Eleanor is a member of Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon (RHILC) a Community Action Group in Oxford. RHILC supports Cosy Homes Oxfordshire, which is a one-stop home retrofit service launched as a pilot scheme in 2019. They work with both homeowners - to reduce their energy bills/carbon footprint and building professionals - to help deliver retrofit projects. They aim to simplify the process of making energy-efficient changes to homes in Oxfordshire.
In the UK 14% of all our carbon emissions come from the energy used to heat and power our homes. Many of our homes are old and inefficient as well as having issues such as mould and poor insulation and this means high emissions as well as houses that can be damp, draughty and expensive to heat.
RHILC did a survey of typical 1930’s houses in Oxford to identify common issues. Using thermal imaging they demonstrated that key weaknesses are un-insulated bay windows and front doors along with roof/floor/wall insulation and inefficient gas boilers.
Having seen the issues, many homeowners agree that they need to make changes but have no idea where to start and can feel overwhelmed. Making the right improvements can be complex and requires research and expertise.
This is where Cosy Homes can help. They will complete a whole-house assessment and energy audit to highlight the areas of your home where energy-saving improvements can be made and guide you through the process based on your situation and budget. You are assigned a retrofit coordinator to oversee your project and manage the delivery of the work, including appointing skilled and trusted contractors, managing health and safety, and checking the quality of finished work for your complete peace of mind.
- Installation of additional front doors or porches
- Top up cavity wall/loft insulation
- Where possible, install under-floor insulation
- Insulate the solid walls under the bay windows
- External wall insulation
- AFTER the houses are properly insulated, install air source heat pumps (as these are only effective in well-insulated homes).
Homeowners can still be unsure as to how this would work for their own home. So a great start is Plan Builder - a free interactive online tool on the Cosy Homes website. This helps to assess the current energy efficiency of your home and suggest some retrofit measures that will improve carbon emissions and save you money.
Cosy Homes (with partners The Low Carbon Hub and RetrofitWorks) has been in pilot phase from 2019 – 2021 and hope that the results they have seen will enable them to continue with this robust business model for delivering home retrofit that works.
“We cannot bring back the climate to what it was 200 years ago, but we can begin to change the climate of opinion. Cosy Homes seeks to do that by working with homeowners, contractors, landlords, our partners and the community to provide solutions that work."
Working in partnership with organisations such as the Low Carbon Hub and RetrofitWorks has helped us hugely in connecting with homeowners who were already part of a network of motivated communities.
Our whole-house approach worked well with an overall combination of effective improvements that smaller, individual actions would not have achieved. Feedback showed that homeowners found our coordinators invaluable, ensuring smooth project management and communication. By building a network of local skilled and trusted contractors who use environmentally friendly materials we ensure our service is low carbon throughout.
However, one of the biggest barriers during our pilot phase has been to find builders and contractors who see the potential in working with us, as those that come highly recommended are already very busy and have no need for additional customers. This has caused issues with progressing our customers through the process as we have had to work around contractor availability.
Contractors were also wary of working with retrofit projects because of their experience with the Green Homes Grant scheme which was hampered by short timescales, complex administration and payment delays. This has led to other schemes only offering recommendations and plans, leaving homeowners to find their own contractors to complete the work. But at Cosy Homes we strongly believe that this is an important part of our service to ensure the quality of delivery and we will continue to work with local stakeholders, our partners and the community to build a committed and highly recommended supply chain.
We have seen a fantastic response from homeowners but these issues with the supply chain and increased interest and awareness due to the Green Homes Grant scheme has caused delays with project delivery. The implementation of a waiting list, with clear communication to homeowners registered with us, has been helpful, along with our free Plan Builder online tool, so our potential customers have some value and insight from the very beginning.
We have recognised that we need to be transparent with timescales and delays to avoid understandable customer frustration. We have learnt that there is a careful balancing act – on the one hand, we need sufficient customers to appeal to our contractors, but at the same time, we need enough approved contractors to meet our project needs.
Our service is only available for those able to pay, and we have identified that projects need to be above £10k to make them viable for our business model. This limits those homeowners we can support and there is an urgent need for a clear, long-term government scheme to address the energy efficiency of both owned and rented homes across the UK.
We hope that by sharing our story with Planet Mark, as part of their Zero Carbon Tour, we will motivate other areas in the UK to see what is possible and to learn and share ideas and solutions.
Number of home assessments completed (233).
Number of whole house plans (220).
Number of retrofits in progress (23).