Home insulation has been dominating the news thanks to protests by campaigners, Insulate Britain, and the Government drive to make houses more environmentally friendly.
Insulation makes homes warmer and increases energy efficiency, meaning consumers can save money on their energy bills and cut down their emissions.
It can be installed anywhere from inside the walls, to the roof or even under the floor.
While the latter may seem like a hassle, a new company claims to have come up with a ‘unique solution’ to the problem of floorboards needing to be ripped up and the homeowner’s life disrupted.
London-based firm Q-Bot is now offering under-floor insulation fitted by controlled robots, in homes that have suspended floors.
Robots fit underfloor insulation at a time when homes are looking to be more energy efficient
It says this is cheaper than the traditional method, as well as causing less disruption.
So far, it has fitted insulation for an estimated 2,000 homes, resulting in significant reduction of cold draughts, heat loss through the floor and uneven temperatures.
It says this work has harvested CO2 savings equivalent to planting two million trees.
This is Money spoke to Q-Bot about how the robots work and how much energy they could save people.
How does it work?
There is a three-step process to how the Q-Bots work.
1) Scan: The robot goes into the void through an access hatch. Access methods vary by property type, but as a broad generalisation, in the UK, access is primarily via an access hatch created in the floor.
In other countries, access is primarily via an opening in the external wall.
Wherever possible and safe, Q-Bot will use the least disruptive method. As the robot travels through the under-floor space, a detailed 3D map is built.
This final check helps assess all installation details and any risks.
2) Spray: The robot sprays layers of insulation to the underside of the floorboards, with a typical thickness of 12cm. The insulation expands to fill all the gaps which keeps floors warm, dry and draught-free.
The void under the floor stays ventilated, allowing the ground to breathe and avoiding the risk of damp or mould.
3) Quality check: While the robot does its work, the installation is monitored to measure the thickness of the insulation applied under the floor.
This allows the Q-Bot to verify that the work has been completed successfully.
How much will it cost?
The installation price varies according to the size and characteristics of the property, but a typical two to three bedroom semi-detached house would cost around £3,000 to £3,500 to insulate.
The full carbon cost of a typical single installation is 777kg of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent).
This includes the materials, the manufacture of the robot, transportation of components as well as transport to site and application.
Meanwhile, the carbon saving through the reduction of energy usage is 655kg of CO2e annually, based on gas central heating and calculated through a case study of 100 installs.
This means the carbon payback period on the typical home would be 1.2years.
Q-Bot said it had seen an increase in demand from eco-friendly customers, wanting to increase the EPC rating of their property to reduce emissions, but also wanting their homes to be warmer.
A two to three bedroom semi-detached house costs around £3,000 to £3,500 to insulate
How much energy could it save?
Retrofitting existing buildings is one of the main steps homes can take to reach net zero. with residential properties responsible for around 25 per cent of the UK’s CO2 emissions.
According to Q-Bot’s case study of 100 homes where it installed under-floor insulation, each household cut its annual CO2 emissions by 655kg on average.
This is the equivalent greenhouse gas emission saving as driving over 1,700 miles in a car.
In addition to carbon savings, Q-Bot’s under-floor insulation also reduces the average homeowner’s heating bill by 16 per cent, or £150 a year.
According to Energy Saving Trust, insulating a floor with Q-Bot typically saves around £110 a year in a gas-heated home, or £255 a year in an electrically-heated home.
The company is also regularly redesigns its fleet of robots, which are named after environmentally conscious people, including Michael Faraday and Greta Thunberg, to ensure that that every one uses the latest in smart digital technology.
Recent improvements include the addition of sealed robots with wheels that can drive underwater, and a new design of the spray platform to control insulation thickness.
Compared to previous generations, the current robot is now narrower, making it easier to insert in different types of floor void – ideal for spaces that have historically been harder to reach.
Martin Jervis of Q-Bot said: ‘Our fleet of Q-Bot robots is a prime example of how smart young engineers building new innovations in technology can have a significant positive impact on the planet, and also offer meaningful cost savings to homeowners and landlords.
‘We are essentially replacing legacy construction techniques with smart digital processes, using robotics and AI to make it easier to inspect, maintain and upgrade buildings.’
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