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Home Insulation - Should You 'do It Yourself' Or Use A Professional Contractor?

Dec 4, 2007
Insulating your home well can save you a small fortune on your energy bills, by cutting the amount of heat you lose through your walls, doors and roof. But should you try to do this home improvement by yourself, or hire someone to do it? This article weighs up the pros and cons of using a professional contractor versus doing it yourself.

The Energy Saving Trust in the UK estimates that the average home can save several hundred pounds off its annual heating bills, and prevent the emission of over two tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, by installing insulation throughout. Insulation is the single biggest measure you can take to cut the amount of energy you use in the home. Plus this will also make the average home more comfortable by making it warmer in winter, and cooler in summer. It's no wonder that hundreds of thousands of people a year in the UK are getting their homes insulated.

When thinking about insulating your home you are immediately faced with the choice of employing a professional contractor to do it, or attempting a bit of DIY. At first the DIY option can appear tempting. For example, some types of insulation, such as loft insulation, are not normally technically difficult to fit. The materials are readily available in most DIY stores. Plus many people automatically think that DIY is going to be cheaper than employing a professional contractor, because with a contractor you are paying for their labour.

However, in many cases they will be wrong because using a professional contractor is either cheaper or roughly the same cost as DIY. This is because installing insulation in the UK is now heavily subsidised by gas and electricity suppliers, in order that they can meet their carbon emission targets set by the government. These subsidies are funded by the power companies regardless of household income, and currently amount to between 50 and 70% of the cost of having the insulation installed. This usually means that using a contractor becomes price competitive, or in many cases even cheaper, than DIY.

Plus if you receive certain benefits from the government in the UK, you can get your insulation installed by a professional contractor completely free. This is because the government tops up the grants from the energy companies with its own subsidies to cover the entire cost of the work.

As well as financial considerations, there are other reasons why employing a professional contractor can be attractive. Firstly, some types of insulation do require special technical expertise. For example, to install cavity wall insulation - filling the space between your outer walls with insulation material - requires special machinery, as well as training. You should always use a reputable contractor for this. Although not technically difficult, installing loft insulation is often still a challenging DIY job. The working conditions in a loft are often cramped and unpleasant. Employing someone else to go up there is in many cases a much more attractive option!

As well as the technical challenges, DIY can also have a number of safety issues. For example, the mineral wool that is commonly used to insulate lofts can be hazardous. It is extremely important to handle it with care, as it can severely irritate the throat and skin. You need to wear protective clothing, including face mask, safety goggles and gloves. You also need to make sure that you do not expose the living areas of the house to the material, either when you unpack it, or dispose of any waste material.

If you use a reputable contractor, you can be sure that these issues will be taken care of, with much less hassle for you. You also know that the job will be done to a good standard, because of their training and experience. In fact, cavity wall insulation carried out by professionals in the UK comes with a 25 year guarantee if they are registered with the Cavity Wall Guarantee Agency, which most reputable firms are.

Given all of these advantages, we recommend that most people use a professional contractor to get their home insulated. It's generally competitive on cost or cheaper than DIY, safer, less hassle, and will be done to a high standard if you choose the right contractor. There are many reputable firms who can be accessed through the Internet They will offer you a free no-obligation survey, after which you get a quotation. They also give you access to the attractive grants and subsidies mentioned above. If you like what they tell you, then you can simply go ahead and get a date booked for the work, and look forward to a warmer home and lower heating bills.
About the Author
Alex Perry is a founder of http://www.downwithco2.co.uk , a site dedicated to making it easy for people to save energy and cut their personal contribution to Climate Change by giving them information and putting them in touch with companies that can help.
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