Getting help with home energy improvements
If you are any good at DIY, fitting an insulation strip or putting some extra insulation in the loft is pretty straightforward. You just have to make the time and get on with it. But if you are thinking of more ambitious home energy improvements, or aren’t in the position to do it yourself, you’ll need help. Here’s some suggestions on where you can go for assistance.
Finding reliable local contractors
We have all heard horror stories of dodgy double glazing salesmen and cowboy builders. Nobody wants to spend their hard-earned savings on energy improvements and discover their new windows leak or a new damp patch has appeared because of badly installed insulation.
Word of mouth recommendations are probably the best ways of finding a trustworthy local plumber, builder, installer, or fix-it service. So ask your friends and neighbours about their experience. There are also some websites you can go to to find suggestions, and online directories where you put in your postcode and the trade you’re looking for and it will show you the nearest firms. Here’s some options:
Your Steyning – has an online listing of the various local businesses that advertise in their magazine.
Checkatrade – covers the whole spectrum of building trades and has a customer rating system that provides an indication of satisfaction levels (though take these with a grain of salt!).
Trustmark – is a government-backed accreditation service. Firms need to go through a training and accreditation process to become listed.
Buy With Confidence – a national scheme run by Trading Standards, and backed by West Sussex County Council. Each member business will have undergone a strict vetting procedure before being granted membership.
Greening Steyning’s list of local installers – we are putting together a roster of contractors who we have had direct experience of. It’s in the form of a Google spreadsheet – with a separate tab for different specialties. Please let us know if you have an other firms you would recommend.
Bear in mind that it’s wise to check out the company’s credentials and references before you sign a contract, and get at least three quotes for any major work.
Home Energy Helpdesk
If you’d like to speak to one of our home energy volunteers about finding trustworthy suppliers, come along to the Home Energy Helpdesk. It’s at Beeding and Bramber Village Hall, the second Saturday of every month, from 2.00-4.00pm. We can talk through your individual situation, and make suggestions on where to start in finding a good firm.
I need some professional help
If you are thinking of an ambitious home improvement project then that is going to cost quite a bit. So you may want help in coming up with a well-researched plan, finding the right contractors, then managing the process carefully so you get what you want. There are a number of options available depending on how much ‘hand holding’ you’d like to get.
The Warmer Sussex Scheme was a pilot scheme running up until March 2021 and designed to provide a comprehensive package of help. The scheme was run by a cooperative called RetrofitWorks based in Hayward Heath, and provided professional support guiding you through the whole process. It was especially suited for homeowners thinking of ambitious home retrofit projects where the challenges are more complex and you are prepared to spend quite a bit on the work.
*** Note that the Warmer Sussex Scheme is not currently operating, but may be reinstated if further funding is secured ***
Cath Geoghegan and Sarah Kemp from RetrofitWorks took part in a Greening Steyning ‘Saving Energy at Home: Ask the Experts Session’ in November 2020. You can see a recording of it here. Warmer Sussex has also created a series of online webinars exploring topics relating to home retrofit and energy efficiency. You can check out our earlier editions here, including a Beginners Guide on Retrofit.
Warmer Sussex Plan Builder
The good news is that Warmer Sussex are still offering their free online Plan Builder service, which is a helpful way of getting initial advice on where to start with home energy improvements.
Simply enter your postcode and select your address and the Warmer Sussex Plan Builder will present your home with details about its current energy efficiency levels, using the government Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) database as a guide. You can update and refine these details if needed. Now you are ready to start building your plan – choose your main priority and budget, and it creates recommendations showing you all the ways in which you can improve your home, tailored specifically to you. You can adjust your plan by removing individual measures or switching off our recommendations filter to see and select from every possible measure.
BHESCo Energy Survey
Another support option is available through Brighton and Hove Energy Services Cooperative (BHESCo). They offer a bespoke energy survey service involving a site visit by an expert. This takes 1-2 hours, and within five working days they produce a report that details the ways you are wasting heat and energy in your property and recommends the most cost-effective ways to improve this quickly.
They charge a sliding scale fee for this that ranges from £230 for a 1 bedroom flat to £416 for a 6 bedroom house. You can find out more and book a survey here.