British rigid Urethane Foam Manufacturers' Association

Overheating – a lot of hot air?

There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about how measures installed under the Green Deal could lead to ‘deadly summer overheating’.   But can the dangers of a Summer heatwave be attributed solely to ‘heavily insulated homes’? It is a well reported that ”heatwaves are dangerous and can kill” and during the heatwave in August 2003, as temperatures hit 38°C there were 2,000 to 3,000 excess deaths in England.  Such extremes of temperature tend to affect the very young, the elderly and those who are seriously ill and can make heart and breathing problems worse.  The importance of educating those in these vulnerable groups (and their carers) to actions they can take to reduce risk should not be overlooked. Research conducted by Loughborough University, suggests that it is certain types of buildings that are at the highest risk of overheating, for example top floor flats in 1960s tower blocks and modern detached houses, particularly if they are south facing.   The research goes on to state that simple measures can be adopted to prevent overheating homes including:

  • Closing windows and doors during the day to stop the hot air from outside entering and also closing curtains, blinds and shutters during the day in order to minimise solar gain inside the building.
  • Open windows and doors (where possible, practical and safe), curtains, blinds and shutters when the temperature drops outside in order to let the cooler air in.  This helps lower the core temperature of the building overnight which will then help keep the room temperature lower the following day.

Other measures that could be considered over the longer term and where finance and planning regulations allow include:

  •  Fitting blinds and external shutters to windows or using energy saving window films
  •  Using smaller windows in new builds
  •  Creation of shade, for example through planting of trees and vegetation
  •  Use of heating reflective paint or white paint on external surfaces.

So it can be seen that there are many other factors to take into account other than insulation when considering overheating of buildings.  As an Association BRUFMA believes that the need to address the insulation of the nation’s existing housing stock in order to meet the Government’s CO2 emission reduction targets (and reduce energy usage), is of the utmost importance as well as ensuring that those with vulnerable health conditions, and those living in fuel poverty, do not suffer further.  By carrying out a full survey of the building and its occupancy and installing products with guaranteed performance by trained professionals as the Green Deal requires, any such overheating issues should become a thing of the past.