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, as you!).
Trustmark – is a government-backed accreditation service, and is being used for sourcing suppliers to the Green Homes Grant scheme. There are very few nearby suppliers listed on this at the moment, as firms need to go through an accreditation step to become listed. But this is likely to improve quickly since businesses won’t get the work unless they sign up.
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 provides a comprehensive package of help. It’s 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. It is less suited to smaller home improvement projects.
The scheme is run by a cooperative called RetrofitWorks based in Hayward Heath, and provides professional support guiding you through the whole process. You can find out about RetrofitWorks’ innovative ownership model in this video.
The scheme works via a series of stages:
- You register your interest online and they get in touch to assign you a Retrofit Coordinator to guide you through the process.
- You have a home survey done to assess your property. This can either be done remotely (which costs £75) or you can opt for a more detailed Home Visit Survey (for £200). The end product is a tailored ‘Whole House Plan’ setting out the energy saving options, and giving estimates of the costs and resulting carbon and cost savings with each. After talking this over with your Retrofit Coordinator you decide which if any to go ahead with, and whether you want Warmer Sussex to help manage the work.
- If you do want further help, your Retrofit Coordinator gets quotes from any measures you’re thinking of, using their trusted network of accredited tradespeople and suppliers.
- Your Coordinator will discuss the quotes with you and help you decide how to proceed.
- Your Coordinator oversees the work, so you don’t have the hassle.
- Quality standards are checked by the Retrofit Coordinator before work is signed off so you can be confident it’s up to standard.
If you choose to go ahead after Stage 2, Warmer Sussex will charge a fee for obtaining quotes and a 10% commission on any work done that they manage. So you only pay for the help you get. The advantage is that you get impartial professional support throughout, as you would with an architect on a building project, and they will take care of the hassle of finding and then managing contractors. They can also advise on how to access grant schemes like the Green Homes Grant or Renewable Heat Incentive.
Cath Geoghegan and Sarah Kemp 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 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.
BHESCo Energy Survey
Another, lighter-touch, 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.