York Community Energy

Energy Café 2: a super talk on super-insulation

YCE joined forces with St Nicks again to return to Fortyfive Vinyl Café on a very rainy November evening for our second Energy Café. This time it featured insulation expert Andy Walker, talking about how to make homes more energy efficient, both in terms of heating and electricity usage.

With the recent IPCC report still fresh in everyone’s minds, it was perhaps no surprise that Andy set the scene with a sober reminder that we need to act quickly and decisively if we are to stand any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Fortunately, aside from pressuring politicians and supporting local community energy groups (!), there are plenty of things we can do around the home to reduce our emissions, which will have the huge added benefits of making it more comfortable and cheaper to run.

Andy started by tackling some of the more obvious energy saving measures such as draught-proofing and using low energy light bulbs, including the example of having succesfully used two halogen light bulbs to fry an egg: good to know in case your cooker breaks, but it does mean there is a lot of excess heat (and therefore energy) being wasted by those bulbs. If you do have any, you should switch to LED equivalent bulbs right away! Unfortunately, we didn’t get a live demo; perhaps another time.

Moving onto the less obvious, Andy shared some photos of his fridge which he decided to cover in insulating material to see what impact it would have on the energy usage. Lo and behold, it went from turning on several times a day to once a day, if that! Imagine how much energy we could save just from better-insulated fridges alone…

Average heat loss from an average house (illustration by Caroline Miekina, courtesy of St Nicks)

Average heat loss from an average house (illustration by Caroline Miekina, courtesy of St Nicks)

Andy’s great passion, and day job, is insulating homes. But this is not insulation as we know it: Andy is on a mission to reduce the U-value (heat loss) of homes to far below the usual targets. He mostly does this using internal wall insulation (as opposed to cavity wall or external insulation), under-floor insulation and above-average amounts of loft insulation, among others. He is keen for other people to get involved in this as well, which is why he offers to do “house warming parties” where homeowners and their friends learn the necessary skills by actually insulating a room in their house (with Andy’s guidance), and can then go on to do the other rooms (and perhaps friends’ houses) by themselves.

Obviously every home has different needs and different weaknesses in terms of heat loss, so Andy also performs home visits where he assesses each room of the house in depth and then provides recommendations on what measures to take. In fact, so convincing was his talk that a few of our audience members decided to request a home visit for themselves.

The take-home message of the evening was that there are steps that we can all take to reduce our home energy usage, and by extension, our emissions. And it may be cheaper and easier than you think!


YCE insulation scheme

York Community Energy would love to play a part in this and get more people involved, so we are looking to start providing our own assessments in the near future, and ultimately we would like to help people super-insulate their homes, either by teaching them the skills or helping with the costs. Following on from Andy’s talk, we presented our vision of a scheme that would achieve this for York homes, and while it is still in the very early stages, we could potentially start doing assessments in early 2019, with the other parts of the scheme arriving later. The audience reaction to our proposal was very positive, and there was a lot of constructive debate and feedback. If you would like to get involved with turning this idea into a reality, please contact us. Otherwise, watch this space!