Hambleton District Council, Ryedale District Council and Scarborough Borough Council were supported North Yorkshire County Council in an initiative that would not only alleviated fuel poverty, but also improve people’s health and reduce household carbon emissions.
Launched in November 2018, the consortium were successful in securing Warm Homes Funding from Affordable Warmth Solutions to install gas central heating systems in private tenure across three Local Authority areas, later expanded to four which included Richmondshire District. Having assisted the councils in writing the winning bid, YES Energy Solutions were appointed to deliver the scheme.
The project allows eligible residents, many of whom were classed as vulnerable, to receive fully funded gas connections and central heating systems, and where appropriate, had loft (or room in roof) and/or cavity wall insulation installed for free. This was possible as a result of an innovative blend of funding streams, enabling the project to provide maximum benefits for residents through a whole house approach.
The qualifying criteria developed through the councils’ flexible eligibility criteria helped residents with health conditions, the funding was aimed at residents with low incomes, families with children under 16, people over 65, and pregnant women.
The scheme received input from winter health organisations Warm and Well and Citizens Advice North Yorkshire, to ensure the project was able to reach the most vulnerable residents off the gas network. With these clear objectives, partners in the scheme could undergo detailed research to help disadvantaged householders in the most inefficient homes.
Vulnerable residents who were off the mains gas network and had no form of central heating were targeted by the scheme. Many of these householders were on low incomes, with many in receipt of benefits and relying on expensive fuel sources, such as old inefficient storage heaters to keep warm.
With energy bills rocketing, many residents were having to make the impossible decision to spend money on food or fuel in a ‘heat or eat’ crisis. The majority of people supported had crippling health conditions, made worse by living in cold homes.
A-rated gas powered central heating is one of the most cost effective and energy efficient forms of space heating whilst producing comfort. Whereas electric heating tends to be more expensive not only in terms of cost but also carbon.
Gas powered condensing combination boilers are designed to save energy and recycle emissions. Combined with smart controls, residents can effectively program their systems around their heating needs. Every system installed can be managed via a room thermostat which will shut the boiler off once a comfortable temperature has been reached, helping residents save energy whilst keeping their homes warm and comfortable.
An in-depth fuel poverty study was conducted prior to launch of the project. The study identified key areas of deprivation where hundreds of vulnerable householders were relying on inefficient and expensive heating systems, despite living close to gas infrastructure. Plans were drawn up to link in with the councils’ broader stakeholder network, engaging with other vulnerability support organisations such as Warm and Well and Citizens Advice to drive referrals. Targeted research allowed cost efficiency when marketing the project to householders, and allowed partners to focus on hotspots with inefficient property types such as Scarborough town, and rural areas in Ryedale.
All local authority partners in the project understand their communities inside and out. They know which areas need the most help, and the energy efficiency officers representing the councils are experienced in their role in energy efficiency schemes. This experience and local expertise allowed them to assist contractors, and helped achieve the objectives of reaching the most vulnerable residents that are in fuel poverty.
The local knowledge also allowed the project to minimise impact as a result of local challenges that included difficult property types, issues caused by installing gas connections and any residents that were known to the council that are particularly vulnerable.
The project supported the most vulnerable residents, many with specific conditions that could impact the project in different ways. There were cases where people have mental health problems, physical disabilities and long term conditions, all needing to be considered throughout the customer journey. All partners needed to remain sensitive to their needs and situation to ensure installations progress as planned with minimum friction.
Every property in the scheme has been different and this impacted the design of each central heating system. Homes differ in terms of size, layout, number of rooms, access, etc. This has an impact on the amounts of materials and resources required to complete an installation (e.g. extra radiators, additional pipework, unforeseen extras, etc). To keep within budget, a standard price was set for a central heating installations across all property types. Installation prices would only change if there are any major unforeseen extras. These will be costed separately and reviewed on a case by case basis.
The budget was based on average pricing, so some systems may cost less to ‘even up’ those that cost more.
The project was finished in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Working through lockdowns and public health measures, partners had to adapt quickly to maintain delivery. Partners put COVID-secure procedures and risk assessments firmly in place, often going beyond Government rulings and guidance to protect staff in their offices, customers in the home, and contractors on site.
Energy performance assessment to produce an updated SAP score, which is compared to the EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) of the property prior to the installation of A-rated central heating.