Community Champion Workshop – Julian Tomlin, Heaton Moor, Stockport

by Blog

Back in September, as part of the Carbon Co-op in Stockport project, one of our members, Julian Tomlin, and his wife Helena held a Community Workshop at their home in Heaton Moor.

Here Julian tells us how it went. A group of friends and neighbours came together in a workshop to discuss how we might save energy, reduce their C02 output, and improve comfort in our homes. The workshop was facilitated by fellow Carbon Co-op member, Lorenza Casini, who is also the development officer for the “Carbon Co-op in Stockport” project.

Participants represented a wide range of housing types: a Victorian semi-detached, two interwar semi-detached houses, a 1950s bungalow, and a 1970s town house. My own house is a 1950s bungalow extended in the late 1970s and as a part of the Carbon Co-op in Stockport project I hosted the workshop. Despite the different housing types there was much common ground and quite a lot of discussion.

Below are some of the questions and concerns around our homes’ energy usage and running costs that were asked and discussed.

Is it worth switching off lights for a short period?

After much discussion, the short answer was yes. Some different lamps including compact fluorescents and LEDs were available to take away and try, from the Carbon Co-op LED light ‘library’: a selection of LED fittings that Carbon Co-op members can borrow to test in their homes to find the most suitable one, prior to committing to purchasing.

How do I stop other occupants wasting energy when they leaving devices switched on?

It was felt that greater awareness of consumption is one way forward and a couple of participants borrowed energy monitors to help see what appliances were using the most energy and what they might turn off. An energy hungry freezer in the basement was uppermost in one person’s mind, and discussion turned to choosing A rated appliances and how John Lewis, for example, are planning to put the whole life energy cost on their sales tickets.

Can I insulate the walls of my home from the inside?

There was discussion about external render, which – as part of external wall insulation – can make a huge difference in heat loss, particularly in solid wall houses. However, a number of people were sensitive to the brickwork and features of their house in which case there were options for internal insulation.

Is it worth putting in triple glazing? We only have double glazing elsewhere in the house.

Triple glazing was felt to be particularly valuable in rooms that faced north or where a higher level of comfort was desired. It was discussed how the cost of triple glazing had come down and while any payback on energy savings could be very long term, one of the benefits was that you could sit next to a triple glazed window and feel little difference in temperature.

Should I get underneath the floor to put in insulation, or get someone to do it?

Although only about 10-15% of heat is lost through the floor, this could be particularly worthwhile if access to place insulation was straightforward. If floorboards were being removed for other work then insulation could be installed then. Those with cellars were at an advantage, and although for one person heat transmission from the heated areas of the house were seen as beneficial it was better to reduce this to a minimum to benefit habitable rooms.

Is it worth digging up the floor of my conservatory to insulate it? Would it pay back in savings?

As an option, this could not only retain heat, but it might also offer an opportunity to install under floor heating. Payback periods were discussed generally as was the uncertainty over future energy prices, with many feeling that they would rise. In the latter case payback periods could actually be a lot shorter than they appeared now.

Redesigning the layout of our house raised questions about how to deal with drying laundry.

Different options were discussed. Some people were unhappy about  drying clothes inside which could lead to damp and possibly affect health, but tumble dryers were know to be particularly heavy on energy. tThe weather couldn’t be relied on to dry laundry outside so inside spaces were felt to be good if they could be well ventilated. A neat solution that I discovered recently is a cover over an outside rotary dryer that protects clothes from showers.

People went away with positive thoughts about how they could improve their houses with some wanting a whole house assessment, and others thinking how they will build in what was discussed into phasing future improvements.

Julian Tomlin

[5 November 2013]