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“House Warming” at Heather’s

Green Homes Sheffield is all about learning from other people’s experience – I’ve just had a fascinating afternoon at Heather’s house, finding out about the successes and challenges of making her 1850-built home more energy efficient and cosy. Heather and Julian showed us around and talked us through the story of the changes made since moving in in 2011.

1836603_10153848020525294_1749532575_oFirst it was down to the cellar to see the insulation installed under the floors – a wadding material made from recycled plastic bottles and available from good old B&Q. This, plus careful use of foam filler to reduce draughts, have cut heat loss through the floors and around the skirting boards of the living room.

In the attic bedroom we admired the new velux windows, giving a view over the park, the moors, and the solar panels! The house has been re-roofed and insulation installed between and under the rafters to bring it up to a good level of heat retention. We talked about the compromises necessary with such projects – between what is pleasing (e.g. large windows making a light room with good views), what is affordable (e.g. secondary double glazing, double or triple glazed veluxes), what is low-impact (e.g. using natural materials instead of oil-based ones) and what is even available or feasible (e.g. do you have enough space and time to manage a year’s worth of wood for a stove?) Every house (and residents) will be slightly different, but seeing the solutions that other people have come up with in a real house is a great way to get the ideas and confidence flowing.

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Today’s visitors were invited through the Green Triangle (local people in Meersbrook working together to reduce their environmental impact) and the “House Warming” project they are running in conjunction with Sheffield Hallam University, to enable the sharing of knowledge and resources around the process of ‘low carbon retrofit’ – improvements to make your home warmer and more energy efficient. This is a sister project of Green Homes Sheffield, which will take the learning process city-wide, through an Open Homes programme in April and May.

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All of us on the tour had an interest in how to tackle draughts, insulation, windows and energy usage in Victorian ‘hard to treat’ homes. There was much useful discussion about the options to improve windows, with pros and cons being found for everything from brand new triple glazing to the ‘clingfilm and hairdryer’ approach (which is not, although desperate folk may have tried it, to wrap your family in clingfilm and point a hairdryer at them).

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I’m delighted to say that Heather has agreed to join some 20 other hosts for Green Homes Sheffield, so there will be a chance in April and May to look around these homes and learn from all their low carbon retrofit experiences. We are still recruiting hosts, and also volunteers who want to help as stewards or organisers – please get in touch soon if you’d like to be involved!    

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