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Community Centre cuts energy bills by half!

Mr Thorpe "I'm looking forward to seeing the benefits of the insulation and new boiler over the winter" says John Thorpe, Chairperson of the Stafford North End Association committee.

The many users of Stafford's North End Community Centre can look forward to a warmer and cosier time in the cold weather thanks to a package of measures to improve the building's energy efficiency. This popular venue, located on Holmcroft Road, has benefitted from an energy audit and funding package through the Warmer Holmcroft project, run by Sustainability Matters in conjunction with Stafford Borough Council. The measures include a new more efficient condensing gas boiler for the central heating, plus cavity and loft insulation. Taken together, these improvements should drastically cut the heating bill, saving around £1200 each year, or roughly half the total energy costs for the building. Furthermore, the building's annual carbon emissions will fall by more than 5 tonnes.

Energy audit

The Centre was built in the 1950s and is used virtually every day by local social and sports groups or for music and entertainment. But like many buildings of that era it required an energy makeover to bring it up to modern standards of insulation and heating to reduce costs and cut carbon emissions. The process began in early 2013 when the building was selected to have an energy audit, funded by Staffordshire County Council. The consequent report identified various areas of improvement, and presented an action plan, with itemized costs and savings. This allowed the trustees to allocate precious resources in the most effective way, where they would see a quick return on the investment. boiler install

A new condensing gas boiler will save an estimated £468 on gas bills
and nearly 2 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

'Quick-win' recommendations

  • Reduce boiler operating time by 1 hour/day: cost £0 - saving over £100/year
  • Insulate loft and wall cavities: estimated cost around £1600 - payback in 2 years
  • Install wireless thermostatic radiator valves and room thermostats: est. cost £1000 - payback in 2-3 years
  • Install condensing gas boiler: estimated cost £3000 - payback in 6-7 years
  • Establish an energy policy to guide users of the hall in operating the heating and lighting efficiently and safely

Other recommendations

  • Install low-energy lighting: estimated cost nearly £5000 - payback 16-17 years
  • Install solar PV panels on the roof: estimated cost £10,000-11,000 - payback 9 years

Cavity wall insulationEnergy policy and management

It's all well and good installing new boilers, thermostats and the like, but it is vital that people who use the building understand how to use the system properly, and don't cool down by simply opening the windows and letting all the heat escape!! Hence the need for someone to draw up an energy policy, which is given to all keyholders and users. Helpful information comes from taking regular meter readings, not just when a bill is due. A simple wireless energy monitor can record electricity usage, while gas readings need to be taken monthly from the gas meter. These form the basics of effective energy management.

Filling the wall cavities

'Smart' room-by-room radiator control

Like many buildings of its type, North End Communimty Centre suffers from an inflexible heating system - it's either all on or all off, regardless of how many rooms are in use. New technology now offers a solution in the form of battery-powered 'wireless' radiator valves (TRVs) that can be controlled remotely by a room thermostat or even by a computer. Such devices allow the radiators in any particular room to be controlled independently of those in other rooms, so that unused rooms are not heated unnecessarily, thus cutting energy bills. They are loft insulationclaimed to be easy to fit, and in theory can be controlled via the internet from anywhere in the world! The Centre is still considering if and when to fit them.

The existing minimal loft insulation (right) is topped up to the recommended depth of 300 mm. These simple insulation measures should pay for themselves in just 2 years.