An analysis of work in part of Stafford town has highlighted the most common problems facing householders in improving the energy efficiency of their homes. In spring 2010, Stafford Borough Council commissioned the energy advice charity Beat the Cold to conduct home energy advice visits in and around Penkside ward, an area to the south of the town centre. Energy advisor Jules Hill visited 47 homes, to conduct an energy audit and carbon footprinting excercise, and give advice on using fuel, cutting energy bills, eligibility for grants and subsidies, and suggestions for reducing carbon footprints.
The Exeter Street Community Allotments Project for the Environment (ESCAPE) shows how support for local people can enhance the environment
The households varied in make-up, and included familes, pensioners, and younger adults without children. As a result, 12 households were referred for loft insulation or cavity wall insulation, 12 qualified for the priority service register to receive free benefits from their energy supplier, and five were switched to a cheaper social tariff. Other benefits included arranging Home Fire Risk checks from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue, or visits from the Orbit Handy Person Scheme to make minor repairs. Nearly all households were loaned an energy monitor, and 37 received a TV Power Down device, which automatically switches off ancillary equipment such as DVD recorders or games consoles, when the TV is turned off.
The interviews with householders picked up a wide range of additional issues, ranging from resetting hot-water thermostats to improvements to gas and electricity metering. Tenants of social landlord Stafford and Rural Homes were also visited, and several problems identified. For example, two homes had no jacket on the hot-water tank, four had substandard loft insulation, and three had inefficient heating systems. In terms of overall environmental impact, total household carbon footprints ranged from 6.59 to over 32 tonnes per year, with an average of 13.69 tonnes.
Prelude to further action
Jules has also been doing promotional and educational work in the community, and has staged events at the two primary schools in Penkside, Silkmore Primary and Flash Ley Primary, in conjuction with Keele University. Pupils at both schools took part in a Science for Sustainability workshop, to learn more about energy and its wider environmental impact and relation to carbon emissions. "This went down really well, and complements my work on the home visits", commented Jules. The work by Beat the Cold is a prelude to a concerted programme of action, spearheaded by Stafford Borough Council, to tackle social and economic deprivation in the Penkside area.