Ross Clark Ross Clark

Home insulation is the latest net zero farce

(Getty Images)

Zoe Godrich of Swansea might best be described as collateral damage in Britain’s glorious march towards net zero. Three years ago, she had her three-bedroom home fitted with cavity-wall insulation – which the government is out to encourage through its Great British Insulation Scheme. Sadly for her, it has not worked out quite as intended.

With Labour now promising billions more to retrofit homes with this kind of stuff, what could possibly go wrong?

Within weeks of having it fitted, Godrich says her walls started to run with water, and black mould started to form on her walls. She can no longer use two of her bedrooms, and she and her children now have to slum it on mattresses in the one remaining habitable room. The company which installed the insulation also went bust and the guarantee for the work turned out to be useless. Her only option seemed to be having the insulation sucked out of the wall – for which she had to borrow £7,000 to have done. That work turned out to be botched, too.

Godrich’s experience, it turns out, seems to be becoming commonplace. Twenty miles away in Rhondda Cynon Taff, 280 homes had to have cavity-wall insulation removed after it made their walls damp. The BBC is reporting that Ofgem has told it that ‘hundreds of thousands’ of homes which have been fitted with cavity-wall insulation have been left with problems due to it being badly fitted. There are an estimated 15 million homes in Britain which have such insulation fitted – many of them courtesy of subsidy schemes launched by the present government and the last Labour government.

But if there is a lesson here, it is one that our leaders seem determined not to learn. While the present government has launched its Great British Insulation Scheme, which aims to insulate 300,000 households in a three-year period from last March at a cost of £1 billion, Labour is promising to go much further. Under its Warm Homes Plan, every home in Britain would be brought up to the standard of a ‘C’ on an Energy Performance Certificate over the next decade – using loft insulation, cavity-wall insulation and solid-wall insulation. A Treasury analysis suggests that it would cost taxpayers between £12 billion and £15 billion a year for the next 10 years. According to Labour, it will save households £500 a year on bills – unless, presumably, they have the same experience as Zoe Godrich and many others, in which case they may find themselves having to take out emergency loans to put right botched work.

It is possible to retrofit old houses properly to bring them closer to the energy performance standards of new homes, but it is also possible to damage them through such work. This is as true of solid-wall insulation as it is of cavity-wall insulation. Linda Griffiths of Carmarthenshire found that out the hard way, when she spend £30,000 fitting it to her home, partly with the aid of a £10,000 grant from another government scheme, the Energy Company Obligation. She, too, ended up with damp – and was left complaining that her home had been devalued by £100,000.

With Labour now promising billions more to retrofit homes with this kind of stuff, what could possibly go wrong? As with so much to do with net zero, reason seems to go out of the window as governments seek to meet their rashly-set targets.