Insulate your home to the rising cost of energy
Jess Thimbleby, Carbon Reduction Champion for Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy
With energy prices sky rocketing, more and more people across Wiltshire are taking a long hard look at their energy use, searching for ways to reduce their consumption and subsequently, reduce their bills.
2018 figures for Wiltshire and Swindon show that 18,426 or 9% of households were in fuel poverty at that time, and the most recent data available shows that in the southwest in 2020, 11.4% households were considered to be ‘fuel poor’. In my personal experience working as an Energy Advisor and Caseworker, I dealt with households on low incomes, struggling to pay energy costs, and often with long-term physical or mental health conditions. I ceased my role as an Advisor just before the April 2022 price cap was introduced, but I cannot begin to imagine how the people I used to support are managing to make ends meet now those bills have gone up by a staggering 54%, with further hikes on the horizon.
The Chancellor’s recent windfall tax initiative may provide some short-term respite, but with 14% of Wiltshire properties and 9% of Swindon properties having an EPC rating of E or below, perhaps there are things we can do to improve the energy efficiency of our homes to help ourselves?
The ‘energy hierarchy’ provides a good framework to cut costs sustainably, encouraging us to first focus on i) reducing the amount of energy we use, for example by insulating homes better or switching the heating off during the summer, ii) using energy more efficiently, for example as light bulbs ‘go’ replacing them with LED bulbs and when buying new appliances checking they run more efficiently which will offset the additional outlay and iii) using renewable energy where possible, installing solar panels if you’re in a position to do so (see the Solar Together scheme for which registration is now open) or even a home wind turbine on your roof!
Energy Hierarchy, Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)
Reducing energy use through retrofit
The Climate Change Committee has resolved that the UK’s 29 million homes must be made low carbon, low-energy and resilient to a changing climate. Our homes currently use 35% of all the energy in the UK and are responsible for 20% of carbon dioxide emissions. Targets for 2030 require a 15% reduction in energy use for heating existing buildings, compared to 2015 levels, to be achieved through efficiency improvements. Currently the average Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of UK homes is D - in the middle of the scale, so while not terrible, energy efficiency measures are required.
If you’re not sure if your home has an EPC, you can check here. Certificates include recommendations to improve your home’s energy efficiency but as yet, the EPC doesn’t provide a comprehensive survey of your home and lifestyle.
Taking a ‘fabric first’ approach to improving the performance of the building is recommended. Begin by completing any maintenance which affects your home’s energy efficiency and look at insulation, draught-proofing and ventilation before adding any new systems, certainly before installing anything like a heat pump. As the People Powered Retrofit project puts it “there’s no point fitting a shiny new PV system on a damaged roof, or a heat pump into a draughty and damp home.”
This leaflet produced by the Centre for Sustainable Energy provides a helpful guide to considering and planning a retrofit.
The ways heat is lost from your home is clearly going to depend on a number of varying factors but this diagram gives averages which you may find helpful (and surprising). Early on in my training as an Energy Advisor we were reminded that heat energy isn’t lost, it’s transferred from one place to another (that is from a warmer interior to a cooler exterior!).
Where Does All The Heat Go? powertoswitch.co.uk
If you are looking for guidance on carrying out a retrofit project or getting a home survey, the Futureproof website is helpful.
There is an acknowledged shortage of qualified energy assessors and installers trained to fit certain efficiency measures but we’re lucky to have a fantastic resource close by, in the form of the National Self Build and Renovation Centre with experts on hand for advice, training and demonstrations.
Help to pay for energy efficiency measures
Financial help to install energy efficiency measures is available but schemes vary by county and eligibility for them often depends on household circumstances and income, to prioritise low income households. The Wiltshire & Swindon Credit Union and Lendology may be able to help with affordable loans towards home improvements, including boiler replacement in Wiltshire.
Other help is available towards energy bills for households struggling to pay in the form of the Warm Home Discount (the new scheme is yet to be announced). Of course, if you don’t need your winter fuel payment you can donate it to the Wiltshire Surviving Winter Fund via the Wiltshire Community Foundation and it will be distributed to people in Wiltshire and Swindon struggling with energy costs via Warm and Safe Wiltshire, Age UK Wiltshire and Wiltshire and Swindon Citizens Advice. Households living in privately rented accommodation are most likely to be fuel poor (25%) so if you are a landlord you can ensure properties are well insulated and the heating system is appropriate and not expensive to run.
While the outlook may seem bleak, help is at hand if you need it! Contact any of the organisations above if you need additional support, or to find out more about the exciting work I’m doing with community solar here at WWCE, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org