min read

Think about how an Energy Efficient Home Design will improve your tenant’s lives

Energy Efficiency

Think carefully about how an Energy Efficient Home Design will improve your tenant’s lives

Energy efficient home design isn’t just for owner occupiers. Improving your rental properties will

make your property more efficient, easier to let and hopefully mean the tenant will stay longer,

thereby reducing your costs.

As a landlord, the overarching goal for your properties should be a balance between cost-

efficiency and tenant comfort. Both can be achieved by focusing on energy efficiency. From new

builds to retrofits, this guide explores various methods to transform your property into an energy-

efficient property that will be easier to rent out (due to increased efficiency and lower running

costs for tenants) and less likely to be vacant as tenants will want to stay longer if their bills are


Planning for Energy Efficient Home Design is Essential

The key to enhancing your property's energy efficiency lies in careful planning and approach.

According to Jeremy, the energy efficiency expert at Eco-Home-Essentials the fabric first

approach should be your starting point. If you can get the fabric of the building right everything

else slots into place much easier. Your primary focus should be on insulation and ventilation

(which also encompasses airtightness). These are fundamental regardless of whether your

property is newly built or refurbished.

There are other issues to consider, if you want to keep going, such as the heating system, but

here we’re going to look at the fabric first approach. However, if you want more information

Jeremy outlines these in his free guide: "Simple Energy Reduction Tips" e-book which is available

on his site, when you sign up for his newsletter, where you’ll also receive regular free tips on how

to make your properties more energy efficient..


When it comes to energy efficient home design, insulation is a crucial aspect of your property's

energy efficiency. The type of insulation you choose will heavily depend on your property's

construction. Factors such as existing insulation, the age of the property (whether it has solid or

cavity walls), and whether you’re refurbishing or building new require different approaches.

In older housing stock it’s important to remember that it also needs to be breathable, not just well

insulated. The last thing you want to do is trap water vapour within the fabric of the building where

it will cause problems.

So what’s wrong with just adding some foil backed plasterboards and studding out the internal

walls. Which is what I see done every day of the week in older solid walled homes? Or just

battening the walls and filling the void with fibreglass or mineral wool!

While this is what the industry has done for years, it will cause problems.

The foil backed plasterboard contains a vapour stop in the form of the foil backing to each

side of the insulation material and that doesn’t allow any water vapour to pass through.

So as water vapour tries to pass through the structure it ends up getting trapped either to the inside or outside

faces of the PIR board. (Water vapour moves outward in winter but it also moves inward in the


This water vapour can then condense and run to the bottom of the timber frame work where it will

form mould and possibly rot the timbers depending on the extent of the issue.

So what’s the alternative?

I always recommend using a natural insulation material such as wood fibre in conjunction with a

vapour control layer (VCL) and/or a breather layer/breathable plaster etc. The VCL allows a small

amount of water vapour to pass through, which the wood fibre can easily deal with (wood fibre

and other natural insulation materials can easily absorb and release water vapour whereas

man made insulants tend to absorb it easily but then struggle to release it).


Ventilation is equally important in an energy-efficient design. While insulation and the use of VCLs

and tapes around windows and doors etc will help you create an airtight property that’s easy to

heat. Without adequate ventilation, this can quickly lead to a property that is stale, smelly and an

unpleasant place to live. So correct ventilation is also essential. An investment in a good

ventilation system will ensure moisture-laden air from the kitchen, bathroom, cooking and drying

clothes doesn't compromise your property's air quality or heat retention.


One of the most common things I come across in rental properties is tenants who tape up

Positive Input Ventilators, trickle vents and anything else that they feel is allowing a cold draught

into the property. This can be a difficult thing to get around. But having an open and honest

conversation with the tenants and explaining what these things are, why they’re there and how

they will reduce the chances of mould in the property can make all the difference to maintaining

your investment and their health. A 20 minute conversation could make all the difference and save

you money in the long run.

Heating and Cooling Systems in Energy Efficient Home Design

Effective insulation and ventilation will significantly reduce heating demands, saving your tenants

a considerable amount in heating bills. But remember, your tenants' comfort extends beyond

winter. As landlords, considering the cooling aspect is becoming more and more important so that

your property remains comfortable during summer months as well. In a super-insulated home,

large windows or patio doors can allow solar gain from the sun to overheat the home quickly,

making rooms uncomfortable. Here, choosing a dense insulating materials (wood fibre is really

good at keeping the heat out in the summer) in conjunction with heat-reflective glass can make a

significant difference to your tenant's comfort.

Incorporating Technology and Going Retro

While cutting-edge technologies like photovoltaic panels and backup battery systems could

enhance your property's energy efficiency, don't invest blindly. Investing in the fabric first

approach (insulation and ventilation) means less reliance on the pricier technology.

Plus, if you get the fabric right and then you decide to install one of the other technologies such

as a new boiler, you should find that you will require a smaller boiler because the property is more

efficient and has a lower heat demand.

Choice of Glazing

The kind of glazing used also plays a crucial role in energy efficiency. Investing in better-quality

glazing or triple-glazed windows can contribute considerably to heat retention. But it is an

expensive investment and payback can be quite a long period of time. If you have single glazed

windows it is worth upgrading. But if you have functional double glazing I’m not sure I’d spend the

money changing it unless I was doing a total refurb.

Your Crucial Role in the Design Phase

It's essential that you, as a landlord, be actively involved in the design or refurbishment process.

Providing your architect or builder with a detailed list of requirements can help focus on what's

important for energy efficiency and ensure that you get what want and what your tenants will


Make a list of your priorities in descending order, (1) being the most important, such as:

1. A warm and correctly ventilated comfortable home

2. Low running costs

3. A healthy environment within the home, free from condensation and damp

4. The work is future proofed and long lasting

5. The work is good value for money

6. A low carbon footprint.

An architect and many builders will have more information to help you make decisions regarding

the systems, materials and technologies which can be used within the build/refurbishment. But

it’s always a good idea to do your own research as well. Read up on the different manufacturers’

products – the Internet is a good place to start.

Here are some topics to consider at an early stage of new-build or renovation:

1. Draught proofing.

2. Natural insulation.

3. Vapour control layers and how they work.

4. Mechanical ventilation and heat recovery (MVHR)

5. Positive Input Ventilators (PIV).

6. Smart thermostatic radiator valves (TRV’s).

7. Air source heat pump for heating and possibly solar thermal panels for hot water.

8. Photovoltaic panels or wind turbine to generate electricity (depending on site suitability) and a

battery storage system so that you don't have to export any surplus to the grid (and only

receive pence for it).

9. Cat 6 cabling and smart home controls.

10. Cost effective build techniques such as Insulated concrete form (ICF) or Structural Insulated

Panels (SIP) construction etc.

It’s always a good idea to try to source materials locally and use recycled materials where


Next, list the things you don’t like, or that don’t work very well about your existing rental property.

Try to imagine yourself living in each room of the house, using them as your tenants normally

would. For example:

1. You don’t want to be facing the main window when watching TV.

2. Will the sun reflect on the TV screen?

3. Will there be enough natural light in the kitchen?

4. Where can I add more storage in the property?

5. Will there be enough sockets behind the TV for future gadgets – you can never have enough


Once you receive your plans make scale cutouts of your furniture to make sure it's all going to

fit. Think about where you need to place sockets for lighting etc. A few minutes spend doing this

will make a huge difference and hopefully avoid having to change things once the work starts.

Remember, if you do have to change things it will cost you more money!

The next step is to let the professionals (your Architect and builder) take over. But don’t rest on

your laurels. You should monitor the entire process like a hawk because parts of the construction

will get hidden behind other things on a daily basis and you need to be on top of everything if

you want to get the best results.

It’s also worth having a conversation with potential builders before appointing one in order to

make sure they are happy to do things the way you want them done. I see builders all the time

who are dyed in the wool and do not want to change the way they do things. They’ll say “Yes

we’re happy to install VCL’s etc” but when it comes to it they might think, “They’ll never know we

didn’t tape the seams and joints as it will be hidden behind the plaster” and they take shortcuts.

It’s up to you to make sure they don’t!

In conjunction with the practical measures above, part of the energy efficient home design

process is to educate your tenants as to why these things are in the property and how to use

them correctly. You should also encourage your tenants to adopt energy-efficient behaviours for

an all-round energy-efficient property. Your investment in making your rental properties energy

efficient will not only provide monetary benefits but will also create a healthier and more

comfortable living environment for your tenants. And happy tenants tend to become long term


A new article provided by Jeremy Brady,

For Eco Home Essentials

Get more detail in one of their ebooks, or book a consultation here.​


Energy efficiency 2