Loughborough University
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The measured energy efficiency and thermal environment of a UK house retrofitted with internal wall insulation

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posted on 2018-07-05, 08:06 authored by Victoria J. Tink
Approximately 30% of the UK s housing stock is comprised of older, solid wall buildings. Solid walls have no cavity and were built without insulation; therefore these buildings have high heat loss, can be uncomfortable for occupants throughout the winter and require an above-average amount of energy to heat. Solid wall buildings can be made more energy efficient by retrofitting internal wall insulation (IWI). However, there is little empirical evidence on how much energy can be saved by insulating solid wall buildings and there are concerns that internal wall insulation could lead to overheating in the summer. This thesis reports measured results obtained from a unique facility comprised of a matched pair of unoccupied, solid wall, semi-detached houses. In the winter of 2015 one house of the pair was fitted with internal wall insulation then both houses had their thermal performance measured to see how differently they behaved. Measuring the thermal performance was the process of measuring the wall U-values, the whole house heat transfer coefficient and the whole house airtightness of the original and insulated houses. Both houses were then monitored in the winter of 2015, monitoring was the process of measuring the houses energy demand while using synthetic occupancy to create normal occupancy conditions. In the summer of 2015 indoor temperatures were monitored in the houses to assess overheating. The monitoring was done firstly to see how differently an insulated and an uninsulated house perform under normal operating conditions: with the blinds open through the day and the windows closed. Secondly, a mitigation strategy was applied to reduce high indoor operative temperatures in the houses, which involved closing the blinds in the day to reduce solar gains and opening the windows at night to purge warm air from the houses. The original solid walls were measured to have U-values of 1.72 W/m2K, while with internal wall insulation the walls had U-values of 0.21 W/m2K, a reduction of 88%. The house without IWI had a heat transfer coefficient of 238 W/K; this was reduced by 39% to 144 W/K by installing IWI. The monitored data from winter was extrapolated into yearly energy demand; the internally insulated house used 52% less gas than before retrofit. The measured U-values, whole house heat loss and energy demand were all compared to those produced from RdSAP models. The house was found to be more energy efficient than expected in its original state and to continue to use less energy than modelled once insulated. This has important implications for potential carbon savings and calculating pay-back times for retrofit measures. In summer, operative temperatures in the living room and main bedroom were observed to be higher, by 2.2 ºC and 1.5 ºC respectively, in the internally insulated house in comparison to the uninsulated house. Both of these rooms overheated according to CIBSE TM52 criteria; however the tests were conducted during an exceptionally warm period of weather. With the simple mitigation strategy applied the indoor operative temperature in the internally insulated house was reduced to a similar level as observed in the uninsulated house. This demonstrates that any increased overheating risk due to the installation of internal wall insulation can be mitigated through the use of simple, low cost mitigation measures. This research contributes field-measured evidence gathered under realistic controlled conditions to show that internal wall insulation can significantly reduce the energy demand of a solid wall house; this in turn can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and could help alleviate fuel poverty. Further to this it has been demonstrated that in this archetype and location IWI would cause overheating only in unusually hot weather and that indoor temperatures can be reduced to those found in an uninsulated house through the use of a simple and low cost mitigation strategy. It is concluded that IWI can provide a comfortable indoor environment, and that overheating should not be considered a barrier to the uptake of IWI in the UK.





  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering


© Victoria Tink

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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