20.03.24 Community

Easton residents learn how to keep their homes warm and dry

Eastside Community Trust are supporting locals to become Warm Home Champions as part of the Community Climate Action Project. In this blog, Vic Wakefield-Jarrett shares how residents are feeling empowered to share their new energy efficiency knowledge with friends and neighbours.

It’s a Thursday evening and the main hall at Easton Community Centre is bustling with activity. A group of women are practicing draught-proofing techniques – Marketa is applying secondary glazing film to a window; Nic is fitting insulation foil behind a radiator; Rani is using a caulking gun to fill gaps behind a skirting board and Muna is fitting a door brush to prevent draughts. Not only are they all learning practical ways to keep warmer, but some are also trying DIY for the first time and discovering that they can take some control over their energy bills.

This is just a snapshot from one of the Warm Home Champion workshops delivered in partnership with Bristol Energy Network as part of Eastside People Power community climate action project. So far, ten members of the community have become Warm Home Champions, with another group just beginning. The six-week course brings residents together to learn how to keep their homes warm and dry and combat high energy bills. They also leave knowing they can reduce their carbon emissions and feeling empowered to share this knowledge with others in their communities.

As part of the project, champions receive an Energy Trace – a survey of their home with a thermal imaging camera which shows areas of heat loss through draughts or poor building fabric. Talking about the Energy Trace, participant Sharon found it particularly helpful “It showed me where all the draughts and cold spots are in the house”.

With low levels of home ownership in the area (the 2021 census revealed Easton ward to have 12% social rented and 33% private rented; whilst Lawrence Hill has 44% social rented and 33% private rented) the course has been mindful to focus on behaviours and measures which are available to everyone, regardless of their housing situation. Like learning how to effectively use existing heating controls and thermostats; bleeding radiators and keeping them clear of furniture (and wet laundry); the importance of using extractor fans and opening bathroom windows; keeping lids on pans; hanging heavy curtains and installing chimney balloons.

The workshops also cover the more expensive and technical measures involved in retrofitting a home; like wall and loft insulation, solar power, heat pumps and the importance of looking at the whole home as a system and how different measures impact upon each other.  Understanding the complexity of how our homes work is essential as there is no one size fits all. Explaining the terminology and concepts in a supportive and friendly way helps participants to be able to pass on this knowledge; access the advice and grants for retrofitting; and gives them more confidence when talking to tradespeople.

“I know that from what I learned from this course I can figure out what is the problem at least, and before I wouldn’t have had a clue. I know that my house is hot in the summer and cold in the winter but I didn’t actually even know the term fabric and wouldn’t even know where to look – why is it hot and why is it cold? And now I know where to look and how to analyse things. I learned about voluntary and involuntary ventilation, how some ventilation is important for balancing moisture; and about the internal and external insulation and that different fabrics of wall require different types of insulation.”

Marketa, Warm Home Champion

On the group WhatsApp, participants have already submitted an impressive list of fixes they have made. Sharing tips, encouragement, and experiences of draught-proofing floorboards; filling holes in window frames; putting reflective foil behind radiators and bleeding them; being conscious about airflow around the home; filling up unused fireplaces and reapplying bathroom sealant.

This diverse group of ten newly empowered Warm Home Champions who speak an impressive 16 languages between them are now ready to share their knowledge with their friends and neighbours.

“I’m so happy to be on this course, I have learnt so much and most of all it so handy to know about basic things around the house.”

Rani, Warm Home Champion

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Rani learning to do caulking

Eastside Community Trust