Residents in Witchford are being given the opportunity to quite literally see their home in a new light as part of a new energy and cost-saving initiative launched by East Cambridgeshire District Council.
The Council has purchased three thermal imaging cameras which residents can use to understand where the heat is escaping in their homes. The cameras produce heat maps of properties, with the easy-to-use camera quickly showing residents areas where there are draughts, poor insulation, heating system problems or other reasons for wasted heat from homes. Residents in Witchford are the first to be offered the opportunity to trial the new initiative and are being encouraged to register their interest in the scheme by emailing Witchford.email@example.com or visiting wcag.org.uk
Throughout December volunteers from Witchford Climate Action Group will manage the trial scheme, visiting those households that have signed up. They will then work with residents to identify where the biggest heat losses are and suggest potential measures that could be taken to address them, helping to improve comfort, cut energy bills and reduce carbon emissions.
Cllr Julia Huffer, chair of the Council’s Operational Services Committee, said: “East Cambridgeshire District Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and since then has been exploring a range of initiatives to help the council, and local residents make positive changes that will benefit the planet.
“Homes count for 22% of the UK’s carbon emissions and we know that here in East Cambridgeshire we have a relatively high number of older properties which leak heat.
“These cameras are a great way of helping people to visualise where there is the greatest heat loss in their homes. With the help of volunteers at the Witchford Climate Action Group we can then work with them to identify what measures can be taken.”
Katy Baker, one volunteer who will be carrying out the surveys, added: “Witchford Climate Action group was set up two and a half years ago to look at ways we can help the village become Net Carbon Zero. Since then we’ve been supporting a lot of initiatives ranging from tree planting and setting up a website, to partnering with local Eco groups.
“We are delighted to be working with East Cambridgeshire District Council on this latest initiative which we see as being a really practical way to help residents not only cut carbon, but stay warm and reduce their energy bills too.”
Ultimately the council hopes to offer other parish, town councils or community groups the opportunity to use the cameras in other locations across the district early in the New Year – more details on this will be available on our website soon.
Cameras can usually be used between November and the end of March where there is around ten degrees difference in temperature between the outside and the inside.
Ideally there should also be no direct sun, rain or strong winds so the camera can show heat loss effectively.
Once you have identified areas of heat-loss within your property Cambridge Carbon Footprint recommends several ways you can reduce energy consumption and heat loss. These include:
Improving the insulation of the property, especially roof and wall insulation
- Reducing air leakage, for example around doors, windows, or letter-boxes
- Reducing energy consumption by using efficient heating methods such as air or ground source heat pumps
Although the above options may require professional inputs, there are also some simple and cheap DIY options:
- Use heat reflective aluminium foil behind the radiator to reduce heat loss
- Use thick curtains, with a thermal lining, to reduce heat loss through the windows
- Stop heat being lost up the chimney when not in use by using a chimney balloon or woollen chimney (external link) insulator; but remember to remove them before starting any fires!
- Watch out for mini-draughts, such as letterboxes or cat flaps - add an extra barrier in the form of a "brush"
- Use draught excluders along the base of doors
- Cover bare floors, which account for as much as 10% of heat loss if they are not insulated
- Insulate your house with DIY loft insulation and ensure the loft hatch is also insulated
Other ways to reduce your energy consumption
Use your appliances less, for example doing full loads of washing or dishwashing, using a clothes line to dry clothes.
Use LED lighting. Lighting accounts for 7% of a typical household’s energy bill. Cutting your lighting bill is one of the easiest ways to save energy and money. Houses typically use a mixture of standard light fittings and downlighters or spotlight fittings. LED bulbs are now available for most fittings, replacing bulbs with LED ones will instantly save your home energy and money.
Controlling your heating. Boilers and heaters account for two-thirds of the energy used in our homes, so changing the settings just a little can have a big impact.
Lagging hot water tanks and water pipes. Many hot water tanks in our homes are not sufficiently lagged. This means that heat is continually being lost, and your boiler has to work harder to keep the stored water to the desired temperature. Heat is also lost from pipes that carry hot water around your house. In some places this is OK (for example, through a cupboard that is used to dry laundry) but often, it’s just more unnecessary and expensive heat loss. Fitting a jacket on your hot water tank and insulating your hot water pipes will reduce your energy bills; there are a variety of insulation options for pipes available at DIY stores.
Be a real turn off! Leaving lights, TVs, computers and radios on when there is no-one in the room is an obvious waste of money and energy. Some appliances also use a lot of energy in standby mode, particularly if they are older appliances.
When replacing appliances look at the energy ratings. Appliances are responsible for a significant proportion of a typical home’s electricity bill: Televisions, set-top boxes, digital TV recorders, DVDs and DAB radios combined are responsible for around a fifth of a typical home’s electricity bill. Computer Equipment – household computers, printers, monitors and laptops on average make up around a further 13%. When you need to replace an appliance, you will have an opportunity to replace it with a more efficient one.
Useful websites for further information
- Cambridge Carbon footprint (external link) has useful resources relating to thermal imaging cameras and also more generally about reducing energy use
- Judith Leary’s guide Stay Warm for Less (external link)
- Energy Saving Trust Insulation Guide (external link)
- Energy Savings Trust Draught Proofing Guide (external link)
- Centre for Sustainable Energy DIY Draught-Proofing Guide (external link)
- Centre for Sustainable Energy loft insulation (external link)
- Centre for Sustainable Energy cavity wall insulation (external link)