Energy efficiency case study: from cold, leaky house to cosy home

2nd December, 2013

ECO green deal funded external cladding for Victorian terraced home in Northwich which could nearly halve household's monthly energy bill

From the front, the Rogers' house on a quiet street in Northwich looks just like all the others, its red brickwork identical to millions of other Victorian terraced houses up and down the land. But look at the building from behind, and it's a different story. Cladding four inches thick has been applied, transforming a cold and leaky house into a cosy home, with lower energy bills and a satisfied family inside.

"It's made a big difference," says Antony Rogers, who lives in the three-bedroom, gas-heated mid-terrace home with his wife and two grown-up sons. "We can really feel it, and we've hardly had the heating on."

The work, which took nearly two weeks, was carried out under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, under which utilities fund improvements to "hard-to-treat" properties through additions to energy bills. It was arranged by the Regenda Group, an independent housing organisation in the north-west, from whom the Rogers rent the house.

"It feels like a Polish home now," says Rogers, an ex-soldier, who now frequently works night shifts in security. "It's freezing in Poland, but everyone is insulated so you get warm homes."

This will be the first winter since the work was done, so the Rogers have not yet felt the full impact on their bills, which are likely to come down from 180 a month last winter more than 10% of the family income to as little as 100. Whereas before the Rogers had been running up an energy debt, already they are paying it off faster thanks to the savings.

Millions of homes across the UK could benefit from solid wall insulation, but as the average installation costs about 10,000, most households cannot afford it. That is why the ECO was introduced: it has a special emphasis on targeting lower-income households, social landlords, and "hard to treat" homes, like the Rogers', which offer substantial energy savings for the long term. This contrasts markedly with previous schemes by which, owing to lax regulations, energy companies were able to meet their targets by sending out free energy efficient lightbulbs and insulating lofts, which is cheap and causes minimal disruption, but provides much less of a saving while heat is leaking out of windows, doors and walls.

But the evidence from the ECO scheme so far is that energy companies have continued to focus on the easy targets such as new boilers, instead of tackling solid walls. Figures released two weeks ago from the regulator Ofgem showed that companies had achieved as little as 3% of the solid and cavity wall insulation targets, while they had achieved a quarter of their targets on measures including new boilers. With the watering down of the system that the government is proposing, it will be easier still for companies to ignore the hard-to-treat homes, meaning even fewer households are likely to benefit in the way the Rogers have.

Rogers believes the ECO scheme should be expanded, not slimmed down. "It's a brilliant idea. I don't know why we don't do more of it."

He would also like to see all new homes built to the highest energy efficiency standards. "It's a disgrace that we are not doing this," he said.

Source: The Guardian

The Autumn Statement will be live streamed during a policy debate: "What future for ECO?" at the Retrofit Summit on 5 December at the Business Design Centre, London. Jonathan Reynolds MP, Shadow Minister for Climate Change will start the debate with a keynote address, sharing his views and ideas for retrofitting the nation's buildings. The policy debate will include industry experts from the likes of Willmott Dixon, Places for People and Npower.

To view the full speaker programme, CLICK HERE.

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