Homes & Energy – Introduction
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
The next major project Watlington Climate Action Group is planning to run is on the Homes & Energy theme. This was identified in our initial community-wide ideas generation in 2019 as a key area of interest. It will begin with a kick-off meeting in spring 2021 (subject to Covid restrictions of course), which will be very similar to the Green Plan meeting that kicked off that project successfully in March this year.
Topics we are likely to cover in the project kick-off include:
The impact of climate change on homes (likely future weather, overheating, need for shading, ventilation and cooling.
The impact of homes on climate change (energy use / emissions from homes and how to reduce, different technologies, retrofitting, challenging the standards and typologies for new homes, resource scarcity, need for greater efficiency / reduced embodied carbon.
Retrofitting in more detail, including for old buildings
Relevant building services (e.g. heat pumps, MVHR, battery storage (especially relevant to electric cars).
Renewables (Solar Streets, wind and solar power from the grid, choosing your energy supplier).
Patterns of home use (changing our habits, managing overheating risk in summer)
The environmental impact of our buildings is significant in terms of emissions. In the UK, on average, 30% of annual emissions are from homes and commercial buildings, the majority of which are related to heating and hot water use. Allied to this issue is concern around the comfort and health of building occupants, and the cost to heat our homes. A home might have high heating bills, but at the same time suffer from draughts and mould growth, or be susceptible to overheating in summertime.
We are blessed in Watlington with a higher than average number of period buildings. Although they might be cool in summer (small windows, thick walls!), they can be cold / hard to heat in the winter. This is often driven by single glazing, old masonry, lack of insulation, and buildings being constructed directly onto the ground. There are ways of carrying out ‘deep retrofit’ to resolve all these issues at once, but this approach is expensive. One of the aims of our project will be to find the ‘low hanging fruit’ to improve performance and comfort in our homes, and provide advice on how to make cost-effective upgrades – perhaps alongside commissioning a full-house retrofit plan from an external organisation such as Cosy Homes Oxfordshire.
Whilst we think those in old houses may struggle with high heating bills, those in more modern homes (especially very new homes) can also face issues. These are often related to building maintenance, dubious construction standards, poor-quality retrofitted insulation (especially in cavity walls), and also summertime overheating (larger windows and lighter-weight construction = too hot in summer!). Again, we will hope to develop practical advice specifically for Watlington’s building stock, to help homeowners understand why issues arise, and how to start overcoming them.
We will be looking for volunteers to support this project on an ongoing basis. It is likely to involve annual (wintertime) surveys of homes for thermography and (hopefully) pressure testing to identify heat loss through air leakage. This information will be crucial to inform residents of the steps needed to improve the performance and comfort of homes in the Watlington parish, and there is also potential that this project will lead to a pipeline of work being created. If you have specific skills or interests in this area (e.g. energy assessors, architects, heating engineers, general builders etc.), please get in touch if you’d like to be involved. We will also be looking for speakers on the six subjects listed above, which is likely to be held in April 2021, so if you have specific expertise that could help here, please also let me know.
Whilst we’re all waiting for a return to something approaching ‘normality’, and the launch of our project next year, there will still be issues of cold homes, high heating bills, draughty doors & windows and mould growth this winter.
Watch out for our new blog post in the coming weeks, "Simple Home Energy saving tips" on how to make your home more comfortable and energy-efficient this winter.
In the meantime please look through our updated Home and Energy section.