York Community Energy

Warmer Homes York – what’s been going on?

The cold winter months are fast becoming a distant memory with the lovely weather we’ve had recently. As the weather gets warmer, let’s briefly look back at the various activities that we undertook as part of our Warmer Homes York programme.

Warmer Homes York area on website

In case you haven’t spotted it yet, we have a new Warmer Homes York section on the website, where you can get tips on draught-proofing and insulating your home, as well as book various kinds of assessments which we will discuss below:

Whole house assessments

Two people inspecting a window during a home assessmentAs with the previous year, we teamed up with Andy Walker of Sure Insulation and shadowed him as he visited the houses of York residents and gave them room-by-room advice on how to better insulate and draught-proof their homes to make them easier, cheaper and greener to heat. These are comprehensive assessments that generally take in the region of about two hours, so they are pretty serious business! By the end of the assessment, homeowners have a whole shopping list of measures that they can undertake; some are quick fixes while others are more complex and potentially expensive, but also hugely rewarding. In some cases, rather than paying for a professional to do the work, it might be possible to opt for a DIY “house warming party”, where a small group of friends, family and volunteers come to help the homeowner do the work together, expertly guided by a professional such as Andy. You may remember we hosted such a party last year, and there is potential for more parties this year too, provided it becomes safe to do so at some point – we’ll let you know if and when they happen.

And speaking of Andy, we are now able to share with you his famous U-values explainer that he delivers to householders at the start of every whole house assessment! In short, the lower the U-value of a material, the better its insulating properties. But Andy’s explainer goes way beyond this and gives you a deeper understanding of what this number really represents, and how a small change in the value can make a big difference. A must-watch for anyone who is considering insulating their home:

Thermal camera surveys

Thermal camera image showing cold rectangles where there is insulation missing in the bedroom ceiling

Missing insulation in bedroom ceiling

This winter also saw the debut of our new thermal imaging camera as we took it round the houses of YCE members to find out how well they are retaining heat, and locate any problem spots that may be allowing large amounts of heat to escape. We were impressed by the level of demand for this service, and our trained volunteers had plenty of practice using the camera! We saw ’60s semi-detached houses, bungalows and early 1900s properties with single-glazed windows, amongst others. Some common themes emerged, such as windows being a sources of heat loss, either through eroded seals, gaps around the frames or even conduction through metal frames to the outside world. Every house had its own surprises as well, for example a loft conversion with incredibly poor insulation. The homeowner complained of mould growing on a specific part of the bedroom ceiling, and sure enough, the thermal camera showed that there was no insulation there whatsoever. It was possible to see the individual joists between huge cold rectangles where the insulation was missing. The surveys were a big hit with everyone who had one, and were quite fun to perform as well. We look forward to doing more of these next autumn and winter; unfortunately we can’t do them all year round as the outdoor temperature needs to be much colder than the indoor temperature to get decent images from the thermal camera. We’ll be ready though when the temperature drops… assuming we’re not still social distancing at that point!

Draught-proofing workshop

Audience looks at presenter during draught-proofing workshopIn February, we held our first draught-proofing workshop in conjunction with St Nicks, and ably guided by Aneaka from Carbon Co-op, who spent the morning training up our Energy Champions who then delivered a talk to the gathered audience in the afternoon. The talk featured tips on how to deal with chimneys and seal around doors, amongst other things.

The focus was on quick and cheap draught-proofing measures that anyone could do. The reaction from the audience was very positive and we have heard that some have made some quick fixes to make their feel homes much warmer. Our newly-trained Energy Champions will be giving another draught-proofing workshop later this year (likely to be online if we’re still social distancing).

Building partnerships and seeking engagement

In order to broaden our reach and help people with their retrofit journey, we are looking to build up contacts with local energy assessors, contractors, and householders, so that we can link people together and understand how we can better facilitate household retrofit in York. We’d love to hear from you if you are interested in this (or know anyone who might be). You can email us at info@yorkcommunityenergy.org.uk.

Looking ahead

Next winter may still feel far away, but we are making plans to continue supporting whole house assessments, housewarming parties, thermal camera surveys, and much more. Exactly how we do this will depend on how much social distancing is still in place. As we have all been getting very familiar with our homes in these past few months, this has pressed home the importance of having a warm, comfortable home to live in, and so we hope that Warmer Homes York can help make this happen!