Monica & Alan, Rusholme

Energy-saving improvements

  • Low-cost improvements
    Low-cost improvements
  • 'Big' insulation works
    'Big' insulation works
  • Glazing
  • Lighting systems and electrical appliances
    Lighting systems and electrical appliances
  • High spec heating
    High spec heating
  • Renewables: heat
    Renewables: heat
  • Renewables: electricity
    Renewables: electricity
  • Sustainable building materials
    Sustainable building materials


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After lots of hard work Alan and Monica have completed a full eco-refurbishment of their house which has included a number of measures to reduce energy consumption, make the house more thermally efficient and reduce their carbon footprint. They employed experienced contractors, but not ones that are specialists in those particular areas. After a lot of consideration Alan and Monica decided not to go for EWI or MVHR and this was based on positive decisions around their home use patterns and desires, rather than due to finance.

To find out more about how Monica and Alan planned their retrofit, found contractors and managed issues along the way see our report from a member social in which Alan spoke.  

Energy Saving Improvements

Low cost improvements

Filled external and internal cavity walls. Insulated pipes.

‘Big’ insulation works

New roof with full fill insulation. New concrete floor with insulation below.

Glazing upgrades

New triple glazed windows and doors from Green Building Store throughout except triple glazed velux windows in loft rooms. New fully glazed conservatory from IDSystems, not part of thermal envelope but very effective heat source in all seasons except winter.

Lighting systems and electrical appliances

All lighting low energy LEDs. All kitchen appliances A++. 

Heating system upgrades

Retained and re-used combi boiler and many radiators rather than having to buy new. Downstairs radiators replaced with Jaga DBS radiators as we have the combi boiler set at 45 degrees for heating. This works fine with a well insulated house.

Renewables: heat

2 single room heat recovery fans in the two main bathrooms. These have worked very well.

Renewables: electricity

3.75kW of solar PV on roof almost due south facing.

Water management 

All rainwater (or as much as possible) is saved in water butts for use in the garden. No saving of gray water.

Use of sustainable building materials 

Wherever possible, particularly as my wife is highly allergic to many chemicals. We also re-used as much as we possibly could in the retrofit including many doors, skirting boards, carpets, radiators, boiler, etc etc.

Any other improvements 

The house was completely refurbished from top to bottom with a couple of rooms moved around and the conservatory added. A number of windows were altered or moved and glazing increased. The front porch was enlarged to allow outside clothes to be taken off in it. 

Background and motivations

What motivated you to make these measures? Why did you choose these particular measures?

What did the work entail for you? Did you do works yourself or hire someone else? How did you find and choose a builder/supplier? 

  • Took lots of advice (eg Urbed, Green Building Store, Carbon Co-op) in order to try and clarify exactly where we wanted to go.

  • Attended lots of shows (Grand Designs, sustainable building, etc)

  • Attended a number of “open houses” (Carbon Co-op and others)

  • Eventually we had a clear idea of what we wanted – but this took a


Started looking into a retrofit in May 2016…

  • We employed an architect, but not a specialist in sustainable retrofit (this was not for the wont of trying).

  • We made a number of positive decisions (ie not primarily finance based) on things we would or would not do. 

  • These included NOT having external or internal wall insulation

  • MVHR

  • We went with a main contractor who was not a specialist in sustainable retrofit (again not for the wont of trying)

What difference has these measures made in your home (e.g., reduced energy use, saved money on bills, more comfortable)? If you track any changes quantitatively, how do you do this? 

Best things we have done:

  • Green Building Store windows and doors

  • “Orangery” – though that has not been without problems!

  • Extra insulation everywhere – house is so much warmer even with no one living there

  • Movement of bedroom and ensuite

  • New kitchen

  • Whole house is just better arranged now

  • Energy has reduced significantly (about 40% I think)

What key dos and don'ts would you pass on to someone considering these works?


  • Know the building regulations – that will be what they do, so anything else you have to fight hard for

  • Move out if you can and can afford it (we would not have been able to stay in the house no matter what) but be very close as you will constantly be called round about things and need to constantly check on things

  • No matter how carefully you have specified things you will not get exactly what you want. The retrofit process forces some compromises on you.

  • The process is completely exhausting

  • Do not expect to do anything else at all with your life from the moment you start asking for estimates until the process is complete.

Additional information

The unalloyed joy that is a retrofit (PDF, 9MB)


[Virtual event]

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Opening times

More information and tickets:

This event has now finished.

Other Alan will be joining our online Q&A

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