As I write, Britain shivers through a cold snap. One that has put huge pressure on the grid, and household finances already strained by the cost-of-living crisis. The fall in temperatures mirrors the drop in economic confidence as 2022 drew to a close. Recession is forecast for 2023, and construction will not be unaffected.
But that’s not the full picture. There are reasons to be confident that demand for some products and services will remain buoyant throughout a downturn. Especially insulation.
To illustrate the point, let’s return to the weather. This winter began as a mild one – too mild in fact, with record high temperatures across Europe. Stark warnings are giving way to increasingly tangible signs of our changing climate. Hence the government’s new commitment – announced in November – of a 15% reduction in energy demand by 2030 on the path to net-zero.
The only way we’ll get anywhere near that level of energy saving is if we embark on a national mission to insulate our homes, taking a ‘fabric first’ approach with products that actually perform in the real world. That means filling every cavity, topping up every loft, and ultimately addressing every ‘hard to treat’ property in the UK before we make the transition to electric heating. A huge undertaking, but one that the construction industry must deliver, and quickly.
For merchants then, the advice is this. Be ready to provide the right products and expertise required for energy efficient homes – starting with energy-saving insulation before considering heat pumps and other low-carbon heating technologies. And have a point of view on the payback time for the solutions you recommend. In straitened times, your customers will need to be able to justify every pound they spend.
Make no mistake; energy efficiency is becoming mainstream. Forget the weather; maybe insulation should be our new national obsession?