Another Government brings with it another new initiative to try and spur work in insulating the leakiest of Britain’s homes. This time, there is a fresh wave of £1bn being thrown at homes which are classed as the most poorly insulated.
Within the range of products that homeowners will be able to earmark that grant against are items such as loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. The amount of money each household will be able to claim is around £1500. Customers will have to contact their energy provider or council to see if they are taking part in the scheme.
As for the inclusion of windows in the scheme. Not a chance. Again.
Windows not included
Despite replacement windows being one of the most significant energy-efficient upgrades you can make in a home, they have once again been left out of Government policy when it comes to retrofitting people’s properties.
There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that the cost of replacement windows versus the cost of insulation is wildly different. Insulation is very cheap to produce and install. Windows on the other hand are not. With a single, modest house costing thousands. I have to be honest and say that I find it very unlikely that at any time in the near future the Government is going to be able to find the billions that would be required to retrofit the millions of homes that need new energy-efficient windows.
The other reason is something we have long been at fault for and is the same reason we often get overlooked by Government is that we continue to be divided amongst ourselves.
As we saw during the implementation of the latest revisions to Building Regulations, we are completely unable to find a common position on things like trickle vents and energy ratings. The trade bodies are unable to work together and I do not foresee a time when they do. During the height of the debate around trickle vents, I saw opinions from both sides within the installation and fabrication sectors within fenestration.
Logically, when a sector can join as one around a single position on an issue, that produces a more powerful, influential and effective voice when it comes to negotiating with civil servants. After the Building Regulations episode, I am told that the opinion from within the Government of our sector is laughable. And to be honest, I don’t blame them. Decades of poor practices have generated a bad reputation that still lingers. Ego and self-interest erode good decision-making at all levels. Trade bodies that represent us cannot present a united front. It should be said that there are one or two that I know have made attempts to bridge gaps in the past but to no avail.
So long as we look and sound like an industry that does not take a totally professional approach in all capacities, we should not expect to be included in Government schemes to retrofit homes.
Uniquely positioned USP
During the majority of the pandemic years, fenestration found itself in the very lucky position that it was one of the few very accessible sectors where the public could spend their money. Travel was off. Hospitality was closed for a very long time. Retail was hammered. But one place people could spend their money was in home improvements. People ploughed a lot of their saved cash into renovating their homes whilst they could no do much else. It may seem a while ago now, but we were very lucky to be in that position.
Even as we enter a long recession, we find ourselves once again in a position where we can not only benefit as a sector but also make a material difference in the lives of people. Our products, replacement windows and doors, can have a massive impact on the energy efficiency of people’s homes. In a period where fuel bills continue to rise and a cost-of-living crisis is weighing on consumers, the urgent need to make homes as efficient as possible has never been so pressing.
So although we’re unlikely to be left out in the cold when it comes to Government schemes, we have a very useful and important USP in supplying energy-efficient windows and doors. We have to be as loud and visible about that as we can over the next couple of years. That single unique selling point is going to be pivotal for many families weighing up whether to invest in their homes or put off that spending for another year.
It is imperative that we communicate the advantages our products bring when it comes to keeping homes healthy and efficient. That messaging has to come from all parts of the sector, not just installers. Fabricators and systems companies have to get in on the act too. And not just marketing within the industry, but outwardly to the general public as well. The more connected our message is, the more effective it will be.
We have missed out again as a sector, but with endless tools at our disposal, it doesn’t mean we have to miss out on growth in the coming years.
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