Blog: insulate the installation for energy efficiency

As house builders are told by the UK government’s climate change adviser to be ‘ashamed’ of their efforts to tackle global warming, Andy Swift, national sales manager at ISO-CHEMIE, says that new foam sealant technology can improve the energy efficiency of the whole window installation – not just the frame.

Lord Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), has said housebuilders were ‘cheating’ buyers with energy-inefficient homes. Perhaps harsh words, but the CCC’s annual report, published in June 2018, found the UK is on track to miss its legally binding carbon budgets in 2025 and 2030, due to lack of progress in cutting emissions from buildings and transport.

The report also said ministers were spurning low-cost options, such as simple home insulation measures, leading to people possibly ending up paying more than needed to fight climate change.

Undeniably, home insulation installations are among the cheapest carbon cutting measures – they can cut energy bills by £100 a year on average – but the cancellation of government incentives has caused a 95% drop since 2012, according to the CCC, who’s chief executive is on record as saying the current situation is ‘really shocking’.

Despite great strides in modern housing design and development, evidence shows that doors and windows continue to be among the biggest culprits when it comes to energy inefficient homes.

Indeed, it could be said that in the light of product innovation, its almost ‘criminal’ that today a lamentable number of installations go unchecked or unregulated, leaving in their wake a legacy of problems that can last for years and cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to rectify. But, with technological advancement, there’s no reason to settle for second best when it comes to energy efficient window and door sealing specification.

Heat will always find the fastest exit as it comes up against the ‘A’ or ‘A+’ rated window and this is invariably the 10mm or so expansion gap left around the window when it was originally fitted. This is normally left empty but some uncontrolled volume of spray foam can be injected to fill the void before a silicone trim is applied for a smart looking finish.

Unfortunately, as expedient as this might be, none of these solutions create a measurable, long term, high performance thermal, acoustic or airtight barrier: The U-Value of the installed window is simply reduced, which leads to heat escape and ultimately, financial loss.

If building regulations remain lenient, we will continue to see window and door developments that only just meet minimum standards. But installers deserve better insulating products to improve energy efficiency and save money for their end-users, and the latest generation of high performance foam sealing tapes, which use ‘smart’ foams impregnated with different substances to create a measurable U-Value as low as 0.6w/m2k, offer superb thermal insulation and acoustic sound reduction by 63dB.

As these installation tapes are completely weather tight against driving rain up to hurricane force wind speeds, installers can quickly apply them around the frame during initial fitting. This provides the assurance that they have completed a comprehensive ‘A’ rated installation rather than just supplying an ‘A’ rated window. This is a benefit that can be sold on to deliver enhanced energy efficiency advantages for customers and property owners.

There’s no question that those in the fenestration sector can do more to improve overall energy efficiency. Technical innovation through sealing tapes and other technologies is one way that this can be achieved. Infact, as sustainability continues to be a key driver in the development of low carbon and eco-friendly housing schemes, we are seeing technologies such as foam tapes being specified to provide effective long-term sealing of the window and door frame expansion joints and gaps of houses. These provide effective sealing for window and door joints up to 30mm wide and can be impermeable to driving rain at a minimum of 1,000 Pa.

The challenge as ever for new technologies is to provide installers and sector specifiers with the confidence to assure customers that energy efficiency is at least as good as the window. In this way, the fenestration industry will improve the way it looks after its reputation and customers.