Heating and constructing buildings in the UK accounts for 50% of our energy consumption. The by-products of that energy use are carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide emissions from power stations and it is these by-products that are contributing to global warming and acid rain. In order to meet its commitment to reduce CO2 emissions under the Kyoto Agreement, the Government made the replacement of windows and doors in your home subject to the requirements of Building Regulations in England and Wales.

These changes are designed to improve the thermal efficiency of our homes and set insulation standards which are measured in units of thermal transmittance or ‘U-value’ which favour double or even triple glazing rather than single glazing. Double glazing works by trapping air between two panes of glass creating an insulating barrier that reduces heat loss, noise and condensation. Sealed units usually consist of two panes of glass vacuum sealed into a single unit that is fitted into the window frame. The thermal performance, or U-value of a replacement window, can increased by upgrading the glass type, the gap between the sheets of glass, filling the cavity with gas or adding sheets of glass, ie triple glazing. To comply with the new Building Regulations which came into force on 1st October, 2010, Parsons Joinery have upgraded their sealed units to incorporate soft coat Low E glass, warm edge spacer and argon gas. New glazing technology is being introduced into the UK market consistently. One of the latest developments are slimmer double glazed units which can be used in traditional style Georgian or Victorian type designs enabling the glazing bars and section sizes to replicate the slimmer appearance of the original windows.

Window frames can be manufactured in a variety of materials but interestingly, aluminium and uPVC does not perform as well as timber in terms of thermal efficiency. Both involve a much greater consumption of energy in their production than is used to produced timber. Wood, as a natural renewable resource is clearly preferable to any man-made alternative and can be repaired and renovated over time. To further increase insulation, opening sashes should be draught proofed.

At the Grand Designs Live Show in April 2009, Kevin McCloud launched the Great British Refurbishment Campaign to lobby Government and the Prime Minister to introduce measures to assist in its commitment to reduce our carbon output by 80% by 2050. He believes that “As homeowners, we need look no further than our own four walls to find a way to reduce carbon emissions, save money on our energy bills, and create jobs in our communities. If the Government is serious about tackling climate change, help must be given to homeowners on every street in Britain to green their homes”. By retrofitting existing homes with modern insulating, energy saving and even energy generating technology we can improve their eco-credentials which is good for the individual and the planet. To join his campaign and find out more information go to www.greatbritishrefurb.co.uk or for the Act on CO2 campaign at www.energytrust.org.uk.