Evidence is there that a warmer World is a WORSE World?”
      I get either silence or “It’s in the models.”
      Only fools………..

  10. 2hmp permalink
    January 1, 2023 7:34 pm

    Small draughts keep illnesses away. Sealed properties the worst for illness.

  11. Gary Kerkin permalink
    January 1, 2023 8:02 pm

    Sounds like comparing apples with oranges. If nothing else changed—extra rooms &c—between the comparisons, frankly I don’t believe the conclusions.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      January 1, 2023 8:26 pm

      Gary, here is the paper referred to
      It was written by the type of impractical idiots that inhabit academia these days.
      Essentially it states that the real world data does not meet their modelled expectations so it must be the real world that is wrong! As a result our “behaviour” must be changed to meet their computer model’s predictions.

      • Gary Kerkin permalink
        January 2, 2023 6:46 am

        Thanks Ray. I have given it a cursory read and the only real, positive, parts I can are two appeals for support (of the sort, “needs more research”). The rest seems to be a complicated description of analysing data, some of which appears to be metadata rather than numerical information. I wonder, did they devise the statistical methodology before commencing the work, or did it emerge when they started to analyse the data? I’m inclined to think the former in which case I would classify it as a solution in search of a problem—which is commensurate with your description of the authors as “idiots”!

        Even more so because they do not appear to have tested their hypotheses by applying a simple test of physical behaviour and likely outcomes—as I was taught to do 60 years ago at University in my chemical engineering course.

      • Tony Cole permalink
        January 3, 2023 8:51 am

        They simply change the data to give the answer they want. Ethics cannot interfere with religious zealots

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      January 2, 2023 9:29 am

      Maybe but so what? You are assuming stationarity, but that’s the problem with economics – the world is never stationary.

      • Gary Kerkin permalink
        January 2, 2023 10:10 am

        Stationarity? I’m don’t know what you mean because I don’t assume anything. In this case the physics is “immutable”. Heat flux = Driving force (temperature difference) / Resistance (thickness of insulation and thermal conductivity). Just like Ohms Law. But if you mean what I think you mean—that the economics are changing with tine—then my comment about apples and orange is even more appropriate.

  12. Stuart Brown permalink
    January 1, 2023 8:19 pm

    Happy and prosperous new year, Paul (and all here).

    “But it should be a “national mission”, paid for by taxpayers, as the Labour Party want.”

    Somehow I don’t think you meant that?

    • January 1, 2023 9:55 pm

      I wondered who would spot that one first! (As Captain Mainwaring would say!)

  13. kjbirby permalink
    January 1, 2023 8:34 pm

    No, our conservatory does not ‘increase energy consumption’ – quite the opposite, for the warmth it creates right through the year permeates into the rest of our home, reducing our heating bills.

  14. liardetg permalink
    January 1, 2023 8:54 pm

    If it paid people would have done it

    • Cheshire Red permalink
      January 3, 2023 12:38 pm

      This is the punchline. ^^^^^

      It doesn’t need government to do everything for everyone. The public know a bit of loft insulation makes sense, and that’s about as far as it goes.

      The idea the nation is only a couple of rolls of Supawrap away from climate panacea is for the birds.

  15. Stephen Lord permalink
    January 1, 2023 9:39 pm

    Fresh air reduces illness so its beneficial to be sble to open windows especially in winter. This was recognized in NY city building code that provided for sufficient radiators and boilers that windows could be open in winter
    Energy conservation is a classic central planning mistake that ignores other issues such as health and safety. The most recent example is the fires caused by cladding. The answer is cheaper energy. The answer for cheaper enrrgy is fracking. The refusal to use common sense is theological

  16. Ray Sanders permalink
    January 1, 2023 10:14 pm

    As an aside, I had a very pleasant walk this morning along the “newest” part of England today.
    Rather blustery so popped into the wooden education centre to warm up where they boast” Heating is provided by two wood burning stoves. ” which were cheerfully burning away.
    That’s the way to earn a sustainability award – forget the insulation and burn wood! Was nice though!

    • January 1, 2023 10:30 pm

      I read that George monbiot has no less than three wood burning stoves

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        January 2, 2023 2:58 am

        Did they send him to A&E, or was it just his apoplexy?

  17. January 1, 2023 10:32 pm

    Report: EXTINCTION Rebellion has vowed to end its disruptive demonstrations in 2023 because “nothing has changed”.

    The eco group announced that instead of blocking roads, smashing windows, vandalising buildings and dangling from bridges, it will turn to simply “talking”.

    Will Insulate Britain g00ns follow suit?

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      January 1, 2023 11:11 pm

      All the pseudoecosemiterror groups are allied and spawned by the same main instigator, so it’s meaningless unless all the splinter groups stop.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      January 2, 2023 9:23 am

      Because it discovered its antics were landing its members in jail and they didn’t like it. It all seems a nice jolly until you are in the jug for 3 months.

  18. January 1, 2023 11:29 pm

    See my analysis of the potential savings from insulation earlier this year at

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      January 2, 2023 12:18 am

      Hi Jit, read your study – very interesting. In the past on a professional level I was involved in various “energy audits” for Kent County Council (though not my normal line of work.) It became obvious that the methodologies for calculating heat losses were frankly ridiculous and completely meaningless.
      To take just one example of a mid terraced house such as my son’s, the rear kitchen wall has cabinets against nearly all the exterior wall area that is not window or door. To simply calculate based on the wall materials “U Value” times area times temperature difference to derive theoretical heat loss would be quite meaningless. The wall was effectively already “insulated” by the depth of the cabinets.
      According to the EPC for the building my son should be using 9,466kWh per annum in space heating for a very small (54m2) terrace but in reality he has yet to use over 7,000kWh per annum including hot water and gas hob in any of the 4 years he has lived there.

  19. Joe Public permalink
    January 1, 2023 11:57 pm

    “Home Insulation Makes Little Difference To Energy Consumption–New Study”


    The Jevons Paradox:

    “In 1865, the English economist William Stanley Jevons observed that technological improvements that increased the efficiency of coal use led to the increased consumption of coal in a wide range of industries. He argued that, contrary to common intuition, technological progress could not be relied upon to reduce fuel consumption.”

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      January 2, 2023 9:25 am

      Ot always amazes me this is seen as a paradox. That seems to reflect idiot central planning thinking. Per output, consumption falls. That progress allows greater consumption is the whole point of progress.

  20. Martin Brumby permalink
    January 2, 2023 12:44 am

    Draft proofing certainly makes sense. Even the keyhole in back & front doors. On the other hand some air changes are important and I am suspicious of attempts to have ‘sealed’ living space. I’ll certainly pass on that.

    Many insulation measures reduce energy use sometimes trivially, sometimes moderately (attic space most likely to be beneficial), but often do increase comfort levels.

    The elephant in the room is that most UK housing is way, way past its sell by date.

    Get on the top deck of a bus and check out mile after mile of housing mostly with obviously defective roofing and guttering.

    Still enormous numbers of houses with solid external walls.

    If our Beloved Leaders cared a toss about the people who misguidedly vote for them, they’d forget about EVs and Heat Pumps and Smart Meters, frack, sort out the Planning Laws and get building.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      January 2, 2023 5:17 am

      My reaction was to suggest that the UK start rebuilding new homes to the required insulation standard and demolish the old inferior ones.
      Of course it would be necessary to restrain the public service from demolishing the old before the new were ready. Otherwise it would be cheaper than all these at-odd ideas about electricity and heating.

      And as an aside – what about a heat exchanger so the incoming fresh air is heated by the outgoing stale air? Not 100% efficient of course but,,,

      • Martin Brumby permalink
        January 2, 2023 8:12 am

        But our Beloved Leaders aren’t interested in stuff that is both feasible and possibly viable.

        It’s straight to the cliff edge, pedal to the metal, for all the ‘useless eaters’, whilst they eat their Wagyu steaks in their pads in Mustique.

        And laugh.

      • January 2, 2023 10:04 am

        Graeham No3,

        Extraction and fresh air supply systems exist and have done for a long time, I have one in our home, built some twelve years ago.
        Fine for a new build but harder to install in an older house.

  21. Tones permalink
    January 2, 2023 11:41 am

    We built a house 28 years ago and I wanted to fit mechanical ventilation with heat exchanger- there were several different systems around, but my architect said that I couldn’t afford it,so we didn’t – sad!

  22. January 2, 2023 12:57 pm

    Considering we are simultaneously instructed to keep our indoor spaces well ventilated to avoid spreading infections, mould growth etc., is it any wonder?

  23. January 2, 2023 10:08 pm

    Pushing the insulation argument by activists – and government – is basically just a method of deflecting away from the REAL problem: lack of proper heating caused by unaffordable, overpriced energy and away from the satanic oil, coal and gas.

  24. It doesn't add up... permalink
    January 3, 2023 10:29 am

    There are likely to be different contributory factors.

    Failure to select measures appropriate to the property (e.g. lack of draught proofing)
    Declining effectiveness of shoddy work
    Measures that cause problems through inadequate ventilation, corrected by more open windows and heat loss.
    Hedonistic spending on a warmer home.

  25. January 3, 2023 1:54 pm

    They fatally wound themselves by suggesting the use of heat pumps.

    Moving on from that, the most obvious saving of energy is to close the effing curtains. Just look around of an evening at how many people don’t – even more so if using a train where you can see the rear windows.

    With conservatories it depends how you use them. A neighbour had a big one built that spanned their lounge and dining rooms which had underfloor heating installed. They had it as an expansion of their house and never closed to doors to the other rooms. The next occupiers always had the doors shut so presumably were not using the heating. My conservatory has a radiator which was turned off as soon as I arrived. On sunny days in Spring and Autumn there is a welcome warmth from the conservatory.

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